With Wario's latest foray into gaming via WarioWare: Smooth Moves, you'd be salivating at the mouth for Wario's next platforming adventure to take place-back to his roots of zany puzzle-platforming, right? Well, as fate would have it, about a month after Wario's first Wii title has arrived, starring the antithesis of Nintendo's beloved mascot, this time in the form of Wario: Master of Disguise. Now, what you may not have known is that this title was not developed by Nintendo, but by a developer called Suzak. I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but I'm just going to go out and say right now that it shows.
Wario: Master of Disguise tells the tale of the Purple Wind, a thief that steals a magical wand named Goodstyle from another thief-a thief who has his own TV show. That's because the Purple Wind is actually Wario, who has taken it upon himself to jump into this thief's TV show and take it over, stealing not only the wand but also the leading role. Something I will say about this game off the bat is that the writing can actually be kind of humorous at times, though one must have a certain type of humor to chuckle at it. It makes fun of itself all over the place, and is amusing, if anything.
Where Wario shines in its gameplay is, sadly, where it also fails. Progressing through the game opens up new disguises for Wario. The touch screen is used to switch Wario's forms and perform interesting abilities (notably drawing blocks or hearts as an Artist, or zapping at precise spots with your Space Shooter). Aye, but here's the rub: the switching of abilities could have easily been done with buttons. And furthermore, this would have been more convenient, as the touch screen can be imprecise, and unless one is as skilled as Van Gogh, mistakes will happen, and players will draw something the game can't recognize far too often. Sometimes it works just fine, but sometimes it's a mess-I can't say it was ever truly impressive, though.
You will use your different abilities to solve varying puzzles-some of which are easy, others of which will actually bend your brain a little bit. Bear in mind that this game is a platforming puzzle game, not an action-oriented romp. Consequently, enemies are few in number, short on variety, and unsatisfying to fight with. Killing stuff just doesn't feel satisfying. And, unfortunately, it's not the only thing that is mediocre about this game.
While the game does ramp up in challenge, it never gets too hard-which is probably a good thing. But stages can be a bit too much at times. Honestly, an hour to complete one level? That's a little ridiculous for a portable game. And why am I collecting money, anyway, when I can't even spend it on anything? For once, I've questioned Wario's greed-why the heck does he want all of this money when he never uses it for anything? At least in the Wario Land games, your money served a purpose.
Speaking of money, you get most of it from treasure-treasure you find by opening chests. And these chests have booby-traps that must be disarmed. What this causes is a slew of dull, repetitive minigames that use shoddy touch-screen mechanics and figure, "Hey, if we slap Wario's hat over everything, it'll feel like Wario, right?" Uhhhhâ€¦NO. Not really. What it amounts to is a poor and pathetic representation of Wario as well as a sad attempt at adding gameplay by cheapening out. At least the minigames get harder later on in the game, but this is more due to the lack of precision available than anything.
The level designs were all right-passable for what it sets itself out to do. However, they never impress and are far from giving players a sense of wonder like the old Wario Land games did. Remember Wario Land 3? Remember the amazing level design, the way the stages were all linked together in unique ways? Well, forget about all that brilliance. What you'll find here is something similar to Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin: separated segments of a "Metroidvania" style that are bland in their design. Sure, there's some varying locales, but even so, the game looks as bland as it plays. To Suzak's credit, they tried, and there is some surprising variety. Once in a long while, it actually looks nice, and once in a longer while, it actually has some nifty layout design.
Suzak's efforts at utilizing the DS can't save what it clearly a mediocre 3rd-party effort trying to imitate Nintendo's brilliant Wario Land franchise. And while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it's not too effective when the imitation is as inaccurate at this.
Final Verdict - 6/10
If you're a Wario purist, chances are that you'll be disappointed by this title. It's not awful, but considering just how utterly brilliant Wario Land 3 was on the Game Boy Color a few years back, it's truly tragic to see that Wario has been shipped into a crate to a mediocre 3rd party to abuse his reputation. A disappointment, indeed. Wario: Master of Disguise tries very hard to be a good game, but runs out of gas and gets stuck in the land of mediocrity. Suffice it to say that it is very clear that the Wario team has been working on the WarioWare games, and while this title may flaunt itself as a Nintendo game, a true Nintendo game, it is not.
"The Purple Wind: silent but deadly!"
It's a shame to see great anti-heroes fall to such depths.