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It's hard to explain the quirky genius that is the WarioWare series of games. Somewhere, someone who works at Nintendo thought it would be a great idea to piece together a collection of short, three-second microgames covering a variety of different subjects, from classic video games to playing with a cat to picking your nose. Then they decided to brand the whole thing as a Wario game, and behold, an instant sensation was born. The original title, released in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance, was a critically acclaimed game that won numerous awards from the gaming media and captured the hearts of gamers everywhere. Several sequels followed, all enjoying considerable success, but none quite excelling quite as much as the series debut on Nintendo Wii, fittingly dubbed WarioWare: Smooth Moves for its reliance on motion controls.
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This series has thrived due to its fast-paced, quirky microgames, and Smooth Moves is no exception. Each collection of microgames has a certain theme, based on the character represented by them, and for each game there is a brief countdown before it's time to play. You will be given one or two word instructions, and then will have mere seconds to discern exactly what it is you need to do and accomplish the task. Then, succeed or fail, it's time to move on to the next one, in rapid-fire fashion. Fail too many times, and its game over; succeed enough, and you'll ultimately complete the character's level and unlock an endless mode version of it, where you strive to complete as many different microgames as possible before getting a game over. Another longtime series trademark has been the inclusion of special Nintendo themed microgames, and Smooth Moves does not disappoint, as it features activities inspired by the likes of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Pikmin, Nintendogs and Super Mario Sunshine.
Play through each of the characters' stories in single-player mode, and you'll unlock multiplayer. Then the fun really begins. There are several different multi-player modes in the Wii version of WarioWare, all of which can be played by passing a single Wiimote back and forth among the competitors. In Survival Mode, you need to keep winning games to stay in the game, and the last man (or woman) standing wins. In Bomb Mode, you pass the bomb back and forth like a hot potato. Whoever has the bomb needs to play a game. Winning allows the person to choose who gets the bomb next, but losing causes it explode and eliminate them from the game. Meanwhile, Lifeline has players hanging from ropes over a pond of crocodiles. Each person needs to compete in five minigames, earning points for successful efforts, and afterwards everyone takes turns cutting a rope. The more wins, the more ropes hold a character up; however, not even that guarantees success, as a person could well wind up cutting his or her own rope. All in all, multiplayer is the true highlight of the game.
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A large part of this game's appeal, particularly in multiplayer, is the unique motion controls required to win the microgames. The Wiimote, or the "Form Baton" as it is called in the game, is used in a number of different ways throughout Smooth Moves. Players sometimes need to put it in front of their nose like an Elephant trunk, or on top of their lead in a control scheme known as the Mohawk. At different times you'll need to act like you're shaving, swatting a fly, doing squats, bouncing a ball on a tennis racket, sawing logs or removing a sword from a stone, among other things. The controls are varied, the motion sensing technology works well in this game, and the on-screen tutorials help you get the hang of them. More importantly, they're an absolute blast to perform, and become even more entertaining when you can heckle and be heckled while playing with friends or family.
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Graphics and Sound
You can't judge the graphics and sound effects of a WarioWare game by the same standards you do most other games. Sure, they don't feature cutting edge graphics, tons of voice acting or an amazing fully orchestrated musical score, but they were never meant to. The characters are drawn in a charming, quirky manner. The graphics in each of the microgames can vary greatly (some are photorealistic, others are old-school in style) but they always fit right. Like everything else, the music and the short voice clips are quirky. They have a style all their own, and you either like them or you don't. I do. Games like this one prove that you don't need to have cutting edge technology or big budget graphics to make a game appealing to the eyes and ears.
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Lots of Wii games promise fun for the entire family, but WarioWare: Smooth Moves delivers it in spades. The controls are easy to learn, thanks in no small part to the quality on-screen tutorials, and once the multiplayer modes are unlocked, the real fun begins. Getting a bunch of people together to play and humiliate themselves in these addictive microgames is a laugh riot, and quite honestly some of the most fun I've ever experienced in my more than two decades of gaming. The game can be rather hard to find these days, but if you happen across a copy, by all means add it to your collection. You won't regret it.