Before you can have a go at making a game of your own, DIY forces you to sit through a number of tutorials, each of them divided into brief chapter-like steps. While these hand-holding sessions do drag a little, they manage to demonstrate a decent run-down of the raw principles without being too patronising. Still, there's no denying that the real gratification starts once this schooling is out of the way, as you set out into the great blue yonder to find your own way. Discovering certain tricks and effects is almost a game in itself, and wisely Nintendo and Intelligent systems have capitalised on this feeling by including a selection of set design challenges, in something called The Development Dojo. Here you'll be presented with a particular problem ("Make the ball roll down the hill and then across the bottom of the screen.") that can then be solved in a single step. Solving these puzzles unlocks fresh challenges and additional content, but more importantly it also teaches you techniques that prove very useful in your own projects.
In an even smarter move, you can also take any of the existing, pre-fabricated WarioWare micro-games and load them into the GameMaker toolkit. If there's a particular design issue you're facing and there's an existing game that uses a similar set of mechanics, this is often the simplest route to salvation. At the other end of the spectrum, there's also a wide selection of Wario's own half-made games that simply require a bit of work to finish them off – so if you're not in the mood to get your hands truly dirty, there's still a way for you to be creative in a slightly lazier manner.
Options like these abound throughout the various editing suites. The music maker offers a decent selection of creative options, arranged in the familiar "drop notes onto a horizontal timeline" format, but it also has something called the Maestro – an auto compose tool that generates music on the fly. If you can't be bothered to draw your own sprites, there are dozens of stamps and templates for you to pilfer instead. It all adds up to a commendably strong set of editors. Occasionally you do get the sense that things would be a lot easier if you were working with a more complicated toolset – ideally one on a PC, with a mouse and keyboard. It's impossible to rotate objects by anything other than 45 degree intervals, to give but one example, and since the all-important UNDO button only memorises the last thing you did, it can be quite tricky to amend the stupid mistakes that you invariably make. On the other hand, a proper Adobe-like setup would be impossible to use on a bus, on the toilet, or anywhere else that you take a DS – and it'd probably cost a lot more, to boot.
The only other criticism I can level at DIY is the relative difficulty in sharing your master works with others. It's not really the game's fault that the Friend Code system is such a massive pain to work with, but it's still a shame that it's not easier to pass stuff around. Still, there are already plenty of code-swapping topics on US-centric gaming forums, and with any luck there'll be a similar sense of community once the game takes off in Europe. If you can't be bothered with the hassle of Friend Codes, there's always the option to swap games locally, and there's also a soon-to-be-released WiiWare game, the snappily-named WarioWare DIY Showcase, that allows you to play your creations on the living room TV. If you've ever dreamed of offending your grandparents with your very own homebrew gaming obscenity, here's your chance.
Beyond this, there's simply something about WarioWare DIY that inherently works. Maybe it's the limited time format, or the fact that the series has always been driven by its own oddball sense of humour, but somehow the scrappy nature of user-generated content is a perfect fit for this franchise. Over the last week I've found myself sketching angry frogs, flying brains, and in one particularly puerile development session, animating a set of male genitalia. This is a game that feeds on your imagination, that encourages you to explore any idea you might have, however daft it may seem. And on top of all of that, it ends up teaching you a few things about basic game design.
It's also worth pointing out that the whole process quickly becomes hugely addictive. At the end of last week I was at a station and had some time to kill before meeting a friend, so I decided to do a bit of work on one of my projects. I found a seat, opened up my DS… and suddenly an hour had rocketed past. The platform I was on had actually been closed off, so I had to get a guard to unlock the gate. It really is that absorbing. This kind of venture isn't for everyone, but if you've got the ideas and the patience to make them work, WarioWare DIY will keep you tied up for months.