If there's one modern series from Nintendo that embodies everything the company is trying to do with its video games, it's WarioWare. Mini-game collections have been around for as long as I can remember, but the WarioWare series thrust micro-games into the hands of gamers, and how we loved them. What other series presents you with short, snappy games that task you with poking someone's nose, grating an alarm clock, slicing some fruit and waving goodbye? If there are any I'm yet to see them, and WarioWare Smooth Moves raises the crazy bar even higher.
Despite the fact that Smooth Moves is nothing more than a collection of tiny games, the opening sees Wario exploring the Temple of Form. Luckily, for him and for the game, he discovers a Wii-mote (or baton, as it's called in-game) and is taught how it can take many forms - the first of which being the Remote Control. This is the most basic form, and simply requires you to hold the Wii-mote as a standard TV remote, interacting with the micro-games in this way.
As in previous WarioWare titles, progress through the game is swift, with new characters appearing on a world map regularly, each delivering a set of fifteen or so micro-games that must be completed without losing all your available tries for that stage. It's remarkably simple, but, as ever, the fun is in the taking part rather than the challenge. Each character usually introduces at least one new form for the baton too, and you'll need to change form during each stage, which adds a new element to the classic gameplay, on top of the new Wii-mote controls.
WarioWare fans no doubt have their own favourite game from the series, but I'm going out on a limb and saying that this Wii iteration is the best yet in terms of the collection of micro-games on offer. The Wii-mote has enabled Nintendo to create some truly bizarre and downright wacky games that force players to perform actions that you'd never imagine to see in a video game. Part of the fun is discovering all these games for the first time, but don't be surprised to be acting like an elephant, doing squats, slicing like a Ninja, jumping on the spot and dancing like an idiot.
'Like many of the early Wii games, Smooth Moves requires you to play standing up, and it's not shy when it comes to making you perform like a fool.'
And an idiot you will be. Like many of the early Wii games, Smooth Moves requires you to play standing up, and it's not shy when it comes to making you perform like a fool. With that said, and the obvious fun to be had by watching others attempt to look cool while flailing around like a demented creature from another world, it's slightly strange that multiplayer gaming wasn't given a higher priority. Yes, there are options to play with friends, but from the off Smooth Moves is a solo experience only.
Once you've completed the main selection of character stages a multiplayer menu opens up, and from here you can partake in a series of modes that should go down well in any party environment. The pick of the bunch is a take it in turns mode that requires a Wii-mote to be passed from person to person, with those failing to complete their micro-game being knocked out from the game. It's great fun and has support for up to twelve players. Sadly, the passing of the Wii-mote is something that is required in each of the multiplayer modes, even if using extra controls seems like the better option. Passing the Wii-mote after three throws in darts, for example, soon becomes tiresome.
That negativity is really only a slight blip on the overall experience though. Every other aspect of the game seems tailor-made for creating a brilliantly fun game, including the presentation. You'd expect a Wii game to look more impressive than the previous games in the series, and Nintendo hasn't disappointed. The classic cartoon-style is used once again, and it gives the game a crisp, vibrant look that you really won't see anywhere else. Audio is equally impressive, with the background music to each character stage only becoming slighting annoying if you happen to get stuck on a certain micro-game. Combined with plenty of genuine laugh out loud moments when playing the micro-games, it makes for a game that everyone should enjoy.
Well, I say everyone, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the people who enjoyed previous WarioWare games might struggle, at least at first. The multiple forms of the baton is a brilliant idea and is chiefly responsible for making Smooth Moves as much fun as it is, but younger gamers who enjoyed previous games due to their simplicity could well find that switching their grip on the Wii-mote between each micro-game a little tricky. It's certainly something to bear in mind if you're planning to play with the whole family. A number of lengthier games open up which are a lot simpler to play (a balancing game being worthy of particular mention), but the majority of the game requires you to play through quick-fire style, changing the baton's form as you go.
Nintendo is known and loved because of the fun experiences that it creates, and WarioWare Smooth Moves delivers spades of crazy fun from the moment you pick up the Wii-mote. It's not the most in-depth game you'll play in 2007 and there's every chance you'll get bored after repeated play, but everyone with a Wii should get the chance to make a complete fool of themselves in their living room, ideally with friends and family watching on to much amusement. Just try to keep a straight face while holding both hands to your side and thrusting your chest forward or using the Wii-mote as an extension of your nose - it's just not possible.