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Critical Reception: Nintendo's WarioWare: Smooth Moves

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines the slightly mixed online reaction to WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Nintendo's first frenetic Wii release of 2007, and the latest in its cleverly executed "microgame" franchise - details inside.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Nintendo's first Wii release of 2007, WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Like its Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS-born predecessors, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is a collection of "microgames", or small tasks that can usually be completed in five seconds or less. These microgames are presented one after another in rapid-fire fashion, making for a gameplay experience that tests both twitch reflexes and concentration. While both of the series's GBA entries (WarioWare Inc.: Mega MicroGame$ and WarioWare: Twisted!) met with a warm reception thanks to their unique and well-implemented play mechanics, critical reaction to the Nintendo DS version, WarioWare: Touched!, was less enthusiastic. Reviewers complained that Touched! suffered for its gimmicky and shallow usage of the Nintendo DS's touch screen and microphone, and many claimed that the game's short length and underdeveloped gameplay caused the resulting effort to more closely resemble a technology demo than a fleshed-out product. These critics also expressed concern prior to the release of Smooth Moves, as much of its gameplay appeared to revolve around similarly gimmicky usage of the Nintendo Wii's remote controller. As a result, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is receiving much of the same criticism previously leveled at WarioWare: Touched!, and the title currently pulls in an average review score ratio of 80% at Gamerankings.com. Smooth Moves scores an enthusiastic 9.1 out of 10 in Jeff Gerstmann's review at GameSpot. "As you might expect, this game is totally built around the Wii Remote and maintains, if not surpasses, the level of absolute random insanity that has made the whole series so appealing," Gerstmann begins. "It's a terrific use of the Wii's unique control features, it looks amazing, and in short, it should be a part of your library." Gerstmann claims that much of the fun in Smooth Moves comes from its varied applications of the Wii Remote controller. "Each game uses the Wii Remote in a specific way and requires you to hold the Wii Remote differently," he explains. "These holds, called forms, are displayed for a second or so before each game starts, giving you time to orient yourself properly for the upcoming game." Gerstmann adds: "The forms are a big part of what makes the game so cool, and it's nice that there are a lot of them." "The WarioWare series has never come at a more perfect time," Gerstmann concludes. "With the Wii just getting established, a game that shows off the range of motions you can accomplish with the Wii Remote is a perfect companion. But it's more than just a demonstration of the Wii's technology; it's also a terrifically charming, funny, and nefariously addictive game that you can play alone. But it gets even better when you have a crowd on hand to witness the weirdness with you." Kristan Reed at Eurogamer offers similar praise. "Yet again, Nintendo effortlessly introduces a whole host of new control systems while making it an incredibly fun process getting to know them," Reed writes. "Nintendo seems to have this incredible knack of being able to show you the ropes within its games, ensuring that you're never forced to run through a boring tutorial to learn how to play it." However, rating the game at 7 out of 10, Reed has his share of complaints as well. "Just like the GameCube version [WarioWare Inc.: Mega Party Game$], though, there's not a huge amount of mileage to be had out of playing it in single-player mode," he explains. "Although all the microgames are new (unlike the GameCube version which recycled those found in the GBA original), you'll romp through them in a couple of hours." "Admittedly you can return to each character and go for a high score," Reed continues, "but it's not a game that necessarily benefits that greatly from repeat play." Reed feels that the various multiplayer modes extend playtime to a certain extent, but that the single-player experience is disappointingly easy nonetheless. "There's no question that Smooth Moves is a wonderful addition to the Wii at a time of the year when hardly anything else is being released," he summarizes, "but we can't deny that we were expecting much more from Nintendo. The way the game utilises the controller is beautiful and - as ever - the humour superb, yet it's a game short on long-term appeal because it never really dares to test players." 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish, on the other hand, defends Smooth Moves precisely because of its apparent simplicity. "Sure, [Smooth Moves's microgames are] gimmicky and kinda dopey," Parish admits, "but they're also subversive, substantive and clever, too. Look beyond the manic ADHD veneer and you'll still find a solid foundation of canny design, virtuosic imagination and, most importantly, a fundamental understanding of what makes gaming fun." Parish scores Smooth Moves at an 8 out of 10, explaining that while much of the game may seem familiar to WarioWare series veterans, its unique implementation of a variety of control schemes helps to keep gameplay fresh. "Even though you've kind of already seen what Smooth Moves has to offer in one of its earlier incarnations," he reassures, "you won't mind in the least. In fact, you'll have a damn good time." "The emphasis on the Wii remote isn't without its problems, though," Parish warns. "Where previous Wario games have been downright relentless in stringing together minigames one after the other, Smooth Moves slows things down a notch as a matter of necessity." This is in reference to the introduction of a mandatory pause in between microgames, to allow for players to reorient themselves to an ever-changing control scheme. "Not only does this slow things down, robbing the game of a bit of its usual energy," Parish notes, "it also waters down the challenge level. Most controller positions are applied to a fairly limited range of activities, so the extended break also serves a huge giveaway for the upcoming event." "Despite these modest shortcomings, though," he concludes, "WarioWare should be a welcome addition to any Wii library. And if you're looking for an accessible (albeit sometimes weird) way to convince your non-gaming family members that your pastime is actually pretty awesome, it's hard to top this." Even though many critics acknowledge the fact that WarioWare is familiar territory to most gamers by this point, reviews for WarioWare: Smooth Moves remain positive. If future Wii titles can continue to offer new twists on familiar gameplay formulas, Nintendo's other franchises could find themselves similarly revitalized and rewarded with critical acclaim.

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