All three of the previous games were fun, varied, and beautifully-designed, but the enhanced graphics and power of the Game Boy Advance definitely gives this the edge over its predecessors.
Wario Land 4 is another platform game featuring Mario‘s caricature-ish rival. In this fourth instalment Wario has become trapped inside a mysterious pyramid that he finds deep in the jungle. After making his way past the entry passage, and an early boss battle, Wario discovers four separate routes going deep into the pyramid – the ruby, sapphire, topaz and emerald passages. Each one of these has four individual stages and a boss battle at the end. And they can be tackled in any order. After completing these stages Wario then gains access to the innermost part of the pyramid.
Wario can do pretty much everything he could do in previous games – pick up and throw things; duck, slide, jump, swim, stomp, slide and roll, but the shoulder barge is still his most useful asset and this can be enhanced by holding down the L or R buttons to run faster. Again: Wario can sometimes take on the abilities of certain enemies if they attack him, some of which will be familiar if you’ve played the previous Wario Land games (including the flame monster, the fat guy, the inflated balloon, and so on), although there are new abilities added to this game too. Wario can turn into a bat and fly, for example, or he can turn into a snowball and roll to break through otherwise immovable blocks.
Each level in Wario Land 4 has a variety of obstacles to negotiate, and contraptions that spice up the gameplay, including crushers, rotating platforms, climbing frames, and pressable buttons that change the layout of the levels. There are also a variety of enemies that will hurt Wario and cause him to drop coins and lose health if they are not dealt with appropriately.
Unlike in previous games Wario now has a health bar. If Wario loses all his health he gets kicked out of a stage, loses any items he’s collected, and must start that level again from scratch. It’s fairly easy not to die, though, so that happens relatively rarely outside of boss battles. What is more challenging however is the introduction of a plunger/timer, which can be found hidden within each level. Jumping onto the plunger will change certain blocks within a level and start a timer that begins the count down. If Wario doesn’t complete the level before it reaches zero then a bomb will explode and the level will fail.
In each level you also have to collect four shards of a gem which can be found inside large yellow treasure chests. You can complete a level without collecting them all, but in order to unlock the boss at the end of each stage these gem shards must all be acquired. One other thing you definitely need to do in each stage is find the key to unlock the next door. This is carried by a ghost character who will follow you when you touch him. You must lead this ghost to the exit portal of each level.
Other extras found inside the pyramid include: a mini game shop with three different games to play, including a baseball game (that requires that you turn the screen vertically to view it properly), The Wario Hop (a tyre-jumping game), and Mario’s Roulette (press a button to stop rotating facial features in the correct place); there’s also a sound room (where you can play special musical tracks that are found during levels), and an item shop where you can buy useful items using special coins that you’ve collected.
Graphically, Wario Land 4 is absolutely stunning, with smooth, colourful visuals and humorous animations (like the abominable snowman and its runny nose). The music in the game is wonderful too. Overall it is arguably the best 2D Wario game available. Possibly even the best Wario game ever made. The gameplay is involving, challenging and fun, and it constantly throws new things at you to keep you on your toes. I had a huge amount of fun playing it and you will too (unless you’re a curmudgeon). 🙂