Wario, Mario's rude and brightly attired doppelganger, has forged an eclectic resume of video game appearances. While he's a staple in the Mario sports spinoffs and has successfully kicked off a bizarre new genre of games with the quirky Warioware titles, his roots lie in the 2D platforms of the early 90's. For those who are feeling a little wistful for that time in gaming history, Warioland: Shake It! is a glorious return to Wario's two dimensional origins. For everyone else, it's a funny little platformer with more style than substance.
The premise of Shake It is suitably odd and pretty much irrelevant. A peaceful kingdom has been disrupted by the Shake King, who has popped out of the Shake Dimension in order to kidnap the nation's queen and steal the magical Bottomless Coin Sack, a national treasure. Wario's ostensibly on a mission to restore order to the disrupted realm but being the greedy guy that he's always been, he's really just in it for the coin sack.
Wario's quest plays out in classic sidescrolling fashion. The controls are kept simple, requiring only the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wii remote (which is held sideways) to execute Wario's handful of moves. Aside from the standard jumps and attacks, there are a few contextual actions that get you to shake the remote so that Wario can empty riches out of coin sacks or knock health pickups from dazed baddies. The remote's tilt function also plays into aiming some throws and guiding vehicles in a few levels.
Aside from the dash of motion control, this game is jump-and-run action just the way you remember it. The goal of each level is to travel to the right, reach a checkpoint, and then race back to the beginning before the clock runs down, bopping a variety of enemies along the way. While it's nothing original, Shake It hones the sidescrolling genre to near perfection and, aside from a disproportionately difficult final boss, the pacing and feel of each level is just right. Therefore, it's unfortunate the game's main quest is so short and attempting the additional missions will only take you back through old levels repeatedly – none of which are much fun the second or third time around.
If Shake It has anything going for it, it's style. The graphics consist entirely of hand drawn animation reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons from 1992 and while the game is no technical showcase, it just plain looks good. The sound is in a similar vein; the minimalistic voice acting and bouncy thematic music accent the visuals perfectly. Topping it all off is Wario's trademark silly and vaguely crude humour, which somehow manages to make even the most mature players chuckle at the wacky anti-hero's penchant for booty shaking and classic slapstick.
Warioland: Shake It! is a great throwback to Wario's early days and its charming visual style and smooth gameplay make it fun even for those who aren't afflicted with gaming nostalgia. The main story feels much too short though and the extended experience relies on repetitive filler. While you'll probably want to play this one sooner or later, you might want to wait until you can get your hands on it for less than the standard $50 retail rate.