Review: Wario Land II

What a disappointing sequel.  Wario Land II takes what was good about the first Wario Land — challenging platforming and fun power ups — and does away with it in favor of poor level design and power ups you typically don’t want.  Wario Land was a favorite game of my youth, but I feel sorry for the kid who picked this up at the store in 1998.  That same year, the kid could have been playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Wario Land II has very poor level design.  You use your ramming ability quite frequently to ram pots, crates and the like. These pots and crates aren’t placed in any clever sort of manner though.  They’re just scattered throughout levels randomly.  Enemy placement is pretty well random too.  The goal of the game is still to collect coins, but there is generally no real challenge to doing so.  You’d arrive somewhere and say, “Oh, I happened to have reached an area that has twenty or so coins.  Better pick them up and move on to the next area just like it in about a minute.”

You can’t die in Wario Land II.  That’s right.  There are no lives to speak of.  Quite simply, if you get hurt, you lose coins.  If you have no coins, you lose a step and continue on.  This was the biggest shock to me.  It eliminates the challenge of the game.  You can run into every enemy and every set of spikes repeatedly and still see the credits roll, all without getting one Game Over.  I have to assume they did this to make it easier for little kids, but it ruins the game.  How about instead of being invincible, there are multiple difficulty levels with the you-can’t-die option on the easiest setting?

The power ups are terrible and you generally don’t want them unless they’re needed to progress through the level.  You can turn into a ghoul, and walk very slowly and lose the ability to jump.  You can get flattened and drift in the breeze before stopping by landing on the ground three seconds later.  You can even, if you can believe it, be “Drunk Wario”, who doesn’t always move in the direction you press on the D-Pad.  The only way to stop being drunk is to jump in water.  The power ups in the original Wario Land were all enjoyable for their own unique reasons.  In Wario Land II, almost every power up is an annoyance.

Bosses are actually a highlight to the game, if only because you’re never doing the same style boss fight twice.  One boss you actually roll into a ball and shoot into a basketball hoop three times to win.  He can turn Wario into a ball and shoot baskets with you as well.  Three scores and you need to start over.  Again, the challenge to boss fights is lost because you can’t die, you just start over.  But this is an area where the development team got creative. 

Wario Land II has it’s moments.  There are rare occasions when the platforming actually is fun, and collecting coins is still enjoyable like in the first game.  But in so many ways, Wario Land II falls flat on it’s face as a poorly designed kids game going out of it’s way to be too easy.  I thought it might be fun to review the whole game series but now I’m second guessing that.  I understand Wario Land 4 is something of a cult classic, so it could be worth sticking around for that.  Wario Land II though, is a game that can be skipped.

2/5

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