The Wario Land series finally gets the graphical (and sound) upgrade it deserves with Wario Land 4 arriving on Game Boy Advance. This game removes the puzzle part of the puzzle-platform game that was Wario Land 3 and makes a traditional platformer where you collect gems and uncover secret rooms. The game takes the better elements from all the previous Wario Land games and throws in an excellent soundtrack and fantastic boss fights. Sadly, the game is short, but if Nintendo-style 2D platformers are your kind of game, there’s definitely something in Wario Land 4 for you.
Again, Wario Land 4 borrows from all previous games in the series, but is unique unto itself. Similar to the first two games, you’re collecting things, but instead of collecting coins, you’re collecting gems, which translate into a dollar value at the end of every level. Wario’s primary move is still ramming into things with his elbow, but some enemies can transform Wario into things like a bat or a zombie, as a holdover from Wario Land 2 and 3. Finally, Wario Land 4 has a big focus on platforming, like the first two games. And it’s the best platforming yet.
The game has plenty of gems to collect, but levels are meant to be explored, because if you look carefully, you’ll often find secret passages or breakable blocks that lead you somewhere with something more desirable. There’s a blue diamond that’s worth 1,000 points, which are often hidden somewhere off the beaten path. There are four treasure chests in each level, each of which contains one piece of a gem. After scouring the level for all the chests, the pieces come together to form a large gem which helps unlock the door to the boss. There’s a key in each level that unlocks the door to the next level. Finally, there are CDs which unlock tracks in the Sound Room, which are optional, but always well hidden. Needless to say, if you like games where you’re collecting things, this is a game for you.
The soundtrack is excellent. It’s definitely “game music”, but it runs the gamut from smooth jazz, to electronica, to prog rock. Having a Sound Room and collectable CDs was a nice touch. I found myself humming the tunes when I took a break from the game. I can’t really say that about previous Wario Land games, with the exception of the first one.
Boss fights are some of the best I’ve seen in a 2D platformer. It’s much more than just hitting a weak point. There are multiple ways in which a boss can damage you, and after you attack it one way a certain number of times, you typically have to figure out a second way to attack it because the first way stops working. You can play mini-games to buy items prior to the fight to make it easier, but I enjoyed just going in without any items. You’re on a time limit, and if you take too long, treasure for beating the boss gets taken away from you, adding to the challenge.
Again, it’s unfortunate, but the game is pretty short. There are 18 levels and six bosses. But the quality of the platforming in the levels, the hidden areas, the music, and the boss fights all add up to a fantastic game that’s perhaps the pinnacle of the series barring length. Give Wario Land 4 a try if you don’t mind beating it in a day.