Wario Land: Shake Dimension – Mechanics

April 2nd, 2013

To wit, Wario Land: Shake Dimension takes Wario Land 4, pairs back or removes the mechanics, transformations, and game elements to a sort of proto-Wario Land 1 state and then replaces all the nuance and dynamics that made Wario Land 4 engaging with gestures that don’t evolve beyond their base level application. That’s not to jump on the “motion controls ruin everything, boo, hoo, hoo” bandwagon. In this case, the gameplay concepts themselves aren’t expanded beyond the player shaking the remote to make Wario do a particular action. The folded level design also isn’t so crash hot either, and the game has a nasty habit of making it easy for the player to fail optional challenges (often listed as side objectives, for the compulsive) and then denying them a retry, something which encourages manual restarts. Shake Dimension is a bare bones Wario game to say the least. Let’s extend on this a little though:


Wario’s core ability set is identical to Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, except that the player can turn the Wii-mote to angle throws and shake the Wii-mote to shake a held object or activate an Earthshake Punch. Shaking a held object can cause coins or other treats to come bouncing out of them. The Earthshake Punch has Wario punch the ground, stunning enemies and altering certain level elements. The mechanic’s similar to Wario Land 4‘s heightened smash attack (level 2 quake), but can be activated instantly and runs on a cool down meter.

The Earthshake Punch and shaking held objects aren’t very engaging mechanics: the player waggles the controller and Wario does the action, that’s it. Although the mechanics are intuitive, as the input matches the output (shaking), there’s no variability to the motion. So, Wario can’t not do an Earthshake Punch because the player didn’t shake the controller hard enough, for example. Furthermore, the player can’t charge the mechanics like Wario Land 4‘s smash attack (ground pound), frame cut like Wario Land 4‘s attack jump, or activate frame-specific moves like Wario Land 4‘s dash attack.


Many of Wario’s mechanics are allocated to specific game elements. It’s these game elements that make up the majority of gameplay concepts—as opposed to the transformations in Wario Land 4, which are extremely paired back in Shake Dimension. These devices make clever use of the Wii-mote’s accelerometer and are much more engaging than the two permanent, motion-controlled mechanics. The unibuckets, for example, accelerate sharply when the Wii-mote is tilted, so the player must work against this nuance so as not to oversteer (more examples in the image above). I’m not so convinced of the Subwarine, though, which is fiddly and unnatural. Best to leave the submarining to Mario.

When Wario enters a red, right-angled pipe, officially called a Max Fastosity Dasherator, he can dash attack. Shake Dimension‘s dash attack is modelled after Wario Land 4‘s, but there are two significant differences:

These changes put a stress on the player keeping the dash attack active over an extended distance, where they can make the most of its fast speed. The folded level design and reward-based sub-objectives play into this, hiding the best rewards where only a dash attacking Wario can reach, at the end of the post-fold. This is also true of the time-based sub-objectives, which can only be met by completing most of the post-fold with the dash attack. The ability to change direction allows for more latitude in the level arrangements and plays into the mechanic’s skid nuance.

As for the other differences between Shake Dimension and its predecessor:

This is a two-parter, so stick around for part #2 where I discuss Shake Dimension‘s enemies, rewards, level design, and progression structure.

  • Steve Johnathan

    I always felt like this game was just way, way, waaay too easy. The enemies hardly put up a fight and most of them are so hilariously pathetic that they can’t even hurt you.

    I’m glad you’re not quick to blame it on “motion controls”. Although, I have to confess that I used to blame this game on Nintendo’s “regressive” and “complexity-averse” attitude opting for only the wiimote and rejecting the nunchuk, much like with Other M. Naturally, yours and Richard’s blog showed me otherwise and that it’s not that straightforward.

    I’m looking forward to part 2.

  • Yeah, most of the game’s challenge comes from the side objectives and speed running aspects, which I’ll talk about in part two. If you look at Nintendo’s output in recent years, you’ll notice that their games are actually becoming considerably more difficult. Mario Galaxy 2, Zelda Spirit Tracks, and Mario and Luigi: BIS, three games that I’ve played in the past year or two, are all pretty tough. This is to say nothing of the new types of challenges from motion control gaming and asynchronous multiplayer.

  • CM30

    I’ll definitely be interested in seeing the second part of this article. I mean, I thought Wario Land Shake It was a decent game myself (although not as strong as the last game on things such as music or level variety), but a more critical look at the enemies and level design could be interesting.

    I do however think it probably did boss battles right, which is rarely something you find in a 2D platformer by Nintendo nowadays (the Koopalings only JUST become interesting in New Super Mario Bros U, Donkey Kong Country Return’s bosses were a bit lacking and generally it seems like boss battles are becoming a bit neglected in recent titles).

    P.S. Yeah, Nintendo games are definitely becoming more difficult level design wise. A good recent example of this is Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, a game which really punishes people who can’t think things through and actually has enemies take off about a fifth of your lifebar in a single attack. Or hell, just Donkey Kong Country Returns in general.

  • I’m not so sure about the bosses. I can’t remember much about them, actually, other than they weren’t as tough as the ones in Wario Land 4 (which are the best part of the game).

    As I say here, Shake Dimension has a sound mechanical base. Some parts are good, some are less good. It’s really the level design which fails to make use of the mechanics that lets the game down.

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