July 15th, 2016
Stolen Projects, the outfit which published Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4, has recently closed. Yesterday I opened a Gumroad account to continue selling the book online. The new shopfront will also host future publishing ventures and I will continue to work with Daniel Purvis, the creative behind Stolen Projects, moving forwards. Feel free to direct any purchasing queries to my email danielprimed [at] gmail [dot] com.
I have also taken this opportunity to update the Additional Material page with links to Wario-related articles which I have published since the release of the book.
August 19th, 2014
Not long after I released Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4 a handful of readers emailed in and gave suggestions for amendments. I’d like to share them here.
Quest Hawthorn had a theory that Aerodent’s biggest weakness is Large Lips because in Japanese “kiss” shares the same sound as a mouse squeaking.
Rowan Divey found a small mistake in Mario and Wario – A Character Comparison:
“You claim that the act of Mario taking away the golden princess statue is an example of Mario going against his do-gooder nature.
However, if you had read the manual for Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, you would know that the statue had belonged to the mushroom kingdom before Captain Syrup had stolen it, and that Wario was planning on holding the statue for ransom when he had succeeded in obtaining it. Ergo, Mario’s action are not an act of spite, but an act of securing someone’s property before further crimes could be performed with it. This is even discounting the possibility that Mario was aware of Wario’s efforts or presence during that time.
However, it is still an embarrassment for Wario, as his greedy nature sees the inability to obtain any potential material reward as a failure, despite how many rewards he may already have obtained at the time.”
CM30 wanted me to add a bit more context to some sections in the Need to Know chapter:
“Okay, one more thing. On page 70, you talk about the flowers in Wildflower Fields and say:
‘wither up and be attacked for a few loose coins’.
This is technically right, but it’s also a bit misleading. The game actually gives you a different amount of money depending on how long you wait before breaking the flower bud, with the larger ‘bud’ giving the most money and the broken one (which occurs if you wait too long) giving you the least.
You might also want to mention that Robo Bird enemies are one of the very few monsters that actually respawn in this game, which adds another layer of challenge.”
Thanks for the submissions and thanks to everyone who continues to email and tweet in to let me know how the book is helping them better understand games.
May 6th, 2014
A number of readers have requested that I do a write up on my personal opinion on Wario Land 4. So this post is going to be just that, a bit of an indulgence. But before I out what I think of the game, I want to explain why I’m sometimes reluctant to discuss subjective in my writing.
On the subjective
All my ideas for writing come from my gut. I play a game, feel something, and want to make sense of that feeling. So I take notes and let the ideas stir around in my subconscious for a while, waiting for the eventual click to happen. Sometimes it comes straight away, other times I need to gather more evidence from the game, and every now and then it doesn’t come at all and I’ll try and fill in the pieces by talking to others or doing research. Once the insight hits, I’ll start drafting, which brings some of the implications out and forces me to expand on the details, if I haven’t already. Editing then tightens up the argument, and I’ll be left with a nice summative piece that explains how it is that I came to have that original feeling.
It’s through this process of putting in the hard work to make sense of your opinions that you realise that what you’ve unearthed is far bigger than yourself. In other words, I don’t feel that knowing what I think is half as interesting as having the means to understand what you think.
Of course, opinions are helpful and I have no problems using them in my writing. It’s just that it’s important to keep our ideas grounded for the sake of clarity. I like to think that someone who totally disagrees with my ideas should be able to read one of my posts and understand how it is that I came to form my opinion.
Here’s what I think of Wario Land 4:
- Fiery Cavern is the best level in the game. If that wasn’t obvious enough. It’s in a totally different league to the other levels.
- Hotel Horror is the worst level in the game. My original piece on Hotel Horror was scathing, but when I looked closer at the pathways through the hotel, I realised that it fit in with the “optional challenges” theme running through Topaz passage. So it was nice to have something to say about this level in the end.
- Writing about Wario Land 4 has changed the way I see game ideas and level variation. Base level challenges that don’t develop and don’t play an important function in the game (for example, a break from several difficult challenges) annoy me like crazy. This is why I don’t think much of Hotel Horror and Toy Block Tower. At least Palmtree Paradise has a functional purpose, to introduce the player to the jewel pieces, keyzer, and folded level design.
- I’m a bit concerned about the variation and game ideas in the earlier Wario Land games. I played Wario Land 3 and Shake Dimension last year, so I can talk about these games. Generally speaking I can say that Wario Land 3 is a hodge-podge of unrelated puzzle and platforming challenges and the hub-based level design only gives each level’s four routes a handful of arrangements each, so the overall structure makes it difficult for more sophisticated game ideas to emerge. Shake Dimension‘s levels do have their own gameplay concepts, but they meander and lose their focus.
- I remember when I first saw Wario’s sprite. I thought he looked ugly compared to the more cartoony depictions in prior titles. I still haven’t really made sense of this. I just kind of ignored his sprite as I was analysing the game.
- I like how the puzzles are organised in Wario Land 4. In prior games, you had many simple puzzles break up the platforming. In Wario Land 4, with the GBA making the change for action gameplay, the puzzles are segregated into their own areas and many of them are focused on teaching the nuances of the main mechanics. In this way, the puzzle rooms support the action gameplay nicely.
- I first played Wario Land 4 on the plane to Shanghai. At one point, I had finished almost all the levels, but couldn’t find all of the keyzers and jewel pieces in some of them. I can understand that some people felt that some of these elements were too difficult to find and that they don’t like having to play the levels again to find them, but that’s too bad for them. As we know, the game does a good job of introducing the player to the locks and keys through the Hall of Heiroglyphs and Palmtree Paradise. And if you look at the maps for all the levels, it’s clear that the collectables aren’t that hard to find if you keep your eyes open and do a little exploring. Furthermore, the jewel piece chests are positioned equal ways through each level so that the player should have a sense for where they can find them.
- I dig how the narrative kind of sits in the background. It’s really appropriate for this game because, as I explained in the book, Wario doesn’t care about the Golden Diva and the whole back story of the Golden Pyramid. He just wants the treasure. So the player’s put in a similar position to Wario and is likely to respond to the events in the game in the same way. Equally, there’s enough backdrop given for those who are interested in digging deeper.
- The bosses are all, of course, fantastic. Cractus is my favourite. It was a real puzzle analysing all his different phases and looking for patterns in his design.
- I didn’t even notice that Yurei could pick up coins or take the keyzer until I played through the level a few times. I think I might have written the draft without mentioning it.
- I’m not a Wario nut, but I am very fond of the series, though. Wario Land 4 is my favourite game out of the lot, but it’s not my “favourite game of all time” or anything like that.
There you have it, my opinions of Wario Land 4. I told you it wouldn’t be terribly exciting, but I hope it adds a bit of context to the book. I’m always happy to answer any questions that you might have about the game or series, so if I haven’t addressed something you were hoping I’d cover, then feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll get to it.