Ah, WarioWare. Out of all of Nintendo’s long-running series, it has to be the weirdest, the wackiest, and the most, well, Wario of them all. If you’re a fan of motion-control minigame antics, I’ve got good news to report. It’s more of the same with WarioWare: Move It!. It’s just as unruly, unusual, and, in some cases, unsettling as the series has ever been, and I mean that endearingly. If you think Nintendo largely plays it safe in other games, this is the one to remind you just how off-the-wall the gaming giant can be when it feels like it.
Now, the big thing to keep in mind going into this addition to the WarioWare pantheon is that it’s the closest resemblance to a pure party game I’ve ever experienced in the series, more so even than Shake It! for Wii. It’s definitely more rewarding as a shared experience, be it in the one-to-two-player story or the two-to-four-player party mode. There’s no option to play with the Joy-Cons attached to the Switch, as the Move It! suggests, so prepare to be on your feet and in a space with plenty of room for activities. If you were hoping for a classic frantic-button-pushing WarioWare, this isn’t it.
The gameplay in Move It! requires you to learn a series of poses you then recreate while gripping the Joy-Cons. These range from the relatively tame, like Knight, where you essentially hold an imaginary two-handed sword out in front of you, to the more extravagant alternatives such as Ba-KAW, where you use the Joy-Cons to turn yourself into a chicken. I’ll be honest, I hate Ba-KAW and on completing this review I never intend on posing as a chicken again. However, most on offer are pretty fun and offer some variety as you power through endless waves of minigames.
A game like this requires precise motion controls, and fortunately, that’s just what you get more often than not. Providing you follow the instructions and move quickly enough between minigames – each stage has two, three, or in remix stages, unlimited poses to recreate – you can hardly ever blame the game for failing. It’s at its best in remix stages, throwing you different poses with each minigame and mixing it up in a way that feels truest to the chaos at the core of the series. Plus, it’s always fun to watch your co-op partner frantically assume the Big Cheese pose before wiggling their hips or taking it around town.
However, while the motion controls are incredibly accurate, they do come with their own impracticalities. I’m around 6”2, give or take a little, and live in a house with a relatively low ceiling. This makes the Sky Stretch pose pretty difficult to achieve without taking up a weird sort of crouching position. It’s either that, or I routinely punch my ceiling, Joy-Cons in hand. The same issue applies to any of the minigames that require you to pose and jump. I have to admit, I value my own life over an in-game one, so it makes more sense to take the L rather than chance a trip to A&E.
In general, the poses where your hands are closest to your body and the Joy-Cons are closer together were the most responsive in my experience, with the exception of the Ba-KAW. I don’t just hate Ba-KAW because it makes you stand like a chicken, but because it’s one of the minority of poses that doesn’t always seem to play ball with what you’re trying to achieve, along with some of the more extravagant poses like Squat and Archer. Still, for the most part, the game understands what you’re trying to do, and it’s up to you to do it right.
Onto the minigames, and they’re as mind-boggling as ever. It’s essentially the closest I’ve ever felt to participating in a Japanese game show. Still, despite the apparent absurdity, Move It!’s minigames manage to get the point across quickly and consistently across a myriad of rapid challenges. I rarely found myself without an inkling of what to do, and that’s especially important when you’re battling against the clock.
The Move It! minigames are at their best when they combine the wacky and the mundane. Some of the most memorable moments include shaking yourself down for contraband just before a police search, chugging along as a steam train Wario, and picking a massive nose with both arms. That is some classic WarioWare right there.
The boss stages are also more hit than miss, doing a solid job of forcing you to prove your mastery over a specific pose. For instance, the stage that introduces you to the Scales pose ends with a flying boss stage minigame utilizing the position, dodging enemies and obstacles while keeping yourself in the air and out of the water. There’s also an end-game boss to contend with, which, without revealing too much, does a great job of putting everything you’ve learned throughout into practice in something of an unexpected spectacle.
Still, if I’m being totally honest, some of the minigames aren’t for me. I’m not sure if I’m just a bit of a prude, but the frequent occurrences of muscular dudes and bikini-clad women just aren’t my jam. I can do gross out all day long, but someone in the design department for this game really, really likes a good bicep. The emphasis on the human form might be one of WarioWare’s long-standing quirks, but it’s one I wish was Nintendo behind by now. Nose-picking is fine, though. It’s not quite WarioWare without having to worm around in some nasal cavities.
While you go through much of the story mode without having to press a button, clicking does eventually arrive at just past the halfway mark. As a fan of the more button-orientated WarioWare titles from years gone by, this made things a bit more fun for me, adding some minigames that require little movement but quick decisions when it comes to what to press. If it was up to me, I’d have utilized button controls from the start, but it’s relatively clear that Nintendo is more concerned with gesture controls than mashing your controller in this Wario minigame outing.
The writing is classic WarioWare in that it’s routinely absurd. The basic premise is that Wario wins a ticket to take himself and twenty others to Caresaway Island, and of course, that twenty includes the classic minigame gang, with Ashley, Dr. Crygor, Orbulon, and others tagging along.
As you arrive on Caresaway Island, you discover the Form Stones, which are essentially Joy-Cons. Each time you unlock a new pose, you get a brief bit of wacky lore explaining how the natives of Caresaway Island used the ancient Form Stones for their benefit. It’s all a bit shoehorned in, but let’s be honest, no one is picking up WarioWare for a gripping narrative, and the silliness adds to the overarching cartoon chaos.
Each of the story levels concentrates on a different character or group from the history of the series, starting with Wario himself. It’s a bit of a shame not to see more of Wario if I’m being totally honest, but the theme for each of the levels is always vibrant and full of the zany tongue-in-cheek action you’re expecting, with some of the highlights including shark surfing with Jimmy and the group effort remix stages. It’s all just framing for the minigames, really, but it’s by no means an ugly frame.
I can’t say too much about the party mode as I’ve not been able to experience it with a full group, just a bit of two-player co-op action. Still, this WarioWare seems like the most party-ready I’ve seen, providing an on-your-feet alternative to something like Jackbox while still offering all the laughs. Just imagine your grandma or technophobe uncle trying to attempt a rooster position with a single Joy-Con. In this instance, Ba-KAW isn’t all that bad.
The party side of things includes four different types of two-to-four-player modes and a special gauntlet strictly for four players. To make it a bit easier to get everyone involved, you can play with one Joy-Con each, and the controls are just as accurate as they are with two. Of the party modes I tried out, Medusa March was the most entertaining, as your party battles through a collection of minigames to take on the towering Medusa. They’re not all as imaginative, though, and Go the Distance is a slightly dull duel that serves its purpose as a minigame royale but without the pizzazz of taking on the Gorgon.
Despite all the fun I’ve had with Move It!, there’s quite a glaring fault. It’s seriously lacking in the accessibility department. To participate fully, you need to stand up, use both arms equally, and react at a moment’s notice. I know the latter is the main gimmick of the series, but it wouldn’t hurt to have the option to slightly relax things to help settle the uninitiated in the story mode. Grandma might do some serious damage to herself launching into the Fashionista at a second’s notice. That’s more of a gripe than a fault, but the problem of required standing and using both arms at all times is a very prominent accessibility issue, excluding some almost entirely from taking part.
While I know that Move It! isn’t the first motion control-orientated WarioWare title, it feels unfair that some fans of the wider series are going to have to skip another entry. I tried to play seated just to see if it was at all possible, and it’s not. Not really. While some poses admittedly aren’t an issue, those like Crouch, Squat, and At Attention are not practical while sat. Some are fine from the sofa, like Hand Model, Lovestruck, and Lifter, so it would have been nice to see perhaps a separate game mode for those who can’t play standing.
There’s one saving grace in terms of approachability, though. Move It! is not nearly as unforgiving as previous series entries when it comes to clearing stages in the story mode. You start each round with four lives, but even if you lose them all, you can pick up four more lives and attempt to make it to the boss stage with the Second Chance Stance. Despite what the name implies, you also get a third chance, though I never failed hard enough to see if there are more opportunities for redemption after that.
All-in-all, WarioWare: Move It! is everything you expect from a motion control title in the series. If anything, it’s a fantastic showcase for how well Nintendo can utilize the full breadth of possibilities with Joy-Con controls as we approach the console’s seventh year, made better by some colorful cartoon visuals of the WarioWare gang. However, the lack of accessibility options is downright disappointing, and I think it’s fair to expect more from a publisher with the resources of Nintendo.
WarioWare: Move It! is a festival of frantic fun, offering the sort of minigame madness we’ve come to expect from the series. However, the reliance on standing poses presents something of an accessibility issue, and one the game has little answer for.