Video Game Science: Wario Land 3

Hello, welcome to a new thing I’ll be doing from time to time!

There are so many great games that I’ve played in the past but haven’t gone back to in a long, long while. So I thought I’d do a retrospective post and make a video showing the game off. Share the games I love, you know? And maybe some old games that I appreciate, even though they are flawed.

Truth be told, this is just a fun project that lets me play old games and write about them, and hey, that’s neat, right?

So, the first game I wanted to talk about is my favorite 2D platformer- Wario Land 3! A Gameboy Color game made by Nintendo. It’s a very unique approach to platforming- it’s less about overcoming challenges, and more about exploration and puzzle solving. Not to say the challenges are not there, some of the platforming can get absolutely brutal.

The game is divided into levels, so it’s not a full Metroidvania game, but it shares some of its DNA with those games. Each level has 4 treasures and 4 keys. You have to find a matching pair to finish the level. So each level, effectively, has 4 branches, and through the first half of the game, you only get to reach one of them, since to reach others you have to possess an item or an ability that will let you move past a gate or a challenge.

Usually, you complete a level, unlock two or three others which you will have to complete in order to unlock additional paths, and so on.

The way most branches in levels are reached is through solving some really cleverly designed puzzles. Wario can use his enemies in order to change his form and solve puzzles. Reminds you of something? It’s quite a bit like Super Mario Odyssey, isn’t it? Only it’s a bit more clever, since the same enemies that can help you reach places, and solve puzzles, can be used as obstacles in other parts of the level, or they can even mess things up for you seconds after they’ve helped you.

Solving puzzles involves getting squished by a hammer, and squeezing through tight spaces while looking like a pancake, getting stung by a bee, inflating, and floating to the top of the level avoiding obstacles, being set on fire and running around lighting up torches before time runs out, being bit by a zombie and passing through floors while avoiding light, being transformed into a vampire, and flying around as a bat, and so on.

Since Wario doesn’t have health points, energy, or any of that stuff (which was also very refreshing back then… and hey, it still is) the way the game punishes you for failing a challenge is to set you back a bit, usually by knockback or by transforming you into a form that will transport you back to the beginning of the challenge. It never shows you a game over screen, never dumps you of the level. Because of that, the game never loses momentum.

I wish other games utilized these ideas. Platformers still use lives as an incentive or as punishment, but this idea never quite works. Odyssey came very close to what Wario Land 3 was doing, but it still has those hearts, and that’s a bummer. You get hit too much, you go back to the black screen, load, get sent back to a checkpoint, yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, you can see why I like this game so much. There’s plenty of really experimental stuff here, especially for a Gameboy Color game, and it’s all incredibly well designed.

Here’s a video of me playing the game:

Try it out if you have a 3DS or something that can play it, it’s really fun!