Wario: Master of Disguise (Nintendo DS)

When I originally played this back in, what, '08? I felt like one of the only people in the world who actually liked it. Replaying it, I found myself getting far more irritated with it than I did in the past.

In a nod to the classic Wario Land games where you'd solve environmental puzzles by turning Wario into a zombie or a balloon, you use the DS touch screen to draw shapes on Wario to switch him between seven costumes. Except it's stupidly inaccurate so whenever I wanted to turn into Arty Wario I'd keep turning into Genius Wario. And as funny as this is going to sound in writing, it's far less entertaining in-game when I'd try to turn into Dragon Wario and keep turning into Cosmic Wario, but when I actually wanted to be Cosmic Wario I'd keep turning into Captain Wario, and when I wanted to be Captain Wario I'd turn into Cosmic Wario. I'm pretty sure the game also kept mistaking Wicked Wario for Cosmic Wario because this game just wants Wario to be an astronaut I guess, but that one comes in so late in the game I didn't have much time to struggle with it.

This often makes boss battles a total nuisance, as you need to go through a couple costumes to expose their weak point, then quickly switch to the last costume to get the hit in before they bring their defenses back up... except you'll be fucking around with the controls and turning into the wrong costumes, and by the time you finally get the right costume to activate you have to start over (the Pharaoh comes to mind, and the dolphin boss is mostly spent ducking in the middle of the room). The second to last boss is a race through an obstacle course where you have to keep switching between disguises to deal with hazards. The time limit isn't exactly generous and no points for guessing you'll be wasting precious seconds trying to get Wario to turn into the right costume. Would it have broken the developers' hearts to just put some virtual buttons on the touch screen?

And by nailing this game to the touch screen, your right hand is always tied up so you use Up on the D-pad to jump and by fuck is this finicky. And treasure chests are unlocked by playing shitty, repetitive minigames of connect-the-dots to draw a poo, tapping bugs running on the screen, or lining falling objects up to the correct receptacle (where the DS stylus frequently blocks your view of spawning objects). Honestly, the only things benefitted by the touch screen are aiming Cosmic Wario's gun and even that could be reworked around D-pad controls, and placing Arty Wario's blocks (before anyone suggest Dragon Wario's breath, that absolutely would have worked fine with D-pad controls).

Combat also becomes super trivial about a third of the way through, when Arty Wario unlocks the ability to stop the game and give you all your health back whenever you want.

So what did 21-year-old me enjoy in this game, and still sort of do? I still get a kick out of the flavor text on the treasures. The spritework is great (though there's something off with the 3D models) and there's definite potential in the levels that would have made them a joy to explore if the game hadn't let the DS' features gum them up. And can everybody agree the soundtrack is a banger?