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'WarioWare: Move It!' transforms your family and friends into squirming chaos imps

Go the Distance, the best party mode in Move It!, still isn't quite as engaging as the game's co-op Story Mode.
Go the Distance, the best party mode in Move It!, still isn't quite as engaging as the game's co-op Story Mode.

It's 1 PM on a Saturday, and I've never watched my TV more closely.

Just about every five seconds, I'll be commanded to wave my arms to blend in with a kelp forest. Or I'll have to pump them like train wheels. Or I'll have to place them on my thighs and lift them to avoid oncoming rocks. There's always something new — and it's always absurd.

That's the joy of WarioWare: Move It!, out this Friday on the Nintendo Switch. After the last WarioWare game, Get It Together!, experimented with wildly imbalanced control schemes tied to different playable characters, Move It! returns to a more familiar format. You're back on even footing, playing simple microgames like those that made the first Game Boy Advance and GameCube titles so memorable. It doesn't rise to the level of the latter, but it's a marked improvement on the series' last dalliance with motion gameplay, Smooth Moves.

/ Nintendo

Return to form

No one plays WarioWare games for the plot, but I'll tell you the basic premise anyway. Wario — a dastardly bizarro version of Mario — wins an all-inclusive stay at a resort island, bringing along a score of characters that range from prepubescent ninja-twins to a space alien to a talking dog and cat in matching jumpsuits. You'll help this zany cast complete their respective chapters through "forms" bestowed by the island's residents: you may need to hold your Joy-Cons like a sword or barbells, or slap them to your face like you're Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. After a brief, tongue-in-cheek tutorial, you'll cycle through forms to clear wave after wave of five-second microgames accompanied by instructions that span from obvious to baffling: Scrub! Punch! Empty! Get Candy! Play a Card! Face the Ghost!

While the game blasts you with rapid-fire novelty, it's usually intuitive. Past WarioWare titles forced you to interpret each command through occasionally opaque button-presses. Move It! has you, well, move, which makes all the difference for folks who don't play many video games. Sure, the order to lay an egg may flummox you initially, but you'll see the arms on screen and realize it wants you to squeeze them... like, you know, you're laying an egg.

/ Nintendo

An engine for hilarious humiliation

This constant bewilderment gets much funnier with good company. I raced through all of the game's two-player Story mode with my wife and brother-in-law in a few hours. While we tag-teamed, the person sitting out got to watch a loony spectator sport, as hapless players scrambled to mime chickens pecking worms, waddle as penguins, or draw shapes with their butts. Best of all, the co-op is particularly forgiving; should you fail a task, your partner can replay it to redeem you. Should you run out of lives, you can revive by mimicking a special form on the screen.

The game's party modes aren't nearly so fun — though their unique gimmicks are worth experiencing at least once. Medusa March complicates the motion gameplay by forcing you to hold still at random. Galactic Party Quest is like Mario Party, but even more arbitrary (just what I wanted!). Who's in Control? has you scrutinize rival teams to find out who's pantomiming microgames and who's actually playing them. Of all the party modes, Go the Distance is the only one that would become a staple in my house, and that's because it's the simplest: face off at microgames until one person remains.

So while Move It! lacks the diverse competitive options that made my siblings and me sink countless evenings into the GameCube's Mega Party Game$, it's still the best WarioWare title in years. Who knows — I'll be seeing my brother and sister over Thanksgiving — maybe we'll all catch the bug again as we make utter fools of ourselves in the living room.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Perkins Mastromarino
James Perkins Mastromarino is Here & Now's Washington, D.C.-based producer. He works with NPR's newsroom on a daily whirlwind of topics that range from Congress to TV dramas to outer space. Mastromarino also edits NPR's Join the Game and reports on gaming for daily shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition.