When it comes to its most famous mascot Nintendo likes to play things safe, with Mario used to front sure-fire platformers, sports titles and party games. But if Nintendo has a slightly riskier idea, it calls on Wario. The WarioWare series is perfectly matched to its host character - funny, strange and convention-breaking - and The Shake Dimension is another example of the cantankerous fattie turning genre conventions on their head.
While on the face of it, Wario's new game might not seem like such an unusual proposition, particularly given his well-documented 2D platforming past, the idea of a full-price title venturing into a genre long since abandoned by most home console developers seems very risky indeed. Especially as, to casual observers at least, it might seem to fall victim to the sort of laziness we regularly accuse other games of, with just the occasional use of the Wii's motion controls to liven up a pretty standard set-up. Yet while some will probably unfairly dismiss it as yet another pointless waggle-fest, playing The Shake Dimension really makes you wish that Nintendo would go 2D a little more often.
The game's story isn't much more than an excuse for Wario to go treasure hunting, and takes a back seat to the action after a glorious opening cartoon from Japanese animators Production IG, the team behind the anime sequences in the equally lovely DS puzzler Professor Layton And The Mysterious Village (due out here soon).
Wario receives a gift from long-time rival Captain Maple Syrup (who you may remember from the first Wario Land game) of an antique globe and telescope, which allow him to teleport to the titular Shake Dimension. But all is not well in this world, thanks to a fearsome pirate named the Shake King. He's kidnapped the queen of the dimension's inhabitants, the Merfles, and one escapee asks Wario to help rescue her, with the promise of a bottomless coin sack if he duly succeeds. Naturally, our anti-hero soon perks up at the idea of an infinite supply of money and dives in to help out.
There are five continents in the Shake Dimension, each with four stages and a boss level to get through before you can move on to the next. Though just completing the stages might not be enough to progress, as you'll need to collect plenty of money to purchase the maps from Captain Syrup's shop. She's not just in this for the ride, clearly. Her ship acts as the game's tutorial level, showing you the ropes both in terms of controls and the various gameplay mechanics.
While the basic platforming controls are pretty much exactly what you'd expect - Wario's power-dashes and butt-stomps joining the usual waddling and jumping - it's the Wii Remote's unique abilities that add a few neat twists. Firstly, if you jerk the controller downwards, Wario will slam his chubby fist into the ground, which is useful both for stunning enemies and activating various environment-sensitive features. Bomb blocks will explode, barriers will raise and you'll occasionally knock a precariously balanced rock down to your level, allowing you to clamber up to a previously unreachable area.
Shaking the Wii Remote while you've grabbed a stunned enemy often releases a giant clove of health-giving garlic, and you'll also be able to relieve various money sacks scattered about the stages of their valuable contents - though be sure to collect all of the coins as they spray everywhere otherwise they won't be added
to your wallet.