Game Review: Wario's Woods
Wario's Woods

Wario's Woods Title Screen

  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Released: December 1994
  • Game Type: Action/Puzzle
  • Players: 1 or 2 Simultaneous
  • Product Number: NES-WB-USA
  • Rarity: B+ (Very Rare)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Wario's Woods Screen 1 Wario's Woods Screen 2

    Wario's Woods has the distinction of being the final licensed game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. By the end of 1994 the NES was pretty much done in the videogame world, but that didn't stop Nintendo from releasing one last cartridge for their trusty gray box. So they brought out this title, another Mario-themed action-puzzler that plays like Tetris but different, and features many options. This game is notable for not only starring Mario's little mushroom pal Toad, but also being the only NES appearence of Mario's evil doppelganger Wario. (It's also the only NES game rated by the then-new ESRB.) At first glance it may not seem like much, but Wario's Woods proves to be an excellent title, one that helps the NES go out on a high note.

    As mentioned above, Toad takes center stage in this game, his first real starring role. The game doesn't have much of a story: Wario is causing much ruckus in the Peaceful Woods with his gang of creatures and Toad takes it upon himself to clear them out. That means taking out all the invaders, one tree at a time, until he gets a shot at the big man himself.

    When you first begin the game, you have a selection of game modes to play. The main game is the Round Game, and you get choices of playing either the A Game, where you just eliminate monsters, or the B Game, where you have a boss fight after every 10 rounds, each with 100 levels. The gameplay works just like Dr. Mario or Tetris 2; you take control of Toad in a tree trunk along with a group of creatures. There are two modes in each level; Bomb Time and Monster Time. In the Bomb Time phase, Birdo looks on as a sprite is constantly raining down bombs on you. Your job is to catch the bombs and arrange them to elimiate the monsters. You have to line up monsters and bombs of the same color, and once a bomb is touching at least two other pieces of the same color (bombs or monsters), that bomb will explode taking the other pieces with it. You can make matches horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, and you can eliminate more than two monsters. Some monsters can only be eliminated certain ways so watch out. However after a certain amount of time (indicated by a meter near the top of the screen), Wario comes out and the fairy is replaced by a pidgit. The pidgit will send down bombs and monsters, while Wario will repeatedly smash the screen, bringing down the ceiling. You can make matches of at least four to cause the ceiling to rise back up, and making chain reactions of several matches will shorten Wario's time. After some time Wario leaves, Birdo comes back and it goes around again until the level is finished. If Toad can eliminate all the monsters in the tree, he'll be able to go to the next level, but if the playing field fills all the way up, Toad gets toasted and the game ends. Also in the boss fights (B Game), you battle the boss by making matches that come in contact with the creature.

    Fortunately Toad has a selection of moves to help him survive. Toad has the ability to pick up one piece at a time or he can carry whole stacks around. He can also kick monsters to the side and can drop a stack and go to the top instantly. Toad can even walk up walls and stacks to the top and pick out pieces from the middle of tall stacks. If Toad eliminates at least five pieces in a row, a diamond will appear, and if Toad makes a match with the diamond, all monsters of the same color vanish. If Toad clears a level fast enough, he'll receive coins, and amassing 30 coins will get you a continue. The game also sports a battery save feature that records your progress after every five levels, ensuring you won't have to start completely over.
    The other modes offer some nice features. You can go into the Time Mode where you try and clear a series of levels in the fastest time possible, or if you want to learn the moves, you can go into the Lesson Mode which will teach you various techniques to help you. Since this is a Nintendo puzzler, you also get a Vs. Mode, pitting you against another player in a best-of-5 contest. In a split-screen confrontation, you try to either clear your side of the screen first, or cause you're opponent's side to fill completely up. As you make matches, you can cause havoc on your opponent's side; eliminating four or more pieces lowers you opponenet's ceiling, while making chain reactions causes a stack of creatures to appear, reaching all the way to the top. You can also set handicaps to even the playing field.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are not the best but still pretty good. The forest in the background looks nice but never changes; some variety would have helped a little. Toad looks small but has some good animation, including making a V sign when you complete a round. The monsters also look good and have some nice animation, and the portraits of Birdo and Wario near the top are well done. As for the audio, the sound effects are nice, with a decent BOOM sound when bombs detonate, but the background tunes are a mixed bag. Some of them are fun to listen too, others not so much. At least the music manages to sound appropriate for each segment.

    The controls work very well here. Toad has a nice variety of moves to get him out of each jam and it's pretty easy to pull them off, which is good considering the NES controller only has two action buttons. It may take some practice to get them down, but once you do you shouldn't have too much trouble.

    Challenge & Playability:
    As usual, the main part that counts for a puzzle game is the gameplay, and Wario's Woods does not disappoint in the least. This game is very fun and innovative, since it focuses on moving Toad instead of the old "manipulate the falling pieces" gameplay of other Tetris clones. This game also has a decent learning curve for the most part. The early stages are easy enough and you'll be able to blow through them without too much trouble. Around level 40 things start getting a little tougher, and the last few stages will really strain your brainpower and reflexes. Often times you may have to try them a few times to get past them and at times it can get frustrating, especially when you lose and you don't have any continues, forcing you to start over from a few stages back. At the same time it also has that charm that compels you to try again. The versus mode is good fun for two players, though it would have been nice to have a vs. computer mode (like the SNES version does). All this is helped by the battery backup feature, letting you save your best times and progress so your hard work doesn't disappear when turn your NES off. It would have been nice to save more than one file, though.

    The bottom line is Wario's Woods is without question another great title from Nintendo. While the audio and visulas won't blow you away, this game excelles with its great gameplay, plus its many features will keep you addicted and occupied for hours. This is a game that puzzle fans and action fans should definetly check out. It may not be the big finish some NESers envisioned for their trusty console, but Nintendo definetly came through and the NES got one last great game before heading into videogame retirement.

    - Review posted on December 1, 2006