Having enjoyed three adventures on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, Wario Land 4 was the continuation of the Mushroom Kingdom anti-hero’s escapades on Game Boy Advance.
In this iteration, Wario learns of a pyramid discovered in the jungle but, when he enters it after following a cat, he tumbles into the ancient structure’s depths and gets stuck there. The moustachioed character is therefore left to hunt around the various 2D platform stages in the game to unlock treasure that will result in allowing him to exit the pyramid.
This Game Boy Advance classic provides four “worlds” for you to explore, each comprised of four different stages within them. In each, to progress, you will be required to recover various treasure and a key. These are often tricky to find, and so will require some exploring. However, these stages aren’t the usual start to finish style. Instead, when you reach a certain point, you will see a portal generator that can get you home. Once activated, a timer activates meaning that you have to return to the start in that time. Doing so may seem easy, but your previous path is often blocked, and to top it off you may only find certain treasures within your rush back to the start.
Unlike Wario Land 2 and Wario Land 3, Wario now has health again meaning that he can meet an untimely end and fail the stage. However, due to the lack of power-ups, this is done on a heart-based system akin to Zelda, which can be replenished by finding hearts throughout the stages. In addition to that, transformations still remain and are vital to traversing through the stages. These range from Fat Wario to Bouncy Wario and Vampire Wario and more being forced on you by various enemies. This requires some lateral thinking on how to proceed through the stages.
While Wario Land 4 is a decent enough platformer, some people may find it easy. Thankfully, there’s a Hard Mode available from the beginning which increases the amount of enemies, shifts treasure placement and lowers the time on the return timer. When this mode is beaten, you unlock Super Hard Mode which makes the game even more difficult. This is perfect for the seasoned player.
Finally, at the end of each world, there’s a boss to defeat. You have a limited amount of time to do this and few ways to recover. However, you can bring in items from the mini-game store. As you collect treasure throughout the game, you can later use that treasure to play mini-games to earn coins that can be expended in the item shop. These are relatively basic and don’t take long: Wario’s Homerun is a simple baseball game; Wario’s Roulette has you try to make Wario’s face, and Wario Hop has you try to keep jumping without hitting an obstacle. These feel like fleshed out versions of mini-games that you’d normally expect from the WarioWare series.
The graphics in this game are really nice. The sprite work in it is quite masterful and helps each stage look and feel different to that which came before it. The backgrounds are vibrant and busy, and it truly makes you feel like Wario is wandering the environment that he finds himself in rather than just being a decorative background. The smoothing filter does make the game look a bit easier on the eye due to this, but this is a game that I happily played through without it.
Whereas the game’s audio is rather subtle. The music isn’t blaring, but it’s there. Unfortunately, it’s not overly catchy, but it fits the game well. The best thing is how it becomes increasingly tense once you activate the Frog Switch and the timer begins. The other sound effects are classic Wario Land style and also fit the game.
Wario Land 4 is a great game, albeit a bit short. While the stages are longer than you’d expect, there’s a distinct feeling that you wish there was more to play through, but with what there is, it’s just great and solid fun. It’s definitely worth playing if given a chance, and it now has me wanting more Wario Land…