No need to be wary of Wario WarioWare Gold
(Nintendo 3DS) ★★★★★ Age: 3+
Nintendo doesn’t seem as if it does naughty. The squeaky-clean heroes of the Kyoto giant contrast with the wicked warriors and meanspirited killing machines that dominate the rest of gaming.
But Wario is back to remind us of Nintendo’s mischievous side, where dubious hand movements, snot jokes and sneering jostle for space in rapid-fire mini-games. Wario obviously fills the role of anti-hero to Mario and has taken small cameos in many a mainstream Nintendo title over the years. But he last had a starring role in 2013.
WarioWare Gold can’t even be counted as an entirely fresh instalment in this overlooked franchise, bringing together as it does up to 300 micro-games, of which few in this compilation appear new. In fairness, the artwork’s been spruced up and a bunch of rewards added, alongside some gut-bustingly funny moments if you use the Amiibo figurines.
Gold just shows Wario up to his old tricks, flinging five-second challenges at you in brisk fashion. He rarely explains but always makes you laugh as you attempt to mash buttons, tilt the console or scratch at the screen frantically to carry out some ludicrous task.
So, same as it ever was. But it shows how much we’ve missed his cheeky antics that even a new helping of old Wario still delivers comedy gold.
The Banner Saga 3 (XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 12+
If Wario guarantees a smile, then The Banner Saga can always be relied on to bring down the mood. This last in the much-garlanded Viking strategic trilogy starts as it means to go on with another nihilistic vignette that throws you into the deep end. The band of plucky Vikings you shepherded through parts one and two arrive at the last city standing in the face of the malevolent Dredge.
But a greater threat looms in the form of an overarching evil known as “the darkness” and the sense is that the turn-based battles are lost before you even begin.
The doom-laden story is the main draw here, your decisions in previous instalments affecting how the closing part plays out. If you’ve never encountered Banner Saga before, however, this means a lot of the drama could pass you by. Consequently, the weak combat sticks out more, the tactical options lacking the complexity of similarly structured games such as the Fire Emblem series or Xcom.
It’s difficult, nonetheless, not to admire its stylish hand-drawn artwork and wintry soundtrack (by, um, noted composer Austin Wintory) and dedication to its apocalyptic narrative.