'Wario Land' is fun and breezy

The best part is scrambling to get back to the start of the stage after reaching the goal.

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Ah Wario, you gluttonous, greedy bastard, how we've missed you. Not that you've really gone anywhere - those "WarioWare" games gave us great joy, and you're always hanging around Mario when he feels like playing a few innings of baseball - but you haven't been your shoulder-tackling, treasure-hunting self for years.

The plot here is paper-thin: Wario likes treasure. Wario hears about a bag of coins that produces infinite amounts of coins when shaken. See Wario run. There's something about rescuing a princess in there (no, not that one), but you'll probably care as much about her as Wario does.

Beyond Wario's trusty jump, shoulder tackle, enemy-throwing arm and ass-so-big-it-causes-earthquakes controlled by traditional buttons, the Wii remote bestows some important new abilities upon him. Bags of coins require a mean shaking of the remote to empty their contents, and flicking the remote downward quickly makes Wario punch the ground beneath him with seismic force - an ability usually reserved for destroying obstacles and solving puzzles.

Players will also have to perform balancing acts with the Wii remote to steer various vehicles, like submarines and tight-rope-walking unicycles. The tilt-based control functions properly for the most part, though the screen-scrolling submarine levels can cause some frustrations.

"Shake It" shares many striking similarities with recently released 2D platformer "Braid" in that reaching the end goal of a stage is a relatively painless process, but a stage reserves the majority of its space for optional puzzles with coins, treasures, and other tasty secrets as rewards. The most fun parts are the same that were most fun in "Wario Land 4": Scrambling to get back to the start of the stage after reaching the goal and triggering a countdown clock.

In a world of skeptics that claims 2D gaming is "dead" or "antiquated," "Wario Land: Shake It!" is proof positive of just how beautiful a 2D game can look when the developers have the right amount of freedom. Clean, crisp, fluid and whimsical are all accurate descriptions, with the only minor blemish being the native 4:3 aspect ratio (with borders when displaying 16:9).

The original "Wario Land" games on Game Boy were overly forgiving and probably designed for children (dying was literally impossible - you only lost coins when hit), and while the series has since acquired the common sense to include a life bar, "Shake It" is usually simple enough for most players to breeze through in five or six hours. Try to be killed by the first enemy you run into - I dare you.

Nothing is wrong with an easy game, but when the majority of its replay value comes from perfecting stages by playing the same ones several times over, it's usually an attempt to mask its lack of content. The reward for perfecting a stage isn't even that great: The privilege of listening to that stage's music any time you want. The music is pretty awesome, though.

"Wario Land: Shake It!" won't test your 2D platforming skills, the experience doesn't last very long and it sticks to the formula of the previous games in the series a bit too strictly. But, given Nintendo's new casual-friendly marketing direction with games like "Wii Fit" and "Wii Sports," we should feel grateful that a new 2D, mascot-driven platformer from Nintendo exists at all - on a console, no less! Consider a rental if you're strapped for cash, but "Shake It" is absolutely worth playing in some form.

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