Hours dominate our lives. They’re how we measure our days, our labor and our speed. It’s our most popular unit of time (sorry baktun) because of how easy it is for us to conceptualize. Despite our nostalgic pining we must always live in the present, and because of this the natural human body clock senses hours with ease. It’s how we measure our video games, too. Playtimes are always described in hours, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. What if a game measured playtimes in seconds? What would happen?
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames would happen. A trippy, absurdist foray into an inadvertently existential examination of “what is video game?” the vaunted GameBoy Advance title just dropped on Nintendo Switch Expansion Pass. It is unlike anything you’ve ever played, an arcade-style experience years ahead of its time.
What will strike you first, besides a boulder or baseball, is how incredibly short the games are compared to everything else you’ve ever played. These are the miniest-mini games ever devised – five seconds each. That’s it. What can you possibly do with five seconds of gameplay? You can do quite a bit , actually, thanks to innovative design and tons of creativity.
Obviously, much boils down to timing. One game features Wario seated a bar. He raises his hand to order a drink and you must hit the A-button with precise timing to catch the beverage as it slides past. Or maybe you’d like to make Wario eat a chili dog in two bites. Or put eye drops in. Or pick a nose. Seriously.
The vibes here are decidedly late 90s Nickelodeon. There is plenty of toilet humor; quite literally, the theme of one level is that a mad scientist clogged a commode with an epic rager. There’s nose-picking and booger-sniffing alongside quick sports challenges like tennis, golf and basketball. There’s nods to Nintendo’s other popular games too. You’ll play a five-second spurt of the Legend of Zelda or F-Zero, and visit titles from every platform including Virtual Boy.
Again, each is only five seconds, but each level requires around 15 games. This means a session is about a minute long, but you’ll do them multiple times and time slips away before you know it. With more than 200 minigames total there is enough variety to keep you guessing, but enough familiarity that you make improvements, too.
All this fast action is buoyed by a lot of random but colorful storytelling. Don’t expect the game to make much sense from a narrative perspective, there are no princess-in-another-castle MacGuffins here. Instead, you encounter wacky characters in a tier system, with each character getting a short, silly cutscene that provides some explanation for the aesthetics in each level.
The aforementioned mad scientist has a toilet-themed UI, complete with rolls of toilet paper representing the number of lives the player has left. Each character is oddly charming and if you sit back and enjoy the show you’ll find WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames to have a TikTok-esque effect on your free time and attention span. Watch those seconds turn to hours and play it ASAP.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames is available in the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.