Wario Land 3 is a game I needed a guide and FAQ to play. Though challenging, it’s really a refreshing take on the series. The previous game, Wario Land II, went awry trying to be a platformer so simple that anyone could beat it. Wario Land 3 instead has carefully crafted levels and an almost Metroid-like progression in its you-can’t-go-here-quite-yet game design. Perhaps a Metroid comparison oversells it, but Wario Land 3 is a fun puzzle game that will keep you busy for hours with new challenges.
Wario Land II was a platform game about collecting as many coins as possible and avoiding enemies who make you lose them. Wario Land 3, on the other hand, is more of a puzzle-platform game. Yes there are coins, but it’s not the focus of the game. There are enemies as well, but there are no serious repercussions for running into one. At its core, Wario Land 3 is a game about finding a key and using it to unlock a treasure chest. Treasure chests contain items that help you progress further through the game. But the path to the key and the path to the chest are usually rather maze-like. Enemies play a large role in building these mazes.
On your way to a key or chest, you may need an enemy to feed you a doughnut, so you’ll get fatter and break through a series of bricks in the ground. You may need an enemy to light you on fire so you can light four torches and remove a stone with a fire symbol on it. Enemies typically have a unique effect on Wario upon contact and are strategically placed. Finding out how to use these effects to get closer to your goal is a big part of what makes the game fun.
There are four chests in each stage. Chests’ treasures can benefit you in two ways: giving you access to new areas (e.g. seeds that plant climbable vines), or giving Wario new moves (e.g. flippers to swim). The most apt comparison for this kind of progression is a Metroid game, where new items allow you to do things you couldn’t do before. There are a lot of treasures, and the constant world map-hopping to see what you can do somewhere else does wear thin after a while. But I applaud Nintendo for letting the game progress in a non-linear way. You can always talk to the “Hidden Figure” at the start of the world map who tells you where you can now get a treasure from. It’s worth noting some treasures are just collectibles.
I’m going to reiterate I really needed a guide and FAQ to play this game. Usually, the first key and chest in a level you can find yourself, but the puzzles get more obtuse as you work your way toward the fourth key and chest combo. To play without a guide would probably make you feel like a genius in places, but if having a guide doesn’t bother you, by all means use one.
I really have to give Nintendo credit for undoing the mistakes they made in Wario Land II. They completely reinvented Wario Land into a puzzle game with plenty of head-scratching moments and satisfying victories. I have to wonder how many people have actually played the game, seeing as it came late in the Game Boy Color’s short-lived life with the Game Boy Advance coming out next year. If you like puzzle games, you should absolutely give Wario Land 3 a try. It’s fun, quirky, original, and plenty long enough to be worth an eShop purchase.