Wario Land 4

Greed is perhaps the ugliest of all human traits. And it comes at a price; certainly, it has proved the downfall of some of history's most famous and infamous figures in equal measure.

Wario is arguably only infamous within gaming circles, and only then because of his association with Mario, as the well-known plumber's eternal nemesis. Still, he is the perfect embodiment of greed and exists for the sole purpose of furthering his wealth by ransacking ancient ruins.

The latest object of his attention is a pyramid promising untold riches. The structure is not without peril, however. The completion of the 20-odd levels involves dealing with a variety of opponents while collecting four gem pieces and then returning to the entrance before a timer runs out, forcing you to face the same task again. The set-up is not as harsh as it sounds but it does guarantee a certain intensity to the proceedings that is often missing in this type of game.

The design of the levels themselves is unusually accomplished and makes full use of Wario's many abilities. In addition to the usual running, sliding, stomp and jump attacks, particular levels require the assistance, rather than traditional disposal, of enemies. Contact with specific enemies results in Wario adopting their main characteristic as a way of negotiating an impasse. So, for instance, touching a flaming zombie sets Wario on fire enables him to destroy any blocks featuring a flame symbol. Stages have been structured around the game's ten such abilities, and the complexity of later examples will require you to consider multiple skills.

Granted, at its heart, Wario Land 4 remains tied to the platform genre. It is, nevertheless, solidly put together and often gloriously inventive and varied.

Wario Land 4

An ingenious and brave platformer that dares to operate on the fringes of a normally conservative genre.