Throughout the history of video games there have been numerous attempts to give gamers the ability to create their own games without the need to actually learn the complexities of programming. From the early create your own text adventure packages all the way up to the recent Xbox 360 effort Kodu we've had the promise of headache free game design dangled tantalisingly in front of us like a carrot on a stick. Of course most of the time said carrot turns out to be a small misshapen morsel with more than a few maggots living in it meaning our hopes of creating something genuinely playable are scuppered by overwhelming complexity, half baked tools or, perhaps worse of all, the realisation that the creative muse is far harder to pin down than we thought.
What all budding creative geniuses out there have needed, even if we didn't know it, was for someone like Nintendo to poke their user friendly, casual gaming-focussed nose in and show us all how it should be done. Which, handily, is exactly where new DS title WarioWare DIY comes in. Rather than another collection of warped mini games, a la previous entries in the series, the whole point of DIY is to enable gamers to design and create their own WarioWare style games.
In typical Nintendo fashion the main menu is presented as a small town with five tap-able buildings that house the bulk of the content. The DIY Studio is where you go to use the Super MakerMatic 21 machine, the tool that lets you create games, record soundtracks and create artwork. The DIY Shop is where you play the games themselves while the Distribution centre does what it says on the tin (or should that be sign) and lets you share your masterpieces with others. The impressive sounding WarioWare Inc. building is where you'll find all the tutorials and freelance work as well as the Assembly Dojo challenges.
The best place to start then is in the WarioWare Inc. building with those tutorials. Encompassing, as it does, artwork creation, music composition and some high level programming you could be forgiven for thinking DIY was all going to be messily complicated. Aiming to avoid this the tutorials teach you all the skills you'll need by holding your hand through the full development cycle of three mini-games. Amazingly it does all this without making learning feel like a chore, something other creation based games (LittleBigPlanet, I'm looking at you) could learn a thing or two about.
In case you were thinking you'd skip this part of the process you are actually forced to complete the provided lessons before the game creator part of the package is unlocked. This kind of mandatory learning may sound frustrating but realistically you'd be lost in the game creator without it. WarioWare games may only last a few seconds and appear relatively simplistic but learning the correct way to deal with things like AI, objects, win conditions and scripting is invaluable if you want to make anything half decent later on.
The other thing you're able to do from the off is start the freelance missions. These are based around the graphics creation tool and basically task you with providing graphics on demand for use in existing games. Each one comes with a template to show you what Wario is after but you're just as able to ignore it completely and draw what you want which means you can put your own unique visual twist on things should you so wish. These freelance tasks are admittedly a thinly disguised way of familiarising you with the graphics tools but the instant gratification of having your work appear in a fully formed game means they're never less than entertaining.
To complete the set of learning tools you gain access to the Assembly Dojo once all freelance work has been completed. Here you're given 32 unfinished games and tasked with completing them on your own. This is a great way of easing you into development by forcing you to overcome problems you'd more than likely face making your own games but, more than that, they're also enjoyable puzzle solving exercises on their own.
Once you've worked your way through all that lot you'll be more that equipped to start building your own games from scratch. To ease the journey from great idea to playable game everything in the main creator is beautifully structured. You design the background image first, then place and animate your objects before adding AI and triggers. Then it's down to the nitty gritty of handling the players interaction with all this and what they have to do to win. Key to everything is the simplicity of the interface, even parts that sound tricky on paper become far more natural in practice thanks to the cleverly designed and implemented menu system. Of course there's only so much Nintendo can do and those who really don't have a logical mind may struggle with some of the more 'programmy' aspects of AI etc., but you're always able to test your game at any point in the development cycle meaning trial and error will generally get you round any problem you may be having.
There are, however, limitations to all this unleashed creative freedom. In order to keep things manageable there's no support for dealing with any user input other than a tap. This means no dragging, no use of the D-pad or any other buttons and no way of interacting with the more advanced features offered by the newer DSi. It's true that at first glance the inability to use a feature as simple as dragging in your games feels like a big loss but there's rarely a situation where you can't achieve a similar effect via clever use of tapping while a quick glance at the Nintendo created games bundled on the cart will prove what can be achieved with a little thought.
The lack of support for some of the multimedia functionality of the DS hardware itself is more of a shame. With so much focus on creating your own assets it seems baffling that there's no ability to import images from an SD card, or use photos taken with the DSi camera (although I guess it limits the inevitable copyright and decency problems if you could). This means that you're restricted to graphics created using WarioWare DIY itself. This isn't a deal breaker admittedly, the Mario Paintesque graphics package is simplicity itself to use, but it'd have opened up so much more possibilities had you been able to import graphics from elsewhere.
Obviously your own personally creative abilities may provide a ceiling to proceedings; if you can't draw for example then you'll have to make do with the existing assets etc. However, even here Nintendo have done their best to limit any creative bottlenecks. Games can be shared amongst friends, edited and then passed back thus allowing people with different skills to combine their efforts. Frustratingly there's only two available 'slots' on the cart for work in progress games which means you'll probably end up saving them as finished and juggling them between finished and in progress, a process which seems needlessly fussy. You can upload your finished creation to a central repository where you can also download other peoples efforts giving you plenty of chance to see (and be inspired by) what others have managed to make out of the same toolset.
More than most games your personal level of satisfaction with WarioWare DIY will be directly proportional to what you expect out of it. If you're simply after another collation of mini-games then you'll be disappointed by the (relatively) thin pickings. However, have a desire to get under the bonnet, so to speak, and you'll find a fantastically realised game creation tool, one that manages to make learning to use it properly into a rewarding game in itself. Sure, you'll never create a 'real' game with it and there're certain restrictions even within the normal WarioWare parameters which trip you up now and then. However, even taking all that into account there's still a huge amount of scope for your imagination to run riot and that alone makes it well worth experimenting with.
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