by Marty Demarest

If you're a gamer, you know the feeling: Your hands aren't even being controlled by your brain -- they're running on pure instinct. And as the game's action gets underway, and you start responding with perfect timing, the result is a Zen-like "gamer's high." Achieving that can bring you back to a game day after day.

A year ago, Nintendo released a game that did nothing other than induce gamer's high. Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Micro Game$ featured hundreds of small games that asked players to do a simple act in a small amount of time. The controls were limited to the Game Boy Advance unit's directional pad and main attack button; with these you did things like steer a paper airplane, punch an opponent in a boxing match or eat an apple. The games took only about five seconds to play at normal speed, so you had to move your fingers or lose. It was simple, and very easy to get hooked. If you don't own the game, go get it. It's one of the most imaginative video games for the GBA.

Now with Mega Party Game$, Nintendo has adapted the formula for multiple players, though, with mixed results. The good news is that they haven't changed the part of the game that worked well. The little games are fast, furious and simple. Even the new multiplayer feature works reasonably well. You can go head to head with friends, and nobody has to wait long for a chance to win.

The problem is that while the Mega Micro Game$ were perfect Game Boy Advance-sized snacks, they feel a little too stretched out on the television. The first game's graphics were blocky and simplistic, but the style suited the hyperactive game and even lent it a little bit of retro credibility. On a television screen, however, the images just look bad. And having to gather some friends takes away much of the spontaneous fun that is Wario Ware's greatest strength.

Still, there's an easy charm to the mini-games, particularly when you play them on their own. In Mega Party Game$, every mini-game is unlocked from the beginning, which allows you to dive into them and experience gaming's version of adrenaline. But once you shift the focus from "man vs. machine" to a more standard "player vs. player," you've missed the point. When you're doing something this fast, it's not always better to play with others.

Publication date: 05/20/04

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