Oct 31, 2007
Hang on, isn’t Wario supposed to be the Nintendo character who’s all about the cash? We’re only asking because having played numerous games where the fat yellow AntiMario jumps through hoops just for a sniff at a chest of treasure, it’s strange to see somebody steal his main personality flaw, and do it so extravagantly.
In the Rosy Rupeeland, Tingle is money. The rupee is the only language anyone is willing to speak, and our hero actually bleeds the stuff whenever he gets hurt in a fight, which is often. It’s as though Nintendo didn’t want to tarnish Wario’s sheen of semi-respectability, and instead made poor, expendable Tingle the star of the most Warioesque game ever.
It’s easy to feel sorry for him, especially since the plot revolves around Tingle being duped by the sinister Uncle Rupee, who runs the kind of religious organisation in which godliness is second to the true believer’s willingness to part with large sums of money.
Uncle Rupee promises Tingle a tower to the heavens, which can only be built by throwing coins into a sort of wishing pond. To be fair, it does actually work as promised, but because Tingle is transformed into a being whose life blood and bank balance are one and the same thing, any loss of savings comes at a high price.
So Tingle is compelled to earn more money, which everyone else in the world will try to relieve him of. Most people won’t even give him the time of day until he bribes them, and if the bribe is considered insufficient then it will be pocketed anyway. It’s a harsh way of doing business.
To start earning on Tingle’s behalf, you must make maps. The world around the deeply unfriendly main town is largely uncharted, and whenever you see a significant landmark on the main game screen that doesn’t appear on the map, you simply drag the map down to the touch screen and draw a circle in the correct place.
Once completed, the maps can be sold on for a high price. Unfortunately there’s only one map per area, and with just 11 areas to explore, that doesn’t add up to the kind of money that will build Tingle’s folly - especially when merely returning home can be expensive, and the overworld areas are teeming with rupee-sucking monsters that weedy Tingle is quite poor at fighting.
Luckily there are other ways to enhance Tingle’s standard of living, the easiest being to combine the spoils of battle according to recipes discovered or bought during his travels. The resulting potions can be used or sold.
Certain other people in the town will pay for particular items, although getting them can sometimes be problematic. The best stuff is hidden in dungeons, and the further the game progresses, the more impossibly tough the enemies become.
That’s where Tingle’s sidekicks come in. There are around 30 secondary characters who can be bribed to be temporary Tinglefriends, and even the most inept of them (a drunken old man who keeps falling asleep) is a better fighter than Tingle. Finding all of them will take a lot of dedication, but the game world is weird and wonderful enough to encourage exploration.
The bartering screen is the main hinge of the gameplay. When negotiations commence, the faces of the two characters change slightly, according to how far apart they are in their demands. The problem is that you’ll never know whether what you’re offering is way too low, in which case you risk losing the money, or way too high.
Still, the look on Tingle’s face when he thinks he’s got away with a bargain is worth the price of admission alone.
Considering it’s meant to be an RPG, the fighting is annoyingly random. Whenever a character gets into a scrap, a Taz-style cloud of dust appears. There may be some sort of stats-based calculation going on underneath, but you don’t get to see what’s happening and the only way to interact with it is by tapping randomly at the screen.
The control system deserves a special mention because it’s one of the most evil things we’ve experienced on DS. Use the D-pad or buttons to move around the world, but whenever you find an item you have to touch it with the stylus. It’s incredibly picky. This is basically a traditional game design that would have played best in a traditional way, hampered by gratuitous use of the DS. It’s also gratuitously quirky, and we think maybe Wario will want his job back some day - but as a title that could have remained in Japanese obscurity, it’s worth our support.