WARIO LAND 4 / Nintendo / GBA
Wario Land 4 is an extension of the somewhat confusing Wario series, which actually began on the Gameboy with Super Mario Land 3. This game continues in the same platforming style, with Wario sometimes having to be mashed and immolated and otherwise molested in order to change forms and get past certain obstacles. He's got a health bar in this one though, and the enemies roaming about can damage you - there's boss fights at the end of each level as well. The game features pretty good level design, sharp graphics, a pretty high quality soundtrack by GBA standards (there's a couple of songs with digitized voice) and the same goofy and quirky sense of humor that would be present in the later Wario Ware games.
As much as I appreciate all these things about Wario Land 4, though, when I actually sit down to play it I often don't feel like I'm having fun, or even want to bother to continue. Truth be told, as both a student and a writer I spend most of my day engaged in brain activity, and when I play video games I usually just want to relax and shut the damn thing down to some degree. Wario Land 4 is weighted almost a little too much towards puzzle-solving than it should be for a platformer. There are very few fun fast-paced platformer sections as opposed to screens where you have to roam around and figure out what order to smash these blocks in, or how to throw something just right so that it ricochets three times and opens up a passage, or remember which way to go to backtrack through some maze once you've found a particular object. Really, Wario Land 4 is more of a puzzle game than a platformer. Not that that's a bad thing, but it's like taking a sip of beer when you were expecting lemonade or something of that nature ... something you'd enjoy if you were expecting it, but just tastes wrong when you had yourself all worked up and ready for something else. It's like "I want to run around and jump and have fun, not figure out how to smash more stupid fucking blocks or light myself on fire just the right way to open this damn door. Enough already!".
Be that as it may, not everyone is in my situation and therefore will probably enjoy the puzzleiciousness of the game. So it gets the big :) rating for its overall quality, random weirdness and general panache.