Wario Land II was a transition point from the 1st Wario Land. It introduces the main physics, controls, & moves that define Wario Land for most people: Wario’s invincibility; a greater focus on puzzle platforming than action, which better suits Wario’s still-floaty — but not as floaty as the 1st Wario Land’s — physics; & most importantly, introduces possibly the most famous twist o’ Wario Land games, the status effects where Wario gains special power by being hit by enemies, which in different contexts can be helpful or necessary for reaching places or stifle progress, whether it be springy or puffy Wario making Wario move higher than his jumps can move him, whether he wants it or not, or flat or fat Wario, the former o’ whom can go wider distances & go o’er gaps in thin passageways, the latter o’ whom can break thru ground that regular Wario can’t, but both o’ which have weaker jumps & cannot enter doors.

That said, I don’t think Wario Land II realized the true potential o’ the series, & this mainly comes down to its levels: with the exception o’ a few branching paths to multiple endings, which are basically glorified secret exits like those in Super Mario World, & the treasure doors with their repetitive, tedious minigames you have to find in e’ery level, as well as the also-tedious & repetitive guess-the-# game, which are like the bonus coins in Donkey Kong Country games, but with e’en mo’ repetitive challenges, this game’s levels are still linear &, due to Wario’s invincibility, don’t offer much in terms o’ challenge.

A bigger problem is that this game has several levels — 51 to be exact — & these levels are long; but as we will see this length comes from quite a bit o’ padding thru a relatively small sampling o’ repeated setpieces & mechanics, often with paltry rewards not worth the effort like in the 1st Wario Land — tho this game thankfully is much less stingy than that game. This made it particularly difficult to rank these levels, as many o’ them were very similar & unlike the 1st Wario Land, whose level design I had much to criticize, this game’s level design on average is more OK. Still, this is not to say that this game doesn’t have its stand-out puzzles & challenges worth looking @.

51. Go to the cellar!! Story 5: Defeat the Cave Master!!

A thoroughly dreary level, while also not standing out much. The 1-eyed monsters who sleep & wake when 1 is attacked near them, the worst enemy, crowd the top, along with what might be the 2nd most annoying enemy, the zombies, all o’ whom conspire to make venturing across the top a tedious affair. You may think that the zombies could help you destroy these monsters easily, but you need to be able to jump & charge attack @ the end to reach most o’ the coins. & for doing all this you only get a measly 26 coins — the most ridiculously low gain for such tedium during which you will likely lose all o’ it by getting hit by enemies. There is no reason to go thru this section.

Getting to the bottom-right corner o’ the 1st room is so involved due to the awkward placement o’ the zombie & how far right the tall wall that you have to get o’er is, not to mention the player needing to see that the floor there is thin. It doesn’t surprise me that o’ all the YouTube videos I saw o’ this level, only 1 went down to the bottom left & none reached the bottom right. ¿& what is the reward for going down there? An ordeal where you have to carry a cook up so you can ground pound the weird brown cracked blocks that can only be destroyed by Fat Wario for 30 whole coins, e’en tho they already have ’nough Fat Wario puzzles later in this level.

Speaking o’ which, they are annoying & slow, too. On the right you have a long floor o’ those brown cracked blocks o’er giant 10 coins floating too high to reach from below, so if you want them you’ll have to make many trips up & down. Meanwhile, the biggest challenge for reaching the treasure door in plain sight on the left is getting a cook thru 1 o’ the 2 tight holes that lead to it.

To top it off, the centerpiece o’ this level is the worst Wario Land II trope: a maze o’ breakable walls that make you keep charge attacking, jumping, or ground pounding all around like an idiot in search for where they randomly put breakable parts. This especially applies to this level, which doesn’t e’en try to have logical places for where you can break the wall, with passages that go down @ angles in random places. It also doesn’t help that these walls are almost entirely just the flat color black with only the very edges having texture, so that you’ll often find yourself exploring gaping abysses o’ tedious emptiness. Not only is this mechanic not interesting in itself, but other levels do this mo’ memorably. The same can be said for the repeat o’ the falling rocks returning from “Avoid the falling rocks!”.

E’en the boss is forgettable: some warthog out o’ nowhere who charge attacks you in a way where you can hilariously keep on the platform after they hit you. Contrariwise, the timing is so tight on charge-attacking them when they go too close to the edge that it’s easy to fall into a boring stalemate. The only time this boss is a danger is that on later phases they sometimes suddenly jump when trying to charge attack them, which is just a rug-pull that should only get players once.

The 1 positive I can say ’bout this level is that there is 1 hidden coin cache that is pretty clever: there is a large clump o’ breakable blocks round a door that progresses thru the level; howe’er, if you hold back the urge to destroy e’erything immediately, you can use the top o’ the cracked block mound to reach a secret top section. By the way, this simple task nets you 30 coins, which is 4 mo’ than the terrible ordeal near the beginning o’ the level.

Finally, if I haven’t hinted @ it already, I consider the cave levels to be the ugliest levels, with horrid color combinations — just look @ that red-orange & puke green in the screenshot ’bove — & messy textures full o’ cutoff. The cave levels have bland music, too; & while this level, being a boss level, has a different song than the other cave levels, it’s just a different bland song.

50. SS Tea Cup Story 2: Escape from the woods!

This level is a hodgepodge o’ weak mechanics used better in other levels stapled to poor design for a level that’s only memorable in how annoying it is. You have a preview o’ rooms where you just charge attack @ e’ery wall trying to find your way thru, just like in “Defeat the Cave Master!!”, but thankfully this level’s maze is not as long; — it just has a bunch o’ annoying dead ends that waste your time — you have penguins that try to make you drunk by throwing beer @ you ( on the original Japanese version, a’least: the international versions sanitize their frothing beer mugs into “crazy balls”, whate’er those are s’posed to be, in the valiant effort to fight back the alcoholic epidemic ’mong children who went out & bought 40s ’cause an elf-faced plumber tried to avoid doing so in a video game — presumably after trying to ride thru a factory on an owl ), which not only doesn’t fit thematically within this forest world, but also, thanks to the short platforms, is an odd difficulty spike for this early in the game; you have some fire blocks guarding coins that you can carry a fire fox to so it can burn you to break them; & then you have a roll section thrown in @ the very end, where the only action you really need to do is notice the obvious line o’ coins & jump early to find the obvious treasure door.

As for the poor design, o’ particular note is this passage near the beginning with the ceiling just dipping o’er the floor, where it looks like you can make a tricky jump in there, possibly by intentionally becoming drunk, which is a twist this game ne’er uses, or by jumping off an enemy from below, but as far as I know is impossible to do; what you’re actually s’posed to do is enter a different door that leads to that wall maze & break thru to a door that leads you to that passageway. & all you get for all that is 26 coins. You can see the door on the other side, but it’s easy to think that is the treasure door, especially given how challenging it seems to be to get in there using the gaping passage this level seems to throw in your face. Considering there is a 1-way exit on the other side o’ this passage, ¿why e’en have that hole on the left? ¿To intentionally trick the player & make them waste their time?

The grassland levels have decent graphics, as far as this game goes. I especially like the subtle detail o’ there being grass in the underground areas, rather than making them just generic caves. The music in these levels is a slowed down version o’ the iconic main theme introduced in this chapter’s 1st “story”. It’s not as good, but not by much.

49. Syrup Castle Final Story: The Final Battle!!

The final level o’ the main path is bizarrely mid. E’en final levels I would consider terrible, like Super Mario World’s “Front Door” with its tossed-together hand-me-downs o’ basic setpieces a’least had a theme to it; e’en Donkey Kong Country 3’s infamously bad “Poisonous Pipeline” had a memorable gimmick. “The Final Battle!!” just has a bunch o’ challenges players will have seen before, such as dodging & getting past birds, snowmen, & blades & dodging penguins’ beer & then carrying them to the end to break a wall o’ throw blocks, none o’ which are used in novel ways, except perhaps going straight up a series o’ platforms while dodging the bottles thrown by enemies in windows, & that’s just for coins.

I should add that this level’s coin caches & bonuses are lame. In addition to just having you dodge a bunch o’ thrown bottles to reach coins @ the top, the 1st room has long lines o’ coins on both sides going from top to bottom, making you climb up & fall all the way down 2 whole times, & then there’s a hole you can break in the wall in a very obscure place — tho there’s a gap in the coin line, it’s above the gap, not ’hind it — that leads to coins inside the wall, which requires climbing up & falling back down a 3rd time. This isn’t challenging; it’s repetitive & boring.

The treasure door, meanwhile, is just hidden ’hind a breakable wall to the upper right o’ the room with the boss door. I guess you have to charge jump to break it, so there’s quite a possibility o’ someone only trying the bottom half & giving up… if not for the fact that you can clearly see something on the other side o’ the wall.

If there is 1 thing kinda interesting ’bout this level, it’s that half o’ it is only accessible if you lose to the boss. This half includes an annoying puzzle where you have to throw an enemy up @ a floor o’ blocks ’bove & then bounce off it to reach up there without breaking thru the floor o’ throw blocks below for coins that are not worth it & a small Wario challenge that you can easily screw yourself out o’ completing if you’re o’erzealous with breaking blocks, also just for coins. It would’ve been better if they had hidden the treasure door in this half o’ the level: it could’ve made the treasure door better hidden & this half have more o’ a purpose.

The final boss is mo’ creative than the average boss in this game, but doesn’t feel any grander or mo’ menacing than any other boss. & creative doesn’t mean fun, especially when it’s not that creative: having to grab the bombs Syrup’s random machine throws & throwing it @ a rising flame while it’s synced with Syrup, which you have no control o’er, before the bomb explodes in your face while jumping o’er the flames themselves, can be repetitive & tedious, especially with the janky hitboxes that make it feel like a coin flip whether or not Wario will grab the bomb or just let it bounce off his face & explode on the ground. I would complain ’bout the boss going down in only 3 hits being easy for a final boss, — I’d say this boss is probably easier than the 1st chapter boss & definitely the 3rd chapter boss — but I wouldn’t want to have to go thru the bomb-flame thing any mo’ times, & it wouldn’t make it any harder, anyway.

As stereotypically gendered as it may be to give a pink & purple castle with polka-dot wallpaper to the female villain, I do think it makes an interesting aesthetic twist to what is the end o’ the game — certainly mo’ interesting than the drab grays you’d get in most games.

48. Uncanny Mansion Story 3: The way to the open door

This level has probably the dumbest gimmick in this game: you go in a door & leave to open up different doors. When you go into the 1st open door, the last door, you’re taunted with the end goal that requires hitting a switch, so you have to just keep going in & out o’ doors to hunt for the switch. If you know where the switch is, then you can just go in & leave immediately till you can go in the door with the switch; otherwise, you have to go thru each room once to look for the switch, & then afterward once you hit the switch if you want the extra coins. Granted, the extra coins they offer are pitiful, — specially in room “IV”, which just has a thin line o’ maybe 10 coins — so you probably don’t need to bother.

Luckily, this doesn’t apply to the treasure door, as they didn’t e’en bother to lock it ’hind a switch: it’s just in the middle o’ the middle room, in the wide open. Convenient for the player, but doesn’t make for interesting level design.

None o’ the rooms in this level have any interesting challenges or setpieces: room “I” has you slowly trudge thru 2 long hallways as Zombie Wario to kill all the sleeping enemies, which makes me want to sleep. In the switch room you have a long hall where you just duck jump o’er 3 birds in the same place, which is somewhat challenging, & if you haven’t had ’nough dodging birds, you can go up into a secret area for coins; but the birds here are all up, so you can just jump or stand up temporarily & then duck to make them fly past you & then collect the coins safely after they’re gone.

The only real good thing ’bout this level is that it’s short & that the mansion levels have cool aesthetics with the purple cobwebs & pink spiders o’er the black backgrounds. The music is less interesting, but a’least fits the theme.

47. SS Tea Cup Story 5: Defeat Bobo!!

O’ all the boss levels, & perhaps e’en just levels period, this is 1 o’ them. You can charge attack some walls for coins & throw enemies @ other walls for mo’ coins & throw an enemy @ throw blocks to reach the treasure door. There’s 1 part near the beginning where there’s a wall that looks short ’nough to jump o’er, but is just tall ’nough to have to jump on an enemy to reach ’bove it. That’s exciting. On the other hand, there’s a room where they just threw in 6 big coins, ’cause they just didn’t feel like doing anything else. A’least it’s not tedious; but it is weird that this level is much easier than e’en the 1st level, despite being in the 2nd chapter o’ the main path.

I would give this level more o’ a pass since it’s a boss level, but the boss is lame, too: jump on its head & then hold down for several seconds as the boss flaps its wings & makes wind rise. E’en with the way it changes its timing & movement patterns after each hit, bonking Bobo would be easy if not for its terrible hitbox that causes you to get knocked back e’en if you’re clearly ’bove it.

These stages’ pirate ship, mast, & cloud graphics look nice ’nough, tho I wish they added mo’ color than just brown to the woodwork.

46. Go to the cellar!! Story 1: Defeat the giant spear man

The gimmick o’ hitting switches to make areas actually visible isn’t the most compelling in this game full o’ not-all-that-compelling gimmicks, which makes it bewildering that it’s used as oft as it is in this game. Here it’s mainly used for finding otherwise invisible doorways, padding out otherwise straightforward areas with going in & out rooms just to hit switches.

There is 1 clever twist where you need to memorize the location o’ the doorway to the room with the treasure door as you need to keep the lights out in that 1st room to keep the lights on inside the doorway to find the 1-tile gap that leads to the treasure door. It’s the most clever thing in this level, but needing to go back & forth & remember stuff isn’t particularly fun. If you don’t want to do all that, you can also memorize the location o’ the 1-tile gap & treasure door.

The other mildly clever element in this level is a seemingly empty room with a switch & a hammer enemy, where you can become bouncy & bounce off the switch to reach a hidden higher platform for coins. Granted, since there’s nothing else visible in this room, it’s kind of an obvious setup: when all you have is a hammer & a switch that you can stand on & jump off…

Said hammer enemy is the only enemy that gives you a status condition. The rest o’ the level is very straightforward layouts where you just dodge basic enemies that knock you back & collect coins, most o’ which are in plain sight. There is 1 place where you have to go past a bunch o’ sleeping teeth monsters twice: to get the switch & get back. You can try to avoid touching them @ all, which is the least tedious strategy, or, if you’re insistent on getting their coins, after you defeat 1 you have to wait for the others to run back & forth a couple times before going back to sleep so you can continue, as once they’re awake, they’re invincible.