Wario's Woods immediately sets itself apart from the average Nintendo game by thrusting the lovable Toad into a starring role. Mr. Mushroom Top himself rarely does more than squawk and get kidnapped, but in Wario's Woods he takes center stage. What's more, Toad actually gets in the puzzles. When he takes charge, he goes all the way.
Toad's presence on screen may seem unimportant, but such a minor thing has considerable implications for the way the game actually plays. Unlike most puzzle games, in which you manhandle falling pieces via some magical and unseen force, Wario's Woods puts you in control of Toad as he walks around within the puzzle arena. Moving a character instead of the pieces themselves totally reshapes the way you think about the game. It also adds a little challenge to a pretty familiar concept, as Toad is slightly trickier to manipulate than the pieces in your average puzzler.
Since Toad is running around on the ground (and eventually piles of blocks) as pieces rain down from above, you're obviously not manipulating objects as they fall. But that's what actually makes Wario's Woods as fun as it is -- once the pieces are down, Toad can lift individual blocks or entire columns and hustle them across the screen. The pieces falling from above come in a variety of shades as either monsters or bombs. And when you've got monsters and bombs, even a child knows what to do: blow stuff up. Using Toad to line up pieces in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal rows can be slightly disorienting at first, but it quickly becomes Woods' best feature, especially at the breakneck speed the game eventually demands.
Wario's Woods uses a surprisingly complex control scheme for a puzzle game, taking advantage of every button on the Super Nintendo's pad. The D-pad moves Toad around. The A button lifts an entire stack of pieces at once, while B picks up the individual piece Toad is facing. Y (or the triggers) will kick pieces to each side for speedy monster or bomb rearrangement, while X makes Toad jump to the top of a column, assuring that you can't get lodged under a pile of puzzle pieces.
Thanks to the wonder of the Classic Controller (or the infinitely more awesome SNES Pad, if you're outrageously lucky), Wario's Woods can be played as it was intended. It's practically begging for a new iteration, and there's no better medium than WiiWare.