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Wizorb Review


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On 10/18/2012 at 03:00 PM by Travis Hawks

Beloved classic ideas merge together to form: Pure Evil.
RECOMMENDATION:

For masochists who like to beat bad games and tell everyone that they weren’t that hard.

I’m a sucker for retro. Give me some faux-8-bit graphics and some simple game mechanics and I’m hooked.  Make the game challenging where I have to force myself to hone reaction times and I’ll put in hours to rack up high scores.  Combine two classic game types into some new great thing and I’m likely to be smitten for months.  Enter Wizorb with its Dragon Warrior RPG aesthetic and Breakout style battles, and I was drooling. That was months ago.  My drool has long since dried, and now so have my tears as I’ve come to accept that Wizorb is just too damn difficult.

Finishing games for review is that old reviewer’s quandary – should it be required across the board, or should there be exceptions made for two hundred hour RPGs and essentially endless arcade titles?  I will tell you right now that I did not finish Wizorb.  In fact, I didn’t complete World 1.  That’s right out of a game that (I think) has just four worlds to conquer, I got stuck on the first… for months.  At first I figured that there was something wrong with me or the way I was playing the game.  Despite countless attempts over many, many days, I could not complete the first world.  I figured that it must be my own failing since Breakout style games have never been something I excelled at.  After giving up and abandoning hope of writing a review for a while, it’s now become clear that I am not alone.  We have the latest Humble Indie Bundle to thank for this, which has suckered many bargain-hunting gamers into trying out Wizorb and getting stymied too.

Getting to that progress wall was filled with promise and hope.  Wizorb opens with your elderly wizard character exploring the destroyed town of Tarot that is ripped from the '80s Enix design handbook.  Chatting with the various townsfolk, you can get an idea of where this town is headed once things get repaired from the battles you need to go fight.  All your classic citizens are here, from the reliable shopkeep, to the rascally beggar, to the token talking animal. Once you chat up all of these folk, it’s time to head out and start fighting your way through that first world – Arkanoid Style.

There’s no real overworld map to toy around with, you just head out of town and start a sequence of “battles” as your wizard character transforms into an enchanted ball paddle that can move back and forth at the bottom of a castle battlefield where blocks have been placed in geometric patterns and evil kitty cats stroll around. It’s Breakout with a few moving targets added in. Instead of getting instant power ups from hitting certain blocks like Arkanoid, you get gold to spend in shops or potions to refill your magic meter.  The potions are vital since you can use spells that drain your magic meter and are very handy.  You can shoot fireballs at blocks that are in tricky spots, as well as teleport the ball and send wind gusts to help put the ball where you want it to be.  Perhaps different spells become available in later levels – but this will remain a mystery to me forever. 

The spells help to ease the difficulty of the levels a bit, but the core problems with this paddle and ball game remain and keep it from being reasonably challenging or, you know, fun. The field of play is too short, causing the ball to bounce off the blocks and enemies with such a short return distance that any delay in your reactions is sure to cause failure.  Your reactions have to be spot-on anyway, even if your ball isn’t pinging around in the area close to the paddle because the paddle moves… so… slow..ly.  Countless times, I knew just where the paddle needed to be and I slammed the directional pad to get over there in time only to have the ball whiz past long before my paddle got there.  Yes, this happens in every block-breaking game ever, but in Wizorb it happens all the time. It’s also pretty impossible to predict where a ball will deflect when it hits a moving enemy, often ricocheting off at some impossible angle at a crazy speed.  If you should rescue a ball that is zipping around like this, there’s some chance that it will slow itself down later – only I could never figure out how and why the ball ever got faster or slower – two things it does often.

To survive all of these challenges, the game gives you three chances to continue within a world before having to start anew.  Why Wizorb’s makers chose to bring back one of the more reviled retro hallmarks – limited continues – is beyond me.  You can increase your chances at success by buying additional lives with your gold coins if you open a shop door at the top of the level.  It’s also possible to buy magic potions and other somewhat helpful things while there as well – provided you’ve caught enough falling coins and not had them stolen by a falling purple ghost-hand-thing.  There are also bonus levels stashed away behind doors at the tops of some levels with the same bonus items floating around in bubbles for you to pop and catch.  All of these helpful aids are a nice gesture, but are basically like spraying Bactine on your gaping chest wound – the mortal outcome is undeniable. 

But, oh if only the game’s core mechanics weren’t so messed up then all would be well.  From the start of that first battle when chip tunes reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda’s dungeon music kicked in, I wanted to like Wizorb so badly.  Then it punched me in the gut a few times.  I kept giving it chances until I finally woke up to the fact that there was no way I would ever complete World 1, and no reason to keep trying.  Now that I have fellow gamers out there proving to me that the fault wasn’t mine, I can wrap up this review and move on to games that are good.  So, from one battered gamer to another – do yourself a favor and don’t get involved with Wizorb even if it seems like the perfect game on your first meeting.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Anonymous

12/11/2012 at 05:06 PM

I googled 'Wizorb too hard' and found this. The problem seems like they went with the art style while also trying to fit their levels on one screen - making the distance between the paddle and level too short. This game is unplayable with a game pad because of the speed, but the mouse allows you to achieve a faster paddle speed. Out of luck if you didn't get it on PC. 

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

12/11/2012 at 05:20 PM

That's good to know. If only they would patch it to allow for the paddle to respond to analog sticks properly or just speed the paddle up in general, it might be possible to play. I have heard/read similar beefs to mine after people played on Steam, but I'm not sure if they were using a controller or keyboard/mouse.

hwiechers

09/08/2013 at 02:02 PM

It looks like you can speed up the paddle on the gamepad by holding X down.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

09/08/2013 at 02:22 PM

Is this a new addition? There was no mention of it back when I was playing it. It very well could save this game. 

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