Monday, 22 July 2013

Wizorb (PC)

Wizorb PC title screen
One last PC game for a while, something light this time so that my computer doesn't explode into searing hot silicon shrapnel in this moderately ridiculous heat.

Today I'm loading up Wizorb for an hour or so (not to be confused with Sensible Software's Wizball, which is... something different.) This one was kindly donated to me by a friend who assured me that it was very very cheap, so I've adjusted my expectations accordingly.

Whoa, it's a Breakout clone! I haven't seen one of these in a while. I get to choose the angle of my first shot, so I'll try to make it count.

I start by firing my floating marble right into a blue teddy bear creature. He survived the hit, but I dived across with my paddle in time to catch the orb on the rebound, deflect it back, and blast a bush into leaf shrapnel in just one shot. Soon even the cuddly loveable bears fell to my onslaught, with three hits being enough to take them down for good.

And thus with all the evil bushes vanquished and the animals stoned to death, my wizard let out a hearty laugh and moved on to the next arena.

Yeah, this is basically Breakout it seems. Or Alleyway, Arkanoid... whatever you're more familiar with. I hit all the bricks on the screen and then get a new screen full of bricks to hit. It's actually one of the oldest of all game genres, with the first arcade machine designed in 1976 by Steve Wozniak, who was later influenced by it when he was designing the Apple II computer.

Sorry, this is going to be Super Adventures in Wikipedia from now on.

Okay fine, I'll get back to single player Pong then... uh, when did this become an RPG?

The land of Gorudo has been stricken by a nasty curse cast by demons, with only the town of Tarot escaping unhexed for whatever reason. But the demons weren't having this, so they came down and wrecked the place personally. Interestingly it seems that the monsters all suffer from OCD, as they've stacked the wreckage of each building into identical piles.

Well the townsfolk didn't actually go into any kind of detail about what the curse actually is or how I'm supposed to stop it, or even how much they're going to pay for this service, but they believe I can help them and I believe it too! After all I am a very old magician, so I must be seriously high level by now.

Oh now I see how it is; they want me to save their town using my bank account. Even this freakishly huge dog is after my coins. Well I'm sorry dog, but I already gave away 250 GP to a complete stranger by accident as I was skipping through the dialogue boxes, so you can just go play dead.

It's a bit of a shame really, as that water mill on the other side of the river could've definitely used the money a lot more, especially as it's the place that produces food for the whole town. Without it the poor citizens may end up having to resort to cannibalism.

Though donating the cash wasn't a total waste of money as the woman I donated my savings to did actually give me an unmarked key in return for my inadvertent kindness, and with any luck it doesn't just unlock the shattered splinters of her former front door.

Alright then, so my quest is travel to the cursed town next door and raid it for every bit of cash I can plunder to so I can foot the repair bill for the mill and save the citizens.


LEVEL 1-01.


It seems that the curse has turned all boxes, bushes and bears evil, and so they must be destroyed. But not these bushes of course, as they're actually indestructible and thus exempt from the curse.

Level 1-01 comes with a magic lesson cunningly embedded in the road ahead by someone either blessed with considerable foresight, or hoping to get a riot started. It reveals that by pressing A on the controller I can launch fireballs at foes and boxes to smash them apart and speed things up a little. This consumes mana like crazy, though if I'm really lucky a red mana refill flask will be released out of a block and then start drifting down the screen like we're on a hill.


LEVEL 1-04.


Oh come on, stop bouncing around and hit the bloody chest already you dumb wizorb. At least I'm hoping that it's a chest, it's a bit hard to make out from this angle.

There's no time limit thankfully, but the ball starts to speed up a bit as the level drags on, so I'd still like to end this stage as soon as possible. Some of the bricks take more than one hit to destroy which just slows things down even more.

Oh cool, I think I must have slipped out through an open door in the background. Hey, that must have been what the key was for. There's 1 GP coins, 10 GP gems, mana potions and even an extra life heart in here for me if I can grab them. Way better than a chest.


LEVEL 1-05.


On the next level I found another door with a very Zelda looking shop inside. "It is dangerous to go alone, take a whole stack of 1ups!" he should've said. Don't mind if I do mate.


LEVEL 1-10. FIVE STAGES LATER.


These levels are starting to wear me down now. They're wearing my poor wizard down too, as he's down to his final life. I was trying to keep hold of my money to help save the starving townsfolk, but now I'm starting to realise it would have been much wiser to blow my stash of cash on a fat stack of 1ups. It only takes the tiniest of slip-ups to miss the ball and lose a life and the game isn't exactly throwing extra lives at me.

Still I'm all the way up to level 1-10 now, so I shouldn't have to hold out much longer. I think I'm still in with a chance here.


MERE SECONDS LATER.


Wizorb PC game over screen
Well that was pretty much inevitable. The game has thoughtfully provided me with three continues, but in my experience it's not generally a good idea to start using them up when I'm still on the first world, because most of the time it'll only end up putting me back on level 1-01 anyway and I can restart there for free with the retry world option.

So I guess I'm replaying those ten levels again then. Yay.


TWELVE LEVELS LATER.


BOSS BATTLE? Seriously? Damn, now I'm really glad I spent all my hard won coin on 1ups this time around.

This guy is actually fairly straightforward though, as all he does is slowly shuffle from one side to the other and occasionally throw a whirlwind at my general direction.

Twelve hits later and the fearsome werewolf transforms back into his original form: a much less fearsome adorable wolf puppy! Awww, look at the poor little guy, he doesn't know what's going on right now, much less where his pants just vanished to.

Oh damn. Well, uh, you can't save a kingdom without inadvertently exploding some puppies I guess. Anyway, time to head back to Tarot town to spread the good news then I guess!

I'm just 22 coins short of the money they need to fix the mill, so my mission was a failure and the people shall go hungry tonight. Though on the plus side, the stranger I accidentally donated half my savings to has finished rebuilding her house. A fine house it is to, with some beautiful pixelwork, not bad at all for 250 coins.

I'll should see if I can go inside.

The good news is that yes I can actually go inside and snoop around the property I just funded. The bad news is that she had the sense to lock up her treasure chest. Looting denied.

You know, there's something about this room that's really familiar to me and I don't just mean the way the furniture art has been influenced by a hundred Super Nintendo JRPGs. I have been here before, I'm sure of it.

The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past (SNES)
There you go, it's Link's house from Link to the Past! The art is different but the layout is nearly identical. You know, thinking back to when I played this for the site last year, I never did open that treasure chest. I thought I could just ignore it and move on, but now it's back to torment me again in Wizorb.

Incidentally there's a good comparison there between Wizorb's faux fourth gen era graphics and the real deal. I think the developers have captured the style pretty well and personally I reckon it's still an appealing look. A couple of decades of limited resolutions has given us the gift of pixel art forever, and I hope there'll always be a place for it even when nostalgia for the SNES era has faded away.


LEVEL 2-02.


I'm not turning this game off until I've got enough money to fix the town's mill, but I'm already getting tired of it and I'm only on stage 2. It would be nice if I could get my marble to ricochet from slime to slime, taking them all out in one move, but sadly I'm stuck doing this the slow way.

I do actually have some limited control over the orb's trajectory off the paddle, as its angle changes depending on how I hit it. It's like my bat is curved outwards slightly in the middle; so the orb will fly off more to the left if I hit it with the left side of the paddle etc. Though what it does afterwards is up to the whims of the fates (and my magic spell to blow things across with wind.)

Speaking of magic spells, I'm losing my patience here...

EAT MYSTICAL FIRE YOU DUMB MONOCULAR BLOBS OF CONGEALED SLIME! Well that was fun for the two seconds it lasted. Back to bouncing the ball then.


LEVEL 2-07.


Oh great, I accidentally caught a purple anti-power up and it slimed me. Now I have to shake the analogue stick from side to side to clean my paddle. I really hate doing this, it makes me think I'm going to break the thing and I care a lot more about my hardware than I do about this game.

Hey look, the bricks form a wasp! I've only just got that now.

I hate wasps.


LEVEL 2-12.


RIGHT, YOU BASTARD ORB, MY PATIENCE IS OFFICIALLY GONE. You're going to go in there and hit those last few bricks even if I have to waste a third of my magic on the fairy wings spell.

The trouble is that I've never tried using this magic before and now I've accidentally steered my ball  underneath the unbreakable blocks I'm trying to get around. Man, I wish the fireballs travelled through walls right now.

Okay, hang on, I've though of a better plan.

Whenever I lose my orb and respawn another, I get to choose between either firing it off from the paddle normally, or using up some of my magic to teleport it to another starting place. So by sacrificing a life I'll be able to move my magic marble right next to the bricks I've been trying to destroy, thus ensuring their inevitable destruction.

HIT IT. HIT THE BLOCK. HIT THE DAMN BLOCK.

AGGGHHHHHHHH!! AGHHHHH! I WANT TO REACH INTO THE SCREEN AND PUT MY FOOT INTO THAT BLOCK.

It's funny, this isn't even taking that long really, but I have to be on constant readiness to catch the ball every time it rebounds down to the bottom of the screen, so it seems like an eternity for me. It also doesn't help that I'm finding it very, very boring.

I could recharge my mana a bit and try the fairy wings thing again, or maybe try blowing it over with some magical wind, but the trick to regenerate mana... is to bounce the ball against the walls for ages. I get a tiny fraction back every ten bounces.


LEVEL 2-13: BOSS FIGHT!


Alright, I'm finally through to the boss fight against King Slime, with three lives left and a tiny drop of magic in the tank. I'm feeling good about my chances here.

I mean I kicked his ass in Terraria, I can take him here.

Oh shit, this doesn't look good. Slimes should NOT have teeth.

He just... broke my paddle. Crushed it underneath him like he was stomping on a twig. I didn't even know that could happen! One life lost.

Alright, new plan: from now on, I do not ever put my paddle underneath his shadow when he's in the air, even when I have to. I'll just have to hope that if the ball's ever coming this way, he'll land in time to deflect it off his ass.


LATER.


And so the slime boss was eventually defeated through the technique of hitting a ball into it sixteen times and I have been rewarded for my trouble with a blue quadrant marked with a mysterious rune. Weird, I didn't get one of these for killing the werewolf.

Whatever it is I don't actually care, as I'm turning this game off now.

But first I had to get the people their water mill back! I've made a real difference this day. Of course the rest of the town remains in ruins and even the mayor has to camp out next the pile of wood and stone that used to be his mansion, but at least I had enough money left over to buy the dog a new doghouse.

Aww, look at his happy doggy face! He knows that he gets to live in comfort now while the humans suffer.


Okay, so here's my controversial opinion on Wizorb: it seems like a pretty well made, polished Breakout clone with some good ideas. I found that the music remained on the right side of bearable, they've absolutely nailed the pixel art, and it controls pretty well whether you're using mouse, keys or a controller. Plus it has a level select, the collision detection on the paddle is pretty lenient and there isn't even a time limit! Oh and it turns out that using up a continue restarts you on the same stage that you failed on and starting a world from scratch gives you a refill, so that's cool.

I found that the biggest flaw in the game for me personally is that it's a Breakout clone and I just don't find the genre that appealing. The levels can drag on to the point of tedium, especially with bricks that take multiple hits to destroy, but you can never relax as the ball soon speeds up to the point where you need constant unwavering concentration to keep it in play.

But yeah, it is how it appears. I'd probably recommend to anyone dying to play a block breaking bounce 'em up that looks like it's a lost treasure from the SNES era, but I'm not sure I'd wish it upon anyone else. Buy hey, it is very very cheap.


So those are my thoughts about Wizorb, but don't let my wall of relentless negativity leave you feeling like you're not welcome to share your own opinions on the game in the comments. In fact as a reward for making it this far down, here's a secret trick: if you go to Google Image Search and type "Atari Breakout" you'll get a free Breakout game to play.

1 comment:

  1. You know, normally I let indie developers get away with a great deal (given that I technically am one myself), but this game is a travesty. It is blatant plagiarism. I can easily see scene-for-scene, sprite, texture and layout replication from almost every Legend of Zelda. Other elements are from games in the Wario, Klonoa and several other SNES, Genesis and GBA series. The concept itself is based on the SNES/SFC games 'Firestriker' and 'Zig Zig Cat'.

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