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Wizorb (PC) artwork

Wizorb (PC) review


"Disenchanting"


Wizorb (PC) image


I came to appreciate independent developers several years ago, when they began reviving genres and styles I thought long dead. '90s-esque console RPGs, frenetic FPSs, old school shmups, and 2D platformers all returned, providing me with hours' worth of masochistic crack. I had to wonder how long it would take for top-down sports titles or run 'n gun games to claw their way out of the muck and take their place on the Steam and Desura storefronts. Eventually, Steam read my mind and advertised a title I was destined to check out: Wizorb.

I took the bait, of course, adding it to my wish list and then ignoring it until I was able to obtain it cheaply several months later. From there, I continued to disregard it, until finally I installed it and loaded it up and allowed it to steal my breath. The game proved to be a throwback to a genre I thought had perished long ago: brick-and-ball. The Arkanoid series pretty much nailed the concept and seemed unsurpassable, with the possible exception of DX-Ball (which is really just freeware Arkanoid). Both titles offered fast-paced action, along with neat power-ups. There wasn't much room for improvement but, I suppose, there's always space for a decent clone.

Wizorb plays quite like the arcade classic that inspired it, except with a fantasy theme. You play as a wizard who seeks to rout an evil force that's sweeping the land. He works toward this end by invading an enclosed area, transforming into a ball, rolling all about the place, and then using his wand--which you move side-to-side via mouse--to bounce him back into the battlefield when he's about to dash out of bounds. By careening all over, he's able to destroy not only the imprisoning bricks placed by his adversaries, but bits of the environment and the foes that lurk within them. So yeah, you won't only be crushing stones in this quest, but also lycanthropes, slimes, and sorcerers.

Wizorb (PC) image


As you smash your way through walls and rebound off magical monsters, goodies such as coins, 1-Ups, and potions will rain down and you can collect them with your wand. These objects have a habit of coming within range around the same time the orb does, which will make you thankful that the mouse sensitivity is spot-on. After all, there's nothing worse than playing a precision-based game with awful control response.

The cash you gather plays an important role in Wizorb. Between stages, you visit a ruined village full of patrons who beg for relief funds. Obliging them not only rebuilds their homes and stores, but also nets you some gifts, including extra lives and reserve potions to restore your magic points as needed.

You might notice that the game doesn't feature much in the way of upgrades, similar to its genre predecessors. You can purchase them from stores hidden in some of the levels. They grant you the ability to slow the sphere down, send multiple balls rolling, or even to catch the globe so you can manually release it. Unfortunately, no goodies ever originate from the bricks you destroy, nor do any other buffs. You do commence the campaign with two valuable spells in your possession, however. One launches projectiles and another changes the direction of the ball's movement using the wind. It's a shame the game neither provides you with much in the way of neat power-ups, nor grants you a way to beef up the few you do obtain. Such options actually might've made the latter stages more enjoyable, perhaps even tolerable...

Wizorb (PC) image


The deeper I plunged into Wizorb, the less enjoyable it became. I admit that I loved its first half, but the experience grew needlessly frustrating and tedious over time. Perhaps its biggest downfall was the inclusion of unbreakable stimuli. Such objects aren't so bad at first, but some stages feature structures that have a tendency to keep the ball ricocheting for ages before it returns home. By that point, the pellet builds up sufficient momentum that it's easy to miss. As you can imagine, I died a lot near the game's end. Bear in mind that you only are allotted a finite number of lives and continues, as well. Once you've spent those, you return to the beginning of the dungeon and must start over from square one. This wouldn't be annoying, except that each location is twelve stages long.

Yeah, but twelve levels is nothing if the game is fast-paced, right? What if I told you that latter stages also have pacing issues?

Consider this: there are twelve rooms per dungeon, and stages you access by the end of the game routinely feature configurations that trap your ball and reduce you to staring at the screen for what feels like eons. I also should mention that there are plenty of obstructions that sit close to the wand, which makes the returning speedy ball even more difficult to deal with. The issues become infuriating once you get about nine or ten levels in after enduring many long sessions of stuck balls, only to reach a "game over" screen and have to tackle the whole bloody mess once again from the top.

Wizorb (PC) image


I wouldn't say that every level near the campaign's conclusion is quite that severe. Maybe a third or so of them qualify. But that's enough to make a person forget about the more appreciable experiences witnessed throughout the early segments of the game. Even those challenges are a bit rugged, but at least they're still action-packed and not drawn out like the ones you encounter in the more problematic areas.

Wizorb leaves me in an uncomfortable position. I dug it enough that I'd kill for another good brick-and-ball title. At the same time, I disliked so much of it that I worry I may not enjoy subsequent additions to the genre. More than anything, I'd like to see these games return in full swing, with all the touches that made Arkanoid and DX-Ball exciting games: boatloads of power-ups, fast action, and few (if any) instances when your ball gets stuck. Marry these concepts with Wizorb's fantasy realm and its hub town and you might have a new champion in the brick-and-ball world.

3/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (August 01, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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