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Wardner (Genesis) artwork

Wardner (Genesis) review


"Wardner strikes a blow for overweight kids everywhere. Because the hero of Wardner isÖ well, fat. And heís not one of those fat kids looking (illogically) for a supermodel either; his girl is also pretty portly. Thereís nothing more annoying than someone of the George Costanza mindset: ''I canít date her because sheís bald.'' But, you're bald! (Donít worry, I wonít digress any further into the universal applications of my Seinfeldian knowledge.) "



Wardner strikes a blow for overweight kids everywhere. Because the hero of Wardner isÖ well, fat. And heís not one of those fat kids looking (illogically) for a supermodel either; his girl is also pretty portly. Thereís nothing more annoying than someone of the George Costanza mindset: ''I canít date her because sheís bald.'' But, you're bald! (Donít worry, I wonít digress any further into the universal applications of my Seinfeldian knowledge.)

So itís back to our little story: you are Dover. One Mr. Wardner, an old egg-headed wizard with nothing but time on his hands to raise petunias and kidnap little girls, gives into his pedophile tendencies once more, and makes off with your new wife, Mia. The two of you were enjoying an inexpensive honeymoon in Niknik (I kid you not. I guess Doverís after some nuknuk). You take a walk in the forest. You become ''so enamoured of the checkerboard sunshine and the foliage'' (as the instruction manual has it) that you lose your way. One of Wardnerís stooges, Terragon, swoops down and abducts a panicking Mia right from under your nose. Oh Dover, wimp of all wimps, youíre telling me you canít protect your girl even when the two of you are holding hands? Never mind, itís happened to the best of them, and besides, what better reason to necessitate this splendid adventure? Well, this very respectable adventure, anyway.

And thatís what this game is: very respectable. Nothing more, nothing less. Itís a direct port of the side-scrolling action arcade game with the same name, and in terms of gameplay, nothing noteworthy has been lost in the transition from coin-op to console. However, the quarter-muncher had bright, vibrant graphics going for it, and those visual attributes, insignificant as they often are, went a long way in selling the appeal of the game as a cutesy adventure. Play Super Mario Brothers 3 on a black and white television, and youíll know what I mean. For whatever reason, the Genesis version of Wardner is stricken with the 'washed out home version' curse. Lots of games were plagued with this affliction in the 16-bit era, so itís not a unique situation with Wardner, but certainly the more serious-looking games donít suffer nearly as much.

There are six levels of side-scrolling action. Dover has control of magic fireballs as his weapon. He can collect crystals from fallen foes to increase the rate of fire (read: the amount of fireballs in one shooting stream) of his attack. He can shoot while ducking, standing and jumping. Despite his unathletic build, he glides about the environs fairly quickly and smoothly. I am wont to compare this game with Alex Kidd in Miracle World, so if youíve played that Sega action adventure classic, youíll be relatively comfortable with this. As is the case with that game, Wardner's hero will die instantly if heís touched by an enemy. Further, he can buy items from a shop to give him a fighting chance.

There are three types of magic fireball upgrades from your normal shot: the magic of the Stars, Moon, and Sun. They rank in that order of effectiveness, as well as that order of expense to you. Gold money bags are left behind by the deceased, and often, even larger bags are just left lying about the Wardner world (honest set, these bad guys) to facilitate your shopping. Still keeping with the Miracle World comparison, a magic cape can be purchased that saves you from death by damage once (a thread and needle kit is also available, allowing you a second save, assuming youíve already got the cape). A clock item rounds out the store inventory, and naturally its use is to extend your time alottment for the current level - by 30 seconds. The magic flute and the high jump shoes are somewhat exclusive items, found solely during your travels, and not in any store. Each will prove useful for one special, specific function. Iíll leave you to discover what those functions are.

Now that you know your capabilities, youíre better prepared to begin your journey. Youíll do so in the dark heart of Wardner's forest. Standard platform jumping is the order of the day, so youíd do well to familiarize yourself with the nuances of Doverís slightly misleading jump animation (when it looks like heís on the edge of a platform, he probably needs to amble still forward to make most jumps). Little cannons will try to pin you down, firing flames in sequence from your left and right, catching you in a toasty crossfire. Leap from rope to rope to avoid a messy demise in the swamp below, and live to fight the leaping Emerald Dragon.

Stage two presents you with perhaps your greatest challenges of the game. You'll traverse conveyor belts with spinning blades threatening to part your hair - and skull - and you'll need to make sure that your stay on platforms with fumes that form vaporous skulls is a short one in each case. The olí 'pretty girl turns into a big hairy spider named Kaja' trick is at work at the levelís conclusion, so be careful. This level, in addition to being pretty challenging (at first, anyway) also features the most boring backdrop of the adventure. Itís a flat, dull factory that youíre in, and disappointingly, it looks like a flat, dull factory. There are no points for realism in cutesy games! Shame on those developer folks at Mentrix - this isnít Resident Evil! Things should be kept light and colourful in this genre. The audacity of these Mentrix guys...!

But wait! If itís colour you wantÖ the third level (back on the forest stage), is the brightest and best of them all. Youíll run from flying skeletons, run on platforms sinking into a sea of fire, and run betwixt falling magma sent your way by a distant volcanoís wrath. Suddenly, Wardner seems very Adventure Island-like. A magical twist is available to keen adventurers, found on the wondrous wingspan of a very special bird. In keeping with the fire theme, the appropriately named Fire Dragon has a date with you. He wants to take you somewhere cozy, and warm. Like Hell. Tell him youíll meet him there someday, and send him on his way. A maze level with rock creatures that spring from the earth, as well as headless zombies patrolling the narrow hallways, is next on your itinerary.

Flames that touch the ceiling, and flames that walk the floor, make your climb to the confrontation with the Grocko creature a difficult one in level five. Finally, the last stage has you fighting (take a deep breath) all the bosses youíve faced before, with a few new challenges thrown in for good measure. Itís pretty tough, and in between each onslaught of reborn bosses and tricky enemy attacks, youíll have to ascend to a new level in the underground area. This involves some painstaking platform jumping, where a miscalculation sends you plummeting downward to begin again.

And ultimately: ''Mr. Wardner, I presume?'' And you'll barely get the utterance out before the old pervert fries your arrogant ass. Manage to pound some fireballs into his frail, bony behind and realize that heís got more up his blousy sleeves than you might have given him credit for. In short, the final confrontation is no laughing matter - it will take a good eye for figuring out boss patterns, and some expert jumping skills to pull you out alive.

Wardner plays very well. The control is excellent, and once you get used to our boyís dodgy take offs to begin his jumps, youíll feel that itís perfect. Thereís just nothing new here is all - parts will seem like Miracle World, parts will seem like Adventure Island. The gameís ideas are a bit dry, but thatís not what hurts it most. At the very least, Mentrix could have given us some decent tunes to listen to, or brightened up the backgrounds for our colour-deprived eyes. But they didnít. So the presentation is as dry as the concept. But, for all creativity and polish that didnít go into this game, itís still fun to play, even after itís thoroughly beaten. The challenge hits the novice gamer immediately, and doesnít fold and fall away completely when the more experienced Wardner player takes his turn. For its cowardly grip on the ordinary, youíll relegate it to the pile of dusty games you will never play again - but for the subtle, simple enjoyment it brings, you really shouldnít.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Marc Golding (December 22, 2003)

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