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Wizards & Warriors X: Fortress of Fear (Game Boy) artwork

Wizards & Warriors X: Fortress of Fear (Game Boy) review

"I need you to bear with me. I have something I want to share, and it may sound irrelevant, but just give me some time; I promise to be brief, and it will all make sense in the end. "

I need you to bear with me. I have something I want to share, and it may sound irrelevant, but just give me some time; I promise to be brief, and it will all make sense in the end.

I want to tell you about the worst day of my life.

It was cold out, and, in keeping with the tradition of ominous and fateful days, overcast and dark earlier than usual. I was innocently training with the rest of my football [Americans: read - soccer] team when a rogue ball sent me sprinting into a shard of metal randomly jutting out of the ground, hidden mystically by the early dusk. To the amusement of the others (and the pained shock of myself), two rather huge gashes resulted, the bigger of the pair gushing a blood fountain akin to that of a cheap B-grade horror movie. One of my loyal team-mates managed to subdue his rambunctious laughter just long enough to phone an ambulance, and a short half an hour later, one swung by to take me and my ravaged leg to receive the care it so obviously desired.

I won't bore you by telling of the numerous traffic jams that slowed my angelic yet tardy rescuers; I won't waste your time by expressing my horror at the promised empty hospital waiting room looking like an extras cast assembly for the latest World War II film; I'll skip past the bit that details how someone with two sizeable leaky holes in his leg had to stand in said waiting room, as no chairs were available. I've digressed from the intended point long enough.

My pains momentarily forgotten, I gazed lovingly upon my salvation as my eventual lift home arrived to wait with me -- and did not come unarmed. With them came the form of an aid parcel containing as painkillers, reading materials, and, in answer to my deepest prayers, my Gameboy SP.

You see, standing in an overcrowded waiting room full of casualties does little to help you escape the fact that your shoddily bandaged leg is leaking a small crimson puddle beneath your foot, but immersing yourself in a the wonderful world of everyone's favourite mobile console would. Greedily, I snatched my prize and noted the two carts that had been brought along, a nonfunctioning copy of Tetris and Wizards & Warriors: Chapter X: The Fortress of Fear.

We all own games like Fortress of Fear, games we've never heard of and have no recollection of ever purchasing yet have somehow managed to smuggle themselves into our collections unheeded. Just like the fact that you can't lick your own elbow, it is undeniably true, yet no one will ever really know the reason why this happens.

Alright; you can stop trying to lick your elbow. It can't be done, promise.

Fortress of Fear opens to show your hero equipped with his knight's gear, set against the background of what might be a poorly-drawn mountain range and some squiggles that might make passable clouds if squinted at for long enough. Relentlessly happy and upbeat electrical beepings assaults one's ears immediately; they gained me sharp looks from those suffering from head wounds, so I mercifully killed the sound right there. I dislike playing medieval platformers accompanied by the squeaky-sounding pipe organ noises that most carnivals employ as the dodgems soundtrack, so I was at no loss.

Braving a little further into the game brings up the standard multilevel platform shenanigans every side-scrolling platformer game employs. A few experimental swings of my mighty blade proved jerky but serviceable as I found that a more powerful overhead swing action is available. A few seconds later, I discovered that all that armour must weigh your poor nameless protagonist down, seeing as he has the jumping power of a small boulder. Determined to make do in such dire circumstances, however, I struggled onwards.

Ignoring the curious blobs that I assume are bats, the treasure chests that seem incapable of being opened, the giant snakes that randomly emanate from holes in the grounds, and the hails of arrows that plague my every move, I found myself presented with the game's first real jumping challenge. In front of my heroic avatar lay a fearsome void with two mobile platforms scrolling vertically, no doubt requiring jumptastic timing to traverse. Unabashed, I leapt at my only means of progressing, missed, and died.

I soon discovered that the trick to these fiendish jumps was to blindly jump at them as they scrolled off the screen and hope they'd catch you on the way back up. On my last life, I made the first platform -- but missed the second. The game over screen rolled, then sent me to the high score board. After the game's opening screen came by, I realised something very depressing: there are no continues here. The sadistic bastards who made this game apparently decreed that if you are to complete it, you'll do it with your original set of lives or not at all. This prompted a flick of the power-switch and the folding of the screen in disgust.

Back in reality, a small baby to my left noisily vomited. The young mother mildly chastised it before returning her attention to the three-month-old fashion magazine she'd previously claimed from the waiting room table. The sickly yellow pile emanated visible stench lines. Life out, Gameboy in.

I dodged the bats, slew the snakes, found that the chests could be opened by myriad hidden keys to reveal gems that were utterly worthless except to gain points with, and still ducked arrows coming from no visible source. This time, plan in hand, I foiled the platforms' dastardly schemes and completed the stage. Before being thrown into the next level, a small message of congratulations was presented.

The evil wizard Malkil awaits to unleash his wrath upon thee.

Who the bloody hell is Malkil? Why am I the target of his wrath? Did I unknowingly insult him in some way? Steal his magical book of dark spells? Take the last doughnut? Buy him a copy of Wizards & Warriors: Chapter X: The Fortress of Fear for his evil anniversary? This baffling degree of hate must have thrown me, because shortly into the second stage -- a generic castle interior -- I fell victim to what might have been a poorly-rendered wandering guard and was again greeted with a game over.

Power off, screen down, I limped over to the coffee machine, my love/hate relationship with caffeine getting the better of me. No sooner had I purchased the scalding-hot plastic cup of liquefied goodness than someone in a wheelchair bashed into my leg. The corresponding gulped scream earned me another harsh look from the room's collection of head-wound sufferers. I dutifully offered a muttered apology before I dragged my poor, cursed leg back to my seat, now with a coffee-blistered hand to add to my list of dissatisfactions. 'Bling' went my Gameboy's opening screen as the game loaded back up.

Bats dodged, snakes killed, useless chests ignored, floating platforms bypassed, with still no sign of the source of the constant arrows, I dragged myself back through the game's stages. After several attempts, I did well enough to get to the first end-of-level boss. It's a large bat. A large, nimble, incredibly fast bat that's impossible to hit or dodge. I lost enough lives to figure out its attack patterns, and, on my last attempt, sliced at it enough to build some vain hope of defeating it. Then I mistimed an attack slightly, dropping down to the level below me to avoid its advance. I took fall damage and died. That was the last straw; I made like the phantom archer that had plagued me throughout the game and disappeared from the scene.

Minutes later, my name was called over the waiting room's PA, and I was ushered into a room where demented madmen poked me with all manner of sharp objects in an attempt to patch me back up. Skin that parted like butter to contract my injuries took on a leather-like resistance to their needles. It was sheer agony.

Events considering, it was the highlight of my day.

EmP's avatar
Community review by EmP (March 12, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted August 22, 2010:

This is incredible writing. I'm glad that a review for this game exists, because I think it (and a very old Nintendo Power that quickly glosses over the game) are the only evidence remaining that Wizards and Warriors X ever existed.
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EmP posted August 23, 2010:

I'd almost forgotten about this review. Venter hates it! But it did trick several people to lick their elbows.

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honestgamer posted August 23, 2010:

Now you're just making stuff up, EmP. This review is actually the one that made me really notice and appreciate your writing style back in the day, so "hate" is a rather inappropriate way of putting it.
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EmP posted August 23, 2010:

I do that sometimes!

I do remember it as part of my elusive hunt for my first RotW mention and not quite making it on the list. If memory serves, I won it the next three out of four weeks afterwards before you made the baffling decision to promote me.

I've always had a soft spot for this review. Back in the day, my biggest problem was that I thought I had to write a set way and spat out clunkers like the Jurassic Park review Genj still rides me about. This was my first real attempt at doing something completly different and I very almost didn't sub it to HG as I expected to be ridiculed for it.

There's today's little slice of nostalgia for me.
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aschultz posted August 23, 2010:

I will now write a review explaining to people that they have cancer if their hand is bigger than their face.

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