Although it manages to introduce some refreshingly unique ideas, Wizorb misses more than it hits, resulting in a frustrating and uneven experience that’s hard to recommend.
How do you create something completely new in an already established franchise? That’s something that has always fascinated me as a fan of video games. There are some games in particular where new ideas and concepts are taken for granted, but others have barely changed since their conception. The latter is definitely the case of puzzle game Breakout, a title that’s remained the same since the first version came out in 1972. But does that formula need to change? After all, it has worked remarkably well this far. That didn’t prevent developer Tribute Games from taking a stab at it, but while most changes introduced on Wizorb are more than welcome, some poor design decisions and technical issues ruin an otherwise terrific experience.
In Wizorb, you move your paddle from left to right so that you can bounce a magic ball that destroys colored blocks and once you’ve destroyed every brick in a given level, you win. That parts remains unchanged, but everything else is completely different to the classic Atari game. First of all, you explore a city that has been destroyed and you can repair structures with the money you earn during the levels. Also, the different levels feature enemies that you can defeat by hitting with your magic orb or spells.
As you progress through the game, you unlock black spells. These let you shoot fireballs, alter the trajectory of the orb, replenish mana and so on. The best part about these spells is that you can use them to destroy that last, elusive orb. So this time around, you don’t have to spend a few minutes trying to carefully aim your ball towards the brick. Instead, you just shoot a fireball and that’s it. As a way of preventing players from relying on magic too much, there’s a limited amount of mana to use and to recover it, you need to grab special bottles.
Apart from gold and mana potions, there are several other items to collect, including gems, keys, extra lives and power-ups that upgrade your paddle. Most of these upgrades are beneficial: the orb will suddenly get stuck to the paddle so that you can aim more precisely, one upgrade makes the orb slows down and so on. There are also curses with negative effects, for instance, your orbs suddenly become faster, your magic power disappears, your wand becomes shorter, you lose GP and so on. All the aforementioned elements, keep the game fresh and varied in a way that the genre has never been.
When you’re not fighting enemies in traditional levels and breaking blocks, the game adopts an overhead perspective, so you explore small towns, talk to villagers and give them money to repair structures. Then you move on to a larger map and each section is divided into 12 levels that you must clear in order to save your progress. If you lose all your orbs, you can continue up to two times, but if you fail again, you’ll be sent back to the world map and you’ll have to replay everything. It’s a shame that you can’t save the game between levels, since replaying them takes a lot of time and is incredibly frustrating.
But for all its strengths, Wizorb isn’t without some problems. For starters, there are some questionable design decisions. The worst one is the fact that if you lose all your lives and continues you have to restart all levels. By the way, you have to pay 250 GP to continue playing and if you run out of money, you need to start from the beginning. There will be instances when you finish all the levels, but you won’t have enough money to repair structures in the city. Visually, the game looks absolutely terrific, resembling games from the 16-bit era. Unfortunately, it suffers from framedrops. Although noticeable, these slowdowns weren’t didn’t affect my experience while I was playing, so while it’s annoying, you won’t lose any matches due to these hiccups.
Wizorb proves that a dormant genre can be modernized in entertaining new ways. Although it manages to introduce some refreshingly unique ideas, Wizorb misses more than it hits, resulting in a frustrating and uneven experience that’s hard to recommend.