I first heard about Wizorb because of the involvement of Paul Robertson, a digital artist whose portfolio includes Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and a collection of incredible and incredibly fucked-up, retro-styled chipart.
So what is it?
Wizorb is an arcade block-breaker wrapped up in SNES-era RPG trappings. You’re a wizard that starts in a town decimated by some evil monster types, and the townspeople beg for your assistance. Trite-sounding, I know, but this setup still grabbed my interest, and lucky it did, because the gameplay will be overly familiar to anyone who has ever played Pong or one of the many, many Breakout clones.
Your wizard avatar has the ability to turn into a magical paddle which you use to bounce a ball into enemies and blocks and scenery until you can progress. You also have magical abilities that, in theory, give you greater control over the level; in practice though, you never have mana when you need it. At the end of the day it’s still a game about bouncing a ball into some blocks, so if unlimited mana is going to make the game faster-paced and more interesting, do it; who cares if it’s slightly less challenging.
Speaking of challenge, the game has it, though most of it is down to the archaic use of lives and continues. You only have three lives, though you can buy more from the hidden and locked stores. The lives are so easily lost that ‘deaths’ feel arbitrary more often than they feel like they were due to poor skill.
Seeing as Wizorb started out as an XBLA game, it makes sense that the controller would be the superior input. I tried all three; keyboard is too slow, mouse is too fast, but the gamepad is Goldilocks.
Wizorb is not a bad game, but it’s so heavily entrenched in retro aesthetics in terms of graphics, audio and gameplay that you’ll already know if this is your sort of game just by looking at the screenshot above. Personally I want a little something more from ‘retro’ games.