Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Wizball


We're finally approaching the end of my Super Pack adventure and Wizball is one of those magical games which I only have to hear for all my Christmas morning memories to come flooding back. There's just something wonderful and eerie about the audio, be it the cool theme tune or that trippy in-game background "music".

Well, perhaps I played Wizball quite a lot that morning? But you wouldn't guess that if you saw me playing it today lol!! However, this still has a special place in my rapidly-thumping ST heart with our conversion handled by the great Peter Johnson, of Arkanoid fame. And I feel confident in saying that he did a brilliant job.


My first attempt didn't go well. A weird power-up was used but then a *red* wiggly worm appears!

Wizworld was once a lovely and colourful place until the evil Zark turned everything grey and rather drab. We play as Wiz and are... well... a ball thingy who must attempt to add a splash of Technicolor back into his bleak world. We do that by collecting power-ups to aid us shooting Zark's space monsters who will then drop bubbles of red, green or blue. Using these primary colours, we can recolour this drab world to its former glory. In theory!

This is a horizontally scrolling "shoot 'em up" which supports both single and multiplayer - believe it or not. Solo gamers get to be Wiz, with the additional help of Cat thanks to using power-ups. Those with friends can choose their prefered character from the start and even compete and in coop - which is pretty cool, I must say.


Okay, let's restart and try again... Just what are those weird alien things? Quick, shoot 'em!!

Initially, Wiz gets around by bouncing across a rather drab-looking landscape. The fire button shoots a weapon and tapping left/right controls direction and speed. This is difficult at first but the controls are light and responsive. However, you won't get very far without shooting those aliens that look like something from a chemistry lab. Once dead, they turn green so are safe to collect and begin to offer a range of different power-ups:
  • The first comes in two parts helping to give far better control and then preventing gravity from taking its affect. Therefore we stop bouncing! Yes, I like this power-up a lot!!
  • The next gives a much-needed boost to our weaponry and in both directions.
  • Feeling alone? Collect three and you'll be rewarded with a new Cat to help you out.
  • Superpowers are awarded for four power-ups!
  • Five green blobs enable vertical shooting...
  • Smart bomb... I don't think I get so far into the game to need this!
  • Finally, seven green blobs gives you a shield. Umm yeah!


The power-ups disable gravity and more. And then a load of eyeballs turn up to kill you... Great!

It's these power-ups that you really need to use, so waggle the joystick when something takes your fancy. For me, I gotta stop him bouncing first and foremost. It's then that I make the decision to either make use of the friendly Cat or go for shields/better firepower. The choice is yours but I feel nobody will ignore the option to defy gravity...

There are also the other aliens which can drop various colours, either for special treats or to recolour your world. They come in a wide and funky variety but are usually very tough to kill... Thankfully, this world is pretty big and there are escape tunnels to traverse into different areas. However, I feel these aliens are often far too hard to kill so rarely did I reach the bonus stages or use the Wiz Lab for permanent power-ups. Which I'm gutted about!!

I believe some copies are bugged and prevent completion. Sadly, ahem, I was never able to test that theory but I'm interested to know if this is true. For now, I'll blame my creaky old joystick...


His world might be like ST High Res but at least the aliens are rather jazzy and colourful!


- GRAPHICS -

Wizball is a corker and a great looker for the 80s. I absolutely adored it from the first moment I saw the title screen which begins to reveal its colours using several funky methods. Sprites are well-drawn and little Wiz is cute and funny - especially when he opens up in the Wiz Lab. Yeah, it's silly but I really like things like that!!

A game like this needs to scroll and wimping out saying that the ST cannot scroll would have been totally unacceptable (a bad workman 'n all that). Thankfully, Peter Johnson never wimped out and everything moves fast and smooth, which is a relief because the action needed to feel agile and spritely. Which it does.


Trivia question: what beautiful megademo has Wiz appeared in? Too easy, right...


- SOUNDS -

Audio is both great and weird. Don't get me wrong, the theme tune is incredible, something I've loved throughout the decades and never gets old (have a listen). Also, the sound effects work well but it's that strange background "tune" that adds a spark of brilliance to the atmosphere. A lot of effort went into making this game.



- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

For me, Wizball is a bit of an enigma. Don't get me wrong, I've really enjoyed it and also feel that Peter Johnson did a fantastic conversion. However, it is a lot harder than the 8-Bit original and ultra-fast reactions are always needed. Thus, it requires (too) much time to master, which I never really did - either back in the day or now!!

Personally, I feel it's the firing of our weapon which should be quicker and more like a Jeff Minter game? Okay, perhaps not Llamatron but, as is, it's often far too lethargic so annoying when missing the enemies. Also, in one-player mode, controlling Cat is awkward and not what you need when aliens are invading the screen.

Having said all that, I really enjoyed Wizball. I genuinely wish there were more hours in my day to play it and beat this infuriating shooter. I'm going to be returning to it again, simply because I need to know how everything looks in colour!! So don't be quick to judge because it's surprisingly entertaining and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

Don't be a sissy - download this for either floppy or hard disk and help Wiz restore his world!

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