Wiz ‘n’ Liz

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Wiz ‘n’ Liz (1993)
By: Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis  Genre: Platform  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 922,300
Also Available For: Amiga

Released mid-way through the MegaDrive’s life, this quirky platformer for some reason seemed to slip under the radar for most gamers at the time. Is that because it sucks? Actually, no, and it was released on the most popular console and computer of the time, and came during a period when the genre was at its peak too, so it’s a mystery to me why more people haven’t played it! I actually first encountered it in a very favourable review in an Amiga magazine but it was the MegaDrive version I would ultimately purchase, purely because the MD is better than the Amiga as everyone knows (hee hee!), but the MD is also far better catered for as far as this kind of game is concerned too. So how did Wiz ‘n’ Liz fare against the likes of Sonic? Not too well, one might think, but could Psygnosis have a surprise in store?

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

One of the first things you might notice when playing this game is that it’s nearly as fast as Sonic! It’s set on the amusingly-named planet of ‘Pum’ where Wiz the wizard and Liz the witch reside. Their pastime of creating new magic spells is second only to taking care of their many beloved pet rabbits. Unfortunately, however, their latest spell has gone wrong and whisked all their rabbits off to who knows where! Under your (and a friend’s) control, Wiz ‘n’ Liz immediately set out to rescue them all and restore Pum to its former glory. Finding all of their rabbits isn’t particularly hard as they’ve been liberally sprinkled across the many charming and not so charming lands that comprise Pum. They’re not just normal rabbits though, but magic rabbits, and every last one of them must be rescued.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
The game begins in Home Land where Wiz ‘n’ Liz’s house and magic cauldron are located. There are also some trees here in which magic fruit grow. Mixing any two of these fruits in the cauldron creates a spell whose effect depends on which combination of fruits are mixed, but the first spell creates a door which provides access to the level select area. From here you can enter the various levels (or ‘lands’) and you can tackle them in any order you want. Each land is made up of two or three rounds, and on each of these there is a set quota of rabbits to rescue. This is done by touching them and to start with they will each release letters which slowly float up the screen. Collecting these letters spells out the magic word at the top of the screen. Once it’s complete, rescued rabbits will instead release magic fruits, stars, and clocks.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot


Collecting these items isn’t mandatory but it can be very useful. Gathering magic fruits will fill the magic-meter which, when full, makes that fruit available to mix magic spells with in Home Land. Each clock collected will add five seconds to you timer for the next stage / land, and stars can be spent on fruits, more clocks, and even extra lives in the shop, but only once you’ve worked out the magic spell to summon it! There are eight standard lands to play through (as well as one secret final land which you must earn the right to play) and they are all multi-tiered and based on some pretty standard themes such as Grass Land, Snow Land, Desert Land, Dead Land, etc. Each is also looped and the stages contained therein are timed, with the amount of time you start with being determined by which of the three skill settings you choose before play.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
One of the most notable things about Wiz ‘n’ Liz is that it’s nearly bereft of enemies, with only a few bosses making up their ranks. As well as the skill settings, there are also three ‘levels’ to choose between – Apprentice, Wizard, or Sorcerer – and each time you finish one of them you’ll face a boss, such as a giant malevolent tree or sunflower, before progressing to the next level. The boss you face will be determined not only by the level but also the skill setting, so there’s a good few of them, and that’s one of my favourite things about this game – the range of difficulty settings mean it’s possible to just mess around having fun and trying out new magic spells, or to really test yourself and try to finish the game properly too! There is also a superbly frantic two-player mode in with the players race each other to see who can collect their rabbit-quota first.

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot
Despite taking this long to explain, Wiz ‘n’ Liz really is a fairly simple, albeit slightly strange game! Aesthetically, things are certainly superb. The opening title sequence features some lovely wibbly reflective water effects, for example, and the in-game graphics are nicely detailed, superbly animated, amusing, and full of character. The audio on offer here is of a similarly high standard. The sound effects are superb and there are lots of tunes, including one for each land. They are still among the best I’ve heard on the MegaDrive and must surely rank highly on the list of the composer, the great Matt Furniss’ achievements, perfectly suiting the fast, frantic, arcade-style gameplay. In fact, on a good few occasions I’ve decided to play this game just to give my ears a treat before zooming through the delightful lands, getting caught up in the addictive rabbit-rescuing antics once again!

Wiz 'n' Liz - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

That’s the best thing about Wiz ‘n’ Liz – you can play it for five minutes, you can play if for two hours, it’s great fun either way. The magic spell tomfoolery complicates the otherwise simple gameplay a little but, whilst good fun, most of the fruit combinations produce little of substance, instead mostly comprising amusing mini-games, bonus time/points, or changing some minor aspect of the game (rabbit colour, for example). That’s one of the things that most puzzles me about this game – being a platform game, it’s not completely original, but it has so many unique features and charming touches, even if many of them are superficial – it’s still a fantastic game, so its lack of success is bewildering. Not only that but it was released at a time when 2D platform games were king and originality was scarce which only confuses matters further. It’s hard to believe that it’s only the second game from the developer that would go on to become the revered Bizarre Creations (responsible for Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars amongst others). Wiz ‘n’ Liz is a game I would urge any platform fan to try. Besides, how could you not like a game featuring rotating fruits with faces?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px-WdFMeYy8[/youtube]

RKS Score: 9/10

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

Geometry Wars in game screenshot
Geometry Wars in game screenshot

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The return and revenge of classic arcade games.”

 

 

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

 

Overview:

Back in the 80s, people would usually flock to arcades to see what new hard arcade games would come out and they would try to see who could get the highest score in their neighborhood. Arcade games were really hard back then since they were designed for you to keep dropping in quarters in order to keep playing in order to try to beat your friends’ scores. Continues? Never heard of that! Those days are gone but now thanks to games like this one, the challenge from those games has returned.

This game needs no storyline.You’re a spaceship/triangle and you’re trying to survive for as long as you can. You move around and shoot with endless enemies coming for you at all times. If anything touches you, you die. It’s that simple. After 10000 points, your fire modes alternate from rapid fire to a more concentrated but slower attack. You have no control over this. The only special thing that can save you when you’re really screwed is the nukes you get, in limited numbers. The game awards you with extra lives, nukes when you reach a specific score point (and multiples of that score amount).

The longer you live and the more/faster you kill, the higher your score multiplier will be. When you die, you lose a life and ALL your score multiplier. Basically, try to never die because as you have a high multiplier if you are really good you will reach a point where if you manage to stay alive you will get a 1-up/nuke much faster, but most people will not get to see that point in the game.

There are different kinds of enemies each with their own attack style pattern. The most basic enemy, a star just comes at you in a linear path, so they’re usually easy to dispatch. There is a diamond shape one that does about the same only that they spawn in groups. There is a green square cowardly one that will stay away from whatever direction you’re shooting in, will try to go around you to tag (kill) you. There is a pink one that when you kill will spawn two smaller enemies that will go kamikaze for you in a circular pattern. You have a snake one (I call them sperm) that you can only kill by shooting the head off. There is a black hole enemy that eats other enemies and also draws you in via gravity, but the best attack is also has is spitting out really fast seeker enemies when it ate until it burst. There is also a red version of you enemy that tries to ram you and has a forward facing shield (forcing you to trick it and shoot it in the back). The deadliest enemy is the smallest, taking form in a pack of “snow” that you have to shoot endlessly to try to hold back.

Geometry Wars is available for PC, Xbox 360, and also for Nintendo Wii and DS.

Fun Factor:

This game is really unforgiving. Enemies constantly keep spawning, sometimes on top of you, so that you need to keep moving at all times and alert every single second. Usually, the faster you kill enemies the faster you will have to deal with the next wave of enemies. Later on, the game will spawn more than one batch at a time, usually of different kinds of enemies that complement each other.

Here is an example of how insane this game is and how ridiculous the gameplay and your nerves will get:

The game is a pure adrenaline injection into your heart. Fun Factor is a 10 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

This game is really hard for 99.9% of all people. The longer you play Geometry Wars, the harder it gets, no matter what. You are doomed from the start as the game has no end until you run out of lives. The difficulty is simple for about the first 2-3 minutes and then you will start to see it grow at a geometric rate.

This is not a game for a casual gamer, but then again hard arcade games aren’t either. If you’re like me and like hard game, this game is going to be a favorite. You can’t change the difficulty… the game does it for you! Difficulty Versatility gets a 10 out of 10.

Value:

For the Xbox 360, you can just get it from the Xbox Marketplace for a few dollars. For the PC, the game costs $4 via Steam. The link to get Geometry Wars via Steam is the following: http://store.steampowered.com/app/8400/

Considering how challenging and fun this game is, the game is of great Value. If you are a fan of classic arcade games and MAME, you need it. Value gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

Literally, this is a game I play every day, myself.

This game is part of my daily routine of games, when I feel like training myself to build up more/better reflexes. I would usually turn on my computer and play this game until I would reach a minimum high score that I set for myself based on how recent I’ve been playing the game. As soon as I reach that score I let myself go play some other games. It’s part of my gaming “exercise.”

If you get mad at it or sick of it, you can always put it down and come back to it weeks or months later and the charm of the game always returns. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10 from me.

Sound:

All the sound effects are reminiscent of classic 80s arcade games such as Warlords or Sinistar. There are many zapping and electronic kind of sounds that will put a smile on an old gamer’s face. The rapid fire upgrade and the black hole enemy blowing up, as well as the nuke going off are particularly gratifying. Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

The game has a menu song which is pretty relaxing and an in game song that sounds like a mix of early Sega, Nintendo NES, and Amiga game music. Although you will hear this song over and over, it does not get boring or annoying. It fits the theme of the game really well and it will keep your adrenaline in synch with the action, especially if you set the volume of your speakers/headphones up really loud. The action sometimes drowns the music. Music gets a score of 8 out of 10, simply because of the limited selection of music.

Graphics:

Graphically, this game is like a remix of all those retro 80s arcade games you grew up playing. The game is such amazing eye candy that it makes one glad that small games like this are being released, bringing back the spirit of the original arcade, despite the fact that many original arcade games only had rudimentary graphics. “Retro Evolved” … the subtitle was chosen correctly as this is a rebirth/return of the classics.

You shoot enemies and they shatter into a thousand micro pixel vectors. There are so many things on the screen and they all look familiar in a good way (although they all kill y0u in one hit). The game gives one the feeling of holding down the fire buttons just to watch a stream of volleys shatter a cluster of enemies. Graphics get a 1o out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

I used to have an issue with this game and my old graphics card (an ATI 1950 Pro) where it would run out of video memory and freeze up the computer forcing me to reset the whole thing. On my newer gaming PC I’ve pretty much never had this problem, although I remember it might have done it once or twice. Other than that, the game is pretty solid. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 6 out of 10, mainly of how bad the crashes were on some older video cards/systems. The Xbox 360 version has no problems.

Controls:

The controls are really simple. Half your keyboard/game pad moves you around in the obvious direction, the other half makes you shoot in that direction. The only other button you need is the nuke, which is the spacebar for the PC version. ESC key pauses whenever you want.

Combos or special moves aren’t going to keep you alive in this game. Only tactics and pure skill really do make a difference. Controls get a 10 out of 10.

Performance:

This game runs fine on most computers. I’ve seen it lag on some machines that are not necessarily the fastest gaming machines but you’d imagine it would still run fine since it’s a 2D game. The game though does have a lot of action going on at all times. The Xbox version runs perfectly. Overall, Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.

My history with this game:

I kept hearing about this game from Xbox 360 players, saying how good it is. I decided to pick up the PC version for a few bucks and it was a really good decision.

When I first got Geometry Wars I basically spent 3 days doing nothing but playing it non-stop until my hands hurt. As I said before, I usually play this game daily. It usually can wake me up even more than drinking 2-3 cups of cafe con leche.

There is a sequel for this game and it looks amazing but I don’t yet have an xbox 360. If I get to play it or get my hands on one of those consoles, I can assure you I will get it and review it for you.