Title          Wiz'n'Liz
Category       Platform
Compatibility  1 MB required, WHDLoad slave available
Players        1 or 2
Submission     Joona Palaste (palaste@cc.helsinki.fi) Profiled Reviewer

At first, Wiz'n'Liz might look like yet another cutesy platform game. This
impression is a bit deceiving, though. Wiz'n'Liz is certainly cutesy -
very cutesy, in fact, but it's not your average platform game.

In a strong contrast to the current PC game market, where the only game
category left is extremely violent first-person shoot-'em-ups, Wiz'n'Liz
is pretty much entirely non-violent. In fact it does not even have any
enemies, traps or other dangers. If it weren't for the time limit, this
game would pose no challenge whatsoever.

The story is both short and silly. In the land of Pum, the wabbits (yes,
they're called wabbits) were happy, but then they were taken. Taken where
or by what, is never explained. Fortunately, two wizards, one called Wiz,
the other Liz, set out on a quest to wescue the wabbits. (Hence the full
title: Wiz'n'Liz - The frantic wabbit wescue.) You can control either Wiz
or Liz in a one-player game, or both together in a two-player game.

Wiz'n'Liz is set in two parts: The wizards' home and the outside world.
The wizards' home is where you mix spells from the fruit you have
collected, and the outside world is where the actual wabbit wescue takes
place. The outside world is divided into a handful of levels, each with
its own graphical style and music, which you can access in any order you
like via a rollercoaster map. Aside from having their own graphical style
and music, all the levels are pretty much identical. They all have similar
landscape configurations and play the same way.

When you are playing a level, you must find all the wabbits wandering
around and wescue them by running over them. When a wabbit is wescued, it
releases an item, which can be a magic letter, a fruit, a star or a time
bonus. The magic letters are used to fill up words at the top of the
screen. At the easiest difficulty setting (Apprentice) it is enough to
fill up the word to complete the level, but at the other settings (Wizard
or Sorcerer) you have to wescue all wabbits.

Now as I've said previously, the time limit is the only real challenge in
the entire game. And it's a very strict time limit too. You start out
having one minute, and this is supposed to be enough to wescue about sixty
wabbits. The time limit doesn't even reset between levels - it is only
reset when you die, and you only get three lives.

In the Apprentice difficulty setting the time limit is fairly loose but on
Wizard or Sorcerer difficulty you end up frantically running around,
searching for the remaining wabbits. I've had several cases of reaching
the exit door with an amazing 0 (yes, zero) seconds to spare. On every
level, there is one wabbit that releases a very special 30-second instant
time bonus when wescued, and at least on Sorcerer level getting this time
bonus is pretty much essential to success. Fail to find it or miss it when
it appears, and you're done for.

The other aspect of the game is mixing spells in the wizards' home yard.
The spells, which are mixed in a big cauldron, each consist of two
different fruits, collected from the various levels. The fruits include
lemons, oranges, pears, carrots, tomatoes, onions and others, each with a
happy smiley face. The way the fruits smile and spin around in the
cauldron, it looks like they actually enjoy being cooked.

Depending on what fruits you mix, the spell can have very different
results. You can be awarded bonus points or stars, get extra time, or even
get to play a subgame. The subgames are usually simple clones of old 1980s
games like Breakout or Snake. In one subgame you have to throw tomatoes at
two guys placed in wooden stocks - I presume these are supposed to be
caricatures of the game's programmers. You aren't told in advance what
fruit causes which effect, but instead you have to find out this
information yourself by experimenting with different fruit.

The graphics and music in Wiz'n'Liz are excellent. They're wonderfully
cutesy and cartoony, and colourful enough to pass for AGA even though this
is an ECS game. The wabbits aren't that cuddly but I personally think the
happy smiling fruit are adorable, particularly when they dance around in
the cauldron.

Despite the excellent presentation, Wiz'n'Liz still isn't particularly
interesting. This is mostly due to the whole game depending on the strict
time limit. You can complete the Apprentice difficulty setting very
easily, without even trying very hard. The other settings take more
practice, but they too can be completed simply by being fast enough when
wescuing the wabbits. This makes the whole game seem more like a test of
reflexes than a real platform game.

Wiz'n'Liz is certainly a nice diversion, particularly if you get bored of
all the violent games and want something nice and friendly and jolly and
cheerful, but as it is too simple and not varied enough to get you
addicted or hold long-term interest. Worth getting only if you want to
try a platform game with a difference.

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