Title           Wizkid
Game Type       Platform
Players         1
Compatibility   All
Submission      Joona Palaste (palaste@cc.helsinki.fi) Profiled Reviewer

Wizkid is the sequel to the famous C64 game Wizball. And if you thought
Wizball was weird, you haven't seen anything yet. Wizball had its fantasy
story setting and little curiosities, but Wizkid abandons all pretense of
seriousness and makes jokes every chance it gets.

  The story of the game takes place after the story of Wizball. After
restoring colours to the world, the Wiz and his cat, Nifta, went home to
enjoy a little rest. But then came the evil mouse wizard Zark and
kidnapped Nifta and his (her?) eight kittens. The only one who can save
them is Wizkid, son of the Wiz. You take the role of Wizkid.

  The game takes place on nine levels, all of which have pretty, colourful
background graphics and exciting music, from sailor songs via Latin
rhythms to Elvis Presley songs. Here's where Wizkid's first novel twist
comes in. Normally, you would expect to proceed level by level, but if you
were skilled, you would find "warps" on the levels which would allow you
to skip levels. Wizkid works the opposite way. Played normally, the game
only visits levels 1, 4, 7 and 9. You have to find "warps" on the screen
to slow down the progress and get to levels 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8. This idea is
so interesting, it's a pity other games haven't made use of it as well.

  Playing the game is done on two layers. On the surface, Wizkid is a
simple arcade game, where you guide the disembodied head of Wizkid around
the screen, trying to knock coloured blocks off from the screen so they
hit the baddies, killing them. Killing all baddies completes the level.
Doesn't sound all that special, but there's more. Collect a whole series
of bonus notes, and they'll play a tune, allowing you to re-embody your
head and access the layer underneath the arcade game, which is the
adventuring bit. Here you can walk on the screen scenery, not above it
like you did when you were just a head. This allows you to interact with
on-screen objects.

  In the adventuring part of the game, you must find various objects (some
examples include a can of Cola, a scarf, and a mouse), which you must then
use in various places around the screen, to interact with the scenery and
discover the warps to the other levels. This is a novel idea, with
enormous potential. However, it hasn't been executed to its full extent.
When you get to a place where you could use an object, you get an
on-screen "Clue!" sign, whereupon pressing Fire automatically selects the
right object and uses it. This, in my mind, makes the adventuring far too
easy. Just collect everything you can and let the game do all the thinking
for you. It would have been more of a challenge if the game had just
displayed the "Clue!" sign and presented you with a menu of objects, where
you could select the right one.

  The arcade game (where you knock blocks to hit baddies) still works
well. And if you fail to kill all baddies when you run out of blocks, you
get to try that level again. This makes sure younger, less patient players
don't lose interest in the game. Also, there are many "secret" bits. The
largest of these is found on the first level, through a series of
restrooms. I won't spoil the "secret" part for you, but here's a hint:
think of binary codes when you're trying to get to the right room number.

  At the end of each level, you get a kitten. Touching this kitten
completes the level. Some kittens you can collect straight away, some you
have to pass by, because collecting them would cause you to skip levels.
When you have completed level 9, you get to Zark's castle, where you meet
the evil mouse wizard Zark himself.

  It's hard to find any specific fault in Wizkid. The game has excellent
graphics and sound, and its sense of humour is suitably wacky and
wonderful. The only way I can see to improve it would be to make the
adventuring part a little more difficult, and perhaps provide more variety
in the arcade part. Also, even though the high score list is saved to
disk, it's quite small. At least 20 places would have been expected, since
some games have 100 places, or even more.

  In conclusion, Wizkid is a very good game. It's a classic arcade
adventure game, but not a classic just by itself. If you like exciting
arcade games with a wacky sense of humour, get Wizkid. You won't be
disappointed. However, if you intend to just pick the best games of all
time, you could pass Wizkid by, as it offers nothing unique out of its own
category. I like Wizkid a lot, but some people might not.

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