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Wizball.

Wizball title screen

I first played Wizball on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum on a 5" portable black and white TV set. Later, I graduated to the luxury of a 14" color TV, and later still I played it on the Commodore 64 on a 14" color monitor. The 16-bit ST conversion of this game is just as playable as the 8-bitters were, and packs some lovely parallax scrolling backgrounds and enhanced graphics which the 8-bit platforms couldn't provide. The sound effects, though strange, fit the game well (and they're nearly the same across all the platforms I've played, so they must be pretty close to what the game designers had in their minds when designing the game).

The theme of the game is that you (a wizard) transform into a magical sphere to collect all the color which has been stolen from the world. To do this, you need the help of your trusty cat (Catalyte), which also transforms into a smaller sphere. You shoot the color droplets which are bouncing around the place, and then hold down the joystick button and move the joystick to send your Catalyte in to collect the splashes before they hit the ground. Your Catalyte has a limited degree of invulnerability - if it crashes into too many monsters or un-shot color droplets, it will start to mew and flash, and eventually it will die - you then need to get another one.

The color droplets come in several flavors, and you need to assemble a certain number of each in the three cauldrons at the bottom of the screen in order to complete one of the world's colors. For example, magenta requires half a cauldron of red and half a cauldron of blue drops. When you complete a color, you return to your laboratory to mix the color, via a bonus stage (a rather hard side-scrolling shoot'em up). When you return to the world, it will be a little more colorful. Each world is composed of several levels, interconnected by craters and pipes; only one color is found on each level, so to complete compound colors you need to collect different droplets from different levels.

In-game screenshot It's hard to illustrate the gameplay with screenshots. The row of icons across the top of the screen is a list of available powerups. You shoot the red twirly DNA-looking things to gain green powerup credits, which move a blinking highlight along the row of icons. When the icon you want is highlighted, you waggle the joystick left and right quickly to "buy" that powerup - similar to the powerup system used in the Nemesis series of games.

From left to right, the powerups are : maneuverability (two levels), shield, Catalyte, rapid fire, six-way fire (toggles), smart bomb, and invincibility. You NEED a Catalyte to collect color droplets, and you also NEED both levels of manueverability if you want to survive. Initially, you are only able to control your spin, which means you have to move very carefully because any change of direction you make only takes effect next time you bounce. The first level of manuverability allows you to change your horizontal velocity in mid-bounce. The second level of manueverability allows you to move up and down at will; antigravity, in effect.

Verdict: An original-feeling game, very playable, with a noble history. If you have the opportunity to grab this one, do so.

Ratings (five stars = maximum)

Graphics

Sound/Music

Gameplay

Overall

*****

***

*****

****


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