If there’s one company that seems to embrace the PlayStation Minis service, it’s Beatshapers. While Minis have largely been ignored since their inception, there’s no doubt that a number of worthwhile gems have surfaced from it, and Beatshapers have crafted notable games into Minis at a respectable rate for quite a long time now. In the case of Wizorb, recently brought over to the service by Beatshapers and originally developed by Tribute Games, it’s ironic that the game had its roots in the similarly neglected Xbox Live Indie Games. Nonetheless, the game itself is of notable cult success; its retro charm is well-known across the internet and it’s available on damn near every digital distribution service there is, leaving your inexperience with it lacking an excuse if you’ve got an Xbox, PS3, iPhone, or a blasted computer, even.
If you’re still unfamiliar with Wizorb, it’s rather easy to describe, though it needs to be played to really be appreciated. Effectively a hectic mixture of the ineffably popular Breakout-style of games with the RPG genre, the game instantly attracts with its stylish, retro-tinged graphics and an unbelievably smooth soundtrack that feels like it was ripped straight out of your nostalgic mind. Even though the game relies on rather old, formulaic gameplay, you’ll find that the combination of an evolving role-playing brick-buster is phenomenally fresh when executed. I found it vaguely similar to another popular Beatshapers Mini, BreakQuest, though substantially more polished and charming.
In a bit more detail story-wise, you’ll find yourself in the shoes of Cyrus, a rather old wizard hoping restore the kingdom of Gorudo to its grandiose stature after some malevolent force rained destruction on the fair land. You’ll spend a fair amount of time offering gold to the citizens in order to benefit the town, rebuilding the destroyed buildings and earning upgrades and bonuses along the way, but the real meat of the game has you voyaging to five different worlds in order to defeat the various beasties and gain enough gold to circularly help your famished homeland.
Your expedition to these lands, as noted, is the primary function of the game simply because it’s where you do “battle.” In typical brick-buster fashion, you’ll find yourself facing an arena with obstacles to clear, but the RPG elements are immediately noticeable. For one? The levels include moving monsters and look like dungeons ripped out of an NES Zelda-like experience. Another interesting aspect is the ability to cast magic; you can fling fire at the opposing blocks and enemies, draw your ball towards the paddle with magic winds, and much more. There are also plenty of upgrades available, both in-level and at secret stores; you’ll be able to increase your paddle size, magnetize it so the ball sticks, buy extra lives, etc.
About now, you’re probably thinking this sounds exactly like other hit games of the genre like Magic Orb and Shatter. And, you’d be right, but believe that Wizorb plays out in a fundamentally different manner. It just feels like an RPG adventure; even your character turns himself into the orb and wand-paddle at the beginning of each level, a perfect explanation for an otherwise awkward approach to combat. You even have a magic meter, which will go down as you consume more magic for your much-needed spells.
You might also be wondering if the game falls into the same unfortunate pitfalls that many RPGs do. Somewhat disappointingly, the game does tend to drag on at certain spots, with levels that seem to take too long to beat sometimes and balls that seem to fall just outside the reach of your paddle at crucial moments. Still, these frustrations are few and far between. Wizorb consistently ups its challenge with level design gradually growing more intense, with powerful enemies, magical obstacles, the necessity of precision shots, and more. Each level even ends with magnificent boss battles, which easily make up for any stifled yawns experienced in the slower parts of the game. It certainly can become challenging, but Wizorb is worth the meager patience it might ask of you.
The best part? Beatshapers might have sacrificed your precious trophies with its decision to make this a Minis release, but the art style is held in tact, the wonderful sound design is flawless, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s playable on the PS3, PSP and Vita (or will be for North Americans, in the near future). If you’re a brick-breaking addict, if you love RPG games, or just want a faux-nostalgic trip that’ll certainly make you smile, I can’t see the palatable $3.99 asking price being a disappointment to you. At the very least, you’ll get a few hours of fun out of it; more likely, you’ll find yourself with warm memories of a game that so perfectly targets the nostalgic region of our minds.
Final Grade: B+
- Wizorb Teleporting to PS Minis in June