Wizorb – XBLIG Review
Here’s Wizorb, in a nutshell: it’s Breakout. And you hate Breakout.
What’s that? You say you have fond memories of playing old-school Breakout in high school computer class? Yeah, so did I (well, I played DX Ball). Friend, so did I. Then I replayed it, in the form of Wizorb, and here we are now. It’s got everything you “liked” back in high school, but it also has everything that made you swear loudly and get in trouble. Wizorb has a lot of charm, but deep down it doesn’t have a lot to offer.
Wizorb casts you into the role of a half-wizard, half-ball creepy lech of an old wizard and tasks you with defeating evil and repairing the small town you happen to be in at the start of the game. You’ll do this by playing Breakout without any real twists. You can cast some magic spells, but you get so few magic points that this is more of an added bonus than a feature. The spells you do have are mediocre and not of much use: the change direction spell is unreliable at best, the fireballs don’t do much, and to use the fire ball power effectively the ball would have to go off the paddle in the proper direction, which is a 50-50 proposition in Wizorb. There are also enemies wandering the map, but these are nothing more than moving blocks who make the ball do wacky things with physics when they hit them.
It’s all pretty standard stuff, in other words. The mechanics are basic.
In general, you need one of two things to succeed on XBLIG, an eye-catching name or great production values. Wizorb follows the latter route. The game looks so fantastic, sounds so fantastic that you get the distinct impression the developers spent most of their time making the thing look pretty instead of making it memorable. The spritework is fantasitc, and the titular wizard-orb’s face when he wins a level is exquisite. The game is flat-out gorgeous. It’s hard not to give it that.
The problem you’ll keep coming back to is that this is Breakout. That’s all it is, and Breakout has not aged well. Wizorb isn’t even a particularly improved version; in fact, given its plurality of levels with rows of unbreakable blocks and “how the fuck is this possible?” shots, it’s just as bad as the original. There’re still twice as many blocks per level as there should be, and it’s still immensely frustrating with one block left, except now you can doubly curse yourself for using up all your magic power, preventing you from using a fireball to end the situation quickly.
Put bluntly, this is a great looking game that tries nothing new of note, and thus would be hard to recommend even before we take into account that Breakout has aged terribly. It’s got fantastic style, and it’s a functional version of a classic, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone who wants to play Breakout on their television.