The Wizard – Browser Game Review

Games like: Advance Wars, Final Fantasy Tactics, XCOM – Enemy Unknown

Play The Wizard in your browser!

TL;DR

Time played: 75 minutes

Watch my play through on YouTube!

There’s never been a shortage of turn based games regardless of what sub genre they blend with it: action, puzzle, or strategy. Typically for me these games fall into a pile of either being great games I will never be good at or games that everyone tells me are great but I have no real need to play. It’s an interesting genre that I rarely brush up against.

My face?! I lost my face?!

My face?! I lost my face?!

Surprised as you may be, Hypnotic Owl’s browser based “the Wizard” may easily fall into the first category. Free to play on the web, the Wizard tells the startling story of Kevin who awakes without his face. You heard me. Missing his face. Off in the distance, he can hear the thief making his getaway. Donning his purple robes, Kevin follows in hot pursuit to get back what is rightfully his. His face, that is.

During through the dungeons of the Wizard Academy.

Journey through the dungeons of the Wizard Academy.

So here’s the question: controller or keyboard and mouse? I’m not going to lie, I could have easily mapped my gamepad to the keyboard which will allow you to play the game from end to end. But much like turn based strategy games for consoles, the controls of acting like a mouse can be a pain. If your only option is to use a controller for this type game, then you need to really take time and effort to create a great end user experience. For being a browser game, I felt like using the mouse and keyboard in conjunction to move and cast spells would not compare if I were to use a controller. There are games that due benefit from using the keyboard. I know… I know…

Each spell have a unique pattern needed to conjure it.

Each spell have a unique pattern needed to conjure it.

Being a fairly uneducated wizard, you pick up spellbooks scattered throughout some levels to add to your arsenal. These spells will be your only base of attack and defense and have a fun and unique way of casting. Clicking on Kevin himself will open a grid surrounding you allowing you to create a specific pattern to cast a specific spell. Depending on which squares you light in which direction will cast your spell. Each spell can be upgraded by collecting experience points either through killing enemies or by collecting treasure. Each upgrade will either make the spell more powerful (by hitting harder) or increase the range it covers. For example, the spell “ice breath” conjures a 2×3 square of frost in front of the caster, freezing nearby enemies and slowing them down for so many rounds. The upgrade increases the coverage to 3×3 squares. This will allow you to slow down the enemies at a greater distance so that you can get another attack in or two before fighting them head on.

Rats! Blobs! Gross things litter the floors of the Academy.

Rats! Blobs! Gross things litter the floors of the Academy.

The game is separated into a grid allowing you to move one tile at a time. If you fall into the vancity of an enemy, they will be altered and start to move towards you. From here you need to plot your movements carefully. Starting with only two hearts (which I wasn’t able to find anymore so I don’t know if there’s an upgrade in hit points or not), typically two quick swipes will end in your death forcing you to start over from the beginning. Being a turn based game, you have to wait for the enemies to move after yours before you’ll get a chance to move/attack again. This is where the puzzling begins. There is not a single path to take at the start of the level. You need to survey the level first, decide on the best possible route, and hope that you make it through to the end without dying because there aren’t any checkpoints. If you die, you start from the beginning.

Grave stones and skeletons protect the treasure chest above.

Grave stones and skeletons protect the treasure chest above.

The Wizard has a very nice 8bit aesthetic. Each sprite is simply done; not too much aggression in being elaborate and far from simplistic. Animations are saved to a few frames giving the player an easy understanding of what everything is. The music has an intriguing layer of ambience on top of it. Each level feels different from the last and does a great job keeping the atmosphere intact. I will always boast a game up a little higher for developers that take this little extra effort to create an entire experience.

Spiders now? How am I going to survive?

Spiders now? How am I going to survive?

Coupling the turn based with puzzling and RPG aspects, I knew early on that I made a grave mistake. With the absence of checkpoints in the levels, I found myself defining my path by sear trial and error. Killing the same enemies over and over again only to find death by taking a chance on making it to the end. It became extremely daunting to have to restart again and again. This was mainly on me due to not taking the time to plan and just trying to make it through by barreling head forward. Another issue I had was upgrading the wrong spells or, rather, the lack of upgrading. Collecting XP from enemy deaths lead me to avoiding as much fighting as possible to make it to the exit. There were levels that had loads of enemies and treasure chests to open, but the moment where I was able to make my way there, I was tired of the level and just wanted to move on. It wasn’t long after when my errors became apparent because you become so underpowered that you simply can’t continue playing through the levels. The enemies are too powerful and plentiful and there’s no way to go back to replay older levels to try and level up again.

Difficulty in the Wizard increases exponentially.

Difficulty in the Wizard increases exponentially.

This begs the question, “Where did I go wrong and how can I fix it now?” Through my playthrough, I realized my mistakes but at the point in my game that I did, there wasn’t really anywhere for me to boost my character stats to keep playing. I had simply hit a brick wall. I would either have to stop playing or start over from the beginning. At this point, I was so frustrated that I just stopped. If there’s no way to go back and try again to make the right choices, you are forcing your player to make the ultimate choice. Will I play this game again? Probably not. Although I did enjoy my time, having the daunting task of starting over and having to relearn from my errors just doesn’t feel like a fun time for me. If I had a history of playing these types of games, maybe I would have had a better experience making the right choices from the get go.

So much death...

So much death…

The Wizard is a browser turn based fantasy puzzle game that will have you mapping out your moves, turn by turn, to collect treasure and new spells. Using a fun, unique spell casting system, you’ll chase down a thief through dungeons under the Wizard’s Academy. Fairly difficult challenge without a checkpoint system may leave most abandoning the game early on. But fans of Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics will enjoy the atmosphere and planning required to move level to level.

Watch my play through on YouTube!

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