Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hey Wizard

You always know that a game is perfect for review if, when it comes time to get the screenshots, I really, really don't want to play it again. I don't mind going through some of these games a couple of times if it means getting the screenshots I need for my review, but sometimes you just feel so much derision that the thought of getting bogged down in that quagmire of bullshit one more time just fills you with dread. Such is the case with Hey Wizard, which is a shame, because on any other day I might not have had a problem with it.

The game sees you play a wizard who has inadvertently opened the Megagate, unleashing a bunch of nasty creatures who have stolen all your magic mojo. So, armed with only three spells, you venture forth to destroy the gates and find all of your magic books. I should note, right off the bat, that I think the game looks great. the simple colour scheme and economical animation results in a simple, attractive layout. Unfortunately, navigating this pretty picture is where we hit a snag.

You can move the wizard left and right using the A and D keys, but there is no jump button. Instead, you select the lightning spell, aim at the ground with the mouse, hold down the left mouse button to charge the spell, and release the button to fly up into the air. If that sounds complicated, that's because it is. I know the character is an old wizard, but surely he could have magicked himself some young legs, or even some spring-loaded boots? It just seems to me like there are better ways of reaching higher platforms than firing an explosive into the ground and riding on the shock wave. On top of this, because you are indeed being shot forward by an explosion, you have no control over where you'll land, as the control keys are rendered useless while you're in the air.

You can reach even higher places with the use of the fire spell, using the flames to propel yourself into the air. Again, the control keys are of no use while airborne, but you can move the mouse around to provide yourself with some semblance of control. However, each spell has a limited amount of energy, so you can only use this most unsafe of travel options for five seconds or so, before it needs to recharge.

The third spell at your disposal is the necro hand, which sounds a hell of a lot cooler than it actually is. I'm not sure what its purpose is, other than to act as a kind of temporary barrier between you and the enemies you face. You can imbue it with the power of the other spells, but I never got a chance to see what effect doing that has. Plus, by the time you've shot the necro hand enough times for it to light up in flames or pulse with electricity, it's ready to disappear.

So I'm in the tutorial, learning about all this stuff, when this monster comes out of nowhere and starts firing balls of light at me. Hey, how about you warn me next time an ogre is charging at me with a friggin' energy blast!?

It was with great speed that I learned the best defence was to run like hell, firing lighting bolts behind me as I went. The other spells proved pretty much useless in this and many other fights. The fire, though effective, has a short range, and the necro hands don't do a damn thing.

Once you've completed a level, you can access your skills page. This is where you can use some of the upgrade points you collect during the game to improve your stats. Upgrade points are amassed by killing enemies and collecting the goblets that are floating around everywhere. Unfortunately you can't access the skills page during a level, so if you're running low on health and need to boost your hitpoints, tough. Some would call that a challenge. I call it a pain in the ass.

We haven't even gotten to the first level yet, but believe me, it gets no better. The first thing I noticed was that in order to survive I had to run away constantly. the barrage of enemies is non-stop, and when you can't jump, that's a problem.

Scratch that - it's a BIG problem. You might think this is nitpicking, but having to blow myself off the ground if I want to get onto platforms or avoid enemy fire is ridiculous. When I'm surrounded by goblins, all firing at me, I can't just stand around and wait for the lightning spell to charge. Hell, I need that lightning spell to kill these bastards!

The gate I need to destroy is somewhere to the left, but all I can do is shoot off screen and hope I hit it. I can't get any closer because there are a dozen monsters waiting for me, and because the terrain is so uneven I can't just run away. I tried flying over the gate and destroying it with my fire spell, but the thrust of the fire just pushes you away from the target every time you click the mouse button. So I'm stuck here, firing lighting blots, unsure if I'm hitting anything.

Are we having fun yet?

What could have been a fun game is almost totally ruined by poor controls. Never was an "up" button so desired. But because you can't jump (which I always thought was a prerequisite in a platform game) everything else becomes ten times more complicated. The question is: if you could jump, would I be reviewing Hey Wizard for this blog? The answer is no, I wouldn't. But you can't, so this beautiful, frustrating game sadly gets a big thumbs down.

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