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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (42449)
Written on  :  Dec 11, 2004
Platform  :  Commodore 64
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Chaos in the Land of Wor

The Good

The early '80s saw quite an addictive game by Bally in which you play a worrior who has the task of going through a series of dungeons and killing various types of monsters. After you have killed all monsters on screen, you proceed to the next one. Occasionally, you meet the Worluk, an insect that roams around the dungeons. Kill it before it escapes and your points double for the next dungeon. On rare occasions, you meet the Wizard of Wor, and killing him will also give you double points for the next dungeon.

The game saw ports for Atari’s home systems, Bally Astrocade, and Commodore 64. The latter came in two forms. There was one for the Commodore MAX, a crippled version of the C-64 with only 2KB RAM. It was only released in Japan in 1982, and had an annoying three-note melody, poor layouts, crude graphics, and no animations. It was also hard as hell, with even the basic enemies trying to block your shots. Even the Wizard himself would zip from one side of the dungeon to the other in just half a second. There is also a version that was released for the American market, that closely resembles the coin-op - the music, maze layouts, animations, you name it. One of the memorable moments of playing the coin-op is listening to the sampled speech as you play. One of my favorite lines is “Now you meet the heavyweight. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha”. Unless you have the Magic Voice plugged in, you won’t hear the samples, which greatly enhances the experience.

Wizard of Wor also poses a challenge, especially to players who have just gotten into the game. If you don't blast all the monsters in a certain amount of time, they would gradually run around the mazes at incredible speeds, making it harder for you to kill them and this means that it is more likely that you lose one of your lives.

To help you, you are supplied with a radar at the bottom of the screen, in which the tiny squares represent each monster in the maze, and the color of the squares vary depending on their type. You need to keep an eye on this radar at all times. The Garwors and Thorwars (yellow and red monsters respectively) have the ability to cloak themselves. If there are too many of these monsters on screen at once, it makes the radar look more colorful. Many times have I gone too close to a warp tunnel and got killed by one of the monsters.

The highlight of Wizard of Wor is the two-player option. You can walk around the dungeons with a friend, with you blasting the monsters on your half of the screen, and your friend blasting the monsters on his. This is ideal for finishing dungeons much quicker. Also, the game allows you to blast each other for no reason – a precursor to multiplayer games like Doom and Quake, where the object is to “frag” each other. As far as I know, no other retro game allows you to do this.

The Bad

The beauty of the original coin-op is having the computer opponent play with you in a one-player game. This is missing in the C-64 version, so is the tutorial during the attract mode.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, Wizard of Wor is an addictive game where you basically go around a series of dungeons and blast monsters and use your equipped radar to track down invisible ones, and you can call in a friend to help instead of going at it alone. The C-64 version is faithful to the original coin-op version as it has exactly the same sounds and graphics.

Playing Wizard of Wor with two players is recommended. Not only will you finish the mazes a lot quicker, but you can shoot each other once in a while. But if you haven't got another player handy, you can still enjoy the game.