Pesky Zark has only gone and done it again, he’s drained Wizworld of colour and left it as a monochrome husk. Now it's down to the titular hero and his faithful cat to restore it back to radiant glory. Thus begins one of the C64’s quirkiest arcade shooters.
Quirky--but also confoundingly hard. Starting out was often a serious drag, and ensured there was much gnashing of teeth from players. The Wizball could be more of a Stressball at times, perpetually bouncing and controlled largely by rotation--which sends him spinning off nearby surfaces. Giving up at this point, though, would be to miss out on the rest of the sublime design. Perhaps Sensible could have made it easier, but removing the memorable movement would rob the game of precious invention.
After some power-up baubles and weaponry are acquired, it all rather drops into place. Or, more precisely, the colour bubbles drop into place, once you shoot them and collect them with the moggy-tastic Catellite. There's bonus fun to be found with colours beyond the standard red, blue or green; especially the “filth raid,” which prompts panicked chuckles as you frantically flee the fuzz and try to stay alive. Further "specials" could send your cat loopy or make the background go black for a set period.
Colour isn't just a part of gameplay, it gradually forms the tapestry of delights assaulting your eyes. It really is a marvel to witness each level slowly regaining its palette as you progress, accompanied by some outlandish sound effects and a stonking set of tunes from Martin Galway.
Wizball is a wonderfully executed game, alive with innovation and charming touches. And, in the best arcade tradition, once the intricacies are tamed you can concentrate on turning your score into a masterpiece.
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