Indie Quickie: A Wizard’s Lizard

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A fantasy dungeon crawl action game with rogue-like RPG elements.

Who made it and where can you get it? Successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter under the original title Crypt Run, A Wizard’s Lizard is the work of Lost Decade Games. It is available on PC/Mac/Linux starting today through the Humble Store for $14.99, with a Greenlight campaign underway to get the game on Steam. Go vote for it!

A Wii U version was planned, but that stretch goal was not reached so I’m not sure where that version stands. Versions for iOS and Android are expected some time down the road.

How much did we play? Attempted five crypt runs in roughly two hours of play time, in addition to previous hours spent sampling a fundamentally similar alpha build (the gameplay was the same, it just had nothing to do with a lizard). Managed to reach Death (the final boss I’m assuming) on one of the runs, but wasn’t able to take him down.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? Considering the game’s design as a twin-stick action game, I strongly recommend playing with a gamepad. You can play with a keyboard, using four fingers on the WASD and four fingers on the arrow keys, but movement and attacking just don’t feel as precise without the smooth glide of real analog sticks under your thumbs.

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Why should you play it?

    • A Lizard Named Isaac: OK, so the playable reptile in the game is actually named Raga, but it’s pretty clear that his dungeon crawling adventure was at least in part inspired by The Binding of Isaac. The flow of gameplay is so similar: You guide a wizard’s pet lizard one square room at a time through randomly generated Zelda-style maps, avoiding traps (spikes, arrow shooters, spider webs, etc) and killing all of the bats, slimes, ogres, minotaurs, demons and werewolves in sight to unlock the doors leading to adjacent rooms until you reach the final boss room and take down the zombie warlord or sewer hag guarding the exit to the next dungeon. Built around a dual-stick control scheme, movement is handled with the left analog stick and aiming and attacking with the lizard’s currently equipped medieval projectile of death (swords, axes, spears, daggers, boomerangs, etc) is done with the right stick. Along the way, you will loot treasure chests and collect gold coins to fund the purchase of armor to boost your lizard’s armor, attack, and speed attributes, as well as health potions and other accessories which provide additional benefits such as a map of the dungeon layout or the ability to see enemy health bars. As this is in part a rogue-like, death anywhere along the way starts you back at town, stripped of all loot amassed on the previous run. Townspeople will however offer you a lump some of gold to get started on, and for every townsperson you rescue from inside the dungeons you will receive an additional 500 gold to this beginner’s fund. The local shop doesn’t have much stock at the beginning, but as blueprints are found and purchased throughout the dungeons the shopkeeper back in town will offer new equipment so that over time you will begin your quest with better gear. The design is very focused and simplistic, but a lot of little touches like this add a sense of depth and prevent repetition from setting in.

    • Not Dead Yet: As the story goes, a wizard brews a potion of eternal life, but Death himself is none too pleased with the sorcerer’s desire to control the power of life and death, and thus proceeds to curse the town. The wizard’s only hope is his pet lizard, who must brave the nearby cemetery, sewers, and crypt in order to rescue his master and retrieve legendary artifacts and weapons stolen by the Grim Reaper. This premise sets the stage for one of the game’s neat twists on the traditional rogue-like formula. Instead of dying outright when health reaches zero, Raga enters the spirit realm, where he has a second chance to fight on. If health reaches zero while in spectral form, the game ends and you are sent back to town to start again. However, a certain room in every dungeon contains a pentagram on the floor which can revive the lizard back to the land of the living a single time. There are also differences between the two realms to take into account. Certain barriers for instance can only be passed though while in one world or the other. Additionally, spirits can faintly be seen wandering the dungeons while the lizard is alive, but only once he enters the realm of the dead can these enemies attack him and be attacked themselves. You also have to be extra cautious when killing creatures in the spirit dimension as there is a chance they will leave behind an angry ghost in one last effort to take you out.

Parting Thoughts: So far I have only seen three different dungeon environments, so it would seem that the game is fairly small in stature. Randomized dungeon mazes help to make each run unique, while the town museum, which houses your collection of artifacts, weapons, armor, and bestiary entries for monsters as they are killed for the first time, only adds to the replay obsession. I have also seen evidence in screenshots of a feature allowing different playable characters to be selected, but I am not yet sure when that happens or what needs to be achieved to unlock it. The game is less punitive than titles of this genre tend to be yet still musters a challenging fight that should keep you crypt running into the wee hours of the night. Goofy name and all, A Wizard’s Lizard is an absolute joy to play, offering endearing visuals, simple, well-crafted gameplay, and that “just one more try” quality that makes rogue-like games so gosh darn addictive. I’d actually love to see it on the indie-friendly Vita some day, but that was never one of the Kickstarter stretch goals so I don’t expect my dream to ever become reality. Besides, I’m more than happy to play it on my PC, and you should be too!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!