Review: Wizorb (PlayStation Minis)

Wizorb_PlayStationMinis_1

Having already cast his nostalgic charm spell on PC and Xbox Live Indie gamers, the wizard capable of transforming into a magical orb and swatting himself about environments ripped straight out of an 8-bit console role-playing quest is now doing his ball and paddle thing on all three modern PlayStation platforms. That game is, of course, the aptly named Wizorb, and you can download it to your PS3, PSP and/or PS Vita right now for a paltry $3.99. Well, you can download it to your PS3 and then transfer it to your Vita later, but for some reason you can’t buy and download it directly onto your Vita just yet (at least not from the U.S. PSN Store).

This is a shame, because the Vita is the best of the three devices for this game to be played on. Not that the other two Sony systems don’t run it well, but on the Vita the load times are peppier by at least a good five seconds on average and the retro sprites just plain look cleaner and crisper on that gorgeous OLED screen. On the PS3, the graphics look nice but are a touch too saturated for my liking; on the PSP they’re darker and muted and just don’t have the same pop, even after bumping the brightness button to the max setting.

Broadening the platform comparisons, while the Vita version’s colors are more vivid, the presentation is sharper and I personally prefer the convenience of portability with a pick up and play style of game such as this, the PC version continues to rule in all-around content thanks to online leaderboards and Steam Achievements. As a PlayStation mini, these features sadly are not available, which is a knock to overall replay value but not a major one considering the game sells for less than a fiver. Whichever system you choose to play it on, just know that you’re getting a fun-in-short-bursts game that puts a clever twist on one of gaming’s oldest design models.

Wizorb_PlayStationMinis_2

Branching off from the Breakout / Arkanoid family tree, Wizorb is a mostly traditional ball and paddle game that has you bouncing the wizard–in orb form remember–with a small wand that scrolls horizontally across the bottom of the screen. Like the games it derives from, the objective is to clear all blocks from the play area by repeatedly ricocheting the orb into them like a chainless wrecking ball. If at any point the ball slips by your wand defending the screen’s lower edge like a goalie, a life is lost.

Breakout and Arkanoid may want to pay a visit to the Maury Povich Show for a paternity test battle, though, because someone here has obviously been fooling around with a certain Hyrulian hero. (Hey, Link gets bored when Zelda’s not around!) While Wizorb’s pixelated presentation and old-school themes are reminiscent of many RPGs from the Nintendo Entertainment System era, The Legend of Zelda’s influence is felt the strongest. You see, you aren’t just hitting a ball at simple block formations; you’re also defeating enemies, slaying bosses, discovering treasure chests and secret doors, hitting switches, avoiding infection from status ailments, and collecting gold coins and gems, all in an effort to rescue the 4 Sacred Children and save a kingdom from demons.

On this mighty quest, you’ll battle through roughly 60 levels staged in a slime-infested forest, a village overrun by werewolves, a rotten mine teeming with flying beholders, and a castle haunted by transporting ghosts, before ultimately confronting the undead on their home turf in the Netherworld. As you collect treasure, you’ll be able to periodically drop by the demolished Tarot Village to donate your earnings towards the town’s rebuilding effort. By doing so, you’ll earn rewards and eventually gain access to a shop offering extra lives (represented by hearts, of course), potions and special charms to augment your game with multi-orbs, orbs that deal double damage and wand enlargement–it’s like Viagra for magic users!

Wizorb_PlayStationMinis_3

The other twist to the brick-breaking formula is the addition of spellcasting. As the orb is pinging to and fro, Cyrus (that’s the wizard’s proper name) can launch fireballs for added destruction or summon gusts of wind to shift the ball’s trajectory mid-flight, either for last-second saves or to give the orb an extra nudge into a tight opening. Casting these spells at the point of contact between the orb and wand adds other more powerful arcane properties at the expense of more magic juice, including a magma coating that sends the ball barreling through everything in its path without bouncing and a set of wings that sprout so you can directly guide the orb where you want it to go for a short time. Because magic power is limited, there is some strategy to conserving spells and knowing appropriate times to use them. It may save precious time, but lobbing a couple fireballs to pick off a lingering block or two at the end of a stage can leave you in a tough spot without mana to burn later on.

Familiar yet fresh and different at the same time, Wizorb is proof positive that, even after all these years, the simple joys of topping your best score and adventuring through colorful fantasy worlds made of sprites never go out of style and still have evolutionary potential. Other than the occasional difficulty spike, where out of nowhere one stage tosses a maddeningly tricky brick layout at you without the expected gradual build of difficulty from level to level, there is a lot to love about this game and really nothing to hate.

Not to sound all sadomasochistic or anything, but if you enjoy paddling balls for high score pleasures and long to return to the glory days of console RPGs, you’re going to get a real kick out of Wizorb. The new PlayStation minis versions are missing that little something extra offered by the Steam version’s leaderboards and achievements, but the price is right and the gameplay is a retro smash no matter which gaming machine it’s played on.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Clever hybrid of two classic genres
+ 8-bit graphics and chiptune sounds lay on the retro charm
+ Pay once for continuous play on up to three different devices = convenient transportability

Cons:
– Currently can’t be bought and directly downloaded to the Vita
– Lack of leaderboards and trophies cuts down the replay incentive offered by the Steam version
– Occasional level will frustrate the hell out of you

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation Minis (PS3, PSP, PS Vita)
Publisher: Beatshapers
Developer: Beatshapers/Tribute Games
Release Date: 7/24/2012
Genre: Arcade/RPG
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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!