C64 Review of Wizball from Issue 27

ZzapTest Logo by Biggest Jim


Wizworld was a peaceful and colourful place-until the evil Zark and his horrible henchsprites drained its life and colour, leaving behind them a grey, drab and generally unhappy world.

Enter our two gallant heroes – Wiz and his cat Nifta. Together, they alone can restore the lost life, laughter – and more importantly, colour – to this desolate waste.

Wizworld is split into eight levels, stacked on yop of each other like a giant sandwich, with level One at the bottom. To enable the Wiz to move and breathe more easily, he magically shrinks himself and steps inside a highly manoeuvrable ball – the Wizball. The screen scrolls as the Wiz negotiates the landscape in his strange spherical vehicle.

Only three adjacent incomplete levels can be accessed at any time – thus Level Four can only be accessed when Level One is complete. Level Five when Level Two is complete and so on. Wiz moves between levels through a series of tubes – arrows half-hidden in the landscape indicating whether the tube leads up or down.

Initially, moving the joystick left or right spins the ball, causing it to bounce when it hits the ground. A pearl appears when a molecule or eight aliens have been shot – collecting the orb highlights an icon at top of screen, and a quick waggle of the joystick adds the highlighted feature to Wiz's armoury.

Zark's sprites inhabit each level, some floating harmlessly, others spewing a deadly hail of bullets. Bubbles of colour also float around, bursting when shot and releasing a droplet of coloured chemical. However, droplets can only be collected by Nifta the cat, who appears when the corresponding icon has been lit and activated.

Holding down the firebutton transfers control to Nifta, allowing him to collect colour droplets and fit the respective mini-cauldron at bottom of screen. Depending on the target colour, a fourth mini-cauldron fills up. Yellow is made by collecting red and green droplets in equal proportions. Orange requires a greater proportion of red – it's worth bearing in mind that equal proportions of red, green and blue make white. However, should the colour mixing prove too overwhelming, you can always collect as much of each colour as possible.

Collecting a grey droplet endows the cat with 128 lives, whereas a black droplet makes the scenery go dark – vision is restored by shooting a specified number of aliens. Catching a light blue droplets results in a 'Fifth Raid' – sirens blaring and blue lights flashing, six ships zoom in for the kill. A carelessly consumed purple droplet drives the cat insane, causing him to zip around the screen miaowing with rage until he's killed. The white droplet gives an extra life.

Levels are completed by collecting and mixing the three missing colours, while completing a colour takes the wizard into a bonus section set in outermost space. Aliens appear in formation, and shooting 255 of them gains an extra life – another life is collected halfway through the bonus stage. When the bonus level is complete or the Wiz dies, he enters the Wizlab, where the ball is left at a parking meter, the colour is put into the landscape, and a permanent weapon can be initiated. If Nifta is alive at this point, his nine lives are replenished.

When all three colours have been put back into a landscape, you are treated to a view of your work while bonus points are added to your score. Complete all eight levels and… well, that's for you to find out.

A: THRUST and ANTI-GRAV: provide greater control over the ball
B: SLAP WEAPON: pressing the fire button activates beams
C: DOUBLE: splits the fire power in both directions
D: CATALYTE: holding down the fire button transfers directional control to the cat
E: BLAZERS: slightly more powerful firepower
F: WIZSPRAY or CATSPRAY: multi-directional firepower for either Wiz or Nifta
G: SMARTBOMB: destroys all aliens and bullets on screen
H: SHIELDS: temporary immunity from aliens and bullets

This review was typed in/OCRed by BiggestJim

ZzapBack Logo by Biggest Jim
In the spirit of ZzapBack, you can have your say about how the game reviewed above, stands up in the cold light of today. Has it aged badly or is it still worth a few plays? Read other peoples thoughts and post your own.

The current ZzapBack rating is : 97%

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Conrad - 2 Apr 2011
They don't make games like this anymore. Difficult but keep at it and learn the controls, then the game becomes addictive after you paint your first level successfully. The shoot em up stage is also very good. I also played this TOO MUCH during my youth and with little time I have now I am 'afraid' to touch this game, it will suck up all my time again. Play at your own risk!!!

Rating : 100%
Phil - 14 Jun 2009
I've played through this several times (alone and with mates), which attests to its lastablity. I think they nailed the ratings all round, maybe even pump graphics up a hair.

Everything about this game has already been said - it's really a piece of art. Innovative, engrossing, splendifurous!

Rating : 96%
Emperor Roscoe - 8 Oct 2008
I hated this game for about two months until I figured out how to get the main sprite under control. From there on it was a favourite game for a fair few years. Wonderfully implemented ideas, ambitious concept, beautiful sound score and attractive, atmospheric graphics. very addictive too.

An absolute joy to play

Rating : 95%
Wizace - 14 Aug 2008
Best game along with turrican games. Makes Armalyte look & sound bad.

Rating : 100%
MaffRignall - 7 Feb 2006
Embarrassingly enough, I never played this on the C64 until emulation came along. Man, did I miss out!

It's got to be the most unique horizontal shooter ever - at its heart it's just another mindless blaster, but it's done in such a surreal and imaginative way that it makes every other shmup look one-dimensional by comparison.

It's also one of very few C64 games which holds up just as well today as it did when it was first released. Twenty years have taken nothing away from its shine... in fact, its stark originality now sets it well apart from the genre dreck that lines the shelves of software shops today - so if anything it's *improved* with age.

The filth raids are cool, too. :-).

Rating : 98%
iqcumber - 25 Nov 2005
there's nothing like wizball and there never will be. stunning, and beautiful. again, the amiga version doesn't stack up, feels somehow flat compared to the original. fascinating, compelling, weird, fantastic. would make an all-time best game list spanning all platforms.

Rating : 96%
Wizball 87 - 7 Jul 2005
No finer game graced the c64; Remarkable in every way. (I tried awarding this 101% - but "computer said NO") ....LOL

Rating : 100%
JimBo - 6 Aug 2004
This is the best game EVER!!! The graphics are not too good but still the best game EVER!!!
It should be brought back as a new game but with nothing changed not even the graphics.

Rating : 100%
LorinSilver - 14 Jul 2004
I remember playing the Wizball, while my brother played the cat (and regularly disappeared with a "meow!") With two players cooperating, this game was even better than it already was!

Rating : 98%
Ant - 6 Dec 2003
A beautiful game that skilfully weaves abstract layers into presentation, graphics, sound and gameplay. Too short, too easy and every single game developer should be made to play it.

Rating : 97%
CraigGrannell - 4 Dec 2003
Under-rated at the time? Perhaps. However, upon extended play, it became clear that the game was far too easy, which hampers long-term appeal. Still a worthy SHMUP, though, and one of the most original on the C64.

Rating : 90%
biggestjim - 2 Dec 2003
Wizball. Wot a game!
Shame about the sizzler. Didn't sell well either.
Together with Head Over Heels this is probably the only game that would stand out even today. Must have been the Goldest of all Gold Medals.

Rating : 99%
SLF - 1 Dec 2003
You know, the weird thing about this review is that, when reading through it, it seems to be very accurate... but in fact I still feel Wizball was indeed underrated. Its sheer uniqueness, its lovely burbling sound FX, its nice graphics, its funky music, its pleasurable gameplay should definitely have earned it a Gold Medal, no mistake.

However, extended play let the excessive easiness of it emerge, resulting in interest waning in the long run.
Still, a corker of a game.

Rating : 94%
Iain - 1 Dec 2003
Even today, this is still a great game, there has been better graphics on other C64 games but the playability on Wizball is still top-notch!

It's just as original today as it was back then. Give it a whirl!

Rating : 98%
Julian Rignall
Wizball is undoubtedly the finest release so far this year. The scenario and game design are so original that it's almost off-putting at first, but it only takes a short time to master controlling the Wizball and cat and then work out exactly what's going on. Playing is a joy, and there's plenty of entertainment for anyone who's willing to attempt colouring in th elandscape. The graphics, sound and general presentation are second to none, and combined with the thoughtful attention to detail and the comprehensive series of game variations, you end up with something rather special. Don't delay, go to your software shop and say 'Mr Retailer, swiftly hand me a copy of Wizball so that I can go home and play it forthwith.'
Steve Jarratt
At last something to enthuse about! Wizball appears like a breath of fresh air to our tired old 64's, being the most polished and well presented game to appear for months. It's fun to play too – difficult mind you, but fun. It's certainly a very individual concept and has loads of neat touches like the 'Filth Raid', the mini Mount Rushmore landscape, the squeal of the cat when he's close to dying, the gorgeous animation when the Wizball appears and… I could go on and on. No single aspect has been compromised for the sake of another: the music and sound effects are great, the control is good, the gameplay's structure is excellent, and the entire package is very cleverly designed. Miss this and you're missing the best program of the year.
Gary Penn
Sensible Software have designed Wizball with the player in mind – it's extremely user-friendly. What I find most impressive though, is that the concept and execution is so tight that there's very little room for improvement. It's a distinctly professional production, it's style and content placing it head and shoulders above existing software. The control method is initially awkward, but adds to the playability when mastered. Wizball is simply brilliant – one of the best-presented, most graphically and aurally attractive and addictive pieces of software available.
Presentation 98%
Brilliant – flawless if it wasn't for the slightly confusing instructions. Superb attract sequence complete with high-score table and Wiztips, plus restart and pause feature, multi-player and team-options, intelligent joystick sensing, a novel control mode and no need to use the keyboard to activate weapons!

Graphics 92%
Attractive backdrops and landscape features, reasonable sprites and good use of colour.

Sound 96%
Fabulous title tune and jingles, and good spot effects.

Hookability 81%
Not instantly playable, but highly addictive once the concept and control mode is grasped.

Lastability 92%
Action-packed and compulsive, with eight increasingly difficult landscapes to colour in.

Value 95%
An essential purchase.

Overall 96%
A superlative piece of software. Slick in virtually every aspect, wholly original and immensely playable.