When you’re first dropped into Wizorb it’s apparent that you’re too late. Whatever the mysterious evil was that beeseched the Kingdom of Gorudo, it’s clear that it’s already won. Tarot Village is in pieces, the beleaguered villages stand in front of what used to be their homes and lives, and all they ask for is a little help, and any gold you might be able to spare.
Wizorb is a traditional brick breaker in every sense of the word. Hidden under its clever RPG trappings are the same mechanics and power-ups you’ve seen and used in Arkanoid or Breakout. But, disguised as a fantasy title, the entire experience feels fresh, but still warmly familiar. Stages are littered with doors and switches, unveiling bonus areas and item shops, which are stocked with the usual assortment of brick breaking goods (wider paddles, sticky paddles, the multi-ball).
Each of Wizorb‘s five worlds are comprised of 12 levels, followed by a boss stage. Getting to the end of each world is no small order and choosing to buy the appropriate item or a 1-Up at the right moment can often mean the difference between passing a stage or spending a continue. Managing one’s gold and spacing out your shop/bonus area visits (which resets the orb speed) becomes a delicate balance of resource management. Not only do you need gold for the village’s benefit but 250g can buy you an extra continue, should you run out.
Tucked beneath Wizorb‘s cute colorful veneer beats the heart of an arcade game that makes no apologies and will never hold your hand. Brick breaking games have always required loads of precision and patience, and Wizorb requires far more than the average. The level design in particular becomes more and more insidious the deeper you get into the campaign, as Tribute populates the stages with unbreakable objects that severely hamper your angles and seemingly make it impossible to hit the final few elusive bricks, which leads you to an inevitable rally of near misses, each more heartbreaking than the last.
Despite the often devious nature of Wizorb‘s level layouts, it’s the rare inconsistency in your orb’s bounces that makes the game occasionally maddening. In some cases when your orb appears to be ricocheting in the manner you’d expect, the orb may inexplicably change direction – often with a vengeance. The simple explanation is likely that many of the walls in Wizorb are formed by series of skulls and other objects that don’t quite form a perfectly seamless service. Theoretically then, you’d expect these random bounces to happen significantly more often than they actually do, which makes them the occasional, infuriating wild card.
As difficult as Wizorb gets, and the final world is extremely challenging, there’s something that pushes you on that’s lacking from other titles in the genre. In Arkanoid, Breakout, or even the more recent Shatter, you’re still just a paddle. In Wizorb, not only are you a character, you’re a hero. Rebuilding Tarot Village and seeing your impact on its denizens creates a worthwhile context to Wizorb’s classic arcade gameplay, making the somewhat arduous journey one worth taking.