Game Review: Wizards Pet (Commodore 64, MAD)

Wizards Pet, Commodore 64, MAD, IC0205
  • 1/10
    Score - 1/10


Wizards Pet feels like it is a sprite multiplexor demo with some interactivity built on top – and it shows.  The high difficulty level, awkward control mechanism and the inaccurate collision detection all instantly put you off playing, and add to that the bad level design on top. It is the sheer feeling of frustration of not being able to get very far despite your best efforts, and that makes it a game best forgotten about.  One for completists only, I am afraid.

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Wizards Pet (or The Wizards Pet as the title screen says, in both cases without the use of the apostrophe) is a game where you, as the character Obygurgle, attempts to return home via the fantasy zones to Daddy, aka Glug.  Glug effectively is testing your skills, so you need to collect the pieces of the teleportation spell and return them, one at a time, to the teleportation pod.  Once done, you will travel the inter time warp highway, where you can collect bonuses.  That was a condensed version of the very long blurb that is part of the game instructions, and indeed there’s also part of this plot and further instructions on the title screen.

Scrolling On and On and On

After an early version of the Load’n’Play game during loading (without any Rob Hubbard music, incidentally) the game shows its colourful text on the title screen, along with the Obygurgle character in green.  There is a very long scrolling message which displays, and gives you some instructions, particularly with regards to the jumping method used – so something to note as you will see later.  The scrolling message does drag on for a long time too, thanking lots of people and even doing a couple of mentions of films that the programmer Jason Kendall had seen in the cinema.  All of that is accompanied by a reasonable David Whittaker tune, but it does feel like it was a scroll text that could have appeared in a Compunet demo.

Teleportation Troubles

The game starts on the first level and you make your way along the platforms, shooting at a myriad of nasties that come towards you.  These come at you thick and fast, and almost too fast to be honest.  They also change their direction when you do, so effectively it becomes even more difficult to avoid or shoot them.  You only have one weapon which is not always that effective, and an amount of sprite multiplexing is going on to get all the enemies on screen, but in horizontal waves.  That might have worked well if they were not infinite and incessant as you make your way along the screens.

Right from the off, there is a fatal design flaw in the first level.  The teleport pad is positioned at the end of a row of platforms with gaps in between.  All well and good, but one of the platforms has a platform above, which inevitably your jump will land you on, and due to the way Obygugle drops off a platform, it is frustration as you fall through the floor and appear at the top of the screen to land on a platform level above.  The jumping is basically like in the arcade game Pacland, where you tap up in a rhythm to make your jump longer.  The key, it says, is to find the rhythm, and I did manage to get that, but this leads to more problems even when you jump correctly.

Collision Derision

So, when jumping, you are supposed to land on the various platforms, but often you get stuck in between, especially if the background characters are bricks you can climb, or even appear half way on a platform when jumping with the up tapping to get to a distant platform.  Often through no fault of your own, you will have to jump out of a section that you had worked hard to get to.  This is just poor on several levels – it makes it even more difficult than it should be to pick up the objects and take them to the teleporter pad, and you must do this one at a time too – you cannot collect all three and go to the pad in one go, which may have made the game slightly fairer and more playable.

All the time, your energy (displayed as a level called hocus at the bottom of the screen) depletes very quickly, especially with collisions with enemies that come at you thick and fast.  Often you are concentrating that much on a jump that inevitably there’s multiple collisions, even if you are not always that close, resulting in the loss of hocus.  Lose it all – game over.  Yes, you have one solitary life to complete each level, another nail in the coffin for the game design not being very well thought out whatsoever.  And due to the platform positioning, I doubt very much if anyone got off the first part of level one without cheating in some way.

Bonus Bits

Once you have returned your three items to the teleporter pad, Obygurgle is whisked off to the inter time warp highway.  This is in effect a between level stage where you collect bonus points for shooting enemies until the hocus runs out.  It tries to be like Uridium in its bas relief graphic layout, but does not work so well, and the sheer number of enemies once more along with the time it takes for the hocus to run out makes these sections feel like a chore and one you just want to not bother playing with after a while.  Then it is on to the next level.  There are eight levels in all, and seven inter time warp highways in between, but even with a cheat on, it feels tedious and boring the further you play with the level layouts being even more frustrating as progression is made.

Graphics and Sound

There are two level layout styles, one with mainly blue and one with mainly grey, which swaps between the platform levels.  The Obygurgle character with its green shape and big eyes does have potential to be a cute character in a better game and is nicely drawn.  More sprite multiplexing is visible in the massive score display at the top of the screen showing the score gained.  There is another David Whittaker piece of music that plays in-game which is acceptable, but there are no sound effects whatsoever, which may have helped with some of the playability aspects if you were able to listen for certain affects for picking up the objects and dropping them off on the teleport.  The two tunes though do get repetitive and samey after a while, so definitely not Whittaker’s best work by a long way.

Wizards Pet – Final Thoughts

Wizards Pet should definitely have not been a MAD release. Although technically there is some knowledge of the C64’s chips how to utilise them, it feels more like a Compunet demo with some game elements laid on top.  There is also the poor collision detection and horrendous difficulty which indicates a lack of play testing to check that the game was a little less difficult at first.  Due to the way the controls operate (or do not) it also feels like a somewhat broken game, and it is wall denter territory for the joystick being thrown in sheer frustration at not being able to even complete the first level of eight. It is a classic example of putting everything technical in one basket and forgetting that there was gameplay to consider.  I cannot stress this enough how abysmal this game is.  In fact, it is even worse than Ninja Master by Firebird, and coming from me that is all you need to know.

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