Friday, 9 December 2016

Chapter XXXVII: Wizkid

Being such a big nerd ever since a very young age, it was only natural that I would try every opportunity to bring video games into my school assignments so that I could play a little more. First time didn’t work as well as it should, but since then I knew better than to use my questionable drawing skills into the equation.

So, three years later I used my ever growing wisdom of the Amiga gaming world to my Portuguese homework. Theme in question: Poetry. Yes, that’s right, poetry. And second strike was a very efficient one.

While nowadays I would consider myself a big literature buff, that wasn’t really the case when I was fourteen years old. I read mostly European comic books like Asterix and Lucky Luke, but anything without pictures was out of the question for me. Unless I was forced to my school assignments. So, poetry was the last think I would read in my free time. Obviously, I had to make it as least boring as possible by writing something about a dog. Yes, a dog.

The assignment was a multimedia one. We should read some poetry accompanied by pictures, movies or sound. Some of my colleagues wrote about war, or famine, or poverty. Obviously that was the easy way out, but since this wasn’t a beauty pageant, I tried to make it fun and it did really pay off.

I think that at the time i was going through a bout of severe Wizkid addiction, one of my favourite Amiga games of all time. One of the particularities of the game is that if you played the game straight, you would warp through levels, unlike every other game out there, and not have collected enough items, or in this case “cats” (wait, it gets weirder) to reach the last level. Which meant that I had to find every secret in each world so that Wizkid could find every cat around by not warping to later levels. Ok, I’ll get to the intricacies of this game in more detail eventually. The point is, somewhere along the journey, there was a level in which the music had dogs barking. And the scenery was the picture of a women with pointed that also barking.

Obviously all this weirdness couldn’t just exist for this game. No, it was fate that had brought me this amazing content, on a silver platter, for my homework.

As usually happens in times like these, I left all the work for the last evening before the class presentation. Yes, even a big part of my work consisted of playing a game, I left it for last. And that didn’t help with the pressure of reaching the level of the barking woman. I needed to get there to tape the music. Well, I think it took me about an hour to get there. Maybe it was more, and I don’t think I ever played as bad as in that evening. Eventually, I got the work done, thanks to my loyal tape recorded from the ZX Spectrum days.

Now the worst part was still to come. Which was to write a poem. Well, I’ll save you the details because this is supposed to be about Amiga games. Short story: It was about a lovely dog named Tristão (because it was easier to rhyme that way), my teacher loved it and my colleagues hated it. They felt that I was just joking around and that my good grade wasn’t deserved. That happen often through my high school years, and the only way I could write more about that was if I had a blog about Playmobil toys (i.e. I made assignments about The Battle of Hastings, Moby Dick and Sinbad all with Playmobil toys, and in some of those cases I was almost old enough to vote. In every single one of those times I had excellent grades).

All this happened in either ‘94 or ‘95, which meant that the Amiga was already on its last legs. So I suppose this was comparable with winning the world cup before retirement.

I’m sure I’ll have a good time playing this, but I don’t remember any of the secrets to get all the cats, so it’s very probable that I’ll have a tragic catless demise later on. I just wrote down what a great name "Catless Demise" is for a Doom Metal band. You can thank me someday.

I knew beforehand that this game is strange, so it’s no wonder it starts with a tutorial. Ok, hear me out, I know these things are very common nowadays, but back when Wizkid was released you either had to learn to play the games by yourself or by reading the manual if you weren’t a filthy pirate. I’ve grown to hate tutorials, specially those fourth-wall breaking ones from Nintendo (“press A to swing the sword” says the old Sensei to Link, and no one in the game think that’s a strange way to teach how to fight). At least this one is over pretty quick, so I didn’t mind, but for the most part it’s quite useless since these are the easiest concepts to grasp in the game.

The core gameplay of Wizkid is some weird combination between Arkanoid and an LSD trip. So, headless Wizkid must bump into the bricks in the level to kill all the baddies which may turn into music notes, which he must collect to make a song, so he can summon the shop to buy random objects to solve random puzzles. Yes, that’s pretty much it.

I had some admiration for the game for the sheer audacity of it. Even in an age where weird games weren’t uncommon, this one surely takes the crown. But after all this time, and having taken off my rose tinted glasses, I can very much conclude that the game isn’t much fun. This blog is capable of single-handedly destroy nice childhood memories.

The main problem is the disconnect between the two portions of the game. The arcadey part, and the puzzley part. Not only they don’t gel that well, but on their own they’re not exactly good games, specially the arcade part where we spend most of the time. For awhile I was getting frustrated with the controls, and maybe this is a game to played on a joystick, but I wasn’t getting the hang of it either with the keyboard or the gamepad. The main character’s head just feels too floaty, and the lack of a more visible feedback for hit detection just exacerbates the problem.

And as for the puzzles in these game, I have to say that I have a somewhat high tolerance for illogical riddles, since I really enjoy point and click adventures. But the bizarreness of this game is notable. This is one of those cases where we constantly need to solve something which we have no clue what it is or where to search. After a while the arcade part of the game becomes just a grind to get to the shop to buy more objects for experimenting in the puzzle section.

I know this is kind of the most stupid comparison ever, but the problem with this game reminds me of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is what I was playing just a awhile ago. Yes, I’m aware they’re two games as much far apart from each other as they can possible be. DA:I is a game with superb characterisation and graphics, but unfortunately the core game, most notably the combat, rpg system and questing are pretty terrible, and that’s where we unfortunately spend the most time. In the same way, I wished Sensible Software would have focused just on the puzzling part, which even though it isn’t brilliant, it’s fun for being so insane.

I still remembered the puzzles for the first world, which involve a public toilet being used by a dog, a newspaper and a donkey. Unfortunately getting to the third world gave me PTSD for something that I had totally forgot. I knew that it took a while to get to the dog woman world back when I had to make my homework, and know why it happened. This volcano levels demand a much more cautious approach since there’s very few bricks, and the whole arcade part of the game which wasn’t so good to begin with, takes a turn for the worse. If it was hard to getting past the lava dwelling butterflies and ducks when I was fourteen, it’s much worse now. It’s not that my reflexes are numb, it’s just that I’m getting less and less patience each passing day.

It’s a shame that a game with such a jolly vibe could get me so annoyed. I really enjoy both the graphics and the sound, and the whole creativity present makes me wonder what Sensible Software could have achieved if they weren’t so busy recycling Sensible Soccer sprites for half a decade.

No comments:

Post a Comment