Index


RISC World

Wizard Apprentice

Its on this months CD, but what have others thought of it.....

Wizard Apprentice has been reviewed in numerous magazines since its conception. Acorn User, Acorn-Gaming.org.uk and numerous others have delved into it - here we have two complete reviews that cause no legal problems in reproducing.

Andy Spence reviewed Wizard Apprentice in issue two of RISC World, while I coaxed Katie Hammond into writing a review for the May 1998 issue of Archimedes World. The original thinking for taglines on this review had to be revoked, when mentions of beavery balls of fluff were rejected by the games editor. One does wonder why...

The reviews are reproduced here largely in tact, but I have made corrections to the reviews where appropriate, as a number of items were factually incorrect - David Bradforth

Wizard Apprentice

The RISC World review by Andy Spence

Wizard Apprentice is a puzzle based platformer following the popular style of moving blocks as a means to progress through a level and collect all the bonuses. Such games have been popular in the RISC OS PD scene - PushyII, for instance - but can this simplistic puzzle genre stand up in the commercial world?

The game was originally overpriced at 30 (35 - games ed), but the sensible people at APDL have put it down to a more reasonable 7.90. You will need a lot of memory free on your hard drive to install this game as it hogs almost 200MB of space, which is a bit over the top for a simple bitmap platformer in my opinion. (Actually not true - the game doesn't have to be installed to your hard disc. It copies a number of working files into your Scrap directory, occupying just under a megabyte.)

The initial menu screen is confusing, but after a quick flick through the manual to explain it's time to move onto the game itself.

There is a scene-setting screen with two wizards in a 'Hero Quest'-style graphic which doesn't seem to fit in with the modern 3D pre-rendered graphics of the rest of the game. The in-game graphics and animation are surprisingly good, running in 640x512 in 256 colours. The smooth moving wizard is professionally animated and his accompanying blob is comically well animated. The impressive animation is mirrored in the bonuses and other scenery through out the game.

Each level is slightly bigger than one screen and as you move up and down the screen scrolls slightly. Each of the 100 levels has a certain way of completing it. By pushing the right blocks in the correct order and making the most of your 'blobby' pal in later levels you can work your way through them. The large expanse of levels is split up into five different worlds with varying themes and landscapes.

It's the learning curve and quality of the puzzles which brings out the enjoyment in this game. After cracking a few puzzles you find yourself utterly addicted, where you suffer from 'just another five minutes' syndrome. My only moan with the game play is that the characters have the speed of a snail with chronic constipation, so you will find yourself rustling your hair in an impatient manner.

Again, the poor out-of-game design hits home between levels. On completion of a level, a screen is created using an assortment of blocks from the levels as a background, but unfortunately this means you can barely read the text on front of it. I don't understand how this could happen when the in-game presentation is excellent.

The music is neither annoying enough to ruin the experience or amazing enough to enhance it. There are a total of 10 tracks all different to suit the varying worlds. The music tends to get better towards the end of the game, but the 80s style rock/techno that you would expect to hear in an ancient Jean-Claude Van Damme film leaves a lot to be desired. The sounds are also nothing special, but the occasional 'whoosh' and 'squelch' after collecting objects can be satisfying.

The game is also supplied with a level editor, so anyone who thinks they have a mind for puzzles can have a go at creating their own taxing level. The manual is in black and white but has a nice high-quality front cover, not bad for a budget product. (Not really surprising - the CD-ROMs supplied were, at the time, taken from the original Datafile run. Hence everything is as was when the product sold for 35.)

Verdict

Take away Wizard Apprentice's nifty graphics, paper thin plot and 'waiting room' style music and you're left with your basic block pushing, mushroom collecting, puzzle game. Ignoring the bad menu designs, this is an excellent game and is well worth the new improved budget price.

Andy Spence

Wizard Apprentice

The Archimedes World review by Katie Hammond

If you're looking for a pleasant evening in front of the computer which will finish with you still playing when The Big Breakfast comes on the next morning then The Datafile (APDL - Games Ed) have something for you! Wizard Apprentice is one of those brain-teasing things, with 100 levels to play through before the game is over.

Installation to your hard disc is compulsory, and the CD is still required to start the game. After installed, and the !WizApp icon is double-clicked on to start the game, the introductory sequence will be thrown at you, with a nicely presented Fantasia Software logo and a reasonably attractive introduction sequence; setting the mood for the game very well. It's nice the first time round, but can become boring, so its easy enough to escape from by pressing the space bar.

The main menu page then appears, allowing for a reasonably straightforward set of options comprising Load, Save (for saving and loading the current status of the game), Round Select ("letting the games begin", so to speak - from here you can start any of the levels as far as you have achieved), Edit (for altering screen designs - see later) and Ext Stereo (allowing you to control whether the music blasts through your computer speakers/headphones or not at all!) Personally, I found that the game lacked something when the music was switched off - as will be explained later.

The aim of the game is to take WizApp through five worlds, each consisting of 20 full-screen puzzles. In order to complete a puzzle, you must guide the rather 'cute' character around a series of ladders, rocks, breakable rocks and basically anything which can be seen to have a walking-plane to it. Other objects, such as flowers, mushrooms and flying mushrooms are strategically placed along with obstacles and gaps to make the retrieving of them a little more interesting. Falling down from a higher platform onto a 'collectable' doesn't collect them - the only way to do that is to walk over them by choice and from left to right, or right to left. Nothing else will work!

Once you select the option to start the game, you are given a choice of five stairways, some of which have a 'No Entry' sign in front of them, from which you can start the game. If you select the first level of any of the areas, you are given an introductory story before the main game screen appears which sets the scene for that group of levels. Very nice - just a shame it's a static screen with text that's very hard to read and is also constantly changing.

The first few levels are almost insultingly easy, but this provides a useful learning curve making the step into the later levels a great deal less than would otherwise be expected. This game is certainly very addictive - if you make a small mistake which then renders the level impossible, natural instincts seem to make you restart the level in the quest to move onto the next level. It really is that good.

Unfortunately, if you've already played the level, once you've completed it for the second time and are given the option to move onto the next level this option doesn't work - it just returns to the menu screen. This is annoying, but not a major problem - you just need to select the next level on the level selection screen. (This only occurs when you start play from an intermediate level - if you're playing through from the start, the problem isn't present).

The Edit Feature

Supplied with every copy of WizApp is a registration card detailing information regards a level design competition. By sending the registration card to Bill Kostias in Greece, you stand the chance of winning prizes for designing the best replacement levels for WizApp. Thus the edit feature is something of an essential. In use, the edit feature seems like a nice idea - but I couldn't convince my StrongARM Risc PC to have anything to do with it; hence cannot comment any further on it. (Actually it did. Katie had no trouble using the editor at all, but when I edited it for publication - in Archimedes World's final ever games special - I couldn't get it to work. I hence modified her text. Then Murphy's law came into play - it worked immediately the magazine hit the shelf. Games Ed.).

Overall

I extremely enjoyed this well put together mind-bending puzzler. With a high level of addictiveness, and that factor increasing when you get to the later levels; alongside the exciting visual effects; non of which takes processor power away from the main factor being smooth gameplay. As far as the packaging goes, I'm not too sure why the inlay is, more or less, blank on the outside - apart from the illustrations. The illustrations are fantastic; graphics of this high standard have never been seen on an Archimedes before. To conclude, if you haven't got WizApp already get it!

Katie Hammond

 Index