Posted by Christopher Ingram
Castin’ a spell on Arkanoid
It’s only been a few months since the internet was buzzing about the PS Mini service, because of the release of FuturLab’s fantastic title, Velocity. Well, Sony wants to keep the overlooked service on your mind with Tribute Games and Beatshapers’ latest release. Throwing the block-busting mechanics of old-school classics like Arkanoid and Breakout into a giant cast-iron cauldron and mixing them together with a handful of the great 8-bit NES RPG classics could potentially create an Arkanoid clone to warm the hearts of nostalgic fans; that’s exactly what they've done, and their creation is called Wizorb.
Indie gaming fans will undoubtedly have already heard of Wizorb, as it’s been available on PC via Steam for months now. But PlayStation fans are no stranger to the Beatshapers' name either, as they've helped bring several hit indie titles like Canabalt and Enigmo to the PS Mini service, as well as the recent Vita title, StarDrone Extreme. With Wizorb, they’ve brought us a title that takes very old gameplay formulas, and mixes them together in such a way that makes them fun, fresh and bursting with nostalgic charm at the same time.
We find ourselves stepping foot into a small destroyed town as an elderly wizard, named Cyrus. The once peaceful Kingdom of Gorudo has been ransacked by an evil force, and only with Cyrus’ skill in the magical art of Wizorb, can this once peaceful nation return to its former glory.
Even with the dilapidated buildings and denizens asking for your help to rebuild their town – via gold donations – the charming 8-bit visuals and lively chip tunes warm the heart for those who enjoy a bit of nostalgia. The town of Tarot would easily fit right in with those beloved towns that are tucked away inside the grey shells of NES cartridges. It’s a pleasing and unexpected setting for a game such as this. By setting off to explore the five worlds throughout the kingdom, you’ll gain the gold necessary to rebuild this once lovely place; gaining valuable bonuses that you’ll need to help out along the way.
While typical RPG’s find you hacking and slashing through dungeons (worlds), you’ll instead find Cyrus magically transforming himself into an orb and wand (paddle). In typical Arkanoid fashion, you’ll bounce the orb around each level to destroy all the blocks to progress further into each world. But there’s a reason that you’re not using a simple paddle here, as the wand grants you the ability to cast a variety of magical spells. A simple fireball cost little magic and can help take out blocks and a small wind burst can change the orbs direction during flight. But, powerful spells allow you to set the orb ablaze, destroying nearly anything in its path for a limited time, as well as allowing you to place the orb anywhere onscreen after losing a life. Stronger spells will cost you significantly more magic to perform and should be used strategically and sparingly.
The blocks aren’t just for breaking, as they also hold all sorts of goodies to help along the way. Of course, gold is what every adventurer desires and there’s bags of it to be had, but potions to refill your magic gauge also come bursting out at times too. In typical RPG fashion, wooden chests hold the most valuable of items, like keys and hearts (extra life). But, what do we need keys for in this type of game? Well, if you’ve got a key handy and come across a stage with a locked door, you’ll either find yourself inside a store to buy all sorts of additional powers (e.g. multiball, larger wands, etc.) and items, or inside a hidden room full of valuables floating around in bubbles, simply begging to be popped.
With all these powers and items, it might seem like the game would be a bit on the easier side of the difficulty spectrum, but that’s far from true. Enemies lurk throughout the worlds and level design becomes increasingly difficult the further you progress. Many later levels feature enemies that can block/divert forward attacks, and level design places unbreakable blocks in such ways that create narrow gaps that require precision shots and magic use to properly navigate. While this could be a turnoff for some, the fantastic paddle controls and skills available mean that the stiff challenges can be overcome by those who put forth the effort.
The effort is worth it too, seeing how each of the five worlds features its own giant boss to takedown. These bosses feature fantastic 8-bit styled sprites, and if it wasn’t for the orb and wand onscreen, they’d likely fit perfectly inside a The Legend of Zelda title. Considering each world also brings its own unique set of visuals, chip tunes and enemy sprites along with them, you’ll definitely want to visit them all.
Beatshapers is no stranger to the PlayStation universe, as they’re known for bringing a unique mixture of hit indie titles over to the PS Mini service. With Tribute Games’ Wizorb, they’ve stirred up the nostalgia pot and formulated an RPG infused Arkanoid clone that’s sure to warm the hearts of old-school souls. If you’ve got the skills for the challenge and a few gold coins in your purse, the Kingdom of Gorudo is in need dire need of a saviour.