A Wizard’s Lizard Re-Review

A Wizard’s Lizard has been successful Greenlit and is now available on Steam, so we’ve been asked to revisit the game with it’s newly polished feel with the A Wizard’s Lizard: Immortal Edition. 

Some of you may have seen A Wizard’s Lizard pop up in the most recent Steam Sales, and the more Indie savvy of you may have even noticed the game up on the Humble Store. In fact, A Wizard’s Lizard has blown up to be much bigger than I had ever anticipated, particularly on the Mac platform, as those of us who do own an Apple Mac product often find ourselves with few new releases coming to the platform. JumpToGamer have been talking back and forth with the Developers and Promotional Team behind the game through its development, and I can say without a doubt that this new Steam release has finally begun to reach the level of polish I had hoped the game would achieve. I’m going to declare right away that whilst this build is more polished than any other that I have played, the game will still score a 7.5/10 as it did in the original review, as there isn’t quite enough to warrant it being pushed up to an 8.

A Wizard’s Lizard retains the level of difficulty that I have become very familiar with, but there has definitely been some slightly modifications to the game in order to make it slightly more welcoming when you begin, but the difficulty certainly vamps up as you progress further into the game, and I haven’t even begun to come close to completing a successful run in this Steam build of the game. Thankfully, the Owls appear to have been ‘nerfed’ slightly and are significantly easier to deal with than in previous builds, but this is of course swapped out for an apparent increase in numbers of enemies in some dungeons so the wonderful developers behind A Wizard’s Lizard have found a new way to stop me from making too much progress in the game. At this point, I’m still not even sure this IS a final boss in the game, i’m just having to take their word for it. And that isn’t just because I suck at the game.

Okay, it’s because I suck.

There has also been a fair overhaul of the Menu and Inventory systems in the game, providing players with a much more informative and useful User Interface and descriptions of various Items that you can pick up to help you progress throughout the levels. The only thing i’m still hoping will come in a later patch to the game is the ability to stop off and save my progress midway through a Dungeon. A bed of some kind perhaps? Some way I could simply jump back out of the game and pick up where I left off earlier, as this feature is apparently non-existent, still. If this feature does exist in the game, it certainly needs to be more noticeable and understandable that it is now. There is of course the argument that the game holds an ‘Arcade’ quality that is somewhat charming but the amount of polish that the developers have gone into providing the Steam build of the game with, i’d like to think that this sort of feature is going to be added at some point.

The real strengths of this game are still very much in the difficulty of the game, without the game feeling as though it is unfair or in any way broken. The game is absolutely unforgiving in its level design, and does not give you any kind of Health Regeneration when you need it, if it happens to be there, it’s there. If it’s not, then tough. If you’re the kind of gamer that enjoys an easy ride in the way of progress then you are in for a rough ride. If you’re the kind of gamer that is determined to beat that one level that has been tormenting you endlessly then this is the game for you. There is an admirable balance in the level design and combat programming of the game and I can honestly say i’ve never felt hard done by when I have inevitably died. In the same way that Super Meat Boy tormented you with its difficult level, you kept coming back for more punishment because inevitably you will get it right.

It seems as though the developers have no intention to stop supporting and polishing the game until it fits into exactly what they were trying to achieve with the game, so even if this game doesn’t fit into what you’re looking for right now, it might do in the future – and whilst this is not going to be a game that everyone enjoys, I for one will be coming back for more over and over again, because one way or another I will find out if there really is a final boss.

Original Review:

Some of our more loyal readers may remember that back in the Summer of ’13 I had the privilege of discussing an upcoming Indie game known as ‘Crypt Run’ with one of the developers at Lost Decade Games, Matt Hackett. Well, the time has finally come for me to check out the release version of that game – only a few rather substantial changes have been made since that first interview.

The game is now known as A Wizard’s Lizard, a change that was for story telling purposes as the player controlled  character is no longer a random dungeon exploring goon, but as the game’s title suggests, you are a Wizard’s Lizard – furthermore, a Lizard that is surprisingly adept in the use of Daggers, Swords, Spears and Axes. Thankfully however, the ‘Binding of Isaac’ meets ‘Zelda’ style of gameplay remains the same and is mostly unchanged since my first time playing the Alpha version of the game. Along with this, the smooth 2D graphics I appreciated so much initially has actually improved immensely throughout the progression of the game with the addition of newer areas, enemies and weapons. I actually have to give huge credit to Matt and Geoff for designing what is hands down one of my favourite 2D art styles i’ve seen in a while, with perhaps the exception of Battleblock Theater last year.

The two most important, unique and impressive components of this game that impress me though is for one, the sheer difficulty of the game and the other being their ‘life after death’ mechanic that is the core inspiration behind both the story and the creation of the game itself. First of all, the ‘life after death’ mechanic has been there from the very first instances of this game, and is a relatively unique system that allows you to control your character as a ‘Ghost’ upon death due to Death himself cursing the village and kidnapping the Wizard for his manipulation of death.

This mechanic gives you abilities to pass through certain world assets upon death, whilst also challenging you further with 4extra enemies that you have killed in previous dungeons. It is possible to bring yourself back to life by standing upon a Pentagram for a short amount of time, but if you die as a Ghost then it’s game over for you. Honestly, this is a great mechanic that really adds an air of individuality to the title and even adds a little more intensity to the gameplay. Many times I have been hanging onto my last thread of health in death form when I found a room where I could restore myself to the realm of the living… of course it was filled to the brim with zombies, ghosts and grave-robbers. This kind of moment is what truly captures the essence of this game, the sheer amount of “OH, GOD DAMNIT” moments that make you really lock in to the game as you desperately try and dodge your way around the hordes of enemies really brings a feeling that you are playing a retro 90s game to the forefront of the experience.

And it’s that feeling I really want to talk about. This game is hard. It might not be ‘Dark Souls’ hard, but it is certainly challenging enough to remind of the days when you wouldn’t have tutorials shoehorned down your throat and you were more likely to fail a thousand times over than succeed even once. I have never played a game before where my most feared enemy was an Owl (Owls are OP), but this is that game. Hordes of enemies, lightening fast radius traps that will zoom over to ram a spike inside of you, challenging bosses, Chests that attack you if you try and open them and enemies that have made barrels their home – this game will surprise you and challenge you at every turn. You will not have an easy run through in this game, and I appreciate that.

2However, it’s time to change this article from a sales pitch to a review. Is this game perfect? No. It’s an Indie game. We don’t want it to be perfect, but it does have it’s issues. The twin stick nature of the controls makes it somewhat difficult to play on a keyboard at times, and i’d certainly recommend using a controller. Diagonal attacks and movement with a keyboard is quite frankly a pain in the ass, at least on my Keyboard. Along with this, the weapon system is a little spam heavy and perhaps it could be better balanced by reducing the attack rate and increasing the damage – and for the benefit of your own Ears try to avoid hitting one of the Battle-axes between two close together walls or object. Trust me.

My major concern of the game however is whether the longevity and amount of content in the game matches up with the price tag. Although I think $15 is a reasonable amount of money for what is ultimately an arcade style game designed to challenge you and encourage you to get the highest score possible in your play-though, a lot of people expect a lot more for your money. When people can complain about the amount of content in ‘Halo: Spartan Assault‘, a $15 title on the Xbox One and Windows 8.1 platforms, it’s a little worrying for the future of Indie developers who couldn’t possibly compete with that scale of game for the same price tag. Whilst the game is fun and challenging on numerous levels, it may not be enough for some people.

This game is Indie in it’s purest and most brilliant form. This is a game made by a small group of people who love what they do. This is a game you can tell that the guys at Lost Decade Games really put in everything they loved from playing games when they were younger – and that is something to be admired.