Monday, August 6, 2012

Wizorb [Tribute Games] - $2.99

Ports are always a pretty big deal in the iOS gaming world. The most recent port to hit the AppStore, Wizorb, is a mix between an old-school block-breaker and an RPG. Sound good? We thought so too. And so did thousands of PC/MAC gamers when the game was released on Steam and the Mac AppStore back in March. Since then, Tribute Games, a very small, 2 person studio, with roughly 10 years of development experience (working with Ubisoft, Eidos and Gameloft), has been figuring out the best way to port Wizorb over to the iOS. Well, last Thursday, it finally hit the AppStore, and the first ever brick-breaking RPG was made available for mobile devices around the world. 

Wizorb starts off similar to other RPGs; After an introduction level, you’re taken to Tarot, a small town in the Kingdom of Gorudo, where you find out that a curse cast by demons has whipped out most of the town, and that monsters came from Gorudo castle, attacking the townspeople. Seems Cyrus, your badass wizard, is the only hope for Gorudo’s salvation. And here’s where you might start to get disappointed. The control scheme is horrid.

Starting off in the intro level, you’re able to see two buttons, labeled A and B in the lower right corner. During the block breaking segments, these are used to launch your ball, and to cast spells. To move your paddle left and right, you can drag anywhere on the screen. This isn’t so bad, especially on the smaller iPhone/iPod screen, but you might have some issues on the larger iPad screen, needing to constantly pick your finger up and re-drag it in order to move the paddle all the way across the screen, and the A and B buttons are fairly small, and have a pretty large dead zone, so you’ll constantly be missing the buttons. During the town sequences, movement is done by touching in the direction you want to go. So to move upwards, you’ll need to touch above your wizard, left, on the left side of the screen, ect. Again, this isn’t too much of a problem on the smaller iPhone screen, but on the iPad, it’s a real pain, and you’ll wind up blocking a lot of the gameplay area. The collision detection in the towns areas doesn’t help movement much, as you’ll need to be completely clear of an object in order to get around it. This generally just makes things a little more frustrating. 

Once you get out of the first town, you’ll be taken to the world map, where you can move on to the next town, and start the real brick-breaking gameplay. Here, as you destroy bricks, mana bottles, gems, extra lives, keys and coins will occasionally fall, depending on what color the bricks that you’re destroying are. Also thrown into the mix are evil monsters which you’ll need to destroy in order to complete the levels. Like most brick-breakers, if you can manage to get your ball stuck up above the bricks, you’ll be in for a smooth and easy ride, just needing to collect the items that fall down towards you. Also, learning how to control the ball is a very valuable asset. Hitting the ball in the center of your paddle will send it straight up, while hitting it on the edge will send it flying in that direction (left edge = ball goes to the left), and everywhere in-between sends it at a different angle. Getting this perfected will make the game a lot easier, while at the same time, provide another level of challenge to the gameplay. 

Unfortunately, I have experienced quite a few drops in framerate, and some lag, especially in levels that are packed with bricks. In a game that’s dependant on quick movement and reflexes, this can be a real downer. Another issue I’ve experienced is having buttons get ‘stuck’. Occationally, if I hit the A, or launch ball, button before the wizard completely changes into the paddle, the game will read the A button as being held down, and I won’t be able to launch the ball. The only way to fix this is to quit and restart. 

Another complaint that others have had is that the game only takes up ¾ of the screen. The developers have said that this is because re-sizing the game to fit the iDevice’s screen caused the gameplay area to distort, and that they would have had to re-do all of the game’s artwork in order to have it display correctly. This has left a giant black bar on the bottom of the screen. Something to fill in this black bar would have been great. For instance, Cave’s games also do not necessarily fit the iDevice’s screen, so instead of having a large black bar around the gameplay area, they’ve included some nice artwork along the outside. 

Now, even with all these issues, if you’re a huge fan of the original PC title, it’s nice to have the game available at any time and fit in your pocket. The town segments do not take a lot of time to get through, and the real meat of the game is, in fact, the brick-breaking gameplay. Again, a lot of the issues with the controls are not as prevalent on the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch screens, but on the iPad, can be very frustrating. Priced at $2.99, which is also the same price on Steam, you might want to check out the PC version that doesn’t have all of the touch-screen’s issues. But if you’re a huge fan of the brick-breaking genre, Wizorb has the potential to be another great title. However, you might want to hold off until a couple of updates have gone through, fixing the control issues and gameplay lag as well as the drops in framerate. Right now, it seems like the developers over at Tribute Games tried to spend as little as they could, and worked as fast as they could to port the game over to the iOS. Luckily, updates are a huge deal in the iOS gaming world, and all of this can be fixed and dealt with; if the developers care enough to put the time and effort into it.


Phew. Glad I don't have an iPad. But is a 2.5 star rating really necessary? Wizorb plays just fine on my 4S, deserving of at least 4 stars.

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