The evil Zark and his sprites have invaded Wizworld in an attempt to eliminate the spectrum (Not the computer unfortunately) and make the world drab and grey (boo hiss!). It is up to Wiz, his Wizball and servant Catelite, to save Wizworld (behind you!). Enough of the pantomime, what about the game?
Wizworld is split into six horizontal levels connected by tubes and craters in the floor. Perversely, some of these down tubes will take you up to a higher level. The game is of the flick-screen variety where leaving from one side of the screen leads into the next room, where as yet unknown dangers await you. You control the Wizball, which to start with can only move by bouncing and has limited shooting point, but can soon become more skilled.
Each screen has one of three types of object in store for you: aliens which shoot at you, purple symbols that change into green pearls when shot and drops of liquid that bounce up and down the screen. The aliens have to be shot and when this is done, the next time you enter that screen, you'll find some drops of liquid or a group of four purple symbols. The aliens come in two basic types and you'll quickly discover the best methods for dealing with them.
The most important icon is the third, which creates Catelite. This appears as a sidekick to Wizball and can be controlled while holding down the fire button. Catelite is needed to collect the small droplets of liquid which are produced when the larger drops are shot. Beware though, because not all of the droplets are to be collected. If the droplet is a different colour from that of the parent drop then take care. It can produce nasty effects like turning all the lights off, so you have to play in the dark, or sending you Catelite loopy so that you have to get another one.
Each of the correctly coloured droplets collected adds to the contents of three cauldrons at the bottom of the screen, and also alters the contents of the right hand cauldron which is the target colour for that level. When the target colour cauldron is filled you must travel down one of the many holes in the ground and you will be onto a bonus screen. After the bonus screen, you enter Wizlab, where you can give all future Wizballs a weapon or control power. After Wizlad the game continues, but this time part of the scenery is coloured in. You then continue the task of restoring colour to Wizworld by collecting another colour.
When collected, the green pearls will move a selector along a row of seven icons at the top of the screen. To activate the icon, you waggle the joystick in Decathlon style until the icon stops flashing. This weird way of activating icons is made annoying by the fact that the instructions don't tell you you have to waggle, but say you've got to press the space bar. By collecting the pearls and activating the different icons you alter the combat and movement characteristics of your Wizball. Some of the more useful icons are the thrust icon, which gives you more control over the ball by giving it up/down and left/right control rather than bouncing, and the shield icon which stops you from being killed for a while.
The scenery isn't very colourful to start with, but that's because it's filled in as you progress through the game. What they do have is plenty of detail, each level having a different type of scenery. There are no musical tunes, but the sound effects are good.
At first, the game is a bit confusing but after a few games you begin to pick up what is going on. The gameplay has a certain addictive quality which makes you want to play just one more game to try to fill those cauldrons and bring back more colour. There are lots of original elements that make it a joy to play, and for once a silly scenario is actually justified by the fantasy world the game plunges you into.
At first I had a sinking feeling as the scenery appeared and Wizball looked like a lousy conversion. Then after playing for a while you realise the drabness is intentional and it's up to you to produce a colourful game - novel twist that. The gameplay is delightful and, once you know what you're doing, it's very challenging. This is one of my favourites and I'll be trying to crack it for a long time.
Get to Wizlab once.
P. Colourful, well-designed sprites.
P. Detailed scenery that colours in as you complete the game.
P. Good sound effects.
N. But no tunes.
Grab Factor 94%
P. Great idea for returning colour by collecting droplets.
P. Icons and powers combine well within the game.
N. Instructions aren't very helpful.
Staying Power 90%
P. Will take a long time to get all the colours
P. You've got to be alert every time you enter a screen.
P. Good combination of old and original ideas.
P. Did we mention it was cute too?