WIZARD OF WOR / Midway / Arcade

Wizard of Wor was one of the original games - maybe the original game - to go long on atmosphere while skimping on gameplay.

Not to say it is a bad experience, or even really a bad game. Just repetitive, and it gets very, very difficult very, very fast. It's worth experiencing at least once, though, just for the dark and ballsy (for the time anyway) presentation.

You, and another player if you can find one so brave, are space warriors sent to explore the dungeons of the Wizard of Wor, a cruel dungeon master who delights in unleashing his various monsters upon hapless intruders. If you can't find another brave soul to accompany you in the journey, the game does you the rare favor of providing a computer-controlled ally instead. The two of you start out up against slow-moving blue beasties, who gradually increase in speed as you thin their ranks. Exterminate them, and they are replaced by yellow dinosaurs who periodically disappear from sight. These are followed by red lion things that both move faster and disappear for longer periods. Clear these, and some sort of Zorak-looking bug makes a spastic dash through the maze; hit him before he escapes and all points in the following level are doubled.

Adding to the ambiance of the game is an Aliens-like radar that shows the location of invisible enemies, but does so without showing the walls, so you have to make a rough estimate of where they are in relation to you. This requires you to take your eyes off the screen for a second, and in the later levels where things are really flitting around at hyperspeed this can be incredibly hairy. The game has that deep, resonant sound characteristic of early 1980s arcade games, used to good effect to play several deeps notes in slowly increasing tempo in the same sort of style as Asteroids. Each level also begins with a vibrato pipe organ rendition of the opening notes of the Dragnet theme song.

While the game may quickly get too hard for all but the most masochistic to put up with, it was probably the first game to actually genuinely menace the player and put them on edge, and the emotional response to the environment is really worth something all by itself. I can't say the actual gameplay is all that great, but you'll be doing yourself a disservice to not at least give it one spin.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video