Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indie Impressions - A Wizard's Lizard

A Wizard's Lizard

Now Available on Steam

from Lost Decade Games



 You awaken in a Wizard's Tower as Raga, the adorable reptilian familiar of a great wizard only to witness your master being taken away by Death himself after concocting the perfect immortality potion. After a brief tutorial, it turns out the little guy wants to take on Death's Crypts and its perils all alone and here your adventure begins. The story is very straight forward, very effective and is perfectly reminiscent of the best titles of the 80s and 90s which is especially apparent as you hear the epic fantasy compositions that successfully invoke the spirit of the 16-bit era. A Wizard's Lizard is a fantastic new top-down ARPG dungeon crawling experience which borrows many light elements from the roguelike genre, making it a more than worthy addition to Steam's growing library of rogue-lites.

Death isn't too keen on your master's quest for immortality.

While beginning A Wizard's Lizard I can see that buried under all of it's simple and elegant charm there is a lot of content to be discovered. The first thing I noticed is that aside from our strong-willed little Lizard mascot, there are 4 more mysteriously blacked out character slots for unlockable types all of varying look and ability. After the short cutscene and tutorial you stumble into the huge halls of a luxurious and massive museum where you learn that the cherished artifacts of this sprawling monument have been stolen by, once again, Death himself. There are at least six different vast rooms in the museum all full of empty podiums for you to fill up with items, enemies and a vast array of other unlockables that you find throughout your journey, just another telling sign of the incredible amount of content and replayability that you'll find with this game.

Only a fraction of the unlockables you're going to need to discover in order to survive you journey into Death's embrace.

Your next stop before getting into the chaotic meat of this addictive game is the town which you'll notice at first seems a little empty. You find out that lost in the Cemetery ahead are the people of this once thriving town for you to find who will give different perks such as discounts in shops which are all persistent throughout your plays and once again adds another insane layer of content to this already hefty game. As you find people certain areas of the town will permanently fill out for you to interact with including the Shop and Tavern, creating more and more reason to revisit the starting area as you delve deeper and deeper. The shop itself only starts with a very limited supply of purchasable items and equipment but tucked away deep in the confines of the cemeteries and crypts ahead are Blueprint merchants that will sell you the plans for a particular purchasable item that will appear in the shop on your future starts back at town. This adds a very fun and progressive interaction to the shop element that keeps the player searching much deeper than just the goal of each stage in order to gain that special array of bad ass items to purchase on later runs that will ensure their future victory.
Blueprints in combination with rescued villager's gold can score you some seriously sweet loot for your future runs

You have several main abilities to master in your endeavors through the dungeons ahead including your main weapon that's tied to very precise right-stick directions, a dash ability to help our scaly little buddy scurry across danger, Soul Orbs that act as bombs detonating the area around you, and Totem Poles which serve as defensive towers with different forms for you to find or buy and try. There are loads upon loads of different items and artifacts to find of varying abilities such as the skill to see damage numbers in combat or increased attack power and every single one of them alters your gameplay just enough to change up your playstyle on every consecutive run, keeping you on your toes each time.

A new item, I still have a chance!

The game is definitely challenging though you are given a second chance with the very cool and unique life/death system, plunging you into the realm of the dead upon the loss of life and turning you into a ghost for extended play. This isn't as much of a relief as it sounds, however, as you will be joined by the rampaging spirits of foes killed in the past. Being among the realm of the dead isn't just good for a second chance, however, as certain things you could not surpass as a living lizard are now dematerialized your you to pass through in the spirit world, opening previously blocked passages to keys for you to find. In some areas you'll be able to bring yourself back to the material world by locating a ritualistic symbol, but it's a chance you'll have to be careful with as you won't be able to keep doing it.

Walking among the souls of the dead.

As you get into the core gameplay things happen very quick instantly throwing you into the hectic rooms of the cemetary all of which are procedurally-generated and randomized in classic roguelite fashion, bustling with hordes of enemies and destructible objects scattered all across the enviroment. The action itself is very tight, precise, fast paced twin-stick fare which require quick reflexes and fast thinking with your arsenal of abilities and there is so much going on in a single room it can sometimes get overwhelming. Luckily with the perks you get from various items, upgrades to your abilities such as Totem Poles, persistent bonuses from rescuing townspeople, and discoverable shortcuts the game becomes more manageable, fun, and addictive with every play.

Battling in the chaos of the sewers

Most will be quick to put this in the same category as other top-down roguelites of recent years, but I'd say A Wizard's Lizard sets itself apart by achieving a much closer feeling to the classics it was inspired by than titles such as Binding of Isaac by having a much stronger and more realized resemblance to the sound, aesthetics, and gameplay of old favorites akin to Zelda or Gauntlet. There is no limit to the replayability of A Wizard's Lizard, and it is a must-buy as well as a very welcome addition to the world of roguelite dungeon crawlers.

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