Indie

A Wizard’s Lizard Review – Power Over Death Itself

Most video games teach you to fear death; Lost Decade Games’ twinstick roguelike A Wizard’s Lizard teaches you to embrace it. A Wizard’s Lizard places you in the role of a wizard’s pet lizard (shocking, right?) shortly after Death curses the town and kidnaps the lizard’s master as punishment for discovering the secret to eternal life. The lizard must fight his way though a series of dungeons to save the townsfolk and defeat Death himself. Simple enough, right? Procedurally-generated dungeons, a variety of unlockable items and weapons, and a unique death mechanic make A Wizard’s Lizard stand out from the crowd.

A Wizard’s Lizard is a roguelike; a term that essentially means that when you die, that’s it; you’re dead, you lose everything, and you’ve got to start from the beginning. While all of this is true for A Wizard’s Lizard, the game goes out of its way to put its own spin on the typical roguelike way of doing things. Anytime our lizard friend, named Raga, starts an adventure he’ll find himself in the middle of the town of Amberfall. The town has been recently cursed and as a result most of its residents and attractions are nowhere to be found. As Raga progresses through dungeons, he’ll stumble across villagers to be rescued and items and blueprints to be claimed. Each villager saved becomes a resident in the town who will both offer (sometimes) helpful information and give Raga an additional 500 gold every time he starts an adventure. Items found in the field are recovered to the museum where a plaque offers details on their functions. Items can’t be taken out of the museum, but a local blacksmith will be more than happy to sell some of them to you, provided you find him blueprints in dungeons. Through rescuing villagers for money and adding items to the blacksmith shop, Raga is able to become more powerful before entering the dungeon.


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Farming Zombie Spawns is fun and all, but fighting all these ghosts in the afterlife can be a little trying.

I mentioned a unique death mechanic earlier, which is by far the most notable way A Wizard’s Lizard sets itself apart from the roguelike/twinstick crowd. Usually, when your health in a game hits zero it’s the end for you. Not so much in A Wizard’s Lizard. No doubt due to his master’s dabbling in the magic of eternal life, Raga is able to rise from the dead after being slain. In the world of the dead, Raga is able to pass through some walls and avoid poison damage, but enemies previously ghostly take form and attack, providing additional challenge on your second wind. Death isn’t the end though; one resurrection circle is placed randomly in each level. Find it and you’ll be returned to your earthly form. Each circle provides only one use though and you’re perma-dead if you die in spirit form, so use it wisely.

The levels themselves are structured as top down dungeons, much in the style of games like The Legend of Zelda or The Binding of Isaac. Across his adventure, Naga must cross through the Cemetery, the Sewer and the Crypt, with some hidden levels to be discovered between the listed ones.  Each level comes with its own set of obstacles, items, and mobs all of which scale in strength as you go. Levels are generated semi-randomly.

While you may recognize the layouts of some individual rooms, the order and door placement has a high degree of randomization every time. Without purchasing a map or compass from one of the shops within a level, you’re essentially wandering blind through the map. The compass item will mark the location of shops, resurrection circles, and bosses before you’ve discovered the location of them, but without the compass you’re on your own to remember where these rooms are if you’ve already passed through them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 4.45.05 PMMuch of the experience of the game is dependent on the items you find along the journey. Weapons and armor can be found in chests scattered throughout the map. Each level has its own set of armor, scaling up in quality as you progress. A Wizard’s Lizard features a huge selection of weapons to choose from. While the same pieces of armor will be found every time, weapons have a ton of variance.  In their most basic form, you can choose from a sword, daggers, a spear, or a boomerang which vary in range, attack speed, and power.

As you unlock blueprints and beat bosses, more powerful weapon forms are obtained. Some explode, some shoot crazy fast, and some sting. I’ve put a serious chunk of time into this game and still have yet to find half of the weapons available.  The variety of items offered is awesome, but the names of items found will only be shown on your screen the first time you pick it up. This in itself isn’t a big deal when it comes to weapons and armor as the icons explain everything you need to know. Where it does hinder gameplay is when picking up a ring. Rings have colored gems that define what they do, so without the game telling me their function I have no way to know the difference between them on the fly.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 6.32.53 PMUnlike weapons and armor, most of the items you’ll find in the game will be purchased from shops. In a normal level, there is one randomly placed shop with 3 random items waiting to be purchased. Health vials and weapons are sometimes among the stock, but the other stuff for sale is what you really want. We’ve already gone over the map and compass, but the other items in the game behave similarly. Buying the Monster Manual will display health bars under enemies you fight. Purchasing the Abacus shows number values for the damage dealt and gold picked up. Part of me wishes these things were displayed as default, but I really enjoy the effect buying certain items can have on a run.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 5.04.50 PMI really loved the time I spent with A Wizard’s Lizard, but that’s not to say the experience was perfect. Each dungeon has a memorable and unique boss fight, but at times it feels like the difficulty in these fights is achieved through long health-bars rather than through challenging combat. This is a criticism of the earlier two bosses, but the third is as challenging as he should be.

I experienced a few issues with bugs also. While standing next to a wall and shooting straight along it, your weapon may sometimes catch on the wall. This isn’t a huge issue for most weapons, but some explode upon impact. I ended up accidentally killing Raga more than once because of this. I also had the game crash on me once, mid way through a run. One crash for my ~10 hours of gameplay isn’t much, but it still should be noted.

A Wizard’s Lizard is easily one of the most addictive dungeon crawls I’ve played.  Equal parts punishment and reward, I still felt the sting of that roguelike punishment but always felt motivated enough to keep going. A Wizard’s Lizard can get hard. Learning the different enemy types and how to play against them takes effort, even in the earlier levels. Once you get over that initial hump though, you’re in for a good ride.

A Wizard’s Lizard is currently available on PC for $15.00 and is also up for vote on Steam Greenlight.

Final Breakdown

[+Incredibly Fun] [+Controller Support] [+A Roguelike With A Perfect Balance of Reward and Punishment] [+Purchasable Items Affect Visible Stats on Monsters] [+So Many Weapons!!] [+Secret Levels Add To Already Great Dungeons to Explore] [+A Wizard’s Lizard is Pretty Fun To Say] [-Killed By a Buggy Wall] [-Crashes Rarely] [-Boss Difficulty Through Health-Overdosing Rather Than Gameplay] [-Items Names Not Displayed In-Game]

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