It’s an idea almost as old as video games themselves: Bat. Ball. Bricks. The concept first coalesced in 1976′s Breakout, and a handful of games since then have borrowed the theme while bringing their own twists to the table. Tribute Games’ Wizorb is the latest, and though the developer lives up to its name with most of the game’s high points cribbed from other titles, it’s a slickly executed amalgam of some classic ideas.
When the peaceful kingdom of Gorudo is invaded by monsters (who apparently bring a bunch of brightly coloured blocks with them), it’s up to the wizard Cyrus to save the day by transforming into a ball and paddle. The core gameplay is immediately familiar: move the paddle left and right at the bottom of the screen to guide the ball towards the bricks and enemies above. Movement can be controlled via either the mouse or keyboard, though neither is strictly ideal: where the keyboard controls feel sluggish, the mouse is almost too responsive. Being able to leap clear across the screen almost instantly, even on the slowest paddle speed setting, unfortunately removes some of the challenge of the game.
It’s still incredibly enjoyable, though. Being a wizard, Cyrus naturally has command of a slew of magic spells, a system that sets the game apart from its genre brethren. Just can’t seem to hit that last block? Teleport the ball right next to it, or shoot it with a fireball. You can also use a gust of wind to change the ball’s direction in mid-air, or power up your shot to destroy more bricks. It’s simple, but keeps the gameplay interesting.
That’s not the only concept the game borrows from classic RPGs. The game also breaks up sets of levels with visits to a town, where you can chat to townspeople, visit the shop, and donate the gold you earn in the field to help rebuild ruined buildings. The art and sound design are solid servings of nostalgia, and it’s all quite charming – which counts for a lot when the game can be run through in an afternoon. There’s some replayability in revisiting levels to unlock hidden areas, but it’s Wizorb’s vintage facade and fresh twists on a largely stagnant genre that will see you coming back for more.