Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Memorable Gaming Moments #2

Wiz 'n' Liz by Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis (1993) - MegaDrive

Ooo, ooo, what could it be?!
More often than not it's the silliest, weirdest things I remember about the times I have spent gaming all these years. Sure enough, when I think about Wiz 'n' Liz - one of my favourite games and in my opinion a tremendously enjoyable and underrated 16-bit platformer - the thing that usually stands out the most is all the peculiar little mini-games and bonuses that can be accessed by way of its fruit-based magic spells. On each fast, looping landscape that make up the stages of the game, you see, are a great many rabbits. Running into these first releases letters which should be collected to spell out the magic word at the top of the screen. Once that's done, any remaining rabbits release fruits instead. Collecting enough of these will allow you to use the fruit in question on your 'home' screen where your magic cauldron is found.

Come one, come all, for the finest fruits in town...
There is a single (random) fruit per stage and two are required to mix a spell in the cauldron, but there are fourteen of them in total and each combination produces a different result... which you won't know until you've given it a try! As much as I enjoyed the game itself (and still do, often) - its pacey action is exciting, addictive, and enormous fun - it was these magic spells that stuck in my mind more than any other particular aspect of the game. At first I just used to mess around mixing the fruits as I obtained them, and the results were usually amusing. Some of them merely give you more points, stars, or time which, while useful, aren't very exciting, but others give you weird stuff like different coloured rabbits, lemmings walking around the stages (yes, those lemmings), invisible sprites, and all manner of other oddities.

Look! Lemmings walking around the stage!
Trouble is, there are six difficulty levels altogether and through most of them you'll only encounter the most common fruits (the top row in the screenshot above, pretty much). If you want to experiment with the rare fruits you'll need to either be very good at the game and play on the highest difficulty setting, or buy them from the shop using stars, but they aren't cheap. Of course, there are lots of spells to try, even with just the more common fruits, but I soon tired of seeing the same stuff so I started playing the game a bit more seriously. I selected higher difficulties, collected stars relentlessly, and bought all the high-end fruits I could. I even made my own chart so I could keep track of each spell and its outcome (yes, this was before the days of internet walk-throughs!). Obsessed? Yes, I guess I did get a bit carried away!

I'm good at this Arkanoid-inspired mini-game :)
But it was also a lot of fun and I fondly recall the days I spent doing it. Even without this craziness, Wiz 'n' Liz would still be a delightful game to play, but it was the icing on the cake for me. My favourite magic spells were always the mini-games and there were sixteen of them in total including versions of Arkanoid, Space Invaders, Snake, etc, as well as more original ideas like Splat Dudes (throw tomatoes at two of the game's developers) and Bouncing Bunnies. I don't know how much effort was required to add all this stuff but I for one definitely appreciated it. Maybe I'm weird but I love it when games have silly little features like this - even if they're pointless, it still demonstrates a great spirit and sense of humour in the development team, and it shows how much they cared about their game, and that's great if you ask me.

Special Note: In case you were wondering, the fruits are (in the order shown in the shop screenshot): apple, strawberry, banana, orange (which for many years I thought was a pumpkin), carrot, potato, cabbage, mango, lemon, onion, avocado, cherry, pear, and the rarest of the rare, the mushroom.

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