Sit back and relax while I blow into the cartridge to get the game working.

Welcome to the first edition of Really Retro. Here you will find a weekly news and review post about games from another era. I have scoured the best and worst arcade, early console and pre-Pentium games to help you avoid death by button-mashing and find some gems.


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First up we have Wizard of Wor from 1981. No, that’s no a typo; it is w-o-r. Hiding in the shadows of some of arcade’s better remembered games, Wizard of Wor is a maze-shooter for one or two players.

So, is it any good?


It is bloody good.

With most retro games, looks can be deceiving. Wizard of Wor, even taking into account its age, looks awful. Blocky, uninspiring sprites on a pedestrian blue, yellow and red colour scheme with some pretty rudimentary looking bad guys. But when you play it for a while, the palette they use really grows on you. This is especially evident when you hit a bonus level, trying to shoot a Worluk or the fabled Wizard of Wor himself. I am addicted to hitting the bonus stage for the changed colour scheme (and the points on offer, I guess).


But who cares what it looks like. How does it play? Far out, it is good.

You are a nondescript shooter, hunting the monsters on each level. Clear the monsters and you move to the next level. Simple stuff. The shooting mechanic seems slow at first, but is responsive and satisfying. The monsters nonchalantly walk around at first and picking them off is easy, but nothing is easy in the arcade world. Soon enough they speed up and require you to demonstrate reflexes and indiscriminate shooting in order to pass the levels and build your high score. One of my favourite bits is when some of the monsters disappear from the larger view while remaining in the box tracker at the bottom of the screen. Is this the earliest version of a CoD-style radar?

The game shows no mercy when two players face off. You are allowed to shoot each other, and even if you agree to a truce before the game, stray bullets invariably end in accidental deaths. My advice – end the truce and embrace the headshots!

Although the gameplay remains excellent, the sound is where I really got hooked. It has a droning, foreboding riff to begin the game and between levels. There are only minimal effects throughout the game which adds to the ominous feel. Kills are punctuated nicely as you would expect, though the same effect is used for both kills you make and the deaths received. Hearing them is both a blessing and a curse.

Wizard of Wor is a classic, no frills shooter that is perfect for a two person duel. It is intuitive enough to pick up and play without explanation, while being nuanced enough to demand repeat coins while aiming for another top score. Track it down and see for yourself.