Remake Roundup: Wizard of Wor
The last remake roundup looked at the questionably popular ‘Hunchback’ game of the 80s. This time, we’ve rounded up a bunch of tantalising remakes for another retro game. Wizard of Wor sees you inexplicably trapped in some kind of space-wizard’s space maze, and you (and optionally a buddy) must navigate corridors while blasting a variety of coloured beasties.
We dug into our Online BBS Gateway Modem System(tm) and found four tasty Wizard of Wor inspired new retro remakes, now available in “digital format”! Each updates and tweaks the original to varying degrees in different ways, in true New Retro Games style. From the straight-up Wizard of Wor 98, to the isometric intensity of Return to Wor, to the colourful vengeance of Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars (yes, really), there’s something for everyone!
The Original (1980)
Wizard of Wor was developed for the arcades by Midway in 1980, and then later ported to Atari and C64 home platforms. Like most 80s games, you were pitted against an endless wave of creatures to blast, vying for the top score. There was no cutscenes or equipment upgrades here, just you, a laser gun and endless waves of hypercolour monsters.
There’s not much else to Wor than the blasting action, but at least it’s satisfying blasting action. There are a few extra mechanics such as the portals on the edges of the maze and a ‘Worluk’ and the Wizard himself randomly appearing at the end of levels to be blasted for bonus points. You can also ‘accidentally’ shoot the other player in the back for bonus points, which led to much childhood angst (as did liberal use of the decapitation move in Barbarian). The maze layout changes in each level, but I never did find out if the game ever ‘ends’.
A port of Wizard of Wor can be played online at: http://wizardofwor.krissz.hu/
Wizard of Wor 98 (1998)
Wor ’98 is a pretty straightforward remake for modern machines of the time. Gameplay is relatively untouched but the graphics have been upgraded to the VGA standard of the day. Despite the name, Wizard of Wor ’98 is not a Windows 98 port and in actual fact a DOS game. So, this means you’ll need to use a DOS emulator like DOSBox to actually play it (I recommend D-Fend Reloaded for its easier to use interface). It’s not a perfect remake (some still prefer the originals sound), but is probably the best “same-game-updated-graphics” version around.
Wizard of Wor Remix (2003)
Wizard of Wor Remix is a remake by iterationGames, which like all good new retro games uses the basic formula of the original combined with some modern refurbishments. The graphics are basically the same but scaled up to a much nicer resolution, which comes with the benefit of allowing for much larger and more interesting mazes. There is also a ‘fold space’ teleport ability and the option to have a second player controlled by the AI – in case your friends aren’t willing to come over and let you shoot them in the back. Unfortunately the developer lost his source code, so development never was ‘finished’, but he uploaded the last working version he could find on his blog, which is perfectly playable.
Return to Wor (2007)
Return to Wor is an isometric take on the classic Wizard of Wor formula, by the same developer as Wizard of Wor Remix. With updated 2.5D style pixel graphics and again with the larger maze size increasing the challenge (as you can no longer see the whole maze at once), it notably ups the ante. You have an energy bar, meaning you can’t rapid-fire your way through the halls quite so much. However enemies sometimes drop powerups to help you along the way, and the ‘fold space’ ability handily returns. Unfortunately, Zombie versions of dead players also like to emerge and begin hunting for your tasty brain at just the worst time. The isometric pixel graphics are gorgeous and quite detailed – a little too intense in fact – so I feel it’s a bit of a visual overload and clutters the screen a bit too much. Still, it’s a pretty solid re-imagining all round, and feels like what would have been a genuine sequel made in the 90s.
Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars (2011)
A fun and interesting take on the formula, Spider Queens sees you step into the shoes of an eight-legged spider queen stopping a slave uprising. The game is relatively straightforward, but developer Anna Entropy also takes some additional cues from games like Bubble Bobble, Snow Bros. or Tumble Pop. In that you must trap slaves with your trusty web-silk, and then run up and catch them before they break free (lest they escape and start moving about faster).Pesky slaves!
Play online:Adult Swim
A new challenger approaches! I recently stumbled across a PICO-8 port of the classic arcade game. Wizards Rule is a pretty straight-up port of the original, but in glorious minipixels. Despite the relative downgrade in resolution, it manages to capture the look and feel (and music) of the game perfectly, as well as maintaining the 2 player mode.
If you love a more 8-bit NES style feel on top of the convenience of playing on your browser, Wizards Rule is there, waiting patiently, a quick jam.
Wizards Rule | Play online
Wizard of Wor was pretty simple but decent blast ’em up for the 80s. While not ingrained in today’s pop culture lexicon like its buddies Donkey Kong or Frogger, Wor was remembered enough to inspire a couple of nice homemade retro remakes, and we can’t complain about that. Personally, my pick is Wizard of Wor Remix.