Wizard of Wor, a 1981 port of Bally/Midway's coin-op game,
is a one or two-player-simultaneous maze shooter with great
1980's sci-fi sounds and a bombastic background tune that builds tension well. Think of it as a
one-screen, 2D version of Doom -- you shoot and run from monsters while also helping/battling
a possible 2nd player. The game was released in 1981 by CBS Electronics, licensed from Bally/
The graphics in 5200 WofW are rather blocky and simple, but as with the
game Berzerk, these spartan visuals work. The individual monsters and players and their shots
move smoothly through the mazes with hardly a trace of flicker. I particularly liked the 2-frame
recoil animation after you fire your cannon -- simple, but you still get a nice effect there.
You are given plenty of enemies to shoot in each round. The dungeon's
layout changes as you go. Some are generic levels, others are given titles, such as the "Arena"
and the "Worlord" levels. Monsters come in a few varieties -- Blue are slow, Yellow and Red are
more deadly, plus these can turn invisible. All can shoot at you. Since there are invisible
enemies, you are given a radar screen to track the monsters. At the end of the level the Worluck, a monster which resembles a butterfly, flutters around the maze quickly until it either escapes or you
are able to nail it. Shooting it yields Double Point Dungeon scores. Also, the Wizard himself
may or may not appear at the end of a stage! The Wizard materializes for only a second and he
shoots as he goes, making him the most deadly and confounding target in this game. There is a
GREAT sound and flashing lights reward for shooting the Wizard, proving that game effects need
not be technically impressive to serve their purposes and be rewarding.
Gameplay consists of cat-n-mouse stealthy shooting matches through each
dungeon. Often you get surrounded and you must find a long enough wall to hide behind and
nervously wait for the invisible red and yellow beasts to come for you. Once they turn the
corner, they become visible and you have at best a split-second to kill it before it runs
you through! It does not pay to blindly run around the mazes! If you like the game Berzerk, you will no doubt really enjoy Wizard of Wor too!
Wizard of Wor is one of my favorite Atari 5200 games. It's missing the
coin-op's sprite detail and voice synthesis, but it still proves to be a great, unique,
tense and fun game, filled with just the right ingredients that a classic game needs. I feel
I must also mention that you must use Port 2's Joystick for 1-player games -- this feature
was probably added to mimic the arcade cabinet.