We’ve seen some fairly strange video game genre mashups happen, and they’ve had various amounts of success. Just when I think they couldn’t jam more genres together, the folks at Tribute Games manage something I’ve not seen before: the mixup of an Arkanoid game with an 8-bit RPG. Does it work? Let’s find out.

Wizorb tells the tale of the wizard Cyrus who sets out to rebuild the kingdom of Gorudo. Cyrus has one very odd ability: he’s able to turn himself into a ball, and his wand into a paddle, allowing him play a wizard-sized game of arkanoid around the game’s levels. As you make your way through the levels, you’ll destroy blocks and defeat enemies to collect money (essential for helping to rebuild Gorudo), and mana. The mana—which I found in woefully short supply (as is typical of RPGs)—is necessary for Cyrus to be able to cast spells. The spells do any number of things from firing fireballs, to making the ball more potent, to allowing you teleport the ball around the play field.

Don’t think that just because it’s couched in charming 8-bit graphics and sound that Wizorb is easy. It’s not. It’s actually devilishly difficult. The shortage of mana makes it particularly difficult (although if you’re good enough, you can get to shops allowing you to refill your mana for a price), as is the knowledge that any cash you earn in the levels will be required to help rebuild Gorudo. It’s a careful balance you have to manage as you play through the levels.

The game itself is an otherwise fairly standard Arkanoid clone. Enemies wander around the field being a general nuisance, and the ball destroys the blocks above. The blocks drop mana and money, and it’s these two things that are more dangerous than anything else you’ll encounter. Do you chance going for the much-needed money and hope you make it back in time for the ball? Do you ignore it, and hope you have enough money to help rebuilt Gorudo? Decisions decisions! It wouldn’t be an RPG game without boss battles, and the Wizorb bosses are glorious in their 8-bit way. The geek in me delights in noting that the game is truly 8-bit, and not the 8-bit in the way that 16-bit games such as Scott Pilgrim pretend to be.

One of my gripes with the game is that it’s very punishing. For example, the first world has 12 stages. If you decide to quit and go back to Gorudo, you lose any progress and money that you’ve made. There’s no way to save half way through a world. If you lose all your three lives, then you start again with nothing and have to schlep through the levels from scratch. It can be terribly frustrating if you’re not a skilled enough player.

My other gripe is that the 8-bit music, although charming at first, can get a bit grating, especially since the tunes aren’t that long, nor are they varied. You’ll play the same levels over and over again as you learn to master the game, and you’ll hear the same background over and over again. It can get a bit much. Once you’ve started, there’s also no option to shut down the music so you can play your own.

Wizorb is still a lot of fun for the price you pay, especially if you play it on your Vita instead of on the PS3. If you have the tolerance for the difficulty, you’ll find a fairly rewarding genre mashup game here, and a great retro-style way of passing the time.

Final Score: 7 retro prawns out of 10

Detailed information:
Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Beatshapers Ltd.
Platform: Minis (PS3 and Vita)
RRP: R33
Age Rating: 3+
Website: http://www.wizorb.com/