Wizard Ops [$0.99] by Phykentech is an on-rails 3D shooter with lots going for it. The gameplay is fast, controls are simple, and there’s some variety in the weapons and uniqueness in the sound effects. However, these positives can’t make up for the fact that the game is very short with not much room for replayability. Add in some performance issues, and Wizard Ops becomes one of those frustrating games that have potential but fall short.
Wizard Ops has you playing the role of a fire mage once part of an elite group of wizards that served the royalty of the kingdom. After the queen dies in an accident, the king irrationally imprisons the wizards in dungeons throughout the land. When the king’s daughter is subsequently kidnapped, he reluctantly releases you and charges you with freeing your brethren and taking down the enemy forces that hold the princess captive.
As a fire wizard, your weapon arsenal includes a multitude of fire spells that shoot projectiles. In addition, destroying enemies and bosses occasionally yield additional weapons which can then be purchased in the in-game store. While Wizard Ops has a decent selection of weapons (18 in all), a lot of them follow the same ‘fire magic’ motif and don’t offer much difference other than fire rate and projectile spread. Still, there’s enough variety to provide players with different strategies for taking on the opposition.
The most enjoyable part of Wizard Ops is the fast-paced nature of its gameplay. It plays very similarly to the classic Space Harrier series and retains that sense of speed. The entire game is controlled by just simple swipes, with movement, aiming and shooting being linked. While the obvious goal is to take out as many enemies as you can, you’re going to find that a lot of the gameplay involves dodging the large amount of hazards and projectiles being thrown at you. Some of the later levels up the ante and have you dodging and feinting across the entire screen just to stay alive. It’s fast, frenetic and a joy to play if you’re a fan of twitch-based gameplay.
Special mention should be given to the sound effects in Wizard Ops, which were created by Michael Winslow of Police Academy fame. The game’s thread has a neat video showcasing some of the sound recordings and I’d recommend checking it out. From a gaming perspective the sound effects sound like, well, sound effects. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about them but I will admit that I did enjoy the nostalgia trip, as Winslow’s style is very much apparent.
Unfortunately, Wizard Ops has a few annoying problems that detract from the overall experience. First, I experienced several crashes that would occur while either pausing the game during a level or while trying to check out the store after completing one. While I don’t find the occasional crash a big deal, there was one instance where I had lost all the progress I made on the last level I completed. Another issue is in regards to the visuals. Since enemies and projectiles appear to be coming right at you, it can be somewhat hard to figure out just how far away the projectiles are from hitting you. However, this is just a byproduct of the sort of 3D shooter that it is, so I can’t fault the game itself too much for that.
The biggest disappointment I have with Wizard Ops is just how short it is. The entire game encompasses six normal missions, a tutorial level, and a final mission which doubles as a general ‘survival’ mode. Each mission can be beaten in about 3 – 4 minutes, meaning that from a content perspective there isn’t much there. Sure, there’s three difficulties (with hard being incredibly tough), and there’s some replayability in regards to collecting coins and trying all the difference weapons, but it just didn’t seem enough to me.
It’s probably because I greatly enjoyed the core gameplay of Wizard Ops that I’m bitter about the lack of content. I want to see more missions, more enemies, and more weapons. Even the overall story just seems to come to a sudden standstill after playing the few levels that the game offers. I want to recommend Wizard Ops for its gameplay, but I can’t ignore the severe lack of content. I’m certain that the developers will be adding more missions and will hopefully flesh out the complete narrative. Nevertheless, folks looking to try it out now may not get the complete experience hoped for.