The Many Faces of  . . . Wizard of Wor

By Alan Hewston 

“Fight me! I am the Wizard of Wor!”  Per your request here’s a popular title that my predecessor already reviewed.  See Retrogaming Times issue #8 for Doug's Many Faces of Wizard of Wor.  BTW, congratulations go out to Doug & Elizabeth Saxon, who were wed in November.

 Wizard of Wor (WOW) as noted in the Digital Press guide is one of the best simultaneous 2-player home video games from the era.  Inside the dungeons of the Wizard of Wor, you became a Worrior whose goal is to defeat the Wizard by going deeper and deeper into his dungeon.  But you never defeat the Wizard -  he keeps coming back and the levels repeat with no end.  WOW is similar to Berzerk, in that you move within the realm of a powerful being, and enter his many screen-sized mazes (dungeons) and shoot at his minions.  But that’s where the comparison ends.  All movement by Worriors and Worlings is limited to only

 4 directions and you cannot exit the maze, but must defeat all the monsters to advance.   There is an escape door that opens and closes randomly, but always in the same place on screen.  It works like the tunnel in Pac-Man, but anyone can use it, after which it closes again.  The most significant feature is that of 2 player simultaneous action. WOW may have been the maze shoot out game - which in that era, culminated with the 4-player game Gauntlet.

 Each level begins with the Worriors outside of the maze with 10 seconds to enter willingly, or be forced into the dungeon.  You only fire one laser blast at a time, until it hits a wall, Worrior or Worling.  So plan each shot carefully.  There are about 17 different maze patterns, 14 of which are random.  [I only found 16 of them on the C64 and Bally - got tired replaying]  The other 3 mazes are special dungeons used at levels 4, 8 and 13 (11 on Bally).  Level 4, “The Arena” has an open area in the middle, level 8, “The Worlord Dungeon” has only 6 sets of walls to hide behind, and level 13, “The Pit” is composed of NO walls, and nowhere to hide.  An extra life is awarded to you the first time that you reach the Arena and the Pit.  The levels repeat, and so every so many levels you reach the Arena and then Pit again.  There is no time limit, but each level becomes increasingly more difficult with the monsters reaching their top speed sooner and sooner.  To help you on your mission, you have a radar screen that displays the locations of all Worlings, visible and invisible.  The name or number of each level is also provided.

 OK so what is a Worling?  They are your enemy, and 4 of the 5 species of Worlings appear in every dungeon.  Six Burwors (blue) await you inside each maze – but they are slow and always visible.  As you vanquish the Burwors, they are replaced by Garwors, who when defeated will be replaced by Thorwors.  Garwors (yellow) are faster and are NOT visible unless you are in the same corridor.  Thorwors (red) are smarter and faster still and likewise not always visible.   As the levels increase, more Garwors and Thorwors will begin play along with the Burwors.  Once all of the 3 basic Worlings are destroyed, the Wizard’s winged beast, the Worluk appears (actually starting in level 2).  The Worluk does not intend to stay very long and makes his way to an escape door – ending the level.  If it’s shot, you’ll earn a “Double Score Dungeon” – the next level.  After Worluk is gone, the Wizard himself may engage you in a battle to the death.  Of course he never really dies, just shows up later on.  The Wizard only shoots in two directions fore and aft, but he’s firing constantly.  He teleports in, moves for a few seconds and then teleports back out.  After a brief delay, he teleports back in again, usually a bit closer to one of the Worriors.  As with the other Worlings, if you shoot the Wizard, he and his shots vanish and can no longer harm you.  Shooting the Wizard will also yield a Double Score Dungeon.

For more information on Wizard of Wor see:

http://147.208.187.228/popopedia/shows/arcade/ag1169.php

Arcade Game Designed in 1980 Bally Midway (Tom McHugh & Dave Nutting)

Classic Home releases:  Apple II (Jorn Barger), Atari 2600 & 5200 (CBS), Commodore 64 (’83 CBM) and Atari 8 bit (’84 Roklan, Joe Hellesen & John Wagner).  Rumor Mill:  CV & INTV (CBS announced plans), Vic 20 (CBM – unreleased).  Unlicensed:  Bally Astrocade (’82 Bob Ogden)

Categories:  Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls


CBS had an offer similar to Activision.  Mail in a photo of your TV screen (Atari 2600) with a high enough score to receive in the mail a Wizard of Wor, “Worrior” medal.

Disqualified:  Apple II (N/A)
Once again I apologize for not having this system.  Most likely it’ll be the only classic system I'll never find a cheap stash.  Plus, I have no more room to add a disk-based system in my overflowing game room.

Disqualified:  Bally Astrocade (42)
This system was often the odd man out - never having the rights to make an official release of a popular arcade game - but sometimes went ahead anyhow:  Making the only home versions of 280 ZZZAP and Dog Patch (with same Bally programmer from arcade to home?); and also very decent versions of Galaxian, Space Invaders, Clowns, Sea Wolf, Space Fortress and Muncher (this last one was involved with the various Pac-Man lawsuits).  Anyhow, many people consider "The Incredible Wizard" not only the best home version of WOW but also the best Astrocade game ever made - so I've got to include it here.  As the only Astrocade entry in this column, I'll do everything but give it the medal it deserves. 

The Gameplay is very nice (8), and includes all the major elements save for a pause.  Also missing are the names of the special levels, and the Worluk and Wizard do not show up on the radar.  This is the only version that offers 3 levels of difficulty.  3 of the above mentioned 14 generic mazes are slightly altered on the Bally version.  Maybe Bally is correct & the C64 & Ataris are wrong?  The most significant difference is that only the Astrocade gives you a Quadruple Score Dungeon if both Worluk and Wizard are shot.  I’ve forgotten/did not check if the arcade did this or not.  An extra life is earned for every Pit encountered, which occurs every fourth level after the first one.  The Graphics are wonderful (9), the best of the lot, with the most detailed and colorful sprites.  The Sound is nice (8), in fact the effects are second to none.  But quite noticeably missing is the heartbeat (for lack of a better term) of the Worlings.  The racing heartbeat adds tension and drama to the game as it beats faster and faster.  The Controls are superb (9), but only once you’ve become comfortable with them.  This may take some time, and they are harder to fix and keep in working order than most.  The Addictiveness is great (8), but loses a bit due to the controls and lack of a pause button.

Have Nots: Atari 2600 (34)
Only the Atari versions were released by CBS.  The Gameplay is fine (6) adding the A/B switch to give the game 2 levels of difficulty – the others do not.   But the Gameplay is missing too much; no pause button, and only 2 dungeon maze patterns – making it very boring, very fast.  Why didn’t they add (CBS famous) expanded RAM to give us a few more patterns or at least the Pit.  Other differences are: having no timer and 20 seconds to enter the maze, instead of 10; the escape doors are not random, but open and then close every three seconds; and the extra life is earned at 10K  - since there is no Pit.  The Sound is OK (6) but all effects are weak, or completely missing. The Graphics are decent (6), er uh, boring, but do not detract from play.  The Controls are perfect (10).  The Addictiveness is fine (6) but suffers from the boredom of only 2 mazes.  A great 2600 game, but a big step down from the rest.

Bronze Medal:  Atari 5200 (40)
It is weird that this version was made by CBS, and the 8 bit version by Roklan.  Could this be the only exception to the 8 bit and 5200 games all being the same?   Well the games do appear to be the same, save for CBS on the title screen here.  So all 8 bit scores apply, save for the Controls which are impressive (8), for the 5200, and the Addictiveness which is enjoyable (8).  This is the only version that my Worrior went right through a Worling - probably due to the analog “features” of moving, stopping, firing and switching directions that only the 5200 can offer.

Silver Medal:  Atari 8 bit (43)
It misses the gold, probably due to lesser, albeit, pretty good Graphics (7).  They’re just not as sharp and detailed.  The Gameplay is superb (9) with all of the elements in place, and adding a choice of starting lives 3/5/7 – unique to this version.  Too bad they did not offer a change in difficulty, and/or a way to select different starting levels.  After the first Pit, there is another one every 6 levels.  The Sound is impressive (8), and as in all versions, the Wor national anthem (also heard on Pitfall) is played before each level.  The Controls are perfect (10), and the Addictiveness is great (9) – so you can count on playing this version many more times.  The 8 bit port is available on cart and I’m pretty sure it was originally on disk as well.

Gold Medal: Commodore 64 (44)
To be honest, I expected this to get a better score. Digital Press reports that this version was programmed to include the voice of the Wizard, but only heard if you have the "Magic Voice" add-on device.  Darn, that doesn’t help too many of us.  The Amiga version did have the voice of the Wizard.  The Sound is outstanding (9), and would be a 10 if the Wizard’s speech were Included. The chirping of the final few Worlings (also found on the Bally) is somewhat haunting.  The Gameplay is very nice (8), and includes all the elements seen elsewhere, save for any option for number of lives or difficulty.  The Graphics are crisp (8), a very close second only to the Bally.  The Controls are flawless (10). The Addictiveness is fantastic (9), and you’ll love to try just one more game. This version is available on cart and disk, but since my cart is not working, I could not verify if they are identical.  (See C64 Tapper)

 OK, now if CBM would have programmed WOW to allow you to alter the background colors, as they did in Omega Race (another Bally/Midway title), just imagine playing invisible Wizard of Wor.  Every level would look like the Pit.  You’d really have to fire a lot to see where the walls are to find the best place to “hide”.  I betcha that would be an easy hack job to do, and hope that if someone does it to write and tell me, I’d love to have that version on disk.  Wouldn’t everyone?  How about a Wizard of Wor construction set?

 ======= 

With apologies to those Amiga fans out there.  I'm only covering the official (licensed) home releases on these classic (joystick era) machines: Apple II, Atari 2600, 5200, 7800 & 8 bit computers, Colecovision/Adam, Commodore 64, Vic 20, Intellivision, Odyssey II, TI 99/4A, and Vectrex.  Other systems either came out after this era, (NES, SMS, ST, Amiga, PC's), or did not have many official releases (Bally Astrocade, CoCo, APF, Emerson and Fairchild), or were overseas and hard for me to review (Sinclair Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad, and Fountain).  Sorry if I've yet to cover your favorite game, but some versions are harder to come by and I really do not want to rely on emulation.  Good news is that one of you is going to help expand my frugal Amiga collection, so maybe some day I’ll do a Many Faces of in the Bit Age Times. 

Come back next month when I review the Many Faces of Gorf, (another Bally/Midway title split by the same 3 companies, CBS / Commodore CBM / Roklan), on the C64, Vic 20, Atari 2600, 5200, Atari 8 bit and joined by Colecovision.

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