The world has been drained of color and the nefarious wizard Zark is to blame. Who can save us from this monochromatic nightmare? Why, Wiz and his cat Nifta of course! To do so, Wiz must explore the worlds in a Wizball, bouncing his way along as he attempts to set things right. Your cat, naturally enough, must also travel by sphere. Nifta becomes Catelittle in ball form and helps Wiz by collecting the droplets which will bring color back into the world. That, in a nutshell, is the premise of the 1987 title Wizball for the Commodore 64.
At the start of the game, Wiz is rather difficult to control, but he gains maneuverability as upgrades are acquired. Wiz and Nifta face a variety of obstacles while trying to undo Zark’s handiwork. While searching for color droplets, Wiz must battle Zark’s hench-sprites. There is also the threat of harmful droplets, which cause a range of different maladies. To complete a level, players must travel between the layers of the world by tube, find the required colors and mix them to bring color back to that land. There are also mini-levels that require Wiz to battle alien enemies.
John Hare and Chris Yates created the game, coming up with the bouncy ball idea first and then building a storyline around it. The two developed it under the business name Sensible Software (the company behind Parallax, Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit, and the Wizball sequel Wizkid among others). The two met in school and formed a band together, before eventually forming a partnership that would result in the creation Sensible Software in 1986. The company’s impact o the industry would later be documented in the Read-Only Memory book “Sensible Software 1986–1999.” However, when Wizball was released, the company only had three other titles to its name: Twister, Mother of Charlotte for the ZX Spectrum, Parallax for the C64,and Glaxibirds for the C64.
Despite the relative youth of the company, they managed to create what is generally considered one of the two or three best titles ever for the Commodore 64. Zzap64! gave the game a 96% rating, just missing out on its Gold Medal. They also gave it a “Sizzler Award” and named it the best shoot ‘em up style game for the C64. In the award segment, the writers of Zzap declared it, “nothing short of being a work of mad genius. The amount of thought put into this game is exemplary, with a marvelous plot, so many neat control touches, terrifyingly addictive gameplay, beautiful graphic design, and some of the best music you’ll ever hear from a Commodore…It’s not only the best shoot ‘em up around, it’s one of the best games of all time.” A month later, they went further and declared it THE greatest game ever created for the Commodore 64.
(For the whole DEF award review visit: http://www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl?issue=043&page=106&thumbstart=0&magazine=zzap )