Looking to the past for inspiration can often backfire, but in the case of Wizzley Presto and the Vampires (sic) Tomb it's a definite bonus.
Best described as an affectionate love letter to the incredibly popular platform-puzzle adventures of the Spectrum and C64 era, it's a game that fuses retro charm with modern sensibilities to create a thoroughly intriguing iPhone-exclusive.
Assuming the role of wet-behind-the-ears wizard trainee Wizzley, you’re dropped into a zany fantasy world and expected to deal with a particularly nasty vampire overlord.
Fangs for the memory
If this were a traditional platform title like Mario or Sonic then you might expect to perform this heroic deed by kicking some blood-sucking posterior, but Wizzley Presto is more about utilising the various items scattered around the gameworld to overcome fiendish logic puzzles.
For example, if a wall blocks your path you need to find the appropriate tool in order to punch through it. Similarly, when you come to a mechanical bridge activated only when you stand on a pressure pad, it doesn’t take long to surmise that some kind of deadweight is in order.
Wizzley can carry up to three items in his pockets and prudent inventory management is vital. Traversing each screen can be incredibly risky thanks to the number of enemies, so you don’t want needlessly retrace your steps because you failed to retain the correct item.
Egg on your face
Wizzley isn’t totally defenceless – he’s a mean shot with his collection of lethal eggs – but these are in finite supply so you still need to remain vigilant when negotiating the many locations through the game.
The game is divided into three segments, which also serve as save points, so if you run out of lives you only have to restart from the beginning of last chapter. Despite the relatively low number of game screens to discover, the brain-teasing challenges help prolong the longevity of the game. Even when you’ve completed Wizzley’s task there are bonus stars to collect and evil eye statues to pelt with eggs.
Visually, Wizzley Presto is as magical as its central protagonist. The 2D graphics are hand-drawn and absolutely sumptuous, calling to mind the classic visuals of the Commodore Amiga era whilst simultaneously looking comfortably modern and stylish.
Taking it back to the old skool
At times Wizzley’s unashamedly old skool design can make it feel anachronistic. Some of the enemies are placed in such a way that it’s almost impossible to avoid taking any damage, and the screen-by-screen progression harkens back to a time when home computers struggled to convincingly handle smoothly-scrolling playfields.
While these points can be seen as weaknesses, it's equally possible to perceive them as retro-tinged strengths.
It’s impossible to contest the fact that once Wizzley has given up all of his secrets there’s little point in stepping back into his gloriously unhinged world, but while the journey lasts it’s an absolute riot.
With just the right mixture of action, adventure, and cerebral gaming Wizzley Presto possesses a combination that arguably hasn’t been so successfully deployed in a game since the aforementioned 8-bit glory days.