I’ve been known to enjoy a bit of casual gaming now and then.
I’m a sucker for a good match three puzzler. As much as I hate to admit it, Candy Crush has drained my mobile phone battery one too many times. And what about the likes of Diner Dash? Don’t even get me started on how much I love serving those bossy little people their desired culinary delights.
What if I told you that these two most popular genres of casual games have crossed over? What if I said a strategy/time management game and a match three puzzler have merged into one to create one addictively infuriating god of all handheld games? “What kind of wizardry is this?”, you’d rejoice, proclaiming that no such mythical concept could ever exist. Well, you’re wrong. The future is here, my casual gaming friends, and it’s called Wizdom.
Okay, dramatics aside. Recently released on Nintendo 3DS from Moving Player, Wizdom sees you playing as an apprentice potion maker, matching blocks to make ingredients, then mixing those ingredients to deliver potions to your ever-demanding customer base. The game stats very simply: customers coolly stroll in, tell you their order, and are totally happy to wait around all day for you to match three tiles, which will give you a potion corresponding to that colour. You then need to put the potion in a bottle, and pass it to your client, who’ll happily go along on his merry way and use that potion for whatever kind of witchcraft he’s getting up to behind closed doors.
There’s a steep learning curve in the game, as it quickly turns up the heat: soon enough, standard one-colour potions aren’t good enough for your demanding shoppers. You’ll need to match four colours, to make “super” potions. Potions themselves become more complex very quickly too: you’ll soon have a choice of bottle shapes, need to add two or three colours into the same potion and have the option of putting a cork in the bottle. Get the slightest thing wrong and your customer will storm off, presumably leaving you a bad review on Potionland’s answer to TripAdvisor. Or something.
The match three puzzle grid isn’t your standard grid, either. Rather than swapping two tiles over to create a match, you’re given a random tile to slide into the puzzle from the top or either side, in the row or column of your choice. It means gameplay isn’t as fast-paced as other match three games, requiring you to think a little more carefully about how best to create a match. Speed is of the essence, though: remember, you’ve got customers waiting who are going to turn lairy pretty quickly if you don’t get their order to them sharpish.
The presentation of Wizdom is, overall, pretty impressive, with sharp and colourful visuals and pleasant animations. The two screens of the 3DS are utilised really well, with the match three puzzle grid occupying one screen and your “shop” using the other. You can flip between them at the touch of the button depending which you want to be in focus. Levels are laid out on a map, and gameplay is interspersed with twee cutscenes featuring various woodland animals and cutesy characters. Your “mascot”, or tutor, throughout the game is a cute owl, and for the customer base, there’s a few different character designs, but after a while you’ll see the same faces – and one of them looks suspiciously like Link, who, as usual, is doing something other than trying to save Princess Zelda. Sigh. When will he ever learn?
For each level, you’re scored out of three stars, depending on how many customers you please. New levels are gated with a star requirement, so you may have to go back and replay old levels in order to progress, but it at least gives the game some kind of momentum and a reason to strive for 100% every time. It’s easier said than done though, as the game isn’t always particularly clear at explaining itself. Whilst for the most part, everything is fairly self-explanatory, there are a few advanced features that were so poorly clarified that I didn’t bother to try and figure them out. The recipe book, for example, seems like it should be an intrinsic part of the game, but for the life of me I have no idea what its purpose is.
It’s a minor gripe though, and for the most part, Wizdom is an enjoyable way to pass a little time. The wonderful animations set it apart from your standard casual game, and the blend of two well-established genres is pulled off nicely, adding something a bit different to an otherwise oversaturated market. Sometimes it’s nice to relax with a wee game that doesn’t require too much immersion or commitment, and for that, Wizdom is absolutely perfect.