Game: Evil Wizard
Genre: Action, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) ( Also available on Nintendo Switch, PS4 & Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Rubber Duck Games | E-Home Entertainment Development Company
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £16.75 | US $19.99 | €19.99
Release Date: May 25th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Uber Strategist.
Be the Bad Guy
Evil Wizard is a top-down action RPG where you play the villain on a mission to recapture his castle from the heroes. This is not the first game to play with this concept, but it still is relatively uncommon for developers to attempt to flip the script on the hero vs villain dynamic. Even though it kind of feels like the same gameplay. But so what, sometimes a gamer just wants to play the bad guy and be ok doing that without any moral choice system to interfere with it. Evil Wizard is a challenging but entertaining adventure with a detailed pixel art style. However, the game’s heavy reliance on its crude humour may not be for everyone.
The game begins with how most games end. The heroes defeat the bad guy. Except you are the Evil Wizard. Now knocked out of your own castle you need to make your way back in and claim back your keep, defeating heroes along the way and gradually becoming stronger, unlocking new spells to access new areas of the castle like a typical adventure game. The story is presented with text with some small voice-acting snippets thrown in. Evil Wizard relies heavily on its pop culture references and crude humour. Some of it relates to events in game culture over the last few years, which is fine if you play the game soon. But I wonder how well it will hold up in five years. I’ll admit now and then the game did get the odd roaring laugh out of me, especially in a boss fight featuring a Pokémon like encounter. However, much of the time it felt a little overdone and tended to interrupt gameplay far too often when all I wanted to do was just explore the castle and engage in the combat.
Gameplay is a mixture of exploration, combat and a little light puzzle-solving. Controls are easy to pick up using the controller. The Evil Wizard will even make jabs at the player directly when learning the controls and in general, as you progress through the game. Combat is a satisfying hack-and-slash affair. Mash the attack button with your sword to do the most damage, but you can also dodge incoming damage. Whittle the enemies’ health down enough, and they will stun temporarily, allowing you to perform a charged killing blow. This is not essential to defeat the enemies but will net you a health shard and some crystals which can be used to purchase upgrades. Enemies come in a wide variety, from mages, rogues and melee fighters to more obscure encounters like chiefs and tree golems. Often these enemies will come in mass waves requiring some quick reflexes to dodge and choose the right moment to attack.
Difficulty can spike quite a lot during combat and quite randomly leading to some frustrating deaths. Save points are reasonably generous, fortunately always before a boss battle. These boss encounters tend to be quite grand spectacles offering a meaty challenge and variety. The combat is challenging, but the developers decided not to be too evil and added accessibility features. This includes adjusting enemy health and damage. I really liked that the developers used sliders so you could tailor the experience to your personal liking.
Harness the Elements
You will unlock magic spells linked to a specific element as you progress. Additionally, you can only hold a limited number of spells with more slots unlocked later. You can lock in a new spell by finding specific environmental elements such as plants, ice blocks and fire pits. This mechanic reminded me a lot of the magic system in Story of Thor (or Beyond Oasis) on Mega Drive. Kudos to anyone that remembers this brilliant game. These spells can be used for puzzle solving and also in combat, with certain elements being strong and weak to certain enemy types. The only niggle with this system is sometimes you have to backtrack to find the right spell to use for a certain puzzle and of course, in some combat situations, you just won’t have the right spell with you to do the most damage.
Exploring the castle is generally enjoyable. The game sometimes surprises you with the odd mini-game to mix things up. If you’re a retro fan, you’ll be happy. I did find the odd moment where I felt a bit clueless about how to proceed, leading to a lot of tedious roaming around. A map does reveal itself as you discover new areas whilst indicating areas yet to be explored, but it doesn’t exactly point you in the right direction. The game encourages further exploration by having several collectable rubber ducks hidden throughout the castle, often hidden in the walls, so keep your eyes peeled for the textures. Find these and unwrap them to discover more pop culture references with the ducks mimicking popular characters with a ducky twist, for example, Rubber Downey Junior. The game never stops trying to make you laugh at something.
Blood and Pixels
The game’s presentation is excellent. Making use of detailed pixelated sprites and smooth animations. You may explore a familiar castle setting, but its appearance is far from dull. You get the sense one heck of a battle has happened in the keep with vandalization to the walls and damage to the various structures. You’ll explore several unique locations, from gardens overrun with vegetation to secret labs with suspicious experiments. It certainly feels like an Evil Wizard’s lair that’s gone through the wars. I will highlight that I don’t think this game is family-friendly. Combat contains light pixelated gore, blood pools, and some pretty harsh death animations. Combine this with the crude humour, and I would caution exposing anyone younger than the teens playing this.
Conclusion: Good to be Bad
I will admit Evil Wizard did not deliver the best first impression for me. The constant interruption of gameplay to tell some joke got old pretty quickly. I admit I can see a sizable audience loving this humour. When things focused on the gameplay, I was enjoying the flow of the experience. Combat is a fair challenge made more enjoyable by the game’s epic boss battles. It also changes the pace of playing an adventure game without a 2D platformer. It’s a solid experience that will keep you entertained throughout. Some may even call this the Evil Zelda game. Evil Wizard shows it’s good to be bad sometimes.
Final Verdict: I Like it