Wizards & Warriors X is one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ pieces of media. There’s all kinds of little details about the game that tickle me in just the right way. All I can do while playing is smile and marvel at how many ideas were shoved into this game and then be sad at how many of them fail. Just watch the first minute of this Longplay to get the gist of the game’s tone.
That’s a nice opening theme! An exciting melody opens it up; a catchy drum and bass line get you in the mood for some wicked awesome dark fantasy at the Fortress of Fear! Then the screen drops down and kind of bounces when it hits the bottom while a spooky jingle plays… and then…
Oh… oh that loud music it… it’s painful to listen to!
Gone is the melodic layered tracks from the intro screen. As soon as the game gives you control you’re assaulted by someone pounding away at the keys on their harpsichord.
Maybe the music is bad but the graphics, they’re kind of cool! Everything looks animated and cartoony. The sprites are big and detailed and the hero looks like he has a lot of animations. But who is that? On the box it showed us an angry barbarian type. Look at him! So majestic… This ain’t no Simon Belmont. No, this here’s a Fabio or Arnold caliber Barbarian! But uh… in the game we’re a knight. A knight whose feet kind of flop around when he jumps and lands. Like all he’s wearing are socks.
The enemies are pretty cool though! We got bats! We got giant snakes! We got… other guys who walk around and are maybe monsters! When you strike ’em down little “POW” and “ZAP”s appear. He’s got an electric sword obviously.
These ‘visual sound effects’ are crazy detailed too! The enemy explodes into a comic style sound bubble and then that disintegrates with a shimmer effect. That’s like 4 frames of completely different animation just to provide a death effect.
Developed by Rare, Wizards and Warriors naturally has a British feel to it. I don’t think they were going for a humorous tone, but it almost comes across that way. Things just feel off, but in that way that British humor is known for. The cartoon style drives it all home. Everything from the music to the visuals to the designs of the characters are flashy and kind of jolting.
Comedy comes from proper timing. If Wizards and Warriors isn’t meant to be funny then it’s accidentally hitting a lot of great timing cues. The way the opening music is so nice and moody is juxtaposed against the horrible plinky music that plays instantly as you’re given control. The monsters make whining nasally sounds as you hit them multiple times only to end in a flash-bang of comic-style sound effects that fizzle away in a tiny fireworks show. Jumps are floaty and huge. If you fall from too high you literally crumple onto the ground in a detailed animation. It’s not a death animation, it’s just there because.
Rare’s previous entries in the series have nothing close to this game’s tone. I can’t make any critical assessments about what the heck is going on with this game, but my hunch is the tone is just a happy accident that keeps me smiling through an otherwise pretty shoddy platformer.