Two of my favourite game genres are those of RPG and Metroidvania (more Metroid, hold the vania). Specifically RPGs from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras are what float my boat. Many new RPGs have dipped far too much into the action genre *cough* Final Fantasy *cough*, and while this may be fine for some, I prefer the more traditional style found in the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
See, Link’s Awakening was the first proper RPG I can remember fully completing, albeit the DX version of the game on the Gameboy Color. Something just hit right with Zelda for me on the Gameboy, growing up playing SEGA consoles primarily, I never got to play many RPGs. Having a Gameboy allowed me to see many more genres of gaming, and the RPG style they had for most titles on that platform always had me playing till the early hours of the morning.
As for Metroidvania, I never got into Castlevania (probably something I should fix) but, once again, the old faithful Gameboy provided me with Metroid 2 Return of Samus which was just fascinating. The exploration combined with getting new powers allowing access to previously blocked off areas? Sold. Metroid (2D) gained a fan for life. Now, this is indeed a Xbox site, so let’s take it back to the title you came to hear about. Evil Wizard.
Evil Wizard comes to us from the developers over at Rubber Duck Games, and happens to merge together both of my most beloved genres. What could possibly go wrong?
In Evil Wizard you play as… well, the Evil Wizard. In most RPG games, after many, many hours of adventuring, grinding and exploring, you meet an end boss. This end boss is usually found in a castle or ship (add dastardly area here) and is beaten by your party who retake the kingdom/castle/rescue the princess. This time you get dropped right into the shoes (Evil Wizard may not actually wear shoes, but bear with me) of the boss right after being booted out of his own evil castle by the party of heroes. And he’s pissed.
Rightfully so as well as he’s worked hard for the castle, its dungeons and his minions. How dare the heroes come in and kick his behind out of his throne to the cold outside? You may have guessed, but this game does not take itself (or other franchises) seriously. Not one bit. There is even a pre-game warning telling you that the humour within might not be to all tastes. As a kid raised on South Park, not much offends me.
Instantly playing Evil Wizard I get reminded of games like the aforementioned Zelda. Each area, while not separated by individual screens like the old Gameboy classics, still retains that “individual garden” feeling of each section currently being explored. Individual garden was a descriptive explanation someone used for each screen of old Zelda games in a documentary I watched… I dunno, it works.
Being banished/vanquished from your usually comfortable and oh-so-evil abode has really put a bee in your bonnet, as well as taken all your weapons and gear. Your goal in Evil Wizard is to clean house of those pesky heroes and retake your castle. Not an easy task to take on in the state you are left in at the beginning. But wait, is that the master sword?
That is a question answered in the first few minutes, and whilst it is indeed a sword, there is nothing master about it. You are left stripped to nothing but a “dressing gown” to take back what is rightfully yours. To do this you need to explore the castle and clear out the dirty heroes celebrating their victory.
The pixel art in Evil Wizard is superb and screams “long lost classic” from the start.
The idea of playing as the vanquished villain is a brilliant twist on the RPG formula. Puzzles aren’t too challenging and exploration is a pleasure. However, combat is a different story. The basic movement and attack set up is fine, even combining one of the powers works nicely. That said, on occasion, even early on, you will die. No, I’m not about to call Evil Wizard “the Dark Souls of Metroidvania RPGs”, but I may have said a non PG word or two during my playthrough.
It can be tough to beat some of the swarms thrown at you as you retake both dungeon and crypt on your way to retaking the throne. One or two enemies coming at you is fine, but add in ten or so more and things get tough. This may fall down to “Git Gud”, but as a player of Metroid Dread (a challenging game in the same genre), I found Evil Wizard quite difficult at points.
Metroidvania games have you explore as far as you can, and then either beat a boss or find a power before returning to a previously found area and using that new power. This is the tried and tested formula that is addictive as hell, and Rubber Duck Games have got it down to a fine art. Each area has its own theme and puzzles/challenges to reach places using various powers while throwing enemies with their own new attacks your way to keep things fresh.
I found sometimes I was stuck looking for a way to change my power more often than I wanted to be. Each power can be equipped one at a time and can only be swapped at an object emitting the power you require. Having them all available at any time as you get them may have been OP, but I’d have preferred it like that. My only other gripe is the size of the text when characters speak. I have decent eyesight and a 55” TV that is 8 feet away and I struggled to read what was being said.
Nitpicks aside, I truly loved my time with Evil Wizard. If you enjoy classic Final Fantasy or classic Zelda games, Evil Wizard will sing to you (not literally). The only other time I remember a slight twist on the classic style RPG formula was in Moonlighter, the wonderful RPG where you play as a dungeon crawling shopkeeper. Evil Wizard takes twisted humour and easy to learn mechanics to craft a Metroidvania, action-RPG that you should take the time to play.