‘Inspired by The Binding of Isaac but without blood and more magic’, says the store page. If you’re going to pick a game to reference, you could do far worse. The problem is that, while The Binding of Isaac might have been used as a template, Wizodd just gets a sharpie and scribbles within those lines. It’s a bit of a mess.
Wizodd pitches you as a witch or a wizard: not because you have a choice, but because the intro can’t make up its mind. It calls you both. Through the tutorial you’re taught how to move and fire – left-stick to move and right-stick plus RT to fire – which immediately left us wondering if we were doing something wrong, as we fired once per second. So we smashed the RT button thinking that we could speed that up. But no, Wizodd has you rolling tiny peas at the enemy at the rate of a 19th Century rifleman.
Then you’re into the dungeon, which is less Binding of Isaac and more Legend of Zelda around the NES era. You’ve got identikit rooms, with doors in the cardinal directions, and you’re clearing the rooms of enemies so that you can move onto the next. Wizodd’s single point of merit is that, once you’ve opened a door, you can see it from the room you’re in, which, on a big telly, gives the nice effect of seeing an expansive view of the dungeon.
Rooms come in four varieties. There’s rooms with enemies in, rooms with treasure chests in, a shop room – directly aping Legend of Zelda, even in the “check my wares” dialogue – and a boss room, which locks you out from the rest of the dungeon and forces you into a battle that ends the level (so poo-poo to you if you didn’t want to end it just yet). There are the odd squares with spikes on, but Wizodd offers nothing more than these slim pickings.
With such a simple set of rules, you’d expect Wizodd to nail them and feel good, but you’d be wrong. As we alluded to before, you start off without any kind of power. Your spells do barely any damage, you fire at a pathetic rate, and you move like your shoelaces are tied together. Wizodd’s got a reason for it: namely that it wants to chuck all sorts of buffs at you and, for them to feel powerful, it needs to leave room for those benefits to feel noticeable. But you’re vastly underpowered until you get there. Playing like you’re covered in bees, shedding those bees over time, doesn’t feel fun.
Then Wizodd decides to strip you of (most of) your buffs every level. You get to keep equipment-based improvements like an angel and demon pet, a twin-firing wand and some necklaces, but everything else is robbed from you. So, the pattern of starting weakly and incrementally getting more powerful is repeated. Again, we can see why it’s there – Wizodd doesn’t want you to get so ripped that the dungeon becomes trivial – but did it have to feel so terrible this way?
Not that Wizodd is difficult, particularly. We completed its incredibly short three levels on our first go, and looked bewildered at the screen, half-expecting an enemy to wander onto the screen and say “ha, not really! This way to more levels and another reset of your buffs, matey!”. That easiness comes from Wizodd being a one-trick pony. Because all the levels and challenges are the same, you quickly understand what it wants from you. We bought every buff available, and then followed a Foolproof Plan for Success: fire at the enemies while strafing clockwise (or anticlockwise) around the outside of the arena. For reasons we can’t fathom, spike traps aren’t placed on the outer ring, and every boss and enemy politely kites towards you, or fires at you from a distance. We completed everything that Wizodd had to offer while barely troubling our heart meter.
Obviously, there’s not much fun down that path, but it’s so, so hard not to take it. You’d be hard-pressed to call that way fun. Doubling down on the pain are some niggles: Wizodd likes to put enemies directly outside of doors, so, when you first enter a room, you get some unavoidable damage. Plus, the controls are ultra-slippery, so – once you’ve buffed your speed – you’re a tiny, super-wizard careening around levels that have dozens of tiny spike traps. It can occasionally feel like you’re playing a kart game, drifting around corners to avoid banana skins, which we’re not entirely sure is what the designers intended.
There is no bigger banana skin than Wizodd’s bugs. It’s an insult on top of the multiple injuries: you will regularly reach points, particularly at the end of the level and particularly at the end of the game, when Wizodd will just huff and give up. It will black-screen and your only option is to resort to the Home button. There’s nothing more underwhelming than reaching the end of a game, hoping for some fireworks, and getting a borked game instead. We’ve completed it a few times now, and we’re still yet to see the ending.
We wondered whether there were more levels after the impossible-to-pass black-screen-boss, but checking the forums and achievements, it seems there’s nothing there. There are three levels here, taking no more than fifteen minutes each, with three bosses that are all pretty darn similar. You’re not given much reason to replay, either, as each run feels identical with the same bosses and enemies, and only the map layouts shifting around. When you’ve only got ten-or-so different items to gain, and you’ll get a half-dozen on each playthrough, Wizodd doesn’t feel varied in those terms either. Achievements here can actually be difficult to get, or at least based on RNG (no easy 1000G here, we’re afraid), so we suppose you could chase those. You won’t of course.
Wizodd is a cardboard-fort version of The Binding of Isaac and Legend of Zelda. It looks like them at a distance, but when you actually start playing, you can feel the cheapness and compromises. It gives you cardboard cuts in the form of weirdo design decisions and a slow ramp to being powerful. And as time goes on, the adhesive wears off and the walls fall over, as the game-breaking bugs tear it all down. We tried hard to find a redeeming feature, but Wizodd crashed and burned before we could find it.
You can buy Wizodd for £4.19 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S