My series of browser game reviews continues with a third installment. The premise of the series, as can be found in the original post, is that I’m telling you about browser games that I recommend for their quality of design. I’m no expert on the subject, I just mostly play what my brother Markku recommends to me. Click on the game’s icon to play it, it’s as easy as that in this new age of free ready-to-play browser gaming.
There are actually two titles in this series of platform games, Hey Wizard! and Quest for the Magic Mojo. The basic content is similar enough in the two – the wizard guy, who can’t jump, has to navigate his way through various levels filled with monsters by using the magics in his disposal. The minimalistics graphical representation makes the games very atmospheric (not to speak of the technological benefits of using pure vector art), while the freely navigated levels add a sense of exploration. Both games involve the wizard gradually gaining a more powerful repertoire of magics that allow him to jump, float, climb and blast his way through to his goal. The two mostly differ in tone, with the first game being more difficult and grim, while the latter focuses more on the exploration.
Hey Wizard! represents a certain trend towards “beautiful minimalism” that I think I’ve been noticing in these browser games. It is technically a very basic platform game, but the choice to use modern technology only to accentuate that basic core activity, rather than overlay it, makes the game a very peaceful experience for the old-time gamer. The simple art evokes feelings and impressions rather than dictating them, which I’m sure everybody is familiar with from many different art forms. Likewise, the simple activity is evocative: there is no great complexity in the wizard’s jumping and floating magics or in how he shoots his enemies, you can do all of that pretty much automatically once you get the hang of it. The games are not too long, either, so there is no danger of getting bored; the only experience left is amusement and sense of wonder and curiousity as you encounter new sorts of enemies and other vistas.
The first of the two games is clearly more difficult of the two, with less fluid control of the wizard and weaker magics at his disposal, while the enemies are much more aggressive. The designer (who seems to be Swedish, is all I know about him, and even there I suspect some Finnish roots due to how he uses Snufkin as his studio logo) has, I suspect, done some thinking and concluded that his game serves better with a low-tension engagement from the player side; the second game is much more meditative, with the wizard having almost unlimited flight capabilities that allow him to leave the ground and flit over enemies, only engaging with the terrain to navigate on his way to his goal on the maps that are even larger than earlier.
All in all, it’s easy to recommend a well-made platform game like this, especially when the game desists from excess design cruft and excess difficulty both. The experience might be slightly shallow in analytical terms, but when taken at face value, the evocative world of the Wizard is easy to remember long after vanquishing the mysterious Master of Puppets. I wouldn’t play this sort of game obsessively for days and weeks, but then I wouldn’t do that with any other platform game, either. The genre is best in relatively small servings, just like these games.