Hell-bent on resurrecting his lost love, a wizard has conjured a concoction so powerful, it lets him control life and death. He should have known better though, and to exactly no one’s surprise, Death catches wind of this and curses the entire town! All because of one lovestruck fool. As such, it has fallen upon you to find a solution to this peculiar pickle. But can you? Will you? Should you? Duh! Of course you should.
When I first embarked on this adventure, I assumed it would be a semi-linear experience, leading through x number of dungeons, each culminating in a boss fight. Turns out, I was only partially right. Unless you’re incredibly skilled, chances are you’ll die more than a few times before finishing the game. There are no checkpoints and your progress is only saved upon dying… in the afterlife.
Confused? It’s actually quite simple. In A Wizard’s Lizard, each area changes drastically, depending on whether you’re dead or alive. On top of that, there are puzzles which can only be solved while you’re, well, dead, however strange that may sound. And even though you lose everything upon falling a second time, progress can still be made with each attempt at lifting the curse.
See, while your first few trips will likely consist of breaking stuff with your sword, laying waste to mere birds, bats and the occasional undead, none of what you pick up stays with you upon dying. There are a few things which do however. Remember that first chat with the town blacksmith? Yeah, 500 gold was nowhere near enough to buy anything. Rescue a villager however, and your starting amount increases by 500; rinse and repeat until rich.
On top of that, purchasing blueprints sold by an NPC in the dungeon adds new items to the inventory of the aforementioned blacksmith. Suffice to say, going for both is highly recommended, as you’ll need all the help you can get for what lies ahead. Doesn’t matter how good you are at twin-stick shooters, if your arsenal consist of a puny sword and your armor is nonexistent, after all. Gambling on stumbling upon chests containing the necessary upgrades before wandering into the boss area is an alternative, but trust me, it’s not a good one.
Items that enhance your map do exist, but until they’ve been located, there’s no telling what the next room may contain. It could be a treasure chest, a wealth of monsters, the blueprint NPC, or… the dungeon boss! These ‘things’ are not to be trifled with, no matter how predictable their pattern. After rumbling with them several times, I got to wondering if their health wasn’t a bit too high, because even with a top-notch weapon, the bout still lasted forever.
Aside from ‘damage sponge’ bosses, combat in A Wizard’s Lizard is fast-paced, entertaining and challenging to boot. Helps of course, that there are plenty of different enemies, each with their own unique behaviour and attacks to watch out for. That said, since every last weapon I ended up using was ranged and most foes in the game are melee-based, you do have a bit of an unfair advantage. They do have numbers on their side though, as rarely will a room contain less than 7-8 enemies, all emerging on your position like hungry wolves. Kill or be killed.
Although sometimes, that’s exactly what you’ll want – to die that is. As I mentioned earlier, areas change once you transition to this ‘in-between’ state, which is the only way to get access to certain items. Unfortunately, it also makes the entire dungeon far more hostile, with new enemy types joining the fray. Since the only way back is in one specific room, you’ll definitely want to scout ahead before intentionally letting enemies drain your health.
All this talk of itemization and fighting one foe after another brings me to my biggest problem with the game: none of them carry an in-game description! Considering the amount of non-combat equipment you’ll come across, this is certainly less than stellar. Should you buy the compass or the map? What important information might the book contain, if any? They’re all helpful in one way or another, but given your limited resources, knowing which to prioritize would help a lot.
So while a large part of the experience ‘learning by doing’ (not to be confused with ‘trial and error’), I did still find it to be quite enjoyable. The almost complete lack of any narrative would have disappointed, if I wasn’t so darn busy kicking ass and taking names, delving deeper and deeper into the dungeons with each room cleared. Suffice to say, A Wizard Lizard is a very easy recommendation (even if the game is anything but); especially for The Binding of Isaac fans, as I’m sure you’ve long since realized. But next time… please don’t mess with life and death, eh wiz?
Note: a massive content update labeled ‘Immortal Edition’ has been released, and as such, is now detailed here by… well, who else but me? Yeah!