Wizard 101 Review
If a school for wizards and witches sounds eerily familiar – I’m talking, of course, of Jill Murphy’s seminal 1974 children’s epic, The Worst Witch – than you’ll be the exact sort of person the developers are trying to target. I’d understand someone dismissing Wizard 101 as a thinly veiled rip-off, designed to fill the space of the Harry Potter MMO that’s never going to happen, but those people would also be missing out on what is, at the very least, an interesting MMO experience.
Wizard 101 Gameplay Video [HD]
Magic Install – Wizard 101 isn’t a very big game and you’ll find installation takes all of a couple of minutes on a decent connection. At a time in which developers are happy to release patches that are in their GBs (let alone the size of the games themselves), it’s nice to have something that doesn’t leave you waiting. You still have some downloading to do in game (it installs future segments while you play) so it won’t save your data allowance, but it’s still a feature I wish developers would use more often.
The Sorting… Quiz – There are a number of classes in Wizard 101, all of which revolve around the sort of magic your character can use. Rather than having you pick a specific class, you must complete a quiz which then sorts you into the class that would best suit your answers. It’s a nice idea and a pretty fun way of hiding the numbers and stats from Wizard 101’s younger target audience.
Duelling – Whilst most MMOs have you standing next to an enemy, tapping at shortcuts to have your character do over the top animation, Wizard 101 takes a different route entirely. Turn based, but without the tactical element of Pirates 101, Wizard 101 has you duel against your enemies. This is done through the use of cards which are linked to monsters you can summon. The monsters can cause damage, affect stats or heal team mates and all have fun, interesting animations to match. It’s a nice system, although it can be much, much slower than what many gamers will be used to.
Telling a Story – Although the story in Wizard 101 isn’t going to hold the attention of everybody, the way that it’s delivered is excellent. Each character is fully voiced and each cut scene/quest is filled with humour. It’s a nice mix of myths you know and love and, whilst I wouldn’t say it can be used as an educational tool, children will benefit from the wide range of source material.
Child Friendly – Knowing that their main target would be young children meant the developers could focus on security tools and child safety and they’ve done it really well. Chat is clean and friendly, while the script offers broad humour and simple language.
Malvin Ironglade – Presumably meant as a way of protecting the younger people likely to play this game, you’re unable to choose your own name. Instead you’re given a list of first names and last names and must make a name based around that. It’s annoying for anybody who wants to use their real name and is above the age of 10, but necessary and understandable.
Blocky Vision – Wizard 101 first hit the market in 2008 and it already must have looked dated. Today it’s pretty rough, although the stylized way its presented gets it off the hook a little bit. It’s not the worst 3D game I’ve played, but expect characters that look like they’ve been carved out of stone, textures that wouldn’t look amiss on the N64 and the occasional drop in frame rate.
Trapped – I haven’t seen every location available in Wizard 101 – for time reasons, but also because of odd restrictions placed on free-to-play players that mean you have to pay for access – but what I have seen hasn’t left me especially impressed. Levels are very linear and don’t leave much reason to explore. I’d usually presume later areas get better, but given that there’s a similar problem in Pirate 101 I’m guessing that it doesn’t. Travelling up and down the same streets can get a bit annoying and it lacks the close-proximity variety that Pirate 101 had. It’s not long before your attention starts to wander…
Conclusion: Wizard 101 review
The developers have done a great job at creating a base formula for a decent game in Wizard 101 and have proven that formula in Pirates 101. The latter is the better game in almost every sense, so unless you specifically want to play as wizards instead of pirates, I’d probably download the newer title. With that said, this isn’t a terrible game either, offering long lasting, good quality family entertainment without a high cost. If you’ve had enough of chopping up orcs and screaming obscenities at other players, Wizard 101 is a gentle adventure you won’t have to hide from your children.
Pirates 101, Free Realms