Burn Baby Burn
Developed by ginTronic and published by PID, Fireball Wizard is the kind of game I would have played on the Game Boy Advance, though I suspect the actual inspiration was the 8 and 16-bit eras. A 2D pixel art action platformer, it tasks players with defending the land of Wizardonia from invading monsters. There’s not much of a story beyond that, but there doesn’t really need to be, and Fireball Wizard is a great example of its genre.
ginTronic’s Fireball Wizard features four Worlds of ten stages each, all connected to a central hub. The first eleven stages are free, and it costs $4.99 to unlock the rest of the game. I wish the publisher had indicated this on Fireball Wizard’s Google Play page, but I otherwise approve of this business model. There are no ads or in-game purchases, and they essentially give you a quarter of the game for free. If Hardcore Droid rated games purely on monetization policy, Fireball Wizard would get five stars.
The basic controls are pretty simple. You can move left and right, jump, shoot fireballs and cast spells. Hitting the jump button while in the air performs a double jump. Hold and release the attack button for a more powerful fireball that can destroy some obstacles and shatter frozen enemies. It also comes in handy in the later stages, where it prevents slime monsters from splitting into multiple enemies on death.
Magic and Mayhem
Opening the spell menu pauses the game while players choose to activate it. There are five in all, consisting of three elemental spells, a dash and a drop attack. Fireball Wizard players start with the ice spell and then unlock the rest throughout the game. Frozen enemies can also serve as temporary platforms and it causes flying enemies to drop to the ground. You can also push frozen enemies into pits and traps. The other two spells deal different kinds of damage and all three break elemental barriers. Dashing helps you jump wide gaps, while the drop attack hurts enemies. You can also use them to break through some walls and floors.
The fact that most abilities are helpful in combat and platforming reflects how important both are to Fireball Wizard. Enemies are challenging enough on their own and come in various types with unique abilities. Learning their strengths and weaknesses is a big part of the game’s challenge. This is made a little easier by the fact the enemy sprites are all visually distinct and instantly recognizable. Even the different colored slimes, which initially appear to be nothing more than palette swaps, pose widely different threats. Your limited health pool also makes combat challenging, but not so much that it feels unfair or overwhelming.
A Rough Diamond
However, my opinion on the platforming challenges is mixed. I like the level design overall, especially how it takes a bit of problem-solving to clear the stages. However, ginTronic goes overboard with the instant death spikes and pits, especially early on. The later stages aren’t nearly as spike-happy, and Fireball Wizard really takes off in World 2. Still, you already only have three hearts on the default Classic difficulty, so the spikes didn’t need to be instant death.
My only other complaint was that I unlocked the best Wand halfway through the second world, and there was nothing else to spend my Rings on. Still, there’s no real money shop or gacha mechanics, so I won’t judge Fireball Wizard too harshly.
In addition to the main game, players can visit the hub village to play one of three arcade cabinets. The first is just a Flappy Bird clone. The second sees players navigate a maze while a spiked wall closes in on them from behind. However, the maze’s walls are only intermittently visible, pushing it just over the edge from challenging to annoying. Finally, the third minigame sees players marathon running through all the stages back-to-back with no checkpoints in between. This was my favorite of the three minigames and the one that I feel adds the most to the game.
Despite my criticisms, Fireball Wizard is a fantastic game that reflects genuine passion on the part of the developers. It is a bit short, but you have to forgive that in a game made by two people. I can’t wait to see what they do next, and platformer fans should definitely take Fireball Wizard for a spin.
Is It Hardcore?
Fireball Wizard is a fantastic 2D action platformer that is only slightly diminished by a weak opening act and frontloaded progression.