Title: Wiz'n'Liz
Developer: Clockwork Games Limited (Amiga) / Bizarre Creations (Mega Drive)
Publisher: Psygnosis Limited
Year: 1993
Platforms: Amiga, Mega Drive
Genre: Arcade platformer
Players: One or two players

While the style of its artwork and music is firmly rooted in the nineties, the gameplay of Wiz'n'Liz harks back from the golden era of videogames, when every game was completely different to every other game that came before it. It's simple, lightning fast, and a joy to play.

The object of the game, to oversimplify it slightly, is to catch wabbits (consistently spelt throughout the game and its instruction manual with a W). These cute little creatures scamper around aimlessly until you run into them, at which point they're magically whisked to safety, replaced by widgets to collect.

The point of view is the usual side-scrolling affair predominant among platformers of the nineties. The levels are tiny, each one maybe two or three screens wide and one screen tall. If you keep on running in one direction, the level loops around and you end up where you started in a matter of seconds.

There are usually about two platforms you can run on, the regular ground and another platform raised above it, which you can jump onto from below. These keep you alternating between running along the bottom platform and jumping up onto the top one as new wabbits spontaneously appear and existing ones move about all over the place.

This game is pretty impressive for its positive atmosphere alone. With the exception of the end of game bosses, who are the only enemies in the whole game, there is absolutely no violence. You simply have to rescue wabbits and collect the widgets left in their place (although it's not exactly clear what you're "rescuing" them from).

What makes this game challenging is the time limit. You have to rescue all the wabbits, and certain widgets they leave behind, then get to the exit, all before the time runs out. A steady learning curve ensures that the game starts out pleasantly enough, but soon becomes frantic and challenging.

As you might expect from a game featuring dozens of adorable little wabbits, the general atmosphere is a cute one. The music is upbeat and melodic, while the graphics depict grassy plains, deserts and snowy land. The animation of the idly scampering bunnies is particularly adorable.

The other theme, besides wabbits, is magic. You can play as either a stereotypical witch or wizard, complete with pointy hat. At first, the widgets that appear in the place of rescued wabbits are letters of the alphabet, which you collect in order to complete the magic word at the top of the screen. Collecting them all opens the exit to the level.

Any more wabbits you save will be replaced with smiling, anthropomorphic fruit and vegetables. If you collect enough of them, you can use them to mix spells in your cauldron back home. Curiously enough, this is probably where the longevity of the game lies: there are fourteen different fruits and vegetables to collect, and you can mix any two of them to cast a different spell. The spell might do anything, from changing the colour of the wabbits to giving you extra time. With a hundred and five possible combinations of fruit (the order you put them in the cauldron makes no difference), it would take a long time to discover all the different spells. There's certainly room in the game for plenty of secrets and jokes.

Two player mode pits two players against each other. One player has to rescue grey wabbits, the other one brown wabbits. Whoever gets to their exit first wins. You can even steal each other's letters, although you have different magic words to spell. Different skill levels and speeds let you tip the scales in favour of one player if you have a friend who's significantly better or worse at the game than you are, so it should be pretty easy to set up a fair game.

In all, this is a largely overlooked game. It's fun, fast and provides a happy, carefree atmosphere. It's the kind of game you can pick up at any time, then put down at any time. You won't lose sleep trying to complete it, but you'll certainly have fun helping out all those wabbits.

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