Review: Wizard of Wor for the Atari 2600

In the year of our Lord, 1980, Midway released Wizard of Wor. In the year 2015, also of our Lord, I was exposed (I had no pants on) to the cartridge shell from it’s 1982 Atari 2600 port. Baffled by simple things, stuff ensued…

With Wor, you really have to dig deep and ask a lot of questions. To yourself, as well as some bystanders who seriously don’t want to hear about it (while you’re in the shower and they’re trying to brush their teeth). Written in a true warrior’s font, emblazoned boldly on the cart label, you are presented with a four-fecta of commandments:

1. Vaporize all Burwors.

2. Shoot every Garwor and Thorwor.

3. Bulls-eye Worluk.

4. Beat the Wizard.

I wasn’t joking.

At first glance, one might assume this is just a list of enemies, but further investigation is certainly required, is it not? We are not simpletons, not haphazard knuckleheads! Are the creatures with the ‘wor’ suffix related to a shared taxonomy? Are they part of a family unit? I think it’s safe to assume that “Burwors” is in a plural form for technical purposes, and that the tail-side ‘s’ is innocuous. Thank God. However, why must we vaporize them when the other Wors are just to be shot? Do we have two weapons? Are the Burwors the most dangerous of all, therefore taking top spot on the list? Or perhaps they’re weaker, smaller, more pathetic… they don’t play much sports, and so they’re vaporized from the same shot that merely puts the Garwors and Thorwors into a state of shootedness. Perhaps the Burwors are merely children, playing in strange streets as we gun them down. Are these beings even enemies, are we playing the disrespectful invader? Are they enemies of each other, perhaps only joining forces because we represent a greater foe? Do they feel the need to vaporize, or just shoot us? Are we nothing more than insects to them, to be ignored? DO THEY EVEN KNOW WE’RE THERE?

My heart is pounding, but I fear what might happen to you in your sleep from a Gorilla that has broken out of the zoo if I don’t go on.

Now, posthaste.. the possibly-dreaded Worluk. The fully, grammatically singular Worluk. The suffix has now become the prefix, roles have reversed, the flow of time forever disturbed… a faint melody in the grey of a dead forest, we are subject to the suggestion that a Luk may be more powerful than a Wor. That Wors are but pawns in the Luk’s eternal filthy game! Or is it just a trick of colloquial evolution, bullshit passed down for eons that no Wor even understands anymore?

This Worluk, as it is called… the five pillars, Bally, Midway, CBS, Atari and Sears… they are screaming at us from their hidey holes, screaming one thing, over and over…. “BULLS-EYE.” And bulls-eye we will, but… nay, we musn’t tread sloppily. Not without knowing. Is this bulls-eye a sign that the mighty Worluk is an armored beast, leaving only a solitary, soft, taint-like organ exposed to our vicious amalgam of power, like a warm turtle egg to the pressure of a motley seabird’s cragged jaw? Or is our attack doomed, ornamental… worth but a greased knob on the end of a brittle, pathetic score, failing to create even the most insignificant dent in the carapace of our villains’ lazy onslaught?

…like suckling from the golden teat of a Northwestern river spirit. If their teats had beer in them.

Are they laughing at us?

“Likely,” comes a whisper from the shadows. And then it was gone. The voice that said that, not the Worluk. Clearly they don’t talk, you jackass.

Anyway. If we part cursed waters and see the Worluk to it’s bulls-eye-ly pseudo-demise, we are promised an encounter with the grim Wizard of lore, are we not? Our job: to beat him. No vaporizing, no shooting, not even a god damned, butt-fucking bulls-eye. Is the Wizard automatically beaten when the Worluk is bulls-eyed, or must we engage in a lightshow of galactic fisticuffs? Is he going to be lame and ask to duke it out on the chess board like that bald cockfart from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey?

You know, I’ve had a few beers. Let’s find out.

As I navigate to the spot where the Atari 2600 lays in wait, I shiver at my first experience of the game, which was a flash copy on a Hungarian webserver that likely doubled as a bestiality forum. But no time for that now. Get Ready. Instant action, I am a lone space cadet in Pac Man’s maze, a side-view sprite in an overhead map. Nothing is as expected… the cart, it was a lie. There are armless blue squirrels (Burwors) roaming about, power-squatting in a dance I can only describe as “trying really hard to poop.” I rev up my space boots and am off, zipping around, ready to confront my first Burwor… and quickly realize I don’t know how to fire my lazer, dying a fool’s death (because there’s seriously only one button on this joystick). A timer then counts down my inevitable doom, and seriously, that is exactly what it was doing… my second dude spawned right on top of a Burwor and was destroyed before a single cap could be squeezed off in his or her direction. Probably her, as I don’t see a dong, and Wizard of Wor is the kind of game that wouldn’t shrink from drawing a dong.

It seriously doesn’t get any more exciting than this. I mean that literally.

I enter the maze for a third time, prepared, quickly vaporizing my Burwor adversaries. When they were gone, a shitty yellow T-Rex (Garwor) with a wobbly dick tail appeared and took a fat lazer to the grimace, which had gustily slipped from my hand pistol like a hot lunch. ZOOM! Fuckin’ ZIP! Immediately the world’s saddest fire ant was on my trail — the Thorwor launched jagged silly string from it’s disgusting maw, but missed… mainly because it was shooting in one of several totally wrong directions. Probably because those poor bastards look like they’ve been stepped on and their brains no longer work. Nonetheless, I channeled Willow Smith, whipped back and forth, and put it swiftly to rest like so many endangered African beasts after encountering Jimmy John Liautaud.

It was over before it began.

And it was, because I died quickly in round 2 with a high score of just 1200, which I’m assuming is sort of like a competitor’s trophy. I gave it another go, getting much further this time, successfully shooting down a disco butterfly (the Worluk, it seems) for a double score round the next time out of the gate. But not before realizing that Garwors and Thorwors can turn invisible. You have to like, look on the radar to see where they are. Very goddamn fancy.

Speaking of not seeing shit, I saw hide nor hair of any Wizard… perhaps it was never meant to be. Maybe we’re being trolled. Maybe I’m just terrible (turns out that’s the case). I did learn one important lesson, though: don’t judge a game by it’s cover. You might end up writing a few pages of total bullshit before offering three half-assed paragraphs of a real review.

Never getting to see this guy? I’m okay with that.

The Half-Assed Real Review

The short n’ curlies: you’re running around in a ghetto retro maze shooting lazers at weird shit. All of the good pew pew and kaboom stuff you love. The speech samples are fantastically cheesy ( to note: the arcade machine used the same speech chip as some Gottlieb system 80 pinballs, such as Black Hole), the colors be excellent, and it has a 2 player simultaneous mode (yes, you can shoot each other). Sort of like a shitty Robotron shoved up a Pac Man’s ass, and rewritten by someone really into this intergalactic D&D campaign they’ve been working on. The whole invisible enemy / radar thing is a fantastic touch and cements it as a classic in my mind, even if it’s a cheap trick. Perhaps especially because it’s a cheap trick.

This game is often overlooked, but shouldn’t be. It’s likely only got really old people around it in the arcade (if you’re lucky enough to find one), which rocks because old people have to pee a lot, so they’ll give up their spot shortly. The only truly faithful home releases are packaged with the Midway Arcade Origins pack for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and the Midway Arcade Treasures Vol. 2 release for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. It would have been great if there had been a decent NES or Genesis port, but the world is a frightening, crusty piece of shit. What can we do? The 2600 works just fine.

I actually really did enjoy this game quite a bit, perhaps even more than Berzerk (which is similarish). If you encounter anyone talking twat about Wizard of Wor, you should pop them in the fucking mouth and tell ’em the Worluk sent you. Also, don’t mention my name to the police.

By Gamesman Anus

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