Wizard's Dungeon Review: He's a puzzle game wizard

Seeing as how we got no new Xbox release to enjoy last week, let’s turn our sights to the indie scene. That’s where Carbide Software has published a few titles such as Word Sleuth, which we reviewed a few months back. Their latest release Wizard’s Dungeon is a remake of a Blackberry game from 2011.

Remember how IonBallEX livened up a tried-and-true game design with a cyberpunk setting? Well, Wizard’s Dungeon is a smaller scale game but it boasts a similarly appealing fantasy theme. Players take on the role of a wizard who must match as many colored orbs as possible before they reach the bottom of the screen and crush his life out. Talk about high stakes!

Two ways to play

Wizard's Dungeon crusher

The game has two different modes bearing the somewhat unhelpful names Torment and Despair. Basically, in the first mode the orbs will endlessly descend and there are no breaks between levels. Filling the level meter simply introduces new colored orbs or makes the orbs come faster (I think). In this mode, you get orbs to fire by swiping down to pull one from the descending stack. Pressing up then fires the orb – hopefully into a big batch of the same color.

In the second mode, each level has a finite number of orbs. Destroy them all to proceed to the next level. Instead of pulling them from the stack, you’ll tap the screen to pull an orb from a queue. This changes the gameplay up a smidge; I can easily see players preferring one style or the other. Both modes also have the occasional power-ups to make things more interesting.

Wizard’s strength

Wizard's Dungeon lightning power-up

My favorite aspect of Wizard’s Dungeon is the artwork by David Miller, who has worked on some comics like Bloodrayne: Revenge of the Butcheress and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In addition to the striking title screen, the actual wizard sprite and background statues are well-designed. The orbs that players have to match could certainly look more distinctive though, and I wouldn’t mind some visual and audio flare to accompany large combos. The developers should look to PopCap for inspiration towards that end.

As another plus, the game has full Scoreloop support. If you already have a Windows Phone game with a Scoreloop profile (such as ARMED!) installed on your device, it will automatically detect your profile. The leaderboard can be sorted globally or by friends. It shows the top players by default, but you can check your own score by pressing the ‘Your Rank’ button on the left side of the screen.

Wonky wizard

The thing holding Wizard’s Dungeon back a bit (besides the generic title) is the actual movement of Mr. Wizard (as I like to call him). By default, he plods back and forth awfully slowly. This forces you to swipe repeatedly just to get him across the screen. Visiting the options and cranking Vertical Sensitivity all the way up helps a lot, but he’ll still move a tad too slow. If the game offered 1:1 movement (the wizard moves exactly as fast as your finger), it would play smoother.

Additionally, the controls for launching orbs aren’t super accurate. I often had to swipe three or four times before my wizard would let the crystal fly.

Cheap as free

Advertisements appear in the gradient at the top of this image.

Wizard’s Dungeon is a free game supported by ads. Now, the controls may be nothing to write home about (at least not a happy letter), but the advertisement integration is simply the best I’ve experienced in a mobile game. Why? Because it only displays ads at the title screen and when the player pauses the game. As such, there won’t be any flashing ads distracting you during gameplay. Compare that to the way AlphaJax actually prevents gamers from seeing their tiles (and thus, playing) during phone calls in order to continue displaying ads – Carbide Software gets it so much more right.

Overall Impression

Considering how many puzzle games players can choose from on Windows Phone, Carbide made the right choice to offer Wizard’s Dungeon for free. The game would benefit from a more memorable title, some story scenes, and better special effects for combos… But all of those things can be forgiven for the price. I do hope we see improved controls in a future update though. At any rate, if you think wizards are cool (or have ever used the word ‘wizard’ in place of the word ‘cool’) or just enjoy puzzle games, consider stepping into this Wizard’s Dungeon.

Wizard’s Dungeon runs on both WP7 and WP8. Get it here at the Windows Phone Store.

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!