The Wizard Of Oz
Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a game that I played once and it made me cry…
Not really, I just wanted that opening line to rhyme.
Anyway, let’s take a look at The Wizard Of Oz on the SNES to celebrate the release of Oz: The Great And Powerful, yet another James Franco ape-centric feature.
You might remember The Angry Video Game Nerd‘s take on the game a while back (to sum up: not good). The review felt a tad harsh despite it making some very good points throughout.
The game opens on a weird-looking shot of Dorothy sleeping while a tornado engulfs Kansas as Toto quietly freaks out.
Dorothy is soon whisked away to Oz by the power of the cut and paste effect. Then the game begins and witches in bubbles start talking your ear off…
… which is fair enough considering there are ruby slippers at stake. Though I hadn’t realised that the wicked witch had her own bubble but, whatever, fine.
So you’re off to see the wizard and you start walking down the yellow brick road where you pass by villages and forests fighting the likes of lemons:
Chairs with eyes and teeth:
Actually, one of the mini-games offers a good chunk of enemies in one go so I don’t even have to list ’em all:
Pretty surreal, I think you’ll agree.
The game is a side-scroller which involves you walking through oddly-designed locations, avoiding some enemies, attacking others, picking up yellow bricks and other nonsense. You can switch between characters once you find the rest of the gang: the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man each have their own attack which come in handy at the right moments. And as random as Oz usually is, this game takes it one step further I think. Everything seems to have a face! Even lemons.
The bosses you face are a fun bunch, the first one you battle is a giant crow wearing a vest:
Oh no, it’s The Wiz all over again…
With every boss you get rid off you get one of your friends saved. During the game you find bones, which I always thought was pretty macabre. It’s like the game was trying to freak me out Return To Oz-style!
Until I remembered Toto, that is. Still, though, why are bare human bones just scattered around Oz? I’ll tell you why:
The bones you pick up actually lead you to mini games involving Toto and although they look easy at first, occasionally you’ll get stuck, trust me. Took me ages to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do in some of them.
The game, I should point out, is pretty darn hard.
And the difficulty isn’t always due to the amount of enemies or the mini games but the layouts of the levels, the controls and the game’s biggest flaw: falling through platforms. AVGN brought that up in a big way and rightly so as it sometimes makes it near impossible to finish a level and is intensely frustrating.
It’s like there is one pixel at the center of every platform which you’re meant to reach but it feels like there’s no need to be this particular about this function as all it does is cripple the game. This is why I tend to put down the game after a while, punch a wall with my face, then get back to it later. Honestly, it is that annoying so if you have the patience to sit through so much trial and error with controls as awkward as these then power to you but a lot of you won’t feel like the game is worth so much hassle.
Which, let’s be honest: it isn’t.
See the thing is, there’s a good game in there somewhere! The look of the characters and the levels is very appealing: it’s colourful, the animation is pretty good and you can play as all the characters from the movie. Had the game toned down the difficulty a little and invested in better music altogether (you do get the songs from the film but they sound rubbish) then this would have been a good, more widely appreciated game. As it stands, The Wizard Of Oz just doesn’t make the most of the SNES’s capabilities.
Plus there is the odd inconsistency which will make you ask a lot of bizarre questions like:
A spring? What is this, Sonic The Hedgehog?
How come the Scarecrow has to jump over logs when everyone else just walks through what… appears to be lava?
What’s with the teeth?
Why are the passwords so gosh darn long?!
Why is the Cowardly Lion kung-fu dancing when he’s jumping?
What’s with the giant corn?
The world may never know…
You finally face the Wicked Witch and it looks like the only character that’s useful during the fight is the Tin Man but, obviously, the only way to know that is by dying countless times before figuring it out.
Eventually, after a lot of somewhat brutal axe attacks, she does melt and you proceed to the Emerald City.
Which appears to be REALLY high up for some reason.
Another problem with the game is that sometimes it’s hard to know where you’re meant to be walking within a level, this is due to it being unclear as to which platforms you’re able to jump on since the backgrounds and foregrounds are sometimes messily put together and hard to differentiate. And that, coupled with the jumping glitch, makes the game a bit of a pain to finish.
Is it worth playing, then?
Due to it being so uneven, I’d say it’s not one to own but if you like The Wizard Of Oz mythology then give it a go if you come across it. It’s by no means a must-play or a must-find but a lot of it looks genuinely nice and you do feel like the programmers did put in quite a bit of effort into staying true to the film and making this a visually pleasing game at least. It’s just a shame it’s so ridiculously hard to maneuver…
Wait, I can’t end the review now! I didn’t take an out-of-context screenshot of a character seemingly doing something disgusting!
Thank you Wizard!
Dreams really do come true!