Review: Professor Fizzwizzle

Thumbs Up!

The guys up at Grubby Games sent me a copy of their flagship product, Professor Fizzwizzle, to review. The bottom line?

It’s a fantastic game.

The game design is tight and well thought out. It has all the classic elements of a great puzzle game, if not a genre trail-blazer. It’s hard, but still very accessible. The gameplay is like a warm, frothy mocha that can appeal to those looking for some impatient passing of time as well as those in the mood for something more intelectually pungent.

The Story
You play as Professor Fizzwizzle. The absent-minded professor sort, you accidentally turn your “Friend-Bots” into “Rage-Bots” (I hate when that happens) by dialing their control too far — From “Helpful” to “Rage!” (Nevermind why is “Rage” even an option….) That sets up the game where the professor tackles level after level of obstical-laden goodness as he looks to repair and reclaim his Friend-Bots. It’s a puzzler that has more in common with Lode Runner than it does with Lemmings.

Check that. Nope. More to do with Lemmings than Lode Runner.

Hmmmm. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t know. Maybe it’s more like Castlemouse than either of them?

Nah. Nevermind. Just take my word. It’s just an entertaining game.

So, What’s Wrong With It?
I really did look far and wide to find something to be critical about. I keep thinking I should just head over to cafepress and make a shirt that says “I tried to find something wrong with Professor Fizzwizzle and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.”

That being said, I did find something that needed some polish. It’s the graphic design.

That’s not to be confused with the game art — which is delightful — but, the graphic design of the interface wrapped around the game. It seems like Matt is more of an iconographer than a graphic designer.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does show up in the main ui. It feels forced in some places and lazy in others. It’s lacking in that final snap — that last bit of polish a skilled graphic designer can add. It’s the tiny, little elements that you never notice, but are there, in great design.

Awesome Accessibility
My absolute favorite thing about the game, however, is that everytime I hit a key on the keyboard or wiggle-click the mouse, the game seems to know exactly what I want to do and does it.

This game is truly the very Gold Standard that should be set with all casual games when it comes to user controls. Arrows, Spacebar, Mouse Pointer, Click. All of them or a mix. It all plays perfectly.

Well — almost. Tho, I think it’s more a matter of my subjectivity here than with the game design.

It’s the stepped movement. I don’t like it.

By “stepped movement,” I’m talking about where you can lightly tap the arrow key and the professor takes enough steps to fulfill some minimal movement range. But, I didn’t want to go that far! For goodness sake, tho, I really just hope that’s in there on purpose and not for something as silly as just making sure the professor always finishes his walk cycle.

Level Love
When the game was installing, I was watching the list of files moving around stream to the program directory. The files containing the levels are all apparently named similar to each other — with a number at the end. I could tell because they KEPT GOING UP. Just when I thought it had to stop, there were more!

Seriously. AND MORE!

60, 70, 80, 100, 200. Oh my lord! How many levels does this damn thing have?!?!?!

Yeah. Over 230 levels! Those crazy bastards!

And these levels get incrementally harder, of course, as you go. Tho, it’s at a nice pace and you never feel rushed. In fact, they even have little “pick me ups” between the levels. Stuff along the lines of “You’re a Genius!”

I’m a sucker for that kind of congratulatory gravy.

But, honestly, I think it’s more intended for the younger children who play the game.

There are a couple of cute (I can say that because I have a 2 year-old) tracks you can follow that are filled with fun Sesame Street style quips and designs. It’s the kind of care taken with a children’s book and is a breath of fresh air coming from a well designed game.

You Counter-Strike junkies, however, probably won’t care about seeing levels based on letters of the alphabet — That’s what the advanced levels are for.

The advanced path to reclaim the professor’s Friend-Bots? In a word — Unyielding.

Whew. You are a tougher man than I if you can get through the whole set without a single use of the “auto-solve” feature. Wow. How do you even design one of those levels? I can’t imagine.

Incremental Goals
As with every good game, there are immediate goals and there are incremental goals. The small goals of beating each level are grouped together by the larger goal of unlocking a photo. While these photos for Professor Fizzwizzle’s fridge aren’t exactly critical to the game, they do add sort of a quaint way to break up the levels into tacklable chunks.

The first time you see the big map with some 80 levels on the “normal mode” path in front of you, you’ll quickly ponder — I wonder if I can make it to the fourth photo before my wife gets up in the morning….

Okay. Maybe that’s not really something you’d ponder, but I am terrible about losing track of time while I’m playing a game. Heh. Just ask my wife.

On second thought. You probably shouldn’t. We don’t need to remind her. Shhhhh.

Longevity
Okay. For real. This is my favorite part of the game.

It has a level editor!

Yep. Seriously. It does.

How cool is that? Not only does it come with a veritable metric assload of levels, I can make more! Well. Maybe not me. Other people. People with talent and skill can actually make more levels.

And, you can download more from their site. They have entire level packs full of the extra thoughts and wild ideas folks have poured into their level design.

Now, keep in mind, as with any community mods, Your Mileage May Vary.

But, when was the last time you saw a casual game with a level editor? For real, Ethan so wouldn’t have had to work so hard last week.

m3mnoch.

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