Wizard101: A Look at Mini-Games
MMORPG.com Wizard101 Correspondent Matt Plourde writes this look at the mini-games that have been incorporated into the kid-friendly MMO.
In addition to the normal card-based MMORPG experience, Wizard 101 offers eight free mini-games. While this wouldn't normally be a feature worthy of trumpets and fanfare - these mini-games are more than mere fluff. Playing the mini-games is the most economical way to refill your potions and mana. As an added bonus, you can also earn a trivial amount of gold and items if you score well enough - and maybe a spot on the high scores list!
You can access the eight free games by heading to the fair grounds in Wizard City (behind Merle's house). Simply walk up to any of the tents and hit the "x" key. Each of the other worlds also has a spot to access the mini-games.
Beware - the kid gloves are off for the mini-games! These games have no remorse - they will leave you crying in your chair. Welcome to a simpler time, when the arcade ruled my quarter-laden piggy bank...
Based on the classic "Joust" arcade game (Williams Electronics, 1982), Skull Riders does work a little differently than its ancestor.
You play the red wizard on the dragon, and your goal is to shoot all the skull riders (on vultures) with your fireballs and collect their skulls. You cannot touch the enemy riders or the ground. The original Joust required you to actually joust - your lance needed to hit the enemy higher than his lance. The arcade version also featured cooperative play - a friend could join you to vanquish the enemy knights on buzzards (you can only play single player in Wizards 101). Everything else is quite similar though - you must hit a button to maintain altitude, and you must collect the defeated enemy skulls to advance the level.
The different colored skull riders are worth different amounts of points, with the more valuable skull riders being more elusive and dangerous - they may change direction suddenly and fly in quick bursts from time to time. The easiest enemies are blue. Then, they get progressively harder - green, black, and flaming skulls. If a skull from a defeated enemy lands on a platform and you do not collect the skull fast enough - the rider will stand there and will be picked up by a vulture! If so, he's back in the game as a higher difficulty foe!
The number, size, and location of the platforms change from level to level as well. Landing on a platform damages that platform and it will eventually go away. So, try to stay in the air as much as possible.
Quick Tip: You cannot shoot a fireball until your last one either reaches the edge of the screen or hits an enemy. It is possible to "rapid fire" if several enemies are clustered together.
Based on the "match three" game play made popular by "Bejeweled" (PopCap Games 2001), Potion Motion adds a little flair in allowing you to drag a whole row or column of potions to make your match. However, unlike classic "match three" games, your three matching potions need not be in a row or column. You are allowed to make an "L" shape (diagonal does not work, however).
You have a timer on the top of the screen that constantly counts down. If that times reaches zero, the game is over. As you score points for matches, you get more time. At certain score intervals, your level "clears" and you move on to the next level. As you raise in levels, more varied potions appear - making matches more difficult.
Of course, the joy in a "match three" game like this is kicking-off a string of matches where the screen just goes berserk. However, unlike my personal favorite "match three" game - Elf Balls by Kewlbox - there is no raunchy elf to suggest how he is feeling after your board-clearing moves.
Quick Tip: For your first move, pull one of the top row potions down to the fourth row - it should always make a match.
Keeping with the "classic with a twist" approach to the mini-games, Doodle Dug is a play on "Dig Dug" (Namco, 1982). However, instead of "inflating" or dropping rocks on your enemies - you must collect the gems to advance the level. When an enemy touches you, you lose a life. You can still defeat enemies, but you accomplish this by dropping bombs with a 3-second timer. Be careful - you can die from your own bombs!
In addition to collecting the gems, you may opt to collect the sparkling bonus squares. These could be beneficial or harmful - but, they are usually worth the effort. You may be rewarded with an extra life, a speed boost, more bombs, bonus points, or bonus time. However, you could also be slowed or add another enemy to the board. Dig with care!
Basically, that's all there is to the game! The faster you complete the level, the more points you gain. Bonus points are also awarded for not using all of your bombs. Determining an efficient path and using your bombs wisely are the most important decisions you are faced with. Really, the variety is in the enemies.
The basic enemy is a mole with a mining hat. This enemy is somewhat slow and can only walk in your paths. The blue snakes can shoot ice (which slows you down), and there is a faster version of this snake that appears around level fifteen. Yeah - it's like a Doug-seeking missile. There's also a white snake (no, not the band) which can dig and also shoots slowing ice. The green blobs can chew through the dirt and they are surprisingly fast while digging.
Quick Tip: You can get enemies "stuck" behind rocks. This may buy you valuable time.
This is a simple memory game. You must match the cards and you receive bonus points for stringing together matches, completing the board without a mistake, and matching the "bonus card" which occasionally appears in the lower left of the screen.
I'm not a big fan of memory games (probably because my memory is as reliable as the weather forecast) - but, at least this game gets fast and furious with the timer and some matches requiring more than two cards.
Really, there's not much to say about this one.
Quick Tip: You start a level by clicking on a card. Before that, the cards are revealed to you. Take your time and plan your first match, as it will help if some cards are cleared right from the start.
A cross between Tetris (Alexey Pajitnov, 1985) and "match three" games, Sorcery Stones is a challenging and fun addition to the mini-games.
Colored blocks crawl in rows from the bottom of the screen to the top. Your goal is to switch places with two adjacent blocks to make rows or columns of 3 of the same color. Once you make a match, those blocks are removed. Matching more than 3 blocks, or causing a combo, will net more points. Once a certain amount of blocks are cleared, the level will advance and some of the existing blocks will be cleared (based on how far down the screen you managed to clear).
Of course, things get more interesting as you go along. Like Potion Motion, more colors are added making matches more difficult. Immovable blocks, faster scrolling, and blocks which do not clear after the first match also hinder your progress. However, to help you out, you will notice "wild card" blocks, bombs (match the right color - boom!), and gems (wild cards which remove all of the matched color from the screen).
Sorcery Stones works because of the high amount of tension (at the later levels) and the fantastic screen-clearing combos. The only problem is this mini-game takes a long time to reach an appropriate level to refill your potion(s). However, it is a great game close in quality to some commercial "match three" games.
Quick Tip: Try to work as close to the bottom of the screen as possible. As you make matches, the blocks will fall and possibly kick-off larger combos for more points.
I feel I must preemptively apologize for this one - I don't see patterns. Show me a Magic Eye image and my bones would crumble to dust before I see the picture. Hence, my ability to play and succeed at this game is limited.
The goal is to collect the animals by rotating the pathways, walking over the animals, and then returning them to the castle. Your "guy" cannot walk off the path or edge of the screen. Left clicking rotates the tile clockwise and right-clicking will rotate counter-clockwise (however, you cannot rotate "occupied" pathways). The red button on the left will toggle between fast and normal speeds. Since you gain more points the faster you complete the level, you want to click this button as soon as you have the animals and you have a path back to the castle. You can collect the gems (for bonus points) in the same manner as the animals, but the gems are optional.
Quick Tip: Tiles will sometimes flash with an exclamation mark - that means it will change. So, don't head from one of those, as you may find yourself crashing into the grass... again.
Based on XGen's "Defend your Castle", Hot Shots flips the scenario - you are the attacker!
Less gruesome than its ancestor, Hot Shots arms you with a bow which you use to defeat skeletons, archers, wizards, and cloud giants. I'm a big fan of "one-handed gaming", and Hot Shots does no disappoint - you play with only the mouse. Hold down the left mouse button to charge your shot and then release based on the angle of your mouse cursor. The control is simple, but the action becomes frantic as you try to shoot your enemies and the incoming projectiles.
As you raise in altitude, the enemies are more dangerous and worth more points. The archer's arrow flies slower than the wizard's fireball - and the lightning from the cloud giant is the fastest. Keep that in mind as you prioritize your shots. As a bonus, shoot the gems that sometimes appear after you defeat a foe - these are big points! Each enemy only takes one shot to kill, except the skeletons - aim for their heads to take them down with one shot!
Instead of levels or stages, the game continues until you lose all your life. You lose life when you are hit by an enemy projectile or the skeleton reaches you.
Quick Tip: Not all incoming projectiles will hit you - ignore those!
Released as part of the Dragonspyre patch, this mini-game introduces the "side-scroller" to the list. You control Diego as he journeys to rescue Francesco.
You can jump over obstacles and attack enemies at a high, medium, or low position. After making it to the end of a level, you must face a boss. Each boss has a trick. To defeat the first boss, hit him with a medium height attack right after the tip of your sword touches the "X" taped on his belly.
The game is over when you run out of hearts, however you gain hearts as the level progresses. Thankfully, the levels do not play out exactly the same each time like the classic side-scrollers of yesteryear - the obstacles and enemies are somewhat randomized in their order/frequency.
Unfortunately, several bugs in this mini-game prevented me from progressing too far. For one, the game will disconnect you from time to time - just like if you went AFK for a while. Also, the rewards are not working properly, as it is very difficult to get any! The Devs have promised fixes soon.
Quick Tip: You cannot defeat barrels with your sword - you must jump over them! Try to time your jump early so you can jump over more barrels if they come.
Well, that about does it! Don't expect earth-shattering game play or amazing rewards, but that's not what these games are about. If nothing else, enjoy them in spurts to break-up your game time and add some variety to your experience.
Quick Tip (in general): Spin-up your iPod while playing these games - the music is nothing special.