App of the week: Drop Wizard Tower review
Like a classic arcade machine shoved into your smartphone
The original Drop Wizard was a smart mobile reimagining of classic single-screen platformers. Evoking the richness of Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros., it also avoided the pitfalls of virtual controls. Instead, your little wizard auto-ran, emitting a blast of magic whenever he landed on a platform.
The aim was to stun roaming beasties, which could then be booted across the screen; sometimes they’d trundle into other dazed monsters to create a whirling ‘avalanche’ that would – in the true spirit of 1980s gaming – eventually turn into a piece of fruit.
If anything, Drop Wizard Tower is even further indebted to the games that inspired it. And that’s a very good thing, because it’s like someone smushed a tiny classic arcade machine into your smartphone.
According to the lightning-fast backstory, the evil guys here are the Shadow Order. They’ve slung all the wizards in jail, and looted an ancient egg. Across 50 wraparound single-screen levels, you ascend the tower, presumably to give the rotters a taste of kickicus faceofficus.
But this is easier said than done. Initially, your instincts have you treat Drop Wizard Tower like a typical platform game. You tap left or right, only your wizard doesn’t stop running, and gets horribly killed. You can’t jump, and so blunder like an idiot into a spiked foe. You leap off of a platform, only you’re facing the wrong way to blast magic at an incoming and surprisingly violent fish.
But when it clicks, it’s wonderful. The game feels fluid and perfect for mobile, and the portrait layout not only better recalls arcade machines of old than its landscape-oriented predecessor, but also provides space for chunky virtual controls, rather than you covering up on-screen action with sausage thumbs.
If that was it, the game would still come recommended, but there are many more neat touches that cement Drop Wizard Tower as one of the best games of its kind on mobile.
New environments force you to switch up strategies, such as skiddy ice surfaces, and watery bits in which you move alarmingly slowly. Tense boss fights are peppered throughout, and each set of levels is presented in a new order every time you play. There’s a basic XP system for power-ups, all manner of enemy projectiles to avoid (well, unless you fancy leaping about as a frog), and all manner of secrets to find including full level-skips.
There are niggles. The game seems resolutely designed for a phone, with the virtual controls proving awkward on an iPad-sized tablet. And the ads irk, often lurching into view the second you die. But they can be nuked with IAP (which also gives you a free continue), and everything else about the game feels like magic.
A modern-day arcade gem, marrying classic inspiration with touchscreen smarts
Looks and sounds great
Varied level design
In-game ads are irksome
Awkward on larger tablets