Together Retro: Wizard of Wor & Smash TV

together-retro-nov

New To Together Retro? Check out the introduction to the club

What’s this?  A double feature not featuring Godzilla?  That’s right boys and girls.  We thought that since we are in the season of giving, we at Racketboy should give our followers of Together Retro a little present.  This month we have not one, but two excellent games from up for our monthly gaming sessions.  We know many of you are not into horror games so you sat out on Resident Evil last month, but this month everyone can dive into one of two arcade multidirectional shooters.  The two chosen titles are Wizards of Wor, the 1981 Midway Scifi classic, and everyone’s favorite gameshow outside of the Price is Right – SMASH TV.  But enough of this, lets get into why we are blowing things up this month.
(Since we are doing two titles, for simplicity, we have two separate Together Retro write ups.)
Special Note: Stay tuned for this month’s RetroGaming with Racketboy podcast — it will go along nicely with these two featured games 🙂

Wizard of Wor

History:
Released in 1981, Wizard of Wor (often mislabeled as Wizard of War) put the player in control of a Worrior, a nare-do-well space hero of some kind.  The Worriors travel through the maze fighting off an array of monsters called worlings (formal names are Burwors, Garwors, Thorwors, and occasionally the bonus Worlucks).  These worlings are under the control of the Wizard, who also likes to show up occasionally.  Your objective is to survive in the labyrinth as long as possible.  Simple concept with some really unique quirks.

wizard-of-wor-screens

Famous as one of the first games to use synthesized speech, Wizard of Wor is at its heart just a labyrinth.  A labyrinth full of space
monsters and a taunting wizard, but a labyrinth none the less.  Many gamers should remember this title from the 2007 PAX keynote in which Will Weaton recalls his love of the game.  Even to this day the game holds one of the most gloomy atmosphere for a well loved and respected game (typically the gloomy or horror games get put off to the side of the mainstream).  Its creepy music, disappearing badguys, and taunting speech is the stuff nightmares are made of, just like the Never Ending Story and Return to Oz.  Wizard of Wor also added in a unique counter-op style of gameplay in that you score points for not only defeating enemies, but for defeating your teammate.  Using a teammate can make for an interesting set of tactics (ie stand in a corridor back to back and fire at anything that moves), but you do have to worry that they can turn on you at any second.

Controls:
One joystick and one button makes it one of the simplest game we will feature in Together Retro, but don’t you worry about the difficulty. In the arcade, the joystick has two contacts in each direction.  If you tap your controller in a direction your character will turn that way, if you hold it that way they will move.  While the button fires your gun, obviously.  Now movement is kinda tricky based on the perspective.  While the maze is seen from the top down perspective, the characters are seen from the side.  This makes for alittle bit of a mind screw in that you end up walking on nothing or the walls.  It is a unique style and really makes you think the first couple rounds.

Recommended Ports:
While we are going to favor the arcade version the most, there are several good ports if you would rather use those.  The Commodore64 version is fantastic, so is the Atari 800 version.  However the Midway Arcade Treasures 2 version is going to be the easiest to obtain (however the Gamecube version of Wizard of Wor has bad sound problems).  It was also released on the Atari 2600 and 5200, but I cannot comment on those versions.  Now if you want to buy an actual arcade cabinet, depending on the condition they will go for about $500 to $2000 (almost 10 years of attending coin operated auctions and eBay in consideration for the prices).  At the last auction I saw one for sale (Fall of 08) a standard cabinet went for alittle over $400 but needed a new screen and controls.

Smash TV

History:
From the minds of Eugene Jarvis and Mark Turmell comes one of the truest spiritual successor to Robotron 2084, Smash TV.  Jarvis created Robotron in the 80s and with heavy influence from The Running Man and one can only imagine a love for oneliners, Smash TV was given to gamers in the arcade in 1990.  Straying from his earlier works scifi world, Smash TV takes place inside of one of the most violent gameshows ever conspired.  Set in the future year 1999, Smash TV is the story of lucky contestants that get to compete in the gruesome fragfest for money, fame, and cutting edge technology like VCR and 2600 inch tvs!  The gameplay is fairly simple in that you move through the rooms trying no to die and kill everything as quickly as possible.  However unlike our other title, Smash TV features a standard overhead view and an overzealous announcer who has so many great quotes: “TOTAL
CARNAGE! I love it.”

smashtv-screens

Each Arena has three levels and then a final boss fight.  Each level is broken up into a handful of rooms which you get to decide how you wish to proceed and a boss fight at the end.  You will never go to every room on a floor and sometimes you’ll end up running into a horde of badguys far more difficult than you ever imagined possible.  But that is the nature of the game.  Smash TV is about carnage.  Expect to die, expect to get a gameover, expect to plug in a few quarters.  No matter how great you are at games, Smash TV is a different beast.  Ive seen people who have been the best in the world in classic arcade games, die in the first fifteen rooms on their first try (it took them five dollars to beat the game – took me forty or so my first time). However dont let that turn you off.  Before you die you will kill a lot of enemies.  The game will through you powerups just as often as it throws you enemies.  From invincibility to a rocket launcher, the powerups are just as awesome as the enemies you will be fighting.

Controls:
Like its predecessor, Smash TV features a unique dual joystick control scheme.  One joystick moves you while the other lets you shoot in any direction.  Early ports had to make due with a lack of buttons or joysticks in creative ways, more on that below.

Recommended Ports:
I am going to recommend the NES version as one of the best ports in that while parts are toned down, you can use two controllers to emulate the dual joystick mode of the arcade original (or a fourscore and four controllers if you opt for two player).  If you would prefer a more standard port it is featured in the Midway Arcade Treasures compilation for the Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox and is a download for the Xbox 360.

(Note: If you would prefer to have the opinion on an expert on all matters of SmashTV, our resident podcaster dsheinem recently spoke with Mark Turnmell.   Mr. Turnmell stated that the best port is the Super Nintendo one and that the NES one is possibly the worst.)

Emulation Help

If you need any help with attempting to emulate the game, post your problems in our forums and hopefully we’ll be able to help…

Together Retro Discussion

Instead of posting in the comments section of the blog, we will be using the forum for all of our discussion in order to keep things more organized. So play these Midway Classics and talk to us about your thoughts and play experiences in the forums. We want to know your favorite parts, your successes and your failures!

5 Comments

  1. D says:

    Not a fan of the Amiga at all, but I remember the port being OK, played it a lot, also 2 joystick-control.

  2. nick says:

    Hey racketboy, I think it is worth mentioning that the xbox 360 version of Smash TV supports online play. No matter what port i think Smash TV is better with two people

  3. CRTGAMER says:

    To get the dual joystick single player arcade feel for SMASH TV and the great ROBOTRON, get a dual arcade stick say for example the PS2 BLAZE DUAL SHOCK. Any dual player arcade controller that default to directional digital pad and has two plug in cables. A simple mod, wire second player stick over to player one four fire buttons. Wired thru toggle switches to maintain second player normal function.

  4. CRTGAMER says:

    Great Review!

    To get the dual joystick single player arcade feel for SMASH TV and the great ROBOTRON, get a dual arcade stick say for example the PS2 BLAZE DUAL SHOCK. Any dual player arcade controller that default to directional digital pad and has two plug in cables. A simple mod, wire second player stick over to player one four fire buttons. Wired thru toggle switches to maintain second player normal function.

  5. Sparky says:

    LOVED this game. We begged borrowed but didn’t steal to get coins. We headed down to the arcade and to beat this game with coin power! Best two player gaming experience I’ve ever had! This game was literally $