Monday, August 07, 2006

Professor Fizzwizzle Review

Professor Fizzwizzle, developed and published by Grubby Games.
The Good: Tons of levels at varying difficulty levels, level editor, full puzzle solutions
The Not So Good: Can’t save mid-puzzle progress, bland graphics, fewer objects than other games
What say you? Another satisfying puzzle game that’s challenging for all skill levels, although its lack of variety may turn away more experienced players: 6/8

We’ve seen a “renaissance” (French for “you stinky American”) of puzzle games lately, especially of the manipulating objects variety. Founded by such classics as The Incredible Machine and Lemmings, the genre has continued its strong tradition with newer titles such as Tube Twist, Eets, and now Professor Fizzwizzle. The good professor needs your help against his robot army turned mad! It’s a lot like The Terminator, but with less shooting. You’ll need to navigate the Professor through each puzzle, avoiding the Rage-Bots and moving objects on your way to the finish tube. Are you up to the challenge? Me neither!

The graphics of Professor Fizzwizzle are quite disappointing, especially considering the fanciful nature of the game. The game has a very cartoon feel to it, but all of the objects in the game are small and not very detailed. The Professor himself looks pretty good, but the crates and barrels look, well, like crates and barrels, which might be realistic but isn’t very exciting to look at. The level surfaces are featureless swaths of grass, sand, or ice, which look more like an older puzzle game and less like a dynamic cartoon environment. The backgrounds are just static images of clouds or space. There’s just more that could have been done with the game to make it more stimulating (see Eets) from a graphical perspective. The game features appropriate frantic background music and appropriate sound effects, but nothing that stands out or is terribly memorable. Frankly, there has to be more pizzazz in the graphics and sound department these days in the puzzle genre, with the advent of 3-D graphics and the competition that’s available.

The goal of Professor Fizzwizzle is to move the professor from the start tube to the exit tube by moving objects that are in your way. Unlike Eets and Lemmings, you actually have direct control over the Professor through the arrow keys, and all of the actions in the game are done by him, instead of placing objects ahead of time like in those other games. The Professor can’t jump, so most of the puzzles consist of moving things out of his way and into pitfalls that be might encounter. There is an extremely large number of puzzles in the game (over 230) and they have varying difficulty levels: anyone from a child to an adult can be challenged by the game, and the range of difficulty is one of the highlights of the game. The game also provides full solutions (instead of simple hints) at any time, which will also count as completing the puzzle for you. I’d like to see a shorter solution (such as what do I do in the next 10 seconds), but providing the full solution means you’ll never be stuck on a puzzle you can’t figure out. If the 230 puzzles aren’t enough, there is also a level editor so that you can create your own wacky designs; there are already over 450 user-created levels available for download, so Professor Fizzwizzle has a fair amount of replay value.

There are three types of terrain in the game that will affect the behavior of moving objects: grass will allow for continually rolling barrels and moving crates, sand will stop moving objects, and ice fulfills the conditions of intertia. Puzzles consist primarily of crates and barrels that can be pushed or rolled, respectively. You can also use magnets to attract metallic objects (or repel other magnets), trampolines for bouncing, gates with corresponding switches that must be continuously depressed (usually by placing a crate or barrel on them), pulley systems for lowering and raising objects, and those wacky Rage-Bots that will end the level if they catch you. There are also items you can use later during each level, such as inflatable items, whistles (to attract the attention of Rage-Bots), and EMP to disable magnets, and a frost gun to freeze any object. There is a fair number of different objects in Professor Fizzwizzle, but it pales in comparison to the variety seen in Eets. Because of this, the puzzles in Professor Fizzwizzle seem to run together after a while, because there are only so many ways to can push crates around. The game does provide an sufficient ordeal, but the lack of interesting puzzle elements makes the game drag along once you become accustomed to the mechanics of Professor Fizzwizzle.

It’s too bad (for the Professor’s sake) I reviewed Eets before this game, because Professor Fizzwizzle is good, but not better than Eets. However, Professor Fizzwizzle does have more appeal for a wider audience, as there are levels appropriate for both children and adults here (Eets is geared towards more experienced players). There are tons of levels, both in the game and available for download, so players who enjoy Professor Fizzwizzle can keep playing for ages to come. Professor Fizzwizzle does fall short in the graphics and sound department, and the relative small amount of object variety does hurt the overall replay ability of the game. The game also lacks those “cool” moments, where something unexpected happens during a solution, as the puzzles are pretty straightforward. However, the game does provide an adequate challenge, so that should keep at least some people interested in the title. Professor Fizzwizzle is best suited for a range of skill levels, as the game should provide a test for both young and old, but more experienced puzzle gamers will feel a little disappointed in the long run.