Wizard's Lair

by Stephen J. Crow
Bubble Bus Software
Crash Issue 14, March 1985   (1985-02-28)   page(s) 34,35,36

The author of this game may sound familiar to CRASH readers because he also wrote a previous CRASH SMASH, Poppysoft's Factory Breakout. This new game is nothing like the previous one - what it is inescapably like however, is Atic Atac and graphically at times like Sabre Wulf. So similar is the basic theme and graphic appearance, that accusations of copying are bound to fly, but there's nothing wrong with taking a good idea and developing it, if the result is as good or better - and it remains to be seen what readers think of this.

Wizard's Lair is an arcade adventure with 256 locations on seven levels which are interconnected by trapdoors and lifts. The story involves Pot Hole Pete who, while on a subterranean ramble, stumbles across the Wizard's Lair, a place inhabited by numerous and various monsters of appalling speed and determination to kill. The overall object is to collect all the pieces of the Golden Lion. The screen view is that of Atic Atac, i.e. an overhead perspective view of each location with all its four walls visible. In a similar vein doors open and shut according to their own whim, although Pete may pass through some without hindrance. Some locations are described by Sabre Wulf-like vegetation, while others are drawn as caverns.

Game features include the collection of food for energy, weapons, gold, gems, keys and the bits of the Golden Lion. Now and again Pete comes across a spell scroll, but the spell can only be used if he possesses enough gold. The spell allows you to gain either more weapons, more energy, convert to gems, have more keys or magic rings. Each of the objects serves a function, and one of the game objectives is to discover what everything does. Across the top of the screen there is a score line and bar codes for energy, weapons and gold, while down the right side legends tell you how many lives you have left, and how many keys, rings and gems you have collected. Scoring is done as a percentage of the adventure completed, time taken, objects collected and, of course, pieces of the Golden Lion found.

Control keys: 3 options are selectable being: O/P,Q/A,M or QWERT or 67890, and if you prefer, you can define the keys yourself
Joystick: Kempston, Protek, AGF, Sinclair 2
Keyboard play: very responsive, nice to have so many selections
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: excellent, fast and ultra-smooth
Sound: excellent
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 5
Screens: 256

'There is no doubt that this an Atic Atac-like game, but saying that, it is distinctly different in many ways. The graphics seem to me to be somewhat better than those in the Ultimate game, they are much more varied, colourful and characteristic. Each of your enemies has its own character which allows you to build up tactics against them to defeat them. I like the way you can run out of weapons as well as energy and have to search for them as well as the Golden Lion. The game seemed to me to be a much faster playing game than Atic Atac with much more going on and gets very frantic at times. There are many doors for which you must have keys, while others are opened on touch. The main reason why I enjoyed it, is that there is so much activity going on all the while. Overall, a really professionally put together game that could be called an up-date on Atic Atac with more locations, more to do with smashing graphics - a brilliant piece of programming - a winner. Buy it!'

'Yes, this is definitely like Atic Atac, but it is also different. It's actually much faster for one thing, and there are other differences. Monsters often appear by coming through the doors and taking you by surprise. Your character is not drawn from the side but in overhead perspective too. He can run out of weaponry, which is alarming! The addition of spells enabling you to convert your gold to other things is a useful addition. There are many more locations and some of these have rivers running through them which turns the greater maze into a smaller, dissected one as well. The locations held in memory appear as fast as those in Atic Atac, but the line drawn caverns are redrawn each time. This is done very fast, and if it looks a bit more ragged than in the Ultimate game, it does, however, give you a valuable second's breathing space - it also allows for the extra locations. In all, the graphics are of an excellent standard, extremely fast and flicker-free, imaginative and well drawn as well as colourful. Sound, too, is excellent with a good synthesised sounding tune and loads of noisy spot effects. Wizard's Lair is bound to keep players at it for ages, just surviving as well as mapping! I enjoyed it immensely.'

'Wizard's Lair has an unusual fast loader, which makes the border flash in wide bands rather like some of the recent Commodore 64 loaders. It also draws the title page very quickly. There is a super key and joystick option menu, and the user definable key menu uses a large graphic of the Spectrum, colouring selected keys in red when you press them. This quality of design goes on into the high-energy game with its Ultimate-standard graphics and sound. It is, of course very similar to Atic Atac but does not suffer by the comparison at all in my opinion. There are still many things to discover - I don't know what happens when you turn purple yet! It's fast, playable and highly addictive and I'm sure Bubble Bus, who have done almost nothing before for the Spectrum, must be very pleased with it. I know I am.'

Use of Computer: 98%
Graphics: 94%
Playability: 94%
Getting Started: 95%
Addictive Qualities: 94%
Value for Money: 90%
Overall: 94%

Summary: General Rating: An excellent arcade/adventure game which requires exploration and discovery. Very good value for money and highly recommended.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 58, November 1988   (1988-10-20)   page(s) 109

Written by Steve Crow of Starquake fame, this was one of his earliest efforts and came in for quite a bit of stick from some quarters due to its resemblance to the classic Atic Atac. Undoubtedly, its appearance is uncannily similar to Ultimate's arcade adventure as Pothole Pete scurries around rooms and caverns, searching for the four pieces of The Golden Lion.

Initially striking is the amount of colour used - it's absolutely psychedelic (wow, man!). Within this attractive environment, the rather mis-shapen, Morph-like hero attracts the distinctly hostile attention of a number of different nasties aiming to sap his energy. Axe-wielding executioners and sword-swinging knights are especially dangerous, contact with them means the instantaneous loss of a life. To despatch these terrible demons back to their graves, Pete is equipped with a limited number of axes which, when thrown, bounce around the room killing off enemies Atic Atac-style.

However Wizard's Lair does contain quite a few extra features, such as the spell scrolls which can be bought with collected gold. These allow the player to choose between a number of various items, including gems, gold, weapons and extra energy.

Although the action is very fast, and the playability good (partly due to its similarity to Atic Atac), Wizard's Lair is beginning to show its age. After over three years of arcade adventures such an old game doesn't hold the attention as well as it did originally. But it's still playable enough in the short term.

Overall: 65%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 35, November 1988   page(s) 88

Ah yes, the most re-released game in Spectrum history. When I used to do the occasional round-up of Speccy compilations (in the days before every game appeared on a compilation about ten minutes after its initial release). I'd usually give 100 to 30 that one of them would include Wizard's Lair, the only Bubble Bus game that ever made much of an impression. In fact it's a dead spit of Atic Atac, the olde worlde arcade adventure that Ultimate put out in about the Jurassic age. Great stuff in 1984, but dull beyond belief in these more demanding times. Essentially you just wander about collecting things, making maps, and wondering why you didn't buy a rip-off of Knight Lore instead. Snore city.

Overall: 5/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 14, May 1985   page(s) 43

Roger: Having finally overcome Pothole Pete's frustrating reluctance to LOAD, let alone summon up the necessary bottle for tackling many rooms of the wicked Wiz's extensive and well-appointed Lair, I was somewhat less than enthralled by this Bubblebus offering. Apart from being as bored with a predictable ragbag of Sword'n'Sorcery imagery, I found the graphics rather lurid, the rooms unmemorable and the action mentally untaxing.

Pete's quest involves hunting pieces of the 'Golden Lion' - which I always thought was a public house but apparently in this game it ain't. Shame. Along the way he must collect the necessary mystic Weetabix to sustain his battle against nasties and keep the jolly old doors opening when required. Energy, ammunition and objects in stock are recorded on-screen, as are remaining lives. Probably the most entertaining facet of Wizard's Lair is guessing how many other mediocre games it reminds you of. Pass me the dungeon key, mum, cos I want to go home... 1/5 MISS

Dave: If this had come out at the same time as Atic Atac, Ultimate would've looked very silly. Now the idea's rather old hat and even the superior graphics don't make up for that 2.5/5 HIT

Ross: Take a dash of Atic Atac ideas, mix in more than a smattering of Sabre Wulf graphics and what've you got? - not a lot. 2/5 HIT

Dave: 2.5/5
Ross: 2/5
Roger: 1/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair - Budget Article Issue 38, February 1989   page(s) 55

An Atic-Atac clone that drew parallel with its idol. Polished, fast and colourful - brilliant. First released: November '85.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 38, May 1985   page(s) 23

A FIRST reaction to Wizard's Lair, from Bubble Bus, is to check that Atic Atac has not been loaded by mistake, as the game is so obviously similar.

You play Pothole Pete who by accident stumbles across the wizard's lair and seems doomed to remain in the underground maze. Fortunately, he remembers a dreadful little rhyme he once saw on a cassette inlay which offers a clue to his escape: "If this lair thou doest uncover, four pieces of lion thou must discover. Only then may you escape past the lion that guards the gate." Sounds familiar?

Like Atic Atac, each room is viewed from above giving an impression of playing from the game's blueprint. There are many hostile guardians to overcome - easy enough as Pete occasionally stumbles across abandoned weapons. He also needs to keep up his energy and to that end must eat any food he discovers. Gold, diamonds and other valuable objects should also be collected as they will be needed later on.

There are several levels and those can be reached via magic lifts and wardrobe lifts. Wardrobe lifts take you straight to the next level and it is wise to note the names of those as the magic lift will ask for the name of the level you want.

A number of original features included in Wizard's Lair make the game more enjoyable. There is a variation in the scenery of each cavern and in some screens the vegetation border has been taken straight from Sabre Wulf with the same colourful jungle foliage. The speed of play is the same though certain screens in Wizard's Lair do take longer to draw.

Each room has between one and four exits which open and close at random. However, in many rooms there are well hidden secret exits. One sure sign that there is such an exit is to watch from where the guardians enter.

The status display around the edge of the screen is clearly laid out. At a glance you can tell how much in the way of weapons, energy and gold you have left and objects collected.

Although the game is plagiaristic in the extreme, it is well programmed and enjoyable. The colour and graphics are as sharp and defined as Atic Atac and the few extra features, including a river which meanders through many screens, effectively dividing them, make the game more challenging.

Clare Edgeley

Price: £6.99
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston


Overall: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 43, May 1985   page(s) 24

MACHINE: Spectrum
SUPPLIER: Bubble Bus
PRICE: £6.99

This must be the best game yet from Bubble Bus! Programmer Stephen Crow readily admits that he was inspired by Ultimate's Atic Atac when writing the game - but what's wrong with taking an idea and developing it? Just look at all the JSW clones around.

Anyway, on to the game which revolves around the adventures of a character called Pothole Pete who has accidentally discovered the Wizard's Lair while on a pot-holing expedition.

Pete has heard rumours about this place and knows that scattered around are bits of a magical golden lion - and sets out to discover them. But the Lair is inhabited by some really horrible monsters who guard the golden lion.

Pete can collect weapons, food, spells, keys and gold during his quest - in true arcade adventure style. He'll need them all before completing this challenge.

The graphics are terrific - similar in style to Atic Atic and Sabre Wulf. Animation is smooth and flicker free and the sound is good too. Some screens have Sabre Wulf-style jungle while others have rocks or Atic Atac rooms.

Each of the nasties has its own particular characteristics which you must learn before engaging in battle, which adds to the challenge of the game.

A worthy sequel to Atic Atac. Wizards Lair is extremely well presented, great fun to play and terrific value for money.

Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 9/10
Value: 10/10
Playability: 10/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair Programs Issue 31, May 1985   page(s) 14

PRICE: £6.99

Once upon a time, well over a year ago, a company called Ultimate brought out two games called Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf for the Spectrum. Now Bubble Bus have produced Wizard's Lair, which bears a very very strong resemblance to both games. Atic Atac meets Sabre Wulf.

It is great fun. The graphics are excellent. Move from room to room on a variety of levels, cross the river which flows through the rooms and caverns, avoid the knight and the grim reaper, avoid or zap the energy sapping baddies, collect all objects you find, collect the four parts of the Great Lion, find the exit, and escape. Phew.

Bubble Bus cannot claim originality. What they can claim is that they have produced a very good game. It is fast-moving, it is difficult, there is lots to see and lots to do.

Produced for the 48K Spectrum by Bubble Bus.

Rating: 72%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue April 1985   page(s) 51

ZX Spectrum
Bubble Bus
Arcade Adventure

Wizard's Lair by Stephen Crow is a turn-up for the books as far as Bubble Bus is concerned. It should appeal to fans of Atic Atac, which is a roundabout way of saying that what it lacks in originality or inspiration, it makes up for in excellence of implementation.

The situation is certainly pretty hopeless inside, beset as you are by the usual nauseating bunch of dragons and strange blobs and if you're really unlucky a huge purple or occasionally green cutout serpent.

Objects to be collected include treasure chests, but what you are really trying to accumulate is pieces of the golden lion. There are five of these just lion around all over the place. There are also keys, diamonds and rings.

Overall: 3/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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