Wizard of Id


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Although I am not and have never been a reader of newspapers, I grew up in a household that purchased five every day. I would abscond with the only section that mattered to me: the comic strips.

Although online publishing has granted us an abundance of exclusive content in the form of webcomics, I still enjoy the old standbys originally found in print. I read my daily funnies via GoComics.com — some of which are new to me (Heavenly Nostrils), others because they remind me of old favorites (The Argyle Sweater), and others because, despite often not being funny, they are old, familiar friends.

In that last category is Wizard of Id, launched in 1964, which follows the king, wizard, and soldiers of the medieval Kingdom of Id and its Idiots. The strip frequently makes anachronistic jokes and references — a recent one, as Bill Loguidice documented, is a reference to the strip's appearance on the Apple II.

In 1984, Sierra On-Line, publisher of landmark point-and-click adventure games such as King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, also put out two games based on the Wizard of Id. With the Apple II being popular in education, it made sense to shoehorn this license into a pair of edutainment titles. One was Wizard of Id's WizType:

The game is broken into two sections: The first section pits players as the Wiz, matching wits against the Evil Spirit, an apparition that lives in the Wizard's vat. The Wizard must quickly type out the words that the Evil Spirit gives him in order to diminish the Spirit and win the round. Failure to spell words properly, or taking too long to spell results in the Evil Spirit morphing into a dragon, and singing the Wizard to a crisp.

The second part of the game has the player trying to keep up with Bung the Jester. In this segment, players must type out a pre-written paragraph in order to keep pace with Bung, who is hopping along the words on a pogo stick.

The other was Wizard of Id's Wizmath:

Spook needs to escape from the King of Id's dungeons. He slips out but Turnkey is in pursuit. He needs to solve math problems to open the way to his escape.

Wizard of Id's WizMath is an educational game to teach mathematics. Using your joystick, you must move blocks into place so they complete a correct math problem and answer. If you push against a block, you will send it flying until it hits a wall or another block. You can also face a block and hold down the button. While keeping the button down, you can then slide the block as needed. There is a sixty second time limit and you are being pursued by Turnkey. Early levels require only one math problem to exit but later levels require two or more.

Early in the game, you can select a floor on an elevator. The higher the floor, the more difficult the math problems. The game also asks your age. The older you say you are, the higher a floor it tries to start you on, although you can select a lower floor.

Whereas WizType was published for the Apple II, Commdore 64, Atari, and DOS, MobyGames indicates Wizmath was released for only C64 and the video game console ColecoVision.

Edutainment titles don't have much appeal beyond their young demographic, but a point-and-click adventure might've aged well. That's the parody that Loguidice recently shared. Why this strip just recently posted a reflection on life in 1984, I'm unsure — unless they were tying into the 30-year anniversary of the release of the Apple Macintosh, even though that platform didn't have a corner on the adventure game market. Still, it's a fun opportunity to reflect on not just the early history of licensed games, but the adventure genre that is making a comeback, courtesy multiple Kickstarter revivals.

UPDATE (Mar 5, 2014): There was also at least one B.C. game for the Apple II — Quest for Tires!