For my next fiendish look it's about time I talk about Wardner(aka Pyros). It is a neat little game that is unfortunately saddled with some flaws that turn it from "pedestrian yet charming" to "pedestrian and needlessly frustrating". The story starts off as a demon-wizard spins a yarn about Fantasia and offers to lead a young couple to it. Obviously things go very south and the woman gets captured leaving the young man to play the hero. By evading traps, gathering loot, and burning the soul-less denizens of hell away with magic the hero just might win.
The controls are very responsive in this game. The player can turn and jump on a dime as there's nothing in the way of momentum. That means that even if you're at the peak of your jump and notice you're about to land on a trap you can turn around to safety with no trouble. It's definitely helpful and in some cases necessary for certain situations. The power-ups are all pretty handy as they include crystals for leveling up abilities, money to buy goods, and other odds and ends that might be useful.
The shop isn't exactly all that useful. The main point of importance is to buy the Solar Sword weapon because without it chances of beating the game are pretty close to impossible. Although buying the Solar Sword puts the player in another very difficult spot so yeah no idea what to do here. In the last stage the player must get past a rock-monster that summons numerous rock-allies. Basically the Solar Sword is the best chance of the player getting past the creatures due to its impressive strength. However the Solar Sword is limited since only one shot can be fired at a time and at one point in the stage ghosts attack from both sides. The shops also sell items that allow the player to take more than one hit before death but since there's no shop before the final leg of the game (where the difficulty gets a massive bump) it's kind-of pointless.
Without the final stage the game would be too easy. The first four stages show a pretty gradual difficulty curve but the monsters, traps, and even bosses are simple to avoid and defeat. For example the first boss does nothing more than move up and down. The only chance of dying is by either running out of time or running in to the boss. By the time the player reaches the final stage they're probably better off ignoring the ending and just building up their score via the rock-monsters. 1ups are doled out fairly often via score so the player could very well run the machine dying and re-doing the rock-monster section. Then again the game could also kick them ahead a bit as the checkpoint system is rather unique in that it tends to put players ahead of obstacles they died at (except for bosses).
On its own I can't really give Wardner a recommendation. I have some fond memories of it as it used to be an arcade machine in a drug-store back when I lived in downtown Kissimmee. In a surprising twist however the Genesis version is actually the superior version.
There are obvious downgrades in terms of colors and the mechanics have changed ever so slightly(the player falls forward slightly instead of straight down when they walk off a ledge) but the Genesis version is basically arcade-perfect except with a handful of changes. The difficulty has received a noticeable bump where it needs it most (all of the early bosses) and the rather over-long fourth stage is broken into two-pieces with a much-needed visit to the shop so the player has another chance to upgrade to Solar Sword. There are actually a couple of new bosses (some spider-fiend and a giant worm) and they're certainly an improvement over the green dragon that learns how to breath fire over the course of three stages. The game still isn't quite there however as the final stage runs far too long and the player is likely to run out of time, which puts them in a bad situation when dealing with the final boss.
Still at least the Genesis version gets Wardner to about as good as it is going to get. It's well-designed around its limitations and adding more stages or perhaps harder settings with additional traps and monsters would probably just make the game worse. It's rather strange how it all works out but eh whatevs.
Game Rating - 1 out of 5 stars for arcade version and 2 out of 5 stars for genesis version.
There's really not much to this game. There are a handful of secrets but otherwise this game just doesn't offer the long-lasting appeal that would make one continue to play it over and over. At sometime in the past it may have been an appealing way to kill time before a movie starts but those days are long-gone. The genesis version improves on it in some ways but falters in others. Still even with the changes it doesn't make the game anything great.
My Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
Still the lack of difficulty makes this game rather pleasant in a way. Plus there's nostalgia and uh...yeah. Look it's my rating I can do whatever I want with it so oh darn well.