Review: A Wizard's Lizard

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 6 and up
Genre: Twin Stick Shooter / Dungeon Crawler
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2014
Review Published On: May 6th, 2016
Played on: Martha

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

There is no way to save your game while you're in the dungeon, as this game uses a permadeath system. At most, you can pause the game by hitting ESC to bring up the game's menu.

Summary of
Major Issues:

The main feature of this game is the ability to exist as a ghost after you've been killed by monsters. If you can find a specific magical room and activate the room's runic circle, you'll restore yourself to life.

Another issue is that killed enemies burst into a small shower of gore. However, this can be disabled by turning off particles in the options menu.


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Death is only the beginning

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Splattering an enemy's giblets

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A well-stocked item shop

Game Overview

A Wizard's Lizard is a fun little game, much like the Binding of Isaac, though it features considerably less controversial content. It also features some unusual mechanics that help it stand out from other games in this genre.

Probably the most unique feature is the way death is handled. Normally, if you run out of health, your character dies and the game is over. Here, your character still dies, but instead of having the game end, you continue to play on as your character's ghost in the afterlife. While dead, you'll have to deal with the angry ghosts of enemies you'd killed earlier as well as any ghosts spawned from the piles of bones scattered around. On the plus side, you can access new areas that your living body couldn't reach.

Each section of the dungeon is also home to a room featuring a runic design on the floor. By standing in these magical circles, you'll reanimate yourself and return to the world of the living. These can only be used once, but if you use them carefully you'll be able to get the best of both worlds as you wander through the maze. Eventually, you'll reach the bottom of the Crypt, and defeat Death himself.

But, it's unlikely that you'll make it that far on a typical trip. Don't worry too much about it; many of the things you can do in the dungeon are reflected in the town far above it. Anybody you save will be found wandering around town, and most of them will donate some money to your continued attempts. If you bought any blueprints from merchants found in the dungeon, the store in town will start carrying these items. Lastly, the town's museum gains new exhibits as you collect new equipment and slay unique monsters.

Points of Interest

Multiple playable characters
At the start of the game, you can only play as Raga, the Wizard's lizard. This isn't much of a problem though, as their pet is well-balanced and carries some decent starting items. Once you've beaten Death, you can play as the rescued Wizard, and there are several other heroes and heroines trapped inside the dungeons for you to find, rescue, and play as.
Large selection of items
The combat mechanics are extremely simple, but there's a surprisingly large number of items and weapons to choose from. This allows for many different ways to customize your hero, though for the most part what items you can use are limited to what you're lucky enough to find in your travels. There's a shop in town that you can buy items from, so once you have enough money you can start with almost anything you want. To give you an idea of how varied things get, consider your weapon choice: will you fight with a spear, a sword, an axe, a magical staff or a pair of daggers?
Randomly generated levels
No two attempts are the same, as the rooms are always shuffled around to make a unique dungeon for you to explore. It also helps that the different areas feature their own themes and unique monsters.
Secret areas
There are two areas - the Den of Thieves and the Forest - which are not normally part of the level set. In order to access them, you'll need to find some secrets hidden in the regular levels.
Steam community features
The achievement hunters out there will be glad to hear that there are a number of achievements to earn while playing A Wizard's Lizard. Only a few of them are generic; many revolve around doing something unusually hard, such as playing through the game without resurrecting even once. There are also Steam trading cards to collect.
Roughly an hour long
If you're not in a hurry or trying to complete a challenging achievement, a single run through the entire game takes about an hour. It's not really a game to play during a coffee break, but it's long enough to make the trip worth it.
Challenge levels
For anybody who is feeling brave or foolhardy, there are a series of challenge levels that you can access from the main menu. These are usually timed, and limit you to specific item sets. These aren't going to be too easy, but with some practice they should be doable.
Moderate to High difficulty
Don't be fooled by the cute graphics: this isn't an easy game. Or at least, not at first. Things get a lot easier once you've rescued a number of people and found the blueprints for your favorite items. However, things can still turn on a dime as the levels are filled with enemies and traps. The owl traps in the Crypt are the bane of my existence.
Limited selection of rooms and items
There is clearly an attempt at keeping things from getting boring, but the most common complaint about this game is that things start to feel repetitive after a while. Once you've made a dozen or so attempts at clearing the dungeon, you'll have begun to recognize most of the room layouts.

The items suffer from this as well: although there are unique mechanics for each of the different weapon types, there isn't much reason to try another weapon once you've found something you like. For example, one spear will behave much like another; the only difference is how much damage it does.
Items cannot be used together
Whenever you find a new item, you'll replace the item you're using rather than add the new item to your collection or an inventory. This means that instead of getting more powerful by combining the abilities of many different items, you'll have to sacrifice the benefits of one to get the benefits of another. On the plus side, this prevents you from becoming extremely overpowered, but it also means that finding better loot isn't rewarding once you have the items you want.

Concerns and Issues

Magic, totems and the use of Soul Powers
Since the game's story is based around a magic potion the Wizard was creating, it's not surprising that magic also plays a heavy role in the rest of the game. You'll find the almost every fantasy creature wandering about in the dungeons, but there are a few things that stand out as possibly problematic.

The first of these is that you can plant totems to use their magic. These effects range from simple explosions to small area of effect attacks. The second is a type of attack called a Soul Power. Using these uses up a Soul Orb that you've collected in your journey (usually during the afterlife), and their effects range from simple offensive attacks to summoning a purple dragon that flies around and helps you defeat your enemies.
Blood and gore
Sadly, this cute game likes to use gibs when you kill a monster. This means that every time you kill something, there will be a small spray of bloody chunks from where it was. Additionally, whenever you or a monster is injured, a small plop of blood will appear on the floor near them. This is particularly noticeable when you get hurt by a trap: the trap will appear bloody from then on.

Fortunately, most of this can be disabled by turning off "particle effects" in the game's option menu. From then on, monsters will just go POOF when they die. Traps will still become bloody, however.
Skulls, bones and other designs based on dead things
There are a lot of dead things in this game. From ghosts of monsters you've defeated to piles of bones on the floor to Death himself appearing as the final boss, the dead and their remains are everywhere. Of course, this is more or less expected considering a good portion of the game takes place while the protagonist is dead. Very little of it comes off as scary or dark and evil though.