As the video game industry â€˜maturesâ€™, it becomes increasingly obvious that video games have an insatiable urge to replicate the medium of film. Not in regards to the content â€“ although developers and publishers certainly have the tendency to create interactive film with narratives so flimsy that they wouldnâ€™t even justify $15 of popcorn-munching passivity to pass the boredom on a wet Sunday afternoon â€“ but in regards to the business model.
Publishers act like movie studios, with everyone attempting to create the Christmas blockbuster that will get metaphorical bums on metaphorical seats. Big budgets and big development teams pump out big, needlessly complex, interactive B-movies. Cinema can be art, but that was never the intention of Alien versus Predator. Likewise, video games can be art, but you wouldnâ€™t look towards Burnout Revenge for the apotheosis. (Look it up.)
If one truly wants to find examples of cinema as art, rather than cinema as a means to generate revenue, one should look towards the independent filmmakers: the ones who justify the Rialto channel and the Sundance film festival. And now that the video games industry has decided to replicate Hollywood, so too must gamers turn to independent developers for originality, creativity, and inspiration.
Thatâ€™s not to suggest that Professor Fizzwizzle is art. Oh yes, the beautifully animated graphics are definitely aesthetically pleasing and are far superior to the majority of poorly-animated trash that finds its way into the Toonami segment on Cartoon Network. The fluid motion of Fizzwizzle alone is proof enough that complex computations to manipulate polygons will never outshine sprites that are the product of the obvious patience and dedication that is present in Professor Fizzwizzle.
However, art is not simply that which is aesthetically pleasing. Art needs a message, and unless Fizzwizzleâ€™s message is that the human will is never strong enough to avoid begging for the solution after 20 attempts to solve the problem, Professor Fizzwizzle is not art.
It is, however, a wonderful throwback to the days of the Amiga and the Atari ST: game design that relies on addictive simplicity rather than immersive complexity: the type of game that stimulated the pride of the player, rather than attempting to offer a poorly-conceived story as an incentive to continue. The puzzles range from the obvious to the fiendishly difficult, but providing players conclude the answer without help, all of them will induce a smile when completed.
Professor Fizzwizzleâ€™s greatest strength lies in the way it encourages both logical and lateral thinking. Fizzwizzle himself is limited in his motions â€“ for example, he cannot jump â€“ and his environment will limit him even further. Yet the restrictions are the driving force behind the game. Players are encouraged to think outside the box to solve a majority of the puzzles. There is always one solution, but discovering the answer has never been so enjoyable or rewarding.
Those who enjoy puzzle games or yearn for the 16-bit era will find little to fault in Professor Fizzwizzle. From graphics to gameplay, Professor Fizzwizzle is a timeless game. It wasnâ€™t uncommon for a game of this standard to retail for over $100 in the past, and even today it could easily retail for $50 â€“ the price of US$19.95 is ridiculously charitable.
The only negative is that its independent nature almost dooms it to relative obscurity. Hence, it is without question that NZGamer brings attention to this title. A demo can be downloaded from the Grubby Games website and a 60-day money-back guarantee is offered for the truly skeptical. However, only the soulless would consider Professor Fizzwizzle anything less than a bargain.