Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Game Boy Forgotten Favorites: Warlocked

Console: Game Boy Color
Genre(s): Strategy
Players: 1 or 2
Published By: Nintendo
Developed By: Bits Studios
Released: July 24, 2000

The Game Boy Color has been an icon amongst handheld gamers since it's release in 1998. It has boasted some of the greatest RPG and platformer titles to have ever been released. But there is one genre of game in-particular that few have attempted to create for the GBC. I'd like to introduce to you: Warlocked, a real-time strategy game for Game Boy Color... Wait, what? That's correct, Bits Studios managed to fit what would typically be a complex RTS interface onto a 2.36” screen, they simplified the controls down to a two button layout, and captured a lot of the RTS elements that we have all grown accustomed to over the years. And best of all, this game is excellent.


Gameplay:

When you first start this game, you are immediately presented with a short scene that helps set the stage for the battling that is about to commence. Queen Azarel is shown talking to her troops and explaining that these are the darkest of all days and the enemy, Chief Zog, is waiting for them to attack, just beyond the Fire Mountains. It's very inspirational.




Upon finishing the initial pep talk from Queen Azarel, you are presented the option of controlling either side in this epic battle. You can either choose Queen Azarel and her human troops or you can choose Chief Zog and his merry band of goblins. Each side has their own unique set of 16 missions for a grand total of 26 playable single player missions. Make sure you have a fresh set of batteries ready before sitting down to play this game! You will initially start off by playing relatively easy missions as you learn the game and it's controls. Along the way you will uncover scrolls that will typically contain some hints as to how the controls actually work and what to do during the mission.



If you are a fan of RTS games, the gameplay should be pretty straight forward. You usually start each level with a couple workers and a Main Hall. Your goal with these initial worker bees is to explore the question marked lands to uncover trees that will be used for fuel, gold mines that will be used to mine gold, and other miscellaneous items like scrolls and bonus chests of gold. To assign a worker to a desired task, first hover over the worker and press the A button, then choose what you would like the worker to do by hovering the item and press A. As you progress you will need to recruit new workers at the Main Hall by moving the cursor over the hall and pressing the A button. These workers can also build new buildings by first selecting the desired worker and then pressing the B button on an open plot of land and selecting which type of building you would like to build. All pretty standard among RTS games.



Now that you have all your workers humming along cutting wood and mining for gold, you need to start building some troops to decimate your opponent with. You will need to build a barracks or brawling pit with one of your workers and then build troops by hovering over it and pressing either B or A. Pressing B will build an archer unit that has the ability to attack from a distance and pressing A will build a melee unit that can only attack at close range. Each type of unit has it's uses and different strategies for how to use them. You will need to experiment with which type of unit combinations you prefer. To attack with these units, you will first need to select which unit you would like to control by hovering and pressing A. If you would like to select multiple units, press and hold A and hover over the top of all the units you would like to add to your attack party. After choosing your units, scroll to your desired target and press A. It's that simple.


As you play through the game you will unlock different wizards to use in battle. This is typically accomplished by rescuing the wizard from some predicament and returning them to the temple. There are a total of 27 wizards throughout the game that can only be unlocked by finding them during a mission. There have been reports of upward of 30 different wizards in the game, so continue searching during the missions and see if you can find them all. Each of the wizards have their own unique ability ranging from putting your enemies to sleep to summoning earthquakes to destroy them. There are also some wizards that have more passive abilities like speeding up unit production and even fortifying your buildings, making them more difficult to destroy. You will find that using the wizards will be very beneficial during battle.




One of my favorite units in this game are the dragons. These units are super powerful and can shoot fireballs at your enemy from a distance, setting them ablaze! Dragons are another unit that can only be unlocked by finding them. As you explore the various maps in this game, you will run across dragon nests containing a single egg. As you approach the egg, it will hatch and out pops a baby dragon. From here the trick is to return the baby dragon to the Main Hall, where it will then mature into a fully grown, fire breathing, flying weapon of death and destruction. Dragons can only be attacked by archers, towers, or wizards. You will use these units a lot.




So now that we have outlined some of the actual gameplay features, let's talk about the AI. This is the part where you will get a bit frustrated with this game. The units are idiots. There are many times when you direct a unit to perform what should be an easy task, only to realize that there is a building in his way and he just can't figure out how to go around it. He will be stuck in a back and forth loop between two tiles pondering life's many choices. You will need to babysit these units a bit to prevent this kind of stuff from happening. It is easily fixed, however, you just need to direct the unit away from the road block and around it. The good news is that your troops are not the only stupid ones in the game. Your enemy is also pretty stupid and easily manipulated! You will find that you can easily lure your enemies away from their armies and into yours by sending a unit close, but not too close, and then returning to you army once you have his attention. Many RTS games have had these same AI issues in the past, it's all part of the evolution of the genre.



Graphics:

You will be surprised by the amount of detail and color in this game. Bits Sudios really did a great job of fully utilizing the limited graphics capabilities of the GBC to display some amazing sprites and landscapes. Overall, they are great!

Music/Sound:

Another strong point of this game is the sound. The characters have audio clips to acknowledge your commands like “Ready!” or some goblin language I am not familiar with. Also, upon starting the game, you will hear “Warlocked!” come across your speaker. These sound clips are incredibly clear for the GBC.

The music is also very good! You will find different melodies being played during missions and menu screens. You will probably find yourself humming along with them after awhile.

Controls:

As you would imagine from a 2 button RTS, the controls can get a bit tricky. There is a small learning curve associated because of all the different combinations that need to be used. For example, to select a unit you press the A button. To deselect that same unit, you press and hold the A button until your cursor returns to a “hand”. Or to set troops to a certain party, you can hold select and press either A or B to assign them to that party. And we all know, panning with a D-Pad is never easy.

Overall I think Bits Studio did a great job of simplifying the controls down to a basic 2 button layout while still maintaining some of the key RTS control functions we have grown accustom to.

Final Impressions:

Warlocked is great. This is a very addicting game with amazing replayability that will keep you coming back for more. The amount of content they managed to fit into this cartridge is really quite amazing for the Game Boy Color. They pushed the iconic hand held to it's limits. Yeah, there are flaws with this game, but what game doesn't have flaws? The good definitely outweighs the bad. I would recommend this title to anyone, even if they are not a huge fan of strategy games.

This game is actually really affordable with prices typically ranging from $5 - $15 on Amazon, depending on condition and shipping charges. With a great game this affordable, why not take a chance on it?



Side Note:

There was a sequel planned for the GBA named “Wizards”, but unfortunately it was canceled due to a lack of publishers willing to take it on.




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