Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Retrospective: Wizball for the Commodore 64

Until recently, fans of the Commodore 64 were like citizens of a foreign country I'd never visited but always respected and admired. I had a C64 as a kid but I was very young and my parents got rid of it long before I was old enough to appreciate it. Yes, in our house yet another ravenous IBM compatible felled a helpless C64 for its prey. I owe so much to emulation -- and I say that with great sincerity. I've found so many amazing games via the wonders of emulation and I'm able to experience game consoles and computers I never had a real chance to try. It's time for me to reunite with the C64 and add to my list of great games, games like Wizball for the Commodore 64 (with ports and sequel).

Wizball C-64

The goal in Wizball is to restore color to Wizworld after it is drained by the evil Zark and his sprites. Chances are, if you're a C64 fan, you're very familiar with this game. It seems to be a go-to game for C64 newbies like me and with good reason. Wizball is one of those games that is very unique and difficult to compare to anything but various parts of various games. When you first start playing you can only control the Wizball (a Wizard in ball form) via very cumbersome controls (this is intentional and changes quickly as you power up), a bouncing ball that can only move side to side by spinning at various speeds for the brief moment it collides with the traction provided by the surface of Wizworld. The Wizball is capable of firing at enemies and destroying certain enemies drops green pearls which can be collected to activate various powerups in a system very similiar to the Gradius series.

Wizball ingame

Once certain movement powerups are activated the game quickly becomes much like the Defender series. You are able to navigate freely left to right, up and down, with no gravitational restriction. This is where the game really kicks up the action. Possibly the most vital powerup is the Catellite (the Wizard's cat as a small satellite) which follows the Wizball and fires simultaneously. Its value, however, is greatly increased by it being the only way to catch droplets of color that fall out of certain enemies. Holding the fire button allows you to control the Catellite and gather droplets. Once a color is collected, you restore that color to the level and are granted access to the laboratory (complete with a cool shmup bonus level as you travel) to pick a powerup that will remain permanently, even if you die.

Wizball laboratory

When it comes to graphics and sound, the game takes advantage of the C64 hardware quite nicely with stylish abstract, dream-like and colorful worlds. The music, although used sparingly, does the C64's SID chip justice and is wonderfully melodic.

At the end of the day, Wizball stands as a unique game. While vaguely comparable to Gradius and Defender, the comparisons remain just that, vague. Wizball saw several ports across several computer systems but surprisingly never got a console port. It even received a sequel called Wizkid that ended up being a fairly different game. I look forward to trying the sequel as I have not yet.

Note!: A fan-made PC and Mac remake of Wizball with updated graphics can be found here. It appears to be very faithful to the C64 version and seems to be an absolute labor of love.

For more information, see MobyGames and Wikipedia.


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