Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 28th
When I was in fifth grade, our school was one of many across the nation that enrolled its students in the DARE program. For those of you who don’t know, DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and the basic idea is to teach kids about the dangers of illegal drugs, usually through a combination of watching movies from the early 1970s and lectures from a member of the local police force. This was considered to be the only way to save our generation from drug addiction, as our hippie parents surely couldn’t be expected to do this sort of thing.
It was also up to the schools to explain to us how rabbits managed to reproduce so quickly.
As noble as the program sounds, the effect ended up being the exact opposite of what was intended. Before the DARE program, all I really knew about drugs was that they killed all of our really good rock stars and comedians, turned your brain into fried eggs, caused your crazy girlfriend to smash up all your shit with a frying pan, and would make you jump off a skyscraper because you thought you could fly. Those are some pretty strong disincentives. DARE build on that foundation by teaching us that drugs could also give you feelings of euphoria (we didn’t know what that word meant, so it was described to us as “the feeling that everything is awesome”), cause you to write really great rock songs, see things you’d never be able to see in the real world (they left out the part that most of these amazing hallucinations would eventually turn into a pile of cobras), stay up all night, be better at sports, and make pain go away. You can see where that information might have confused the message a bit. We also learned a whole bunch of really outdated “street terms” for drugs, which may have been a last line of defense to prevent kids from getting them, as the dealers of 1989 probably wouldn’t have known what to make of a bunch of 11 year olds trying to buy “red devils” and “black beauties”. On the plus side, learning this lingo made episodes of Starsky and Hutch a little easier to follow.
Nevertheless, I am thankful for what I learned in DARE because without a solid understanding of narcotics, games like Wiz N’ Liz would be impossible to understand. Don’t get me wrong, Wiz N’ Liz isn’t Grand Theft Auto. This is a kid-friendly game with almost no violence at all and has absolutely nothing at all to do with drugs – there’s no references to drugs, or addiction, or magic pills that make you “feel good” or grant you “powers” or anything like that. It’s just that whoever designed it must have been tripping balls at the time.
Really, it’s less disturbing than the idea that they came up with this without chemical assistance.
Wiz N’ Liz is a game about two wizards who run around at a frantic pace collecting rabbits while hopping around like a couple of meth-fueled lunatics. Doing so allows them to spell made-up words, such as Hoggit, and collect fruit, which they mix in a giant cauldron to cast spells which do things like turn all the rabbits blue or let them play a knock-off version of Space Invaders where they shoot at the bunnies they had been trying to rescue a few seconds earlier. And as insane as that probably sounds, it really can’t do the game justice. The characters run around at incredible speeds, and the stages are looped so there’s rarely a reason to slow down, all the stuff you’re trying to collect floats, so you have to jump constantly, and the whole thing is going on so fast that you barely have time to comprehend it. Which is probably for the best, because none of it makes any damn sense anyway.
How do you even classify a game like this? I’d call it a puzzle game except there’s nothing to figure out. There’s also no enemies to fight, no obstacles to overcome, and for most of the game, the only way to die is when you fail to collect all the items within the game’s merciless time limit. You could almost call it the most abstract racing game ever made. It’s also part tribute to the generation of games that came before it, since between stages, you mix the fruit you collected and try to unlock various mini-games that are based on the arcade hits of yesteryear (you can also unlock other “prizes”, but why would you want to?). The whole thing is vibrant and upbeat, and the stages go so quickly that it’s like the game equivalent of eating M&Ms. It’s basically fun boiled down to its purest components.
Or as Stryker so eloquently put it when I asked him for an opinion, “I don’t know, this game just makes me happy.”
Anyway, God bless Psygnosis and their odd little hearts. Yes, the company published some of the worst games I’ve ever played, but their willingness to touch things no other company would also brought us the only halfway-decent demolition derby game ever made, as well as Wipeout, and this little gem.
Availibility: As far as we know, Wiz N’ Liz wasn’t released as part of any compilations, or been made availible on download, so if you want to play it, you’re going to have to dig the Genesis out of the attic. However, finding aGenesis copy of the game is fairly easy. We were able to locate it in multiple used games stores being sold for just a of couple of bucks, and online prices seem to be in the sub $5 range as well. Outside of a DARE class, you’re not going to find out about too many others ways to have fun for so little cost.