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Wizard’s Pen

Wizard’s Pen, the latest from PopCap Games, is yet another puzzler from the company that, in this reviewers opinion, really started the casual game trend. With a lineup that already includes hit games like Bejeweled, Bookworm and Peggle, Wizard’s Pen is a hidden objects game, but it’s not your typical “I-Spy” or “Where’s Waldo” type stuff. Instead of searching for hidden objects in detailed environments, you’re instead presented with a blank piece of paper. When you click on the paper, parts of an image are revealed, and it’s your job to identify it in as few clicks as possible. While Wizard’s Pen isn’t as addictive or as robust as some of PopCap’s other efforts, it’s still a fun game to play.

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The storyline casts you as the apprentice to a wizard who has disappeared. His magical talking pen suggests that you search in the wizard’s spell books for clue to his disappearance. Unlike a normal book, the pages in the wizard’s spell book are blank and the images printed on the page can only be revealed with the aid of the pen. By clicking on the blank pages of the book, you reveal bits of larger images, which form very familiar objects like light bulbs, boats and skulls when completely revealed. Your goal is to figure out what the hidden object is in as few clicks as possible. Answers are given by typing in the word in a text box below the image. Rapid-fire clicking on the pages won’t help you, as each click burns away a part of the candle you’re reading by. Extra clicks also reduce your overall score, which is used to unlock further challenges. Once the candle burns to the bottom, you’re given one last guess. Once you complete a page, you move onto the next one and after 16 total pages, you move onto the next book.

Poppin’ CapsWe have reviewed several of the games mentioned in this review previously. Click on any of the links below to see if they’re worth your time:

Bejeweled
Peggle
Peggle NightsOne of the most important things when building a game like this is to ensure that the game recognizes a lot of different answers for the same object. The simple image of a boat could be answered as a boat, a yacht or as a sail boat, for instance. The game also needs to be able to recognize typos (to a certain extent). In both of these, Wizard’s Pen excels. Not once did I think I gave the correct answer only to find that I was supposed to answer a synonym instead. And a few times, I noticed I made a typo (sometimes on purpose for testing), and the game still credited me. I’ve played similar games in this genre that have been far too demanding on the players to be precise with their answers and I think that the developers did a really great job keeping the game from becoming overly difficult.

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To keep things fresh, you’re periodically presented with new challenges. Instead of revealing the image, sometimes you’ll be presented with a mosaic or an abstract image that becomes clearer as you click. Other times, you’ll be presented with a twisted image that untwists. You’ll also be tasked at the beginning of the level to look at an image and find all of the objects that are missing. This can mean a lens from a pair of glasses or a helmet off a set of armor. These could have benefitted from more variety, as you’ll work with the same images over and over again, but I still thought they were fun.

These challenges break up what could have been a very monotonous experience, but I feel the game could have benefitted from fewer pages in each book to keep these from growing repetitive. 16 challenges per book over 20 books is quite a bit. In an effort to keep things simple, the team also chose to keep the hidden objects purposefully simple. But with so many pages of the book to clear, you’ll start seeing the same objects popping up again and again. Granted, the images are different, but two lamps in one book, as I encountered later in the game, was a little disorienting. While I thought the second image was a lamp early on, I clicked more than I needed to because I didn’t think the developers would put two lamps so closely together.

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Despite this, I still had fun with Wizard’s Pen. I will admit that it didn’t capture my attention for as long as some of PopCap’s other games (most notably the Peggle series), but I did find myself very excited every time I unlocked additional challenges, knowing that there was more to play. Wizard’s Pen might not have the longevity of some other games on the market, but it will certainly stay installed on your hard drive for quite a while.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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