Be the best pet you can be.
If I was swept away by Death himself to the underworld, I suspect my cats would just take a nap or something. They certainly wouldn’t pick up a sword and start fighting for my freedom or at least I don’t think they would. Yet in A Wizard’s Lizard, you are the titular lizard, Raga, charged with saving the titular wizard. What a good pet you are! The road ahead is wrought with danger and peril, and despite how luck often seems stacked against you, at least death comes with some benefits.
Right after your owner is taken from Raga, he quickly picks up a sword and learns to throw it. For whatever reason, this is your projectile weapon for the game until you find more melee weapons to chuck at enemies. The gameplay here resembles the popular Binding of Isaac in that you go through randomized rooms of enemies on randomized maps, picking up special items as you go. But every time you die, you lose all your items and begin back at your initially unpopulated village.
Well, that’s not exactly true. When you die, you become a ghost version of Raga, who can carry on like the living Raga did in much the same way. So technically you have two life bars to maintain, but there’s more to it than that. Across the three worlds you’ll visit—the cemetery, the sewer, and the crypt—one level in each will feature a pentagram you can use to revive your corporeal form again, though often with less than half your original health. Your ghost form has the ability to traverse areas your regular body cannot and vice-versa, but you’ll also have to fight extra ghosts and spirits in many of the rooms you’ll visit.
The challenge can be prohibitive and death (the real one) can come much sooner than you’d appreciate. This is tempered by finding lost villagers in each world. Each rescued donates 500 gold to your cause which you can pick up before you set off on your mission again and again.
Out in the maps exist shops and blueprints Raga can purchase with gold. The shops allow you to buy enhancements, such as weapons and armor, to assist your ongoing playthrough. These can be quite helpful, but they come at a high cost. To temper this, blueprints unlock weapons in the shop back at the village. It takes a while to get really worthwhile stock in there along with enough gold to purchase it. When you do, those initial levels get easier and easier to blow through.
An annoying element to all this is that shops don’t let you look before you buy. Passing over an item purchases it, so there’s no way to know the name or effects of it in advance. If you swap with an equipped item you liked better, you can always pick that back up again, but if there was nothing in that slot, you’re stuck until you find something else. Back at the village, you can only remind yourself what an item was by going to the nearby museum, which is a waste of time versus offering some kind of preview to guide your purchasing decisions.
Given that this is a game where you’re expected to die repeatedly, eventually the “random” elements feel significantly less so. I don’t care to ruin the strategy, but I can tell you which enemies, shops, blueprints, and traps to expect on each level. There are also alternate levels that one can visit to change things up, such as a forest behind a secret door… that is always located on the first cemetery level map. I suppose one could contend that some predictability is necessary to learn and strategize, but given how often you’ll perish, it can be easy to tire of the same old variables.
One element that is never random, yet easily tiring, is the music. In order to save my sanity, I had to mute the music at some point and this is one of the few games for which I've done that. I know many players often replace game music with their own soundtracks, but I’m still a relic who likes to take in the whole experience as intended. Thus, it displeases me to have to turn the soundtrack down to hear the TV instead. You just hear it for too long as you try to progress.
Regardless of this displeasure, the game is always nice to look at. Although simplistic, the graphics are rather precious with their bold outlines and opaque palette. Basically, everything is cute, even the larger enemy designs in the crypt. Even when the odds are randomly stacked against you, your eyes won’t tire of what’s on display.
All told, A Wizard’s Lizard can prove enjoyable. I still find myself wanting to go in for another round now and again just to see what blueprints I can find and what enemy combinations will be thrown at me. And that’s probably the best way to play—one round at a time. That or you run the risk of tiring yourself out of the more predictable features.