Monday, October 06, 2014

The New John Wizard

So far, the little independent developer John Wizard has been mostly noted for the two RPG-Maker-made series “Dawn’s Light” and “Lilly & Sasha.” Both combine a big world and good pacing with a fun and interesting story. Recently, however, things changed a little.

This Saturday, the ‘new company,’ now going by the name John Wizard II, has released their second new game, “Our Love Will Grow.” While their first new game, “Madame Extravaganza’s Monster Emporium,” still has battle and certain RPG mechanisms (such as levelling up and equipping the character), “Our Love Will Grow” is a farming simulation in the style of “Animal Crossing” or “Harvest Moon.” And don’t get me wrong: I love those two new games as much as I love their RPGs (especially the “Dawn’s Light” series). I’m a little surprise they’re suddenly going new ways. It makes sense, though, now that the team has changed.

“Madame Extravaganza” has a certain ‘Pokemon’ touch to it. You have to fight monsters to gain stuff and level up and you need some monsters with you, in order to be able to win the fights. Once you have seen a new monster (there are several in each dungeon of the game), you can buy it from Madame Extravaganza in town (where you can also rest, buy and sell stuff, and talk to people). You can rearrange your group in town as well, exchange the monsters or just their position in the group. Then there’s rare monsters which you only get by doing specific things in specific places. The dungeons are randomly generated and not too big, so you can easily play one or two of those as a break from whatever else you’re doing at the computer. Not that it ever stops with one or two of them for me…

“Our Love Will Grow” on the other hand is completely missing the ‘RPG’ component that levelling up and fighting still provide with “Madame Extravaganza.” You play a young guy who (as the strategy guide you can buy with the game explains) just found out the woman he loved cheated on him with his best friend. He comes to a small town and buys a farm to live his dream of raising crops and making produce. This is how you start out. The farm, some farming tools given to you by the town’s mayor, and a pack of strawberry seeds. Everything else is completely up to you. As far as the ‘Love’ part of the title is concerned: you will meet five girls in town you can romance. It’s part of the natural game play - you will meet them at the parties held by the mayor every seven days, you can impress them with presents, too, and you will be able to trigger special events for each of the girls, once her affection for you has risen enough. There’s a lot to do: keeping the farm working, mining stuff for upgrades of the house and the tools, romancing your girlfriend, fishing in the lakes around the town, and playing with your dog. Where “Madame Extravaganza” has that ‘one more dungeon’ feeling, “Our Love Will Grow” has that ‘one more day’ feeling, which is just as bad for everything else I was planning to do.

After playing both games for a while, the ‘just one more’ feeling diminishes a bit, but it doesn’t completely go away (it’s just the same with “The Sims” for me). It’s the short time you need to do ‘one more thing’ in those games. Just one more day, it’s only a couple of minutes. Just one more dungeon, it’s not that long. And, perhaps, I can get the next tool upgrade done… And, perhaps, I will finally find that last Orb to open the last dungeon… That’s my undoing with those games. You always have the feeling you’re working on something. The next harvest is coming up, the next rare monster can be found, the next update, the next level-up… John Wizard II has managed to make very addictive games - which doesn’t mean their former games are not addictive, I’ve spent a lot of time with Harvey (the main character of “Dawn’s Light”) in the past. I simply adore the two Christmas games they give away for free and play them once every Christmas time (they’re about four hours playtime each). But the ‘new’ John Wizard has handed me two games I will most likely keep playing for a long time.

Have a look at John Wizard’s games. Download their free Christmas games, if you like. Keep away from “Jack Of All Worlds,” though, it’s their only ‘terrible’ game.