Many regard The Wizard of Oz as a literary classic; the story of Dorothy and her adventures in Oz have proven to be an enjoyable read for children of all ages for decades. Dorothy’s adventures have also translated well to the visual medium, as the film by Judy Garland has received high praise. Fast forward to September 30 of this year, when publisher D3 and developer Xseed released a videogame translate of The Wizard of Oz story in the title The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. For the most part they have succeeded, and their take is vastly different from what you would expect in terms of writing and presentation. The gameplay is not very creative though, as the rough controls and limited sense of purpose dull what could have been a unique experience.
In terms of presentation, this journey to the land of Oz lives up to its subtitle of going beyond the Yellow Brick Road, mainly by providing characters and a premise that differs from what is offered in the book and movie. Here, Dorothy, after being whisked away to Oz, is asked by the Wizard to defeat four witches based of off different seasons in order to have her wish come true. It is an interesting take on the classic tale, and for the most part gives you all the motivation you need to progress. Along the way, you meet up with characters who should prove familiar to those who have become familiar with the literary work. You will see the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Strawman, Dorothy’s dog Toto and others, along with enemies that were never in any Wizard of Oz manuscript.
Meeting these characters encompass a part of Dorothy’s quest to find the four witches and take them out. Sadly, it is a quest that is very bare bones. Most of your adventure will consist of wandering through environments, taking out foes, solving the occasional puzzle, obtaining treasure, gaining experience from said victories, and obtaining the eggs from the evil witches that are necessary for progression. The fact that you rarely meet other individuals along the way makes this journey feel boring, and the fact that the story, while well written, rarely gives you any sense of urgency, contributes to this monotony.
On the plus side, the environments look good with nice three-dimensional effects and a good sense of scale when walking around the different areas. Dorothy and the other characters animate well and rarely show any graphical glitches. The music is solid yet unspectacular. While the tunes are nice; there is nothing here that is particularly memorable. The combat and controls display some uniqueness, with Dorothy’s movements and actions being handled mostly through the touch screen. The trackball that is used to move her around is a clever idea in theory, but is not the most responsive device out there and has trouble with precise movements. The combat is unique in that the different characters have specific turn patterns and affinities, but they come across as static, and could simply be replaced by any other RPG character without much difference being noted by the player.
This lack of distinction serves as the main problem with the game; while it takes pains to differentiate itself from the source material, it comes across as a simple, derivative role-playing game with limited flash. It is a good title for those that want a lackadaisical adventure with limited stress, but those who want an adventure with depth should not take this trip to the land of Oz.
The Wizard of Oz – Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Fantasy Violence.