A SNES-inspired hack and slash explore 'em up with roguelike elements? Yes, please! Wizard of Legend casts players in the role of a wizard who has been invited to take part in the Chaos Trials - a series of maze-like rooms filled with baddies to beat up and items and spells to discover. It's basically an excuse for running around a castle killing enemies with magic, which is fine by us.
As with many other roguelikes, the order of levels is randomised within each playthrough, as are the enemies and items you'll find within. Players are able to equip up to six spells at once, chosen from your arsenal of previously-purchased attacks. Like the levels themselves, spells are based on the elements, such as earth, lightning, fire and ice. Each spell has a standard less-powerful attack that can later be upgraded later in the game. A variety of cloaks are available to give additional passive buffs to your abilities, and carrying relics can increase your chances even further. Using certain relics together can make them more powerful, but the game doesn't explicitly tell you which ones to look out for. It's all a matter of trial and error (and, of course, luck, depending on which items show up during each run), encouraging players to experiment with whatever might be available to them at any given time.
All of these spells and relics are gained by purchasing them from shops, using coins and crystals earned during battle. Coins can only be spent within the castle itself (you don't keep hold of your money when you die, for some reason), whereas crystals are spent in the main plaza/hub area. Merchants offer a random selection of wares each time you visit, with only lower-tier basic spells available during the early parts of the game. There are no item descriptions so it's difficult to know whether the thing you're buying is actually going to be of any use, which can sometimes lead to the feeling of wasting your (in-game) money if you end up with an item you're not interested in using. Again, it's a nice idea to encourage experimentation, but it would be nice to be able to make an informed decision about your purchases rather than being forced to get whatever the game randomly decides to offer.
Despite its slick movement, responsive controls, and the huge variety of spells, Wizard of Legend is a really difficult game. Like, really difficult. After buying around a dozen new spells we ultimately settled on the ones we were given right at the beginning, and it took us several hours to even beat the first boss. Even then it was likely down to being lucky enough to get some weaker enemies and one of the easier bosses during that particular run. Not one for youngsters or the easily-frustrated then, but any roguelike fans with a penchant for a challenge will be right at home here. Two-player local co-op is available if you want to see if that makes things any easier...
As the debut release from a two-man development team, Wizard of Legend is quite remarkable indeed. It might be a bit on the tricky side, but the core gameplay and the lure of discovering new things during each run are enticing enough to keep us coming back for more. If this is a sign of things to come, Contingent99 could well be worth keeping an eye on in the future.
WIZARD OF LEGEND / DEVELOPER: CONTINGENT99 / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: MAY 15TH