It’s a platformer where you fall through platforms and one of the playable characters can’t jump.
I could end this review right there, as those are such fundamentally broken ideas and mechanics that they, on their own, make this one of the most baffling and all around terrible games I’ve ever played. But I suppose a more thorough review is in order.
Though The Wizard of Oz was originally a series of books, most know it best as the classic 1939 film, which remains one of the most popular movies of all time. In 1993, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System saw the release of a video game based on the Wizard of Oz property. But as fondly remembered as the film is, the video game may be equally disdained.
The Wizard of Oz is a sidescrolling platformer, which was the dominant genre at the time. Players take control of Dorothy at the start, but later unlock the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion as additional characters. The player is, of course, on a mission to get Dorothy to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz, who can send her back to her home in Kansas.
The gameplay is what obliterates any potential charm the game might have borrowed from the film. The Wizard of Oz is simply a broken mess of a game. As stated previously, the truly game-breaking flaw is that you can fall through platforms in a glitch so glaring it’s a wonder how the game was released.
Beginning in the game’s second stage, when the emphasis on platforming becomes stronger, you will often find yourself falling to your death even though you should have – for all intents and purposes – made a jump, but instead fell right through the platform you were trying to jump on. In order to prevent this, you have to stop holding whatever direction you’re pressing on the d-pad and land directly centered on the platform. If you continue to hold a direction, as any reasonable game would have you do, you’ll fall straight through. It’s absolutely inexcusable.
Even without that inexplicable glitch, the control would still be awful. All four characters move at the same speed, which is to say they’re all incredibly slow. This becomes a big issue when enemies start flooding the screen, with all of them moving much faster than you. Even the jumping feels slow and awkward, so the platforming would be pretty bad even if the aforementioned glitch weren’t present.
To the game’s credit, it does at least try to differentiate the characters’ abilities, but much of the execution with their abilities is nothing short of dumbfounding. Dorothy can jump, has a kick attack, and can throw projectiles (like gems, bubbles and stars) when collected. The kick is next to useless, as it takes forever to kill most enemies, but the projectiles are pretty handy, though ammo is in annoyingly short supply. The Scarecrow can attack with a pitchfork, which is stronger than the kick, but not by much. The Cowardly Lion has a slap attack and can also throw gems. The Tin Man is a complete waste of a character. Though he has both a kick and an axe to attack with (which do more damage than the other characters’ moves) he can’t jump. This is a platform game, and he can’t jump. It’s one of the stupidest designs I’ve ever seen in a game, and it makes the Tin Man one of the most useless video game characters of all time (if he weren’t based on a beloved movie character, he may outdo Lester the Unlikely as the lamest game character ever).
Each character has their own set of health and lives, so at the very least you have more chances to continue once you unlock the additional characters (though the Lion strangely does not come back when defeated in what is yet another baffling creative decision). This serves as a small placebo to the fact that a game over means you go back to the beginning of the whole game. Sure, the game does provide a password system, but every password is needlessly long, and it’s hard to even tell which letters you’re highlighting. The game can’t even make an on-screen keyboard intuitive.
It’s not like The Wizard of Oz is an easy game either. In fact it’s quite difficult, but for all of the wrong reasons. Not only are the controls and gameplay bad and plagued with glitches, but the levels themselves also feel clunky and broken.
The game’s sense of perspective is random and inconsistent. Objects that are obscured in the background can be jumped on (at least as much as you can jump on objects in this game), while large, prominent objects that look like platforms cannot. Enemies that are in the background – like mice scurrying across fences or the hands of a clock which look like level decoration – can still hurt you despite your character presumably walking in front of them. Rarely are you able to jump over such obstacles, and the only attack you can rely on to hit them are the projectiles, which again are in very short supply.
Visually, the game looks pretty bland. It may be colorful, but the character models are pretty ugly, and the animations dull. Not to mention that many of the enemies use identical shades of colors as the backgrounds, which makes them hard to see and adds even more unnecessary difficulty to the equation.
As bland as the visuals are, however, the music is far worse. The game manages to take a number of iconic songs from the 1939 film, and turn them into cheap and annoying loops (Somewhere Over the Rainbow sounds like it’s emitting from a carnival ride that’s in the process of breaking down). It’s all just very grating.
It is honestly hard to imagine how so many things went so wrong with The Wizard of Oz. The game is flat-out bad in every category. That is, it’s bad when it isn’t outright broken. There is just so much that’s creatively and technically wrong with The Wizard of Oz that it is a serious contender for the title of the worst video game I’ve ever played.