The original Wizards And Warriors
is a very strange game. It has elements that heavily suggest it was intended as an arcade game. You have a literally never-ending stream of enemies that doesn't stop coming at you, you come back to life on the spot if you die (excepting boss fights), and if you "continue", you just come back to life on the spot with a fresh set of lives. Essentially, you can't really "lose" the game unless you simply choose not to continue. So how is a game like this any fun?
The real fun comes from the mixture of play mechanics, goals and level design. This is a platformer, with plenty of platforming to do, a lot of hidden rooms (via invisible doors), and simple collection quests. The goal is simple: get X number of gems, reach the goal, then fight the boss. Going about it involves non-linear exploration of levels that are large enough to be satisfying and filled with nooks and crannies, and yet not so large as to be intimidating. And there's a vaguely Metroid
-like sense of progression in the form of colored keys which let you open colored doors and chests. You pass by so many chests and doors without being able to open them, that getting that colored key feels like you've suddenly gained tremendous freedom. It's a fun feeling that keeps returning in every level.
There's many items to collect which augment your abilities: a potion to let you levitate and thus jump higher, a feather to fall more slowly, magic boots that let you kick open chests without requiring a key, as well as a few annoying letdowns such as the useless invisibility cloak (you're invisible, but the enemies don't seem to know that) and the Wand of Wonder (freezes enemies in place for like 0.6 seconds).
Some items are even hidden in places that require some very tricky platforming to reach, sometimes with the help of respawning magic potions that let you do things like run faster or jump higher for a short time.
Wizards And Warriors
is fun, really, not because of the action or the challenge related to it, as you in fact die frequently from the unending onslaught, using up plenty of your unlimited lives. Instead, the fun comes from the sense of exploration and discovery, and the freedom you have in this platforming adventure. Somehow, despite the total lack of challenge and lopsided design, it works all because of that.