The Wizard of Oz is both enthralling and heartbreaking, an inspired iOS title that never fails to captivate. If you have unconditional love for all things Oz, then its blatant flaws will serve as minor distractions. For those who are fine with straying off the yellow brick road, the journey will still be a worthy, albeit frustrating, experience.
With source material that is absolutely intimidating to tackle, developer Spooky Cool Labs deserves heaps of credit for turning The Wizard of Oz into a farming game that overachieves on a creative level. If one's depth of imagination was the sole factor in judging a game, then Spooky Cool Labs, along with Toto, deserve best in show honors.
Before Dorothy eases on down that road, there's a ton of work to do. Gamers are tasked with turning Munchinkland into a viable city, and it's the munchkins who do most of the heavy lifting. They mine gold, fish for their food, manage the restaurants and shops you build, and even chop down trees. Though Oz is a world seen through Dorothy's eyes, the munchkins play a pivotal role in the title's appeal. One cool feature is the munchkin cam, which gives you numerous up close views of your flourishing city. To get an up close and personal look at your budding metropolis, simply tap on the resident of your choice, and a birds eye view of where that munchkin is hanging out will pop up on your device. Oh look ma, there's Dorothy!!
The goal is to get Munchkinland up and running so the townsfolk can help Dorothy build a yellow brick road to the Emerald City. Every business and house you erect will end up generating Oz coins, currency which will help keep the munchkins happy with food as they run your day to day activities. Emeralds that are earned throughout the game are either used to buy items and speed up the building process. Originally a Facebook game, The Wizard of Oz gives you a pretty nice prize by integrating your experience smack dab into the social network.
Getting to the yellow brick road is fun, as Dorothy receives a healthy share of prize options for her work. Depending on your city building strategy, you may want to collect as much gold ore as possible or opt to receive more Oz coins to finance even more structures. If you want to take a chance, a spin the wheel option lets you try to win an emerald. Watching clips from the film is also an option, and although I only received 100 Oz coins in the process, watching Judy Garland sing "Over the Rainbow" never gets old.
What does get old are the game's glitches, which are even more annoying since The Wizard of Oz would have been a superior game play experience if it kept its nose clean from mistakes. In the numerous hours I've journeyed to Oz, the app shut down and brought me back to my iPad's main screen. Although it takes less than a minute to get back to Munchkinland, imagine having your app crash four to five times within the hour.
Another problem is The Wizard Oz's all too frugal doling out of energy bolts. Most of the activities in this adventure require the use of bolts. Although you can receive more energy through level ups, mystery boxes, or yellow brick road upgrades, there's a pretty good chance you'll run out of these puppies in no time flat. A new bolt is created and added to your asset list every four minutes. Still, that refresh rate is horrible, since there are way too many fun things to do in The Wizard of Oz to just sit and wait. As you can see from the picture below, I have a million tasks to complete in Munchkinland and without a sliver of energy, every little chore in my town is delayed.
I'm not finished complaining. Most of the buildings in the city need to be managed by a munchkin. To move one of these citizens, you tap them and slide them to the desired structure and drop them off at work. If you want them to fish in a lake or chop down a tree, do exactly the same thing. Unfortunately, it can take several attempts to actually pick them up and direct them around the city. This is a very anal retentive detail but, added to the previous flaws mentioned, it just adds to the game's annoying factor. My zen side, however, tells me to shut my mouth and enjoy the catch of the day.
Even with its flaws, The Wizard of Oz serves as a solid complement to the classic film, and it's just awesome to have scenes from it serve as an important element to the experience. I've always loved the movie's nostalgic yet pointed themes, and that spirit resonates with this latest Oz experience.
The Wizard of Oz could have been an excellent, game changing title, but due to a few missteps it's been knocked down a couple of pegs. I'm crossing my fingers for an immediate update to this crashing glitch. Now's the time clean up Oz, because whether you're playing out in Kansas or in a forgotten corner of the world, there's no place like home.