The Wizard of Oz review

In what is possibly the least timely movie tie-in release of all time, Spooky Cool Labs and Warner Bros. have released the official Facebook game of the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie. The new game, which is built in Unity for cross-platform play and scalable 3D graphics, is available now for all players.

The Wizard of Oz starts well, with some stills and clips from the movie depicting Dorothy’s arrival in the land of Oz and the demise of the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy then subsequently meets Glinda the Good Witch of the North and discovers her quest to follow the Yellow Brick Road and make her way to Emerald City. Thus, most players would probably expect some sort of adventure/role-playing game experience, with players taking control of Dorothy (and later her companions) as they attempt to make the perilous but colorful journey.

Instead what we get is a title that is rather similar to CityVille at first glance. A very well-presented CityVille-alike, yes, and one with a few surprises up its sleeve, but a CityVille-alike nonetheless.

The player’s time in The Wizard of Oz is spent primarily rebuilding Munchkinland by constructing houses and resource-gathering buildings. More houses mean a higher population of Munchkins, who can subsequently be assigned to the production buildings in order to generate the resources required to continue building.

The Wizard of Oz sees players managing several different resources in order to keep Munchkinland running smoothly. Food is used to keep Munchkins happy and make them do their jobs in the resource-generating buildings, wood is used for construction and yellow ore is used to construct yellow bricks and subsequently rebuild the famous Yellow Brick Road. On top of these resources — which can also be purchased using hard currency — the player also has an energy bar, which replenishes at every level up and is able to “overflow” above its maximum. This latter mechanic makes the energy bar an all but pointless addition to the game, as, at least early in the game, the player’s energy bar never gets even vaguely close to running out before it is refilled. It would have been a better, more player-friendly move to take it out altogether — there is no real need for it, and there is plenty of opportunity for monetization through sales of resources and other premium items.

The game’s hard currency of Emeralds may be spent on a variety of other items besides basic resources. A Starter Pack provides the player with a bundle of coins, food and wood; a Daily Deal presents players with a premium building at a discount; and Emeralds may also be spent on unlocking content early before reaching the required level. They may also be used to speed up activities that take varying amounts of real time. It is all very conventional and predictable for the most part. This predictability extends to the game’s social features, which are nothing more than the usual “visit your friends to help” mechanic coupled with regular nag screens and quests encouraging players to invite their friends.

Despite the fact that players have seen almost everything this game has to offer before, there are a few interesting little features that do make The Wizard of Oz worthy of note, however. For starters, the game’s presentation in Unity-powered 3D graphics means that the player has a lot more control over how they look at their Munchkin empire. It’s possible to zoom right down to street level and see the Munchkins (and Dorothy) wandering around, or to zoom right out and get an overview. The camera angle may also be freely rotated, and players may click on an idle Munchkin at any time to get a first-person view of their village. Munchkins wander around automatically and have a habit of staring at the least interesting things on the map, but can be controlled with the arrow keys — though the game does not make this obvious at any point.