One of my favorite styles of IF game is when you have a magic system that just builds on top of itself, starting with simple spells and then moving on to more advanced and interesting ones. It’s not that common, but it’s always a joy to play; compare Junior Arithmancer. Even beyond this mechanic, Lazy Wizard’s Guide amazed my with its varied characters and non-linear goals.
The plot: You’re a senior student at a magic academy, taking your final exam to be a licensed wizard. The problem is that you don’t have a clue on how do to any of it! Armed with only a Beginner’s Magic book, can you explore the school and its surroundings to figure out how to complete all five of your exam goals?
I love the atmosphere of this game. You’ll run into all sorts of fantasy creatures – tree people, ghosts, gnomes, witches, vampires, among others – and it’s fun to go around the school. The characters you can interact with are unique and memorable, and I’d always liked checking back to see if they had anything new to say as I progressed. Room descriptions are kept concise, and everything you’ll need to know is mentioned. The game also uses a special web parser that makes conversations easier (you get to click numbered options) and highlights certain important verbs or notifications, which improved the ease of play and makes it easier to recommend to people who are new to IF.
The spell system is easy to understand: learn a spell, and you know it forever. If you have the ingredients you need, go ahead and cast it (on something if needed). Some of these are as simple as lighting up dark rooms or unlocking doors, while later ones include entering paintings and summoning vampires. You also have to brew some potions to complete your exam. The versatile spell system also leads to some puzzles having multiple solutions, which I liked.
There’s one area I would like to see improved: if you’re stuck, you can call an “exam jinn” to give you hints. However, most of his hints are vague and there’s points where he didn’t even have anything to tell me. I ended up beating the game without any of his help. It’s also a minor nitpick, but at first, I ended up drinking the tea that was meant for Mirlena. She kept asking for it, and I was wondering if I made a mistake, since I couldn’t get any more. I ended up going back to an earlier save to give it to her, but nothing new happened; the dialogue seemed the same and there didn’t seem to be any achievements related to it. It was a bit of confusion that stuck out, considering how good the rest of the game is at giving feedback and ensuring I can’t mess up puzzles.
Lazy Wizard’s Guide is a lighthearted and imaginative IFComp entry with strong gameplay and great worldcrafting. I liked it a lot, and I’d definitely recommend it.