Choose My Adventure: There's no crying in the Spiral edition

Ah, another week of playing in the Spiral of Wizard101. It's been a lot of fun so far, and I've learned more than I thought I would. Of course, the game continues to run smoothly without almost any issues, and the combat is really starting to ramp up. I've barely dipped my toes into crafting and gathering, only going so far as to take on the first quest in a line that seems to explain it. I even dabbled in pet-raising and games, as well, probably the main area in which I can see the need for more improvement.

Other than that, I mostly enjoyed jumping into open groups with other players. Solo play is a blast, for sure, but having three other wizards at your side as you battle a gaggle of baddies is a sight to be seen. I'll have to get much better, though, in spite of finding it easy to mow down my enemies. I've started to notice chinks in the armor of my deck and have begun to wonder what it is I am doing wrong. I have an idea, but more testing is needed.

Click past the cut to read the details of my adventure, and maybe you can give me some advice, too!

I spent a lot of the last week running around performing odd little tasks for different NPCs. I learned more about how the game works, thanks to the awesome voice acting and simple instructions. In fact, I cannot emphasize the voice acting enough -- it's that good. While they are definitely "kid friendly" voices, the sheer amount of work they must have required is evident. It's more along the lines of a Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network style, complete with inside jokes that adults will giggle at while they play with their kids.

The entire atmosphere of the game is really tight; nothing really sticks out as odd or "squeezed in." As I ran (or flew) around the environments, I noticed that all areas shared certain elements while still maintaining their own, unique themes. Firecat Alley is red, bright, and sharp, while places like Ravenwood separate themselves into different sections that correspond to each school of magic. My favorite school has to be the school of life, headmastered by an adorable cow named Moolinda Wu. It's super-cute, true, but there is a real dignity to the characters. Some of them feel powerful, but never scary -- humorous, but never overly goofy.

Combat shows off many of the best models in the game. Even if you watch a battle from the sidelines, you can still watch combat in real time. I caught myself stopping to watch other players' fights just to see the spells I was not familiar with, and sometimes I'd jump in to aid the players. There are some massive, complicated spells that happen during combat. Sharks pop out of the water and attack enemies; skeletal pirates appear on floating islands in the middle of the combat circle and swing their swords; and a massive sphinx-like statue erupts from the ground and spits sand -- one of the coolest spells I've witnessed to date. Watching the spell effects is half of the fun!

I have to say, though, that getting to missions can sometimes be very confusing. The in-game map needs a lot of work. I literally had to take minutes just to figure out where to go in order to complete a quest. I would think that a child might have an even harder time than I. Still, as I became more accustomed to the areas, it definitely became easier to make my way around -- but no thanks to the map.

I managed to get some time in the Pet Pavilion, a collection of minigames that result in leveling non-combat pets like my zombie. The pets can then be used during combat since they can raise player stats and also give out useful spell cards. It's a great system, except for the minigames themselves. They are fun, mostly, but they have to be repeated so many times in order to gain a level that the fun soon becomes real work. I really enjoyed the cannon minigame, complete with aiming the cannon before shooting the pet at a target, but after the 10th time, it started to feel repetitive. I can see how the game might need to be simple in order to be accessible, but the players of Wizard101 have proved that age means almost nothing -- some of these kids are hardcore.

"It's not very obvious, although the walkthroughs and tutorials are wonderful. For me, the problem is that the entire pet system seems to stick out a bit from the core game."

Still, you can mix a pet with another and come out with a unique combination, and you can compete in a race with that pet. The race is a game unto itself, and players can gain ranks and titles in the game. The pets might gain an ability that will help them level within the other minigames. It's not very obvious, although the walkthroughs and tutorials are wonderful. For me, the problem is that the entire pet system seems to stick out from the core game. The game truly shines when players are in fights together, giving advice to each other during combat. I think I can understand why KingsIsle added the system, though, being that it might not take long for players to achieve max level and feel like they're doing the same thing over and over. At that point, players would love to have anything new to play with. Frankly, it's hard to tell how popular the minigames are, since the entire world is always packed with players.

I've decided that, over this next week, I'll investigate the gardening system as I level up more. Gardening basically allows players to grow plants in plots or pots (I only have an apartment, so I'll have to do pots) and to use energy to grow them into charming (and sometimes noisy) plants. Once they are fully grown, they can be harvested for cool little treasures like extra cards, coins, or other items. I've barely stepped inside my apartment, so I think I'll need to decorate it as well. This is where you come in: I need to know which plant to go for. You could leave me some tips as to how to care for them, as well!

I will continue to level and enjoy the story, but I don't want to mess up my plants. I've seen the look in someone's eye as he discovers his diseased or dead little plants lying there, and I'd rather not go through that. Since I will only be Rank 1, I've decided to pick up two or three of the winning seed. Hopefully, they'll all turn out healthy. So go vote and leave me some tips! I hope to get into Krokotopia within a day or two, so I might need your help with that as well. See you in the Spiral!
Beau Hindman is your puppet. Make him dance, if you'd like. Over the next several weeks, he will be your guide through whatever game you choose, through whatever activity you command him to participate in. Follow him on Twitter or Raptr to see when he might be playing, then go in game to shoot bullets at his feet!
This article was originally published on Massively.