Professor Fizzwizzle

Our current game addiction is Professor Fizzwizzle. We ended up buying the Windows version as Duncan still has a Windows laptop.

To quote their website:

Professor Fizzwizzle is a fun, mind-expanding puzzle game, where you take control of the diminutive genius, Professor Fizzwizzle. You must help the professor use his brains and his gadgets to solve each exciting level. Do you have what it takes to get past the Rage-Bots and bring the prof back to his lab?

Perfect for teaching kids problem solving skills and great for the grownups too. It comes with 230 built-in levels, with varying degrees of difficulty and most with a story to go with them. But what makes the game great (as opposed to just being good) is that it comes with a level editor and you can create your own new custom levels and then play them.

You can also register and submit your custom levels to the Professor Fizzwizzle community custom level website. Over the last weekend that's exactly what we did.

There's going to be moments in my life where I'm really impressed with what our son does. I don't expect too many sporting moments. You know, where the basketball player scores the winning three point shot with two seconds left on the clock in the final period. (Just hours before his cheerleader girlfriend accidentally kills him in a prank that went too far, after she discovers that he's given her crabs and is sleeping with anything with a pulse. Of course, she then gets runs over by the obsessed school photographer who takes his dead body and tastefully arranges it in her rental storage area and then kills herself in a bizarre suicide pact, so it all sort of works itself out in the end. But I digress.)

One of those proud moments for me was when Duncan showed me the first custom level he'd created for Professor Fizzlewizzle. It was deviously tricky. I gave him a couple of small suggestions that would clean it up; he quickly modified it and we uploaded it to the community website. Since then there have been 60 downloads.

Gaming in the Participation Age.

If there was one critisism of the game though, it's that there doesn't appear to be a way to take a screenshot while the game is running. I'd really have liked to have shown you what he'd created.

Also over the weekend, (and with a little help from some of my very alert readers), I created a small Python script that automatically downloads all the custom levels in one go. Hundreds of them. I've now put them in the "custom" directory on Duncan's laptop for him to play with. There are some truly clever examples here. I hope some of them migrate into a future version of the full game.

As well as the the version for Windows, there are also downloads for Mac OS X and Linux. I was curious to see how well the Linux version did on my Ubuntu system. I downloaded the demo version from their website (you get about 10-12 levels to play with -- unlimited time). I was slightly disappointed that it didn't "just work" the first time. After I'd unpacked the compressed tarball, I had to run a script that asked me a couple questions:

$ cd .../ProfessorFizzwizzleDEMO_1.02
$ ./run.sh
Building...
Executable already built!  Starting the game...

PROFESSOR FIZZWIZZLE - SOUND INITIALIZATION

\*\*\*\*\*\* PLEASE SELECT DESIRED SOUND SYSTEM \*\*\*\*\*\* 
1 - OSS - Open Sound System
2 - ESD - Elightment Sound Daemon
3 - ALSA - Advanced Linux Sound Architecture
4 - NO SOUND

Input the number corresponding to the desired sound system and press ENTER: 1


\*\*\*\*\*\* PLEASE SELECT DESIRED SOUND DRIVER \*\*\*\*\*\* 
1 - /dev/dsp1
2 - /dev/dsp

Input the number corresponding to the desired sound driver and press ENTER: 1


\*\*\*\*\*\* USING: OSS  WITH DRIVER: /dev/dsp1 \*\*\*\*\*\*

Sound settings saved to file.  To alter settings in the future, delete SOUND.DAT run the game.
$

For me, this was fairly easy, but I can just imagine novice computer users struggling a bit. After you've had a successful run, it created a SOUND.DAT file, so the next time you start the game it's just a click away.

Overall, this is one of the most enjoyable games I've played with Duncan. Simple graphics, easy to use UI, with the occasional touch of humor (for example, when Professor Fizzwizzle falls over or is waiting for you to do something).

I've found that the "secret" of the game is to fully understand what each of the gadgets can do and their effect on all the other objects. Even then, you can't alway predict some of the really creative things that the level designers have integrated into each puzzle, so sometimes you are still stumped. In that case, you can see a solution to the level and use that to then try to solve the level yourself.

I can't give you a better recommendation for this game then that Duncan is still actively wanting to play it after two weeks from the initial download. His ADD personality has usually got him wanting something new by now.

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