Change Wizard ($1.99) by Michael Merrill is a challenging and quirky math arcade game where you must serve up change in a wizard thrift store. While working a register may not be glamorous in real life, in a magical world, there’s a certain amount of charm as you conjure up change from thin air. If you enjoyed titles like Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire and The Firm, then you’ll like what Change Wizard has to offer.
Before I started writing full time as my job, I worked in retail, and it definitely wasn’t my favorite thing to do in the world. But I did learn many valuable skills during that time, such as handling change for customers. It’s something you never think about, but it’s a lot of simple arithmetic that can be used on a daily basis (unlike something like calculus). While I’m not a big numbers person, I do enjoy some mathematical games every now and then, such as Noda and GREG, so naturally, I was intrigued when I saw Change Wizard on the App Store. It combines my interest of magic and games with a practical use of math, and it proves to be one heck of a challenge.
The visual style in Change Wizard is gorgeous, and definitely one of my favorites lately. The game has a simple and flat look and feel to it, so it matches with the overall iOS aesthetics well. Since this takes place in a world of wizards, the characters can have a bit of a cartoonish appearance, but it is all done tastefully and beautifully. The register’s elements have a classy face, and everything in the game is laid out neatly so you never miss a beat. Animations are smooth as you draw coins and the line of customers moves, and the original theme song is a delight to listen to as you work the register. To top things off, the game has realistic yet wacky sound effects as you serve customers, adding to the charm of the game.
In Change Wizard, you are a new cashier who has been hired to serve customers of the Wizard Pantry, the favorite thrift store of magical folk everywhere. There are no levels to the game — just an endless stream of customers. The goal of the game is to last as long as you can without being fired, which is done by keeping the customers happy and the register full.
But things are easier said than done, as you have to be precise with the coin conjuring and keep everything balanced — shortchanging people mean more change to give out but lowering customer opinion and trust, while giving out more change means happier wizards but less to give out. If either one of these gets too low, you’ll be fired and the next new hire will be brought in, because the management here doesn’t play around.
The controls in the game are simple. As each customer comes up to the register, you’ll see some bits of information at the bottom: the item they’re purchasing, the total they paid, and the actual cost of the item. You need to do the math and then use your finger to draw the correct coin to give them, but be careful, as size matters. You can give out pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters — you know, just like in real life. However, if you make the circle too small or big, you’ll end up creating junk. Or if you draw the wrong coin, there is no way to take it back, so there’s going to be a lot of practice involved here. When you’re done with a customer, just slide the item bar to the left so they can finish checking out.
Players also only get 10 attempts for each customer, so you have to focus on getting the coins right. Chances are, until you can master the coin drawings, you’re going to do a lot of shortchanging or over-changing during the game and get fired a lot, but that’s okay — that’s to be expected. At the top of the screen will be the Register Balance and Opinion-O-Meter bars — if either of these reaches the red, then you’re fired.
On top of that, some customers are special, with a colored thought bubble and exclamation mark to indicate the fact. Each color has a significant meaning, and you’ll have to handle these customers in different ways. When you take this into consideration, the game has a lot more depth than what meets the eye at first.
The game is fairly difficult, but oddly enough, if you’re up for the task, then you’ll just keep coming back to the game for more. There is a high amount of replay value to be found here, and that is only reinforced with the Game Center integration for leaderboards and achievements. Even though there technically isn’t a scoring system, the leaderboards exist for most customers served and total customers served. There are also 33 achievements to go after, in case you like to rack up those achievement points.
I’ve only spent a little bit of time with Change Wizard so far, but I’m enjoying the game. The visuals are gorgeous, the music is whimsical and pleasing, and the gameplay mechanic is challenging but fun. However, I have ended up being frustrated at the controls a bit because some of the coins are just too similar in size, such as the penny and dime. I end up accidentally making dimes way too often when I don’t need them, which is annoying. It would be nice to see an update that makes it slightly easier to have more control over the coins you’re conjuring up, so I hope the developer considers this.
I recommend giving Change Wizard a try if you’re looking for a fun arcade game that will help keep your daily math skills sharp. Change Wizard can be found on the App Store as a universal download for $1.99.