Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is a role-playing game that attempts to immerse you into L. Frank Baum's timeless novel. It's successful at some points, employing a pleasant soundtrack, familiar characters, and a charming exterior to enchant you. Unfortunately, what should have been a remarkable journey into a cherished classic quickly degenerates into a generic, unexceptional spin-off. Its sheer mediocrity and incessant backtracking thoroughly mar the land of Oz, crafting an adventure that is sure to bore.
You probably remember this guy from the movie. Or not.
The plot is occasionally heartfelt and utilizes some of the traditional Oz lore, but it is mostly dull and uninspiring. You're cast as the orphaned Dorothy, a simple country girl swept up by a tornado and deposited in the land of magic. You'll eventually team up with the original cast--including Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man--as you proceed to Oz's castle. What's interesting is that the real story begins only after Dorothy and friends meet Oz, who immediately enlists you to protect his kingdom against four wicked witches. Regrettably, the events that follow are predictable and unexciting, and aren't helped by the repetitive and shallow gameplay.
The turn-based battle system is highly primitive and mundane, encompassing the bare-bones, standard combat offerings that one would expect of the most unsophisticated RPGs. Battles are split into rounds that limit your allies to four turns; you select your desired party members and attacks at the start of the round, then watch the chaos unfold. The process is a little restrictive and prevents you from quickly adjusting your strategy in response to changing battle conditions. This means you're unable to react to a problem--and, say, remove a severely weakened party member--until the end of the round, which can get irritating. Combat eventually evolves to include magic use, but enemies are such easy prey that spells are unnecessary overkill, so you'll only use them for healing or boss fights. A few routine status effects, such as poison and confusion, are included, but they're rarely used and are nullified at the end of the match, making status ailments moot points in the face of easy combat. You also won't encounter much progression beyond these core basics, which is discouraging because you won't find any advanced skills or techniques to truly captivate you.
While there are a few tactical concerns to keep in mind, the majority of combat sacrifices strategy and potentially satisfying gameplay for a pushover difficulty level. Monster affinities with specific characters--such as a ghost-type foe's weakness to Dorothy--seem designed to encourage tactical play, but you can easily ignore this feature and throw anyone at any monster type to be successful. An annoying battle wizard undermines any remaining strategic emphasis by suggesting a default battle plan at the start of each round. This lowers interactivity and makes you feel like you're watching automated battles instead of playing through them. The system's incompetence is even more aggravating because it'll frequently recommend that you waste your best items in the dumbest of situations, such as healing minor scratches with advanced potions. It's easy to work around the battle wizard's silly strategies, but it's vexing that there's no way to turn the feature off, which forces you to constantly correct it.