Company: Roklan
Model #:
Year: 1983

Found in 2021


The origins of Cheez-Wiz are a bit of a mystery.  Found by John Hardie, this Roklan prototype was completely unknown to anyone until a single cartridge surfaced in 2021.  While it's not unusual for unknown prototypes to surface from time to time, the fact that it is by a major company that has been thoroughly researched and is a fully playable (and possibly complete) game make it a truly unusual find.


As you might have guessed, the star of Cheez-Wiz is a mouse.  Seraphena the little mouse to be exact.  Your goal is to move Seraphena around the maze in her ball and collect all the cheese (cheez?) while avoiding the cat (Lucius P. Wintergarden to you).  Rounding out the cast of characters is Stanley the key who assists Lucius in causing you no end of grief.  The title screen actually introduces each character which is unusual for the time and gives the game a bit of an arcade flavor.


At the start of each level, Seraphena will enter her little ball and roll down a ramp and into the maze.  A piece of cheese will be randomly placed in maze for you to gather.  Each maze has six to eight pieces of cheese to gather, after which the ramp will return and you must exit via the upper left corner.  In the maze itself you'll see both opening and closing walls and flashing doors that appear and disappear.  The moving walls only serve to slow you down, but the doors are a bit of challenge.  If Seraphena rolls over one she'll be randomly transported to another door in the maze, but there's a chance that she might be transported into the cat cage at the top of the screen which results in an instant death.  For this reason it's advisable to avoid the doors unless it's an absolute emergence.  However on the higher levels the doors appear and disappear so fast that avoiding them becomes difficult.

Harassing Seraphena as she moves through the maze is Lucius P. Wintergarden.  Lucius is normally confined to the cage at the top of the screen, but will be released into the maze if Stanley the Key touches the cage.  Stanley moves across the screen in a bouncing motion starting from the lower left corner, but can stopped by simply touching him.  Each time Seraphena stops Stanley he'll come back moving faster and faster until finally he transforms into a mousetrap.  If Seraphena touches Stanley while he's in mousetrap form, she'll lose a life.   Once Lucius is released into the maze he'll make straight for Seraphena and can even move through walls!  Thankfully he's not particularly fast and can has a vital weakness.  WhenSeraphena grabs a piece of cheese, Lucius will change color and attempt to return to his cage.  If Seraphena can touch Lucius before he escapes he'll turn into a ghost (or something) and be hung out to dry on the clothesline at the top of the screen (at least I think that's what happens).  If you can kill Lucius nine times (cats have nine lives after all), you'll get a 5,000 point bonus!


Speaking of bonus points, each time a piece of cheese appears in the maze the 'cheese timer' will start counting down.  The timer starts at 1,000 points then drops to 500, 250, 100, then 5.  Once it reaches five points it will count down to zero.  If the timer reaches zero Seraphena won't receive any bonus points for clearing the level.  Thankfully the timer resets each time Seraphena grabs a piece of cheese.  If she manages to grab all the cheese without the timer ever reaching zero, she'll get 2,000 bonus points upon clearing the level.  There are five different levels, each with a different maze (or in the case of level 4, no maze at all!).  Once you've cleared all the levels they will repeat with different colors, but the doors will appear and disappear faster and Lucius will move faster.


Controlling Seraphena is a bit of a challenge as the game seems to be trying to give a sense of inertia and simulate analog style controls.  So much of the time you'll end up pushing too long in one direction and sending the ball careening of the walls.  Thankfully you can press and hold down the fire button to make finer movements, but this slows you way down.  However pushing the button makes it easier to squeeze through some of the tight tunnels in the maze and get through the moving walls.  Although it may seem like this game was programmed with a trak-ball in mind, but it's actually designed for a standard joystick and using a real track-ball results in even worse controls.  On the sides of the screen you'll notice a dot that moves on the top/bottom and left/right walls.  This represent the X/Y axis of the controller and indicates what direction and speed you have the ball moving in.  It's a nice touch that can help with learning how to control the ball.


The title screen has options for selecting the number of players (1 or 2) and the difficulty level (1-9).  The difficulty level affects how fast Lucius moves and how quickly the doors appear and disappear.  Also on the title screen is a section called Custom Options with letters going from A to M.  You can turn these options on or off by pressing 1 or 0 and the letter on the title screen.  A 1 or 0 will then appear under that option indicating that it's active (1) or inactive (0).  It's unknown if these options actually do anything though and they may not have even been programmed in yet.  There's also a bug with the Custom Option system where the player can press any number when selecting the first option and that number will appear under the letter instead of a 1 (so pressing B and 7 will put a 7 under option B).  This only works for the first option you pick and probably doesn't do anything different than selecting 1.  

Cheez-Wiz is a fun maze game with an interesting, if slightly frustrating, control scheme.   While nothing really makes Cheez-Wiz stand out from the plethora of maze games that dominated the market at the time, it's an amazingly addictive and solid game with its easy to understand but hard to master gameplay.  It's unknown why Cheez-Wiz was ultimately unreleased but it may have been due to the declining market at the time.  While the game seems complete there are indications that it might still need a little work such as the fact that when you die you automatically move to the next maze and the whole mystery of the Custom Options that don't appear to do anything.  Finished or not, Cheez-Wiz is worth a try even if it may not not be everyone's cup of cheese. err... tea.

Version Cart Text Description
?/??/83 Cheese Wiz Confidential
Late WIP


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