Dizzy – An Eggcellent Series
We all have a soft spot for certain video game characters. Mario, Sonic the hedgehog, Link, Alex Kidd, Rayman. The list is endless and each of us has our own personal favourites. Usually these are based on happy memories of a particular game or a good time in our lives which the said game represented. Before all these characters that are instantly recognisable today, there was another character that older gamers like myself will always have fond memories of. That character is Dizzy.
For those not familiar with the series, Dizzy himself is an egg who wears boxing gloves and boots, strange combination right!? And he jumps in somersaults (hence the name Dizzy). The Dizzy games involved controlling Dizzy through magical landscapes with the aim of the game to rescue his girlfriend Daisy from whatever perilous situation she has found herself in. The main games all followed the same format. You would search the side scrolling landscapes for items to solve various puzzles to progress further in the game. Later games in the series added an extra element which would require the player to collect a certain amount of one specific item, be it coins or cherries, to truly complete the game. This also added longevity as finding all of these often proved more challenging than the main game itself. You would also meet various members of Dizzy’s family who would offer other useful items to help you on your quest. The series would also offer dummy items which had no use to your quest or on occasion would actually hinder it. The most notable one I remember was a whisky bottle that once you pick up, you can’t put down and your controls are all altered giving the impression that Dizzy is drunk.
Dizzy was the creation of Philip and Andrew Oliver, two brothers more commonly known as ‘the Oliver Twins’. The games were published by Codemasters, one of the biggest publishers from the mid 80’s and through the 90’s and were a huge hit, particularly on the 8-bit home computer scene. Later games were released on the Master System, NES and Sega Megadrive but Dizzy will always be remembered for the home computers such as the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64. These are the versions which this article will focus on.
Dizzy – The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure
Dizzy first appeared in 1987, the first game being “The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure”. This was actually one of the last Dizzy games I played and found it disappointing as I had been spoilt with the more polished later games. The ultimate cartoon adventure lacked atmosphere and where as the later games were puzzle based, this title was more hazard based which involved dodging birds and spikes which I personally found frustrating as Dizzy himself was not the easiest character to control. The aim of the game was to collect various items to make a potion which you would use to destroy the wizard Zaks. I will always appreciate this game as it was the first one, however it is the last one I would recommend.
Treasure Island Dizzy
Released in 1988 Treasure Island Dizzy really put Dizzy on the gaming map (no pun intended). In this adventure Dizzy was stranded on an island and the objective was to collect various boat parts which once collected would allow Dizzy to escape the Island. You were also required to collect thirty gold coins to pay the boat keeper who would then allow you to leave. The format was very different than the first game as you only had one life and the order you collected items was also important as any items that required under water use needed to be placed before the snorkel used to breathe under water as if this was dropped it would result in Dizzy drowning and having to start the game again, something which every player will have done numerous times. Treasure Island Dizzy was the first title I played and I vaguely remember my mum buying me it from a supermarket around the late 80’s, it was instantly my favourite game and I must have played it over a hundred times trying to complete it, something I never managed to do until years later when I revisited it for nostalgia reasons. Treasure Island Dizzy is a great game and will always remain one of my favourite games of all time.
Fantasy World Dizzy
1989 saw the release of the third main Dizzy game, Fantasy World Dizzy. The first I knew of the game was when a parcel dropped through my letter box on my birthday, it was from my uncle, a massive Dizzy fan who had in the previous year published a Treasure Island Dizzy walk-through guide in the Amstrad CPC official gaming magazine. I knew it was a game but had no idea which one. Once the paper came off I saw the familiar image of Dizzy on the front of the cassette case. It was a new Dizzy title! To this day I cannot remember ever being more excited to get a game on, I put it straight in the cassette loader of my ZX spectrum and anxiously waited for it to load. “Fantasy world dizzy!” the game had loaded and for the first time I heard the title announced by a pre-recorded voice! It was the first game I had heard have an actual recorded voice sample at the start of the game. I was convinced my uncle had somehow recorded his voice onto the game! The game was brilliant, as with previous Dizzy titles it involved looking for items and coins, on this occasion the aim was to rescue Daisy from a trolls tower. Fantasy World Dizzy was the first game in the series to feature Dizzy’s family, referred to as ‘the yolkfolk’ and they would aid you in your quest by giving you crucial Items. The music was brilliant, one particular section which you first hear roughly two minutes into the game is particularly good and I commonly refer to it as “the banquet hall theme” as that is the area you are in when you first hear it. Fantasy World Dizzy was a big hit and received rave reviews. The game probably takes my number two spot, more so because of the introduction of his family and the excitement of receiving it on my birthday than the game itself which was always going to have to be pretty special to compete with Treasure Island Dizzy.
Dizzy 4, titled Magicland Dizzy, was released in 1990 and carries on where fantasy world left off. The yolkfolk have been placed under spells by the evil wizard Zaks and Dizzy is transported to Magicland to save them. Once again the same format is followed and items are used to rescue your family members. I remember buying the game from my local newsagent, newsagents often sold games in them days as game shops that are common place now were few and far between. I was initially very impressed with the game, it followed the tried and tested formula and the familiar characters where all there. By this point I was a hardened Dizzy player and completed the game relatively quickly. The music on Magicland Dizzy was particularly good and had a soundtrack that you would be humming for weeks. The game received criticism for being too similar to the previous game, I disregarded this at the time as I was a huge fan but in hindsight I agree completely, it was near identical and was almost like an extension of Fantasy World Dizzy. Codemasters actually released Dizzy 3.5 titled ‘Into Magicland’ which was given away free with Crash magazine to help promote Magicland Dizzy. It was a much smaller adventure which ended with Dizzy being transported to Magicland and acted as the link between the two games. Overall Magicland Dizzy, despite the similarity with Fantasy World Dizzy, was a great game and the last Dizzy adventure I played for many years.
Among puzzle games featuring Dizzy, there where two more adventures released on the 8-bit home computers. First up was Spellbound Dizzy which was quickly followed up by Dizzy Prince of the Yolk folk. Both titles where released in 1991 and marked the end of Dizzy’s acquaintance with the 8-bit computers. The games themselves got good reviews, particularly Prince of the Yolk folk which was actually remade for Android in 2011 with new HD graphics and a beefed up soundtrack. By the time these games came out I had moved on from my trusty ZX Spectrum and was now the proud owner of a Sega Master System and I never actually played either of them. I had moved away from the cartoon style of Dizzy and was now focused on arcade titles like Shinobi and Golden Axe.
It was years later when I revisited the series that I remembered how good they were. They had stood the test of time well, bare in mind it was literally twenty years and the nostalgia hit me immediately. The music was still as punchy and catchy, the characters where like seeing old friends and Dizzy himself, with his trademark smile was almost greeting me from behind the screen. Like many gamers my age Dizzy was the first game character they knew, he may be long gone now but will always live in the mind of gamers who were lucky enough to be around in his heyday. Sir Dizzy, take a bow son.
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