Let’s go Dizzy -The story of the Oliver Twins – Book Review
The first game I ever played was Treasure Island Dizzy. I was amazed by it! The graphics, the music, the landscapes, literally everything about the game blew me away. I remember looking on the clear cassette packaging and seeing in bold writing “by the best selling Oliver Twins”. For years after, whenever I bought a game (usually from my local newsagent in them days) I would always look for games that had the Oliver Twins name on them. For me it meant quality, variation and above all else, great games.
Let’s go Dizzy-the story of the Oliver Twins charts the first decade of the Oliver Twins rise from bedroom programmers to pioneers of the 8bit era. No stone is left unturned and every move the Oliver Twins made is documented in immaculate fashion. From the foreword until the last page, I couldn’t put it down. Each page presented with glorious full colour images of games from yesteryear, photographs of the Oliver Twins throughout years and even hand drawn designs and game maps of games that shaped my, and millions of others early gaming years.
Chris Wilkins and Roger Kean have done a brilliant job of compiling ten years of gaming history into one brilliant book. The book itself is A4 size and the presentation is excellent. You can tell immediately that it has been written by people who are passionate about the Oliver Twins work and have ensured that the Oliver Twins story is covered in full.
The main story starts with the early years of the Oliver Twins. There first ever published work was a code listing for a game they developed on a Dragon 32 computer for a ‘Computer and Video Games’ competition, which they won! The actual listing is documented in the book for any aspiring programmers who happen to have a old Dragon 32 laying around. For the rest of us, we can look at the pictures as we read the fascinating story of how these two teenage “wizzkids” started a career that would have a massive impact on any of us who were lucky enough to be a gamer in this epic era of gaming.
Every game that the Oliver Twins ever produced is covered, each section including a interview with the Oliver Twins reminiscing on not only the particular game itself, but also what influenced the game, what challenges they faced and how they overcame them and were they where at the time, be it in the early days in their parents back bedroom or in the cold portacabins which Codemasters used as there development offices. The classic game box artwork is there in full colour and the screenshots of the games are flawless. Being a massive retro fan, the images that fill every page was like seeing a friend I had not seen for many years. Seeing games like ‘Fruit Machine Simulator’ took me back to a time when my brother and I would go to visit my uncle and he would be playing it on his Amstrad CPC. The hand drawn map for ‘Fantasy World Dizzy’ was another highlight. The attention to detail is amazing and took me back to my 10th birthday when I received the game as a gift.
Each page has further content. Sub stories that give a more detailed picture of something that may have been mentioned in a interview section. A two page spread detailing a boating trip the Oliver Twins took with David and Richard Darling (AKA The Darling Brothers-founders of Codemasters) is a key example and a humorous read. There are many of these throughout the book, each giving more information on the sensational rise of the Oliver Twins. There are also many other pictures of old gaming systems and computers the Oliver Twins used over the years as well as photographs of people who did the music for the games, or worked with the Oliver Twins in some capacity. It all adds to the nostalgia value of the book.
I effectively read the book in three parts. In between reading the main story, I would stop and read a particular sub article or a classic review of the particular game. Sometimes I even just looked at the pictures and reflected on the games and the time I actually played them all them years ago. I found myself watching YouTube walkthrough videos and was amazed at how well most of them had stood the test of time.
The book ends with memoirs from colleagues, friends and family who share there memories of the Oliver Twins and the time when they ruled the 8bit world. Whether your a aspiring programmer, Oliver Twins fan, retro fan or even just a casual reader, I would strongly recommend getting a copy of this book. It is gaming history in its purist from. We live in a modern age of gaming, systems are massively advanced and in my opinion have lost the feel of what games really are. The Oliver Twins are purists and masters of there art. They put countless hours into each game, working sixteen hours a day seven days a week to hit there target of completing a game within a month. It really is a true document of gaming at its finest. Buy a copy as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed. Thank you Philip and Andrew Oliver and here’s to the next ten years.