Game of the Month: April 2017
Fantasy World Dizzy - Multi Format
Mascot characters have always been a big deal in the world of videogames, since the days of games like Pac-Man gamers have flocked in their millions towards experiences that seem to have that little bit of extra personality about them. In the 8-Bit and 16-bit era there were literally hundreds of games with lead characters that were the focal point of the adventure or experience. It seemed as if every fourth or fifth game at one point in time had some larger than life persona attached to it to help distinguish it from every other game on the shelf of your local videogame store, each trying to do the same exact thing. History has clearly shown us that some of these were both exceptional gaming moments and also superb use of creative thinking. Sonic the Hedgehog on his own is a magical example of this. A hedgehog that can run at supersonic speeds, and he’s blue, oh and he a fox with two tails as a friend, how very golden era indeed.
The other side of the spectrum was filled with a much larger roster of curious and sometimes even quite superb uses of out of the box thinking styled mascot characters. Bobcats, Squirrels, Cheetahs, Elephants, Cats, Dogs, Slugs and many more real life or completely made up creatures all tried to appeal to gamers of that time through a combination of clever pun related in-jokes or anthropomorphic connections to creatures humans might have a soft spot for. Speaking of spots, a soft drink company even tried that, take a bow Cool Spot.
At the height of the 8-Bit home computer boom in Europe, two brothers went even more outside of the box with a character based game that would be originally made for the then fledgling budget range of games for computers that ran game programs via the use of cassette tape. This character’s name was “Dizzy” and he wasn’t your usual mascot character, oh no! Dizzy was an Egg. Whilst this sit’s in your mind as a “what the…?” moment it’s also important to note that Dizzy also wore boxing gloves… Yup, you guessed it folks, welcome to the 1980’s! Dizzy got his name from the character's tumbles and somersaults while jumping, a feature inspired by the Oliver Twins' graphics software Panda Sprites which enabled them to rotate an image easily so each frame did not have to be manually drawn. The software distorted complex sprites so the character was required to be simple, hence the choice of an egg.
Designed to work within a platform adventure / puzzle solving environment, the little Egg that could was an overnight smash hit, especially in the UK where his creator’s, the Oliver Twins and publishing company, Codemasters was based. The first game which sold for the low low price of £1.99 would go on to be an essential purchase and play for owners of computers such as the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC 464 and Commodore 64.
Hugely promoted and sold because of nearly every gaming publications rave reviews, Dizzy - The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure created a brand new mascot franchise. Now a widely recognised classic in it’s right it would also be the beginning of a series that would span nearly every format of the era. Very soon after the first game’s success a sequel would be released that took our hero off to a new adventure after being shipwrecked on an island. Treasure Island Dizzy was a stunning sequel with new locations and trickier puzzles to solve. Seen by many as one of the best games of the entire series it’s also known for being both hard and slightly frustrating thanks to it’s object collection system, one life and a section of the game involving a snorkel and being underwater. Eggs it seems can’t breath underwater… Who knew?
Another huge commercial and critical success the second adventure would also go down as one of those special moments in 8-bit fans lives and later on for 16-bit owners a spruced up version at a budget price entertained new and old fans alike. With two big sellers on their hands it was inevitable that a third game would appear… and so it did. For the month of April 2017 it’s time to take a look at the third adventure game in a series that is so full of high points that it could be mistaken for a chart about how many people like chocolate. Oh hey, chocolate and Eggs… and it’s nearly Easter! It’s almost like we did this one on purpose… right? It’s time to remember Fantasy World Dizzy!
Released in 1989 Fantasy World Dizzy is actually the 4th game in the franchise to be released. With the popularity of the first two games, a spin-off arcade game called Fast Food was released. Not an adventure game it is not seen as Dizzy III by fans and nor it seems by the Dizzy’s creators and developers, the Oliver Twins, who worked on the game that would eventually be called Fantasy World Dizzy under the name Dizzy III. Whilst the series itself would go on to have several spin-off games it’s the main adventures that form the backbone of the franchise and so in this manner, Fantasy World is in every way the third true Dizzy game.
In true, tried and tested manner the concept of Fantasy World Dizzy is that of an adventure game played out in a plat former style with puzzles and collectibles that are in the game world to both form the reason to progress and also get the player thinking instead of just walking left or right, up or down. The game is made up of a large number of screens, each with it’s own name that can contain obstacles, puzzles, characters and dangerous hazards. As Dizzy exists the boundary of one screen the next one appears, eliminating the need for continuous scrolling. This both slowed the game speed down and also allowed for more personality to be put into every single inch of the game world. Rather than certain levels having memorable moments, each and every single screen had something to remember it by. Examples of this could be a dragon guarding Eggs, a chasm with a platform floating on water that too low to cross or such things as a dangerous bird that would prowl the skies, waiting to see you and swoop down.
In order to see the game world Dizzy needed to pick up and use items located all over the place, sleeping power to send a Dragon to sleep, keys for a lift, rope to tie the mouth of an animal together etc etc. For those who have never played a Dizzy game think ’Point ’n Click adventure but with proper platformer style controls and no mouse needed. Now take this control aspect and add in a themed world based around fantasy characters or locations such as Trolls, Dragons, Wizards, castles and tree house villages and the word ’adventure’ took on a whole new meaning. In simple terms, the Dizzy games were giving gamers the kind of immersion that console gamers with NES and Master System’s had as the norm, for a fraction of the price and with much bigger hardware limitations. The word genius is often overused in the videogame world… The Oliver Twins are geniuses.
Fantasy World Dizzy tells the tale of how one day Dizzy and his lady love, Daisy, are walking through an enchanted forest when suddenly the trolls of the Evil King ambush and take them as prisoners. Daisy is sent to Wizard Weird’s tallest tower and Dizzy is sent to the deep and dirty dungeon of the King’s castle. The rest of the background story set’s up the first two puzzles on the games first screen as the inlay card of the game explains that Dizzy still hasn’t done this week’s homework from school and that he has an apple in his pocket that he was going to give to his teacher to get out of trouble. It also describes that some bread and water are sitting on a table and that Dizzy begins to form a cunning plan. A troll, a small fire and a rat block your path from escaping this screen and it’s here where you begin your adventure.
You play the role of Dizzy himself who can walk, jump and at times roll his way through the game world, your ultimate goal being of course to rescue Daisy. Even back in the late 1980’s this rescue the princess cliché was done to death however because the game is set in a fantasy realm it works superbly. Every location and character fit’s the back story and theme perfectly. Graphically fantastic considering the 8-Bit home computers specifications each version is visually pleasing, yet quite different. The ZX Spectrum version is sharp, clean and crisp with tons of colour, moves superbly and on 128K Spectrum sounds great too. The Amstrad CPC 464 version is equally lovely and the Commodore 64 version even has a lovely border around the outside of the game screen.
Being a third game in the series you might think that it could suffer from a lack of new ideas or features, this however was Fantasy World Dizzy’s biggest strength. The frustrating one life element from it’s previous game was gone and instead you now had three lives to use to complete the adventure. A much faster and more user friendly inventory system was introduced to allow easier collection and selection of items but this third game is where Dizzy really expanded into a more flushed out and comprehensive franchise. Dizzy now had friends and other Egg characters to interact with. The Yolkfolk were introduced. No longer feeling alone or very different from his surroundings (with the exception of Daisy) Dizzy now had other characters to help expand the folklore. Directly tied into the story and the execution of puzzles the Yolkfolk were both instantly likeable, thanks in part to stereotypical personalities, and also gave the game a much larger depth of character. Daisy, Denzil, Dylan, Dozy and Grand Dizzy each had unique looks and character traits and really helped further create the image that you were in this magical world.
Receiving critical acclaim and praise from the computer game magazines of the time such as your Sinclair, Crash, Sinclair User, Amstrad Action, Commodore Format and Zzap 64 Fantasy World Dizzy was another hit for both Codemasters and the Oliver twins and along with the previous two adventures created a quite masterful trilogy unique to the 8-Bit micro computer scene. First class gaming experiences, each better than the last, each more interesting and fascinating than the one that came before.
Although Dizzy would go on to star in several more adventure games, for many, including myself it’s Fantasy World Dizzy that was the series most golden moment. As a continent was starting to really switch over to either consoles or the 16-bit computers, three amazing 8-bit micro’s were home to a quite incredible adventure game. Fantasy World Dizzy is quite simply a perfect product of it’s time. Great characters, great locations, great gameplay and above all else an absolute ton of fun to play it’s yet another example of just why Europe took so long to switch to games consoles on masse.
Two years after the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum release and one year after the Commodore 64 release Fantasy World Dizzy came to the mighty Amiga 500, Atari ST and PC. With vastly superior graphics and sound and other extras Dizzy once again looked every bit as cool as he did on the older formats. Presentation screens and some quite brilliant dialogue screens were added in order to really give the Yolk folk a bigger screen presence and it worked superbly. Rather than just text boxes over the on screen action, a separate screen would appear showing the characters in a more cartoon strip style. Whilst Fantasy World Dizzy never replicated it’s sales or critical acclaim that it received on the 8-Bit formats, these 3 16-Bit versions are wonderful. Released at the then budget range price it was a bargain.
Whilst Magicland, Spellbound and Prince of the Yolkfolk were each incredible games in their own right and a superb second trilogy of Dizzy adventures, it’s Fantasy World Dizzy that for many sits at the top of the tree. It’s setting, it’s characters, it’s story and it’s overall look and feel are without equal. Only in the realm of fairytales and wonder could an Egg be a hero and not just a hero but a completely believable one at that. For an entire generation of gamers Dizzy formed a massive part of their childhood or teenage life and because of his price range he could be experienced by almost everyone.
Back in the days when games had stories told through the instruction manual or inlay, where games took time to even load and when everyone was trying to create character based mascots, franchises or hits Fantasy World Dizzy did everything right. A combination of everything that came prior mixed with real gameplay direction changes and a better expanded universe it was mesmerizing. No need for a gimmick attached to a well known animal or TV advertising to sell you on it’s cool concept. No need for an expensive cartridge based game on an expensive gaming console. If Dizzy was a Disney creation people would line up to applaud such a creative use of an everyday object, like an Egg, in their millions.
The Oliver Twins combined character creation with pinpoint execution of available technologies and whilst everyone else around the world was stuffing themselves on Nintendo and Sega consoles, those with a finer taste and a love for computers were feasting on the best Egg that ever sat on a shops shelf. 28 years later Fantasy World Dizzy is still in date and chances are… it always will be!