Bazaboy takes a nostalgic look back at what is the most famous egg in the world, after Humpty Dumpty.
More than just a review of the re-imagined Dizzy game on the iPhone and other iOS devices, this three-part article will take a look back at my own, and I am sure many other fans, memories of Codemasters unlikely yet legendary gaming hero Dizzy. Dizzy was an egg, a perpetually bouncy, boot and boxing glove wearing egg with a smiley face. In fact, he was originally created as nothing other than a happy smiley face. However the way he was drawn had fans assuming he was an egg, a fact which was later both accepted and played upon by the writers and developers of the games.
Dizzy was the hero of, or starred in, over an amazing fifteen games, nine of those being adventure games making up the core Dizzy series, with others being puzzle or arcade type games using the egg-like character as their star. The games were initially developed and released for the Amstrad CPC and the ZX Spectrum home computers, the latter of which was my gaming platform of choice during my early childhood. It was also the machine on which I played the majority, if not all of the games from the Dizzy collection. The Dizzy games over time became so popular that they were also released on other home computer systems and even, in some cases, earlier gaming consoles in the United Kingdom.
As much as I am and have been a Sony and PlayStation fan for over the past fifteen years or so, back in my childhood I was as big a fan when it came to Sinclairs ZX Spectrum line of home computers, from the early ZX81 all the way through to the ZX Spectrum 128k+2. Yes, you head me right, an amazing 128k of memory was packed away within these amazing machines. And much like I had a preferred machine to play games on back then, I also had a favourite game developer. Being a company that did so well even back in the 80’s, it’s no surprise they are still going strong even today and still producing games which I, even now, consider firm favourites.
Through the 80’s and 90’s Codemasters released many games and what made them favourites of mine was that back then racing games were already a firm favourite of mine and, like now, Codemasters were already giving gamers numerous racing games, with titles such as ATV Simulator, BMX Simulator and Jet Ski Simulator – can you see a pattern emerging here?. Be they side scrolling or over the top viewed games, they offered some great racing action. What made these games all the more fun to play was that some of them offered up to four player multiplayer action. This conjures up memories of my brother, a friend and myself gathered around a single keyboard attempting to map comfortable controls which we could use over an extended gaming session. It was a huge relief for that little group when my parents relented and gifted me a joystick, meaning there was one less person crowding the keyboard.
Codemasters also sticks in my memory as the company which did the unthinkable, they gave us the one game which even had my little sister hooked, a hobby that even to this day she has no interest in, in the shape of Fruit Machine Simulator. For these reasons I have always had a soft spot for games released by Codemasters to this day with titles such as TOCA, Grid, the Colin McRae and Dirt series, and the newly acquired Formula 1 games.
At least two of the early games mentioned above were programmed by Phillip and Andrew Oliver, better know in the gaming community simply as The Oliver Twins. In 1990 the twins were the co-founders of the highly successful Blitz Games Studios. However, even before that, in fact as young as the age of twelve, The Oliver Twins were already turning their young heads and hands to writing and developing games primarily for gamers within the United Kingdom. After a meeting with Richard and David Darling who, in 1986 founded Code Masters later to be known as Codemasters, the twins began writing and developing games for them.
During that year, amongst the first games the twins worked on was the first Dizzy game, which was then released onto the gaming community. It was titled simply, Dizzy The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure. The game followed the tale of our hero Dizzy attempting to save the people of Katmandu from the evil wizard Zaks, who over the game series would become a serious thorn in Dizzy’s side, by collecting certain potion ingredients from around the game world. The game set up what was to become the core gameplay style used in each and every Dizzy adventure game in the series. It was a side scrolling platform game with a difference. Unlike so many platform games of the past and some of present day, you did not go around hopping on bad guys and creatures to kill them in an aim to collect as many shiny objects as possible. Instead Dizzy was all about solving puzzles along with some precise platform hopping.
That brief description of the first Dizzy titles’ gameplay makes it sound like a relatively simple affair. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Compared to the gaming standards of today, games of yesteryear were generally a much more difficult challenge and Dizzy The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure was no exception. Almost everything which was not a part of the scenery was potentially lethal upon touch to the games hero. To pass by these obstacles Dizzy had to be carrying one of numerous objects discovered throughout the game, such as a rain coat or an umbrella providing protection from lethal rain or drips of water, or a can of bug spray protecting against spiders. There was some logic to this, however trial and error was also a large part of it.
The games puzzles followed the same mechanic where you would be required to find and bring an object to a certain place, a key to a locked door being the most basic example. That sounds easy enough I hear you all saying, but when you take into account that Dizzy had the ability to carry only one item at a time and the whole game has to be completed with but three lives, you can see how it would offer players a real challenge along with being a really time consuming experience. Adding to the difficulty factor you had to take into account that there were no save points, no auto saving, or game saving features of any kind with these early games, meaning that games generally had to be completed in one sitting.
Even back in the 80’s, during the relatively early years of home gaming, having a successful hit of a game inevitably led to sequels and spin off games, and Dizzy was no exception. Only one year on from the first game in 1987, Dizzy II, or Treasure Island Dizzy to give the game its full title, was released. Treasure Island Dizzy had the player once again taking control of the egg-like hero who this time around found himself trapped on a desert island. The aim of the game being to find a boat and make his way back home to his family and friends, the Yolkfolk. Yes, by the time of the second game the developers had accepted that fans saw Dizzy as an egg and were running with the idea. They even went as far as to use the egg thing throughout the line of games in publicity, by using words such as eggcellent and eggciting.
The game followed the same basic mechanics as the first, however it concentrated much more on puzzle solving and inventory management this time around. The same “use a certain item to defeat a certain puzzle element” remained. However, Dizzy now had the ability to carry up to three items at a time. Although this made certain elements of the game easier, it also brought with it a new puzzle component to the game.
Although dizzy could now carry three items, the player had to think ahead to which item they would need and when, as items could only be dropped in the order that they were originally picked up. A most notable case being that at some point during the game Dizzy could travel underwater, that is if at the time he was carrying a snorkel. If, however, the player had the snorkel in his first inventory slot and was required to use an item in either slot two or three while under water, this would mean having to drop the snorkel and therefore dying. Meaning that not only did the second game in the series require the player to solve puzzles similar to that in the first game, it also required careful planning and use of the items available at the time and those which were being carried. These improvements to the series, small though they may have been, went a long way to improving and making Dizzy an even more enjoyable game.
1987 also saw the release of the first spin-off game to feature the character, although it was not technically a Dizzy game. Fast Food was originally developed by Codemasters as a marketing tool for a chain of fast food eateries. However, during the games development this idea was dropped, but development on the game continued and it was decided by The Oliver twins to use their already established game character Dizzy in the title in the hopes that it would help sales, which it more than likely accomplished. The gameplay itself was inspired by the arcade classic Pac-Man, which it imitated pretty closely. The player took control of Dizzy guiding him through a single screen maze collecting various fast food menu items such as pizzas, roast chickens and burgers, while avoiding sauce-like blobs with eyes, that look kind of like ghosts (coincidence?), who would try to chase Dizzy down. Although Fast Food was an enjoyable enough game, what Dizzy fans like myself were really craving was more of the gameplay which we had experienced in the previous titles. Thankfully we did not have to wait to long for that game to appear.
The second part of this “Eggy” history can be found here