In this second part, Bazaboy continues reminiscing about his time spent with an egg.
Dizzy III or Fantasy World Dizzy was once again being developed by The Oliver Twins and was published by Codemasters in 1989. Not much had changed gameplay-wise and this was not necessarily a bad thing as the developers were more than likely aware that they were onto a good thing, what with the first two games proving to be big hits, leaving fans wanting for more of the same and therefore that is what they got. This could be said for the whole series of games. Other than some small changes and improvements from game to game, things stayed as they were revolving around the same platform jumping and puzzle solving features. What the third game did give us was the Yolkfolk. Mentioned in the set up to the second game, Treasure Island Dizzy, other egg like characters were introduced, showing that dizzy was not a lone egg in the world of Katmandu. The most prominent of these in the third games story, and many games to follow, was Daisy, girlfriend to our hero Dizzy.
Daisy is kidnapped by a troll at the beginning of Fantasy World Dizzy, thus setting up the premise of the story, the old yet classic rescue the damsel in distress. Other members of the Yolkfolk community introduced in the game included Denzil, Dozy, Dylan and Grand Dizzy. These characters played a small part within the game with dizzy bringing them certain items in order to retrieve other items or solve puzzles within the game. Although the expanded cast were not a huge innovation, within the series it was nice to see the developers building on the games world. One of the coolest things in my opinion about The Yolkfolk was that they were living in a huge sprawling tree house complex, which even as a child made me think it was the last place that an egg would want to live, what with the risk of falling. But again anyone who has played a Dizzy game knows the Yolkfolk have feline-like agility, always landing on their feet no matter how big a fall they took. Although the games story was different, the gameplay itself between this and the previous game did not change a huge amount, as it would not for the majority of game series. Although 1988/89 saw only one game featuring our egg like hero released, things were about to change as Dizzy was about to have an extremely busy 1990.
First up there was the second spin off game. This not only starred Dizzy but also featured the new Yolkfolk characters introduced to gamers in Dizzy III. Kwik Snax was not quite a sequel to Fast Food and had Dizzy trying to rescue his friends by again making his way through single screen mazes collecting fruits and food items whilst avoiding enemy creatures. The slight twist this time around compared to the first spin off game was that our hero was able to manipulate certain walls of the maze, pushing them to make his own path to the games collectibles along with creating quick escape passages from the pursuing bad guys.
Kwik Snax was only the first of three spin of games to be released during the year of 1990 and was followed by Dizzy Panic. Dizzy Panic differed from all of the other games to feature Dizzy in that the player did not control Dizzy or any of the supporting Yolkfolk cast themselves, rather they were just dropped into this puzzle games story line. The premise of this all out puzzle game, which aimed for the kind of game play you would expect from titles such as Tetris, may initially have appeared to be aimed at younger children. The aim was to ensure falling shapes, such as stars, triangles and circles, that were dropped from a machine at the top of the screen, fell through the correspondingly shaped holes in a conveyor belt like platform below. This platform was where the player entered the fray.
With simple left and right controls, the player would manipulate the platform aligning the holes with the falling shapes and, like most puzzle games of its kind, things would start off fairly simple only to become fiendishly difficult at later stages. Dizzy Panic was one of the first hand eye co-ordinated puzzle games I had ever played, ahead even of the king of the genre Tetris, to which I would later become seriously addicted to, which was released four years before Dizzy Panic. Although it had already been a busy year for our anthropomorphic egg and you would think that would be more than enough, Codemasters and Dizzy were not about to slow down just yet.
Despite there being two spin off games featuring the egg hero this year already, apparently this was not quite enough as a third game using Dizzy as the main protagonist was also to be released during the same year. Bubble Dizzy was probably my own personal favourite when it came to spin off games, mostly because of the fun and addictive nature of the gameplay. Much like the others it was the simplicity of this gameplay which made the game another pick up and play hit. Saying that, “pick up and play” was not really a phrase you could use back then with computers such as the Spectrum and others, due to games loading from cassette and taking ten to fifteen minutes.
The premise of the game, like the gameplay of the two games that came before it, was simple, addictive and fun to play. The game was essentially a scrolling platform game, scrolling vertically however rather horizontally like the majority of platform games. It used bubbles as the title suggested rather than traditional platforms. The story involved Dizzy being forced to walk the plank by some villainous pirates before sinking to the bottom of an underwater abyss with nothing but a snorkel mask to help him. Using bubbles rising from the depths Dizzy would attempt to get back to the surface by hopping upon them in an effort to float back upwards whilst avoiding numerous pitfalls and threats. The first of these threats were the bubbles themselves, which were not what you could call stable. Smaller bubbles would only last a few seconds with Dizzy standing upon them and if they came into contact with certain objects they would burst meaning Dizzy would once again begin to sink with the player using left and right controls to find another bubble or a rocky outcropping upon which he was safe. Then you also throw into the mix an assortment of sea dwelling creatures such as electric eels swimming around just waiting to inflict damage on a small egg fighting for his life.
As if avoiding the sea creatures and traversing the bubble like platforms was not challenging enough, the players task was made all the more difficult with Dizzy having a limited supply of oxygen with which to reach the surface. You were constantly reminded that it was running down by the bar at the side of the screen. You could collect oxygen bottles which replenished your supply by a small amount, however these precious bottles were few and far between meaning it was always a race against time. Of all the games that I played on my Spectrum and from the Dizzy series itself, Bubble Dizzy remained a firm favourite and a game that I remember fondly.
You would think that with three spin off games under his belt Dizzy and Codemasters would take a break for the rest of the year, however that was not the case. 1990 also saw Dizzy returning to the gameplay that made him famous in the first place with a fourth feature game, Dizzy IV or Magicland Dizzy. The series hit a turning point with this latest release as it was the first game in the line, excluding the spin off games, that was not developed by The Oliver Twins. The twins did however retain approval rights over the game and character. The Game was developed instead by Neal Vincent and Big Red Software. With the twins keeping approval rights, it helped ensure that the game retained the core gameplay which had made the series the hit with gamers that it was.
The only real change to gameplay was that dizzy was given a health bar along with his three lives. But even losing his lives need not be the end of the game as collecting diamonds through out his adventure rewarded him with extra lives. The game saw Dizzy trying to save his returning Yolkfolk friends, who each had spells cast upon them by the Evil Wizard Zaks trapping them in methods inspired by fairy tales, such as being turned into a frog, in an endless sleep or trapped in an enchanted mirror amongst others. Dizzy would be faced with numerous puzzles to solve by once again carrying, exchanging and using items found throughout the game, still only three at a time meaning the player still had to think ahead to what items they would need and when.
To help promote this game, a five screen mini game known as Dizzy Into Magicland, which fans dubbed Dizzy 3.5, was created. The game served as a short prequel to Dizzy IV including only 5 screens and featuring Dizzy and his cousin Danny who, after this short game, was never seen again within the series. Into Magicland ended with Dizzy teleporting into the first screen of Magicland dizzy. The Dizzy 3.5 game was given away as part of advertising promotion for Dizzy IV with an edition of Crash magazine.
By 1991 Codemasters Dizzy series had sold over half a million units. Nowadays when a game series such as Call Of Duty can amass sales of over $775 million in only the opening weekend, half a million units sold doesn’t sound all that impressive. However, take into account several factors, primarily that the gaming community was much smaller back then along with the fact that pirating games was so much more easy, requiring only two cassette recorders and a blank tape. Taking these things into account and the fact that those half a million units sold were for the UK market only, that number of sales becomes so much more impressive. With sales going so well things were highly unlikely to slow down anytime soon for Dizzy and as it turns out 1991 was going to be just as busy for the happy little egg as the previous year.
The fifth Dizzy spin off game was released in 1991 under the title Dizzy Down The Rapids. Developed by the original creators of Dizzy, The Oliver Twins, looking back now Dizzy Down The Rapids makes me want to say “oh boys, what did you do?”. The game was one of only a couple featuring the egg hero which I was not a big fan of. In 1988 Atari had released a game across many platforms named Toobin which involved the player controlling a person floating in a giant inner tube, tasked with guiding them down a series of winding rivers. Toobin was an excellent game and a huge hit with fans and quite rightly so. Dizzy Down The Rapids was more or less the same thing with dizzy floating in a barrel rather than the inner tube being guided down the rapids whilst avoiding wildlife such as alligators and monkeys throwing poo, okay probably not poo, but items at him. And so although it was not a terrible game, it was something which had been done before and done better, making Dizzy Down The Rapids the weakest game in Dizzy history up to this point.
So how do you follow the mediocre game that was Dizzy Down The Rapids, a slight blemish in the history of the Dizzy games? How else but by returning to the tried and tested formula of a traditional Dizzy adventure game. If only that was the case. It is what should have happened of course, but with The Oliver Twins once again having little to do with the next game other than yet again retaining approval rights. Creating another classic Dizzy adventure is what Codemasters and Big Red Software, who had worked on the previous full Dizzy title, were aiming for. Things did not quite go to plan for Dizzy V or Spellbound Dizzy as it was titled.
On paper, Spellbound Dizzy had what it took to make what could possibly be the best Dizzy game yet. If anything it was without a doubt going to be the largest game in the series with over 100 screens making up the play area. Although to gamers this initially may have sounded like a good thing, meaning the average player was going to get more than their moneys worth, but unknown to the developers it was also going lead to the games main problem. Developers Big Red Software also decided to retain some features which were added to the franchise in Dizzy IV, most notably the health bar and three lives. Although this may not sound like a big deal, two things would make it a game changer. First of all, in the previous Dizzy games our hero could fall from any height and walk away undamaged, a pretty impressive feat for an egg I am sure you will agree. This time around though the they decided that our heroes health bar should run down as he fell from any great distance. If this did not make the game a whole lot tougher than fans of the series were used to, the fact the you still only had the three lives to finish the game would do so. There were collectible items within the game which would go some way to replenishing the players health but with the sheer size of the game we were presented with, it was a fiendishly difficult challenge to actually complete.
One thing which hadn’t changed since Dizzy’s expanded cast of friends and family were introduced to the series was the story of the game. It was becoming all to easy for the developers of the games to think up ways to drop the likes of Denzil, Dylan and Daisy into perilous situations and then have Dizzy set out to rescue them, and Spellbound Dizzy was no different. This time around as Dizzy was visiting the friendly wizard Theo, our hero inadvertently reads from Theo’s Book Of Really Powerful Spells and upon doing so sends not only the wizard but also all of the other Yolkfolk to the Underworld and that is really all the set up you need for another epic Dizzy adventure. It was not technically a bad game, as the basic gameplay retained all the features which made previous games in the line such huge hits. But the size of the game and shortage of lives, along with the fact that it was so easy to lose those lives, made the game infuriatingly difficult to complete. It also marked the first and only personal instance of myself not being able to completely finish one of the Dizzy adventure games, even to this day.
The third and final part of Bazaboy’s History of an Egg is here. If you missed the first part, here’s the link