Let's celebrate Easter this year by talking about the world's second most famous egg: Dizzy. Not only was he the unofficial mascot of the Commodore 64, but he's also the poster child for bedroom coders everywhere. So that begs the question: after a plethora of sequels and spinoffs why did Dizzy disappear?
For those not in the know, Dizzy was the result of a Codemasters competition/opportunity. In the days of the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, the British publisher of budget games held an on-going request for games. This was a godsend for many a bedroom coder including the teenage Oliver Twins, Philip and Andrew. They sent in Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure which was picked up and released in 1987. It was one of Codemasters best-selling titles that saw a sequel or spin-off be released at least once a year up until 1993.
Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure (1988 Commodore 64)
Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure came out almost fully realised. The template was so unique and successful that the mechanics changed very little in all of the direct sequels. You play as an anthropomorphic egg with red wellies for feet and boxing gloves for hands. Originally created on the ZX Spectrum in 1987, The Oliver Twins had a desire to create an interactive cartoon. The simple, round design was chosen to give the character room to have some actual character. The very limited number of pixels and colours that were technically available meant that it was very rare to see an in-game avatar with a face and so a round face wit hand and feet were created. The decision to make Dizzy an egg was because they didn't want it being confused with the smiley face symbol, yet it still fit into these constraints.
Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure (1987 Commodore 64)
The first game was only released on the 8-bit microcomputers, of which the Commodore 64 is the best. It came out a year after the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions which meant they had the time to iron out the kinks. It also holds the most nostalgia for me as it was this system where I first encountered him. Later games would see improved ports to the Amiga so graphically it's the weakest of the bunch, but being first also meant that mechanics like item management felt even more archaic than they already are. You can see the evolution of the series, that's for sure. While it's still fun if you can get past these limitations, it's nevertheless one of the weakest titles in the main series.
Treasure Island Dizzy (1989 Commodore 64)
Treasure Island Dizzy, the first direct sequel sees our hero travel to a remote island in search of adventure. After the world-saving antics of the first game (which was barely present anyway), the hero of the Yolkfolk set his sights on a world cruise. And he found quite a good deal on a pirate ship. He's thrown overboard when he attempts to play a game of Cricket with the captain's spare peg legs and left to boil in the unforgiving sun.
Treasure Island Dizzy (1989 Amiga)
This is perhaps the first game in the series where the mechanics were perfected. Controlling Dizzy can be a touch weird at first, especially if you're used to playing platformers, but Dizzy is more of a measured and slow-paced affair. Jump in either direction and you'll bound in the air, but when you land a couple of rolls is not uncommon. If you're on a particularly hilly section it could be half a screen before you come to a standstill. This means every leap needs to be precise and the graphics cleverly allow for this by subtly pinpointing the best jumping-off point. Look out for small rocks in the background if you're struggling to land and it will most likely be right.
Fantasy World Dizzy (1990 Commodore 64)
Fantasy World Dizzy is perhaps the one I remember most fondly. Dizzy's girlfriend, Daisy has been kidnapped by the king of trolls and locked you in a dungeon. Escape and save the damsel in distress. So it's not as in-depth a premise as a misadventure by cricket, but the design of the world is impressive. As soon as you escape, you get to explore a large castle with a vast (I'm talking 1989 vast, not 2017 vast) land either side. The number of screens has been increased dramatically and they all flow well with each other while still being varied and interesting.
Fantasy World Dizzy (1991 Amiga)
When you emerge from your capture, the first thing you'll see is the castle's grand staircase. This can act as a decent central point to store items that can't fit in your limited inventory slots. Item management is key in all of the mainline Dizzy games. You can only carry three items (or in this case, two) which can be interacted with when pressing the fire key. If you are on top of an item, you will pick it up. If your hands are full, you will drop one of the items your carrying. The game will remember where items have been dropped so placing them in a convenient place is imperative. The staircase is perfect for this.
Magicland Dizzy (1990 Commodore 64)
By the time Magicland Dizzy had come out, the formula was pretty much perfected. The way the inventory was used and how they will be the solutions to puzzles was beginning to get copied in titles like Blinky's Scary School and the Seymore series. But none did it better than Dizzy. This time the evil wizard Zaks, Dizzy's arch-nemesis from the first game, has returned to take revenge on the Yolkfolk. He's transported them all to a strange fantasy world, but as that name was already taken in the last game it is in fact Magicland. Six of Dizzy's friends have been imprisoned in various ways in this fairy-tale inspired world, yet somehow you are not.
Magicland Dizzy (1991 Amiga)
Like all games since Treasure Island Dizzy, Magicland was remade for the Amiga a few years later. These Amiga versions are by far the best versions to play. The graphics are colourful and full of detail that highlights the breadth of imagination the Oliver Twins had. In regards to design and mechanics, nothing much has really changed, but I did find Dizzy controlled a lot better. The annoying roll after a long jump has been reduced and becomes more manageable. This is far more important in this particular game as there are several tricky obstacles you'll need to navigate several times. The first of which will be a well. Before you can use the crank to lift up the bucket, there's nothing but death down there. In order to jump over it, you'll need to first make it to the rim. You simply won't manage it in a single bound. With the improved controls on the Amiga, I found it far less tricky.
Spellbound Dizzy (1991 Commodore 64)
With the fifth instalment, the Oliver Twins decided to step aside to work on a later far more ambitious instalment. It shows. While no means a terrible game, it does feel like it's missing something, even if it has added a lot of other mechanics unique to this game. There are now a couple of arcade sections including a ride on a minecart and an underwater area. The collectable items (which are stars here) will no longer recover health as food has now taken that role. In theory, it's a good idea, but in practice, it's very tedious. Dizzy will stop to partake in an eating animation before the screen goes black for a split second to reset the area (a result of the memory eating graphics, additional frames of animation and over 100 individual screens). There's a reason why these embellishments were never found in future instalments.
Spellbound Dizzy (1992 Amiga)
Perhaps this is why the Amiga version is quite a bit different. You no longer start inside a cave, but a non-descript open area. It's by no means a bad looking game but it's weirdly empty. The only way to play this is through the Excellent Dizzy Collection, which was compiled on the same disk as Fast Food Dizzy. Through my research, I've found that the Commodore 64 version of this compilation was truncated to 30% of its original size and quite buggy. I've not found any information to tell me if this is the case here, but from what I've played it's still pretty expansive. Either way, I found both of these to be among the worst in the series. Thankfully, those in charge of the franchise know to learn from their mistakes.
Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk (1991 Commodore 64)
Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk (1992 Amiga)
For such a mammoth task in front of you, you might think this would be a huge and epic adventure. It may be epic, but it is one of the smallest in the series since the second game. It's short but perfectly formed with a decent storyline and some wonderful characters to meet. It was so good that Codemasters decided to port it over the NES as Dizzy the Adventurer.
Dizzy The Adventurer (1993 NES)
Needless to say, being on a console required several changes. With two buttons on the joypad compared to a single button joystick, jump is now mapped to 'A' instead of pressing up. The 'B' button will pick up items and talk, but these are all done on separate screens as opposed to pop-up windows. There's no rolling either which makes Dizzy control more like Mario than a rotund Weeble (remember them?). Another welcome addition is the many family members sprinkled around to give clues. It's still short but nevertheless an enjoyable addition to anyone's NES library.
Fantastic Dizzy (1993 Amiga)
Fantastic Dizzy became a behemoth of a game. It was too large for the Commodore 64 with only the 16-bit computers getting a look in. The main target audience was to introduce the console masses to a fully-fledged Dizzy game with the original being an unofficial NES cartridge (Codemasters took issue with Nintendo's licensing fees). Decent ports also came to to the SEGA's Mega Drive, Master System and Game Gear as well as the Amiga. The result was a best-of compilation of sorts with previous screens, items and puzzles being re-worked with new content into a huge new adventure. Outside areas had been re-designed to accommodate side-scrolling - a first for the series and the controls were improved somewhat giving you better control using a D-pad. Music changed depending on the area you're in and item interaction and the inventory are now controlled separately. The result is a pretty decent package.
Fantastic Dizzy (1993 Mega Drive, Master System)
It's probably the most action-packed of the games as well. The areas are strewn with enemies that need to be dodged, forcing you to play a little differently as before. Sections that would've been one screen in a previous game are now stretched out to make way for these creatures and whether you prefer this or not is down to your preference. Personally, I'd rather play a more thoughtful adventure than another mascot platformer and thankfully Fantastic Dizzy hasn't forgotten this. Despite the being energy draining monsters at every turn, the focus is still very much inventory puzzles. The world is far more open now too, meaning that it's up to you how you would approach things. If you stuck in one particular section, there are a dozen other directions to go in.
The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (1991 NES)
If you're new to the series this is not a good jumping-off point. All of the best bits from other games will be spoiled. However, if you're only going to play one, this is the game for you. It has everything that makes this series special in a grand and polished package. That being said, the NES, Master System and Game Gear ports are each truncated. Both the Amiga and Mega Drive versions have 250 stars for you to collect. The 8-bit consoles only have 100. As with any of these games, I'd stick the Amiga version.
Crystal Kingdom Dizzy (1992 Commodore 64)
Crystal Kingdom Dizzy is the last is the series to be released. As is common for the series it is a refined version of what has come before. The story is equally simple too. Grand Dizzy is tired of young Dizzy getting all of the adventures and has put his back out training for a quest of his own. His plan was to hunt for the lost treasures of the Yolkfolk, but now Dizzy himself will have to follow through. The world is again huge for its age, and the ambition of it all has again meant that the Commodore 64 has suffered. Unlike Spellbound Dizzy, Crystal Kingdom doesn't have the bugs and awkward screen transitions, yet still retains the higher colour palette. It's a great technical achievement for the system but still doesn't come close to what its big brother can do.
Crystal Kingdom Dizzy (1993 Amiga)
Philip Oliver played a part in designing the Commodore 64 version, but only had a consulting role for the Amiga. The two are a lot close in regards to objectives but the layout is completely different. CJ the elephant still wants a peanut, the generator remains unfixed and the genies have the same need for more than just coins yet the tree-top village is more complex. I do prefer the Amiga version though. The controls are superior with the welcome ability to change direction mid-jump. This helps tremendously when traversing the annoying cloud platforms. Nevertheless, if you've played the Amiga version, there's little incentive to go back to the original.
Wonderland Dizzy (Unreleased, NES)
A few years ago the Oliver Twins were rummaging through their attic and found some floppy disks containing the source code from a couple of unreleased Dizzy games. These were not Commodore 64 or Amiga titles but for the humble NES. Naturally, they would've been unofficial cartridges that required the use of the Camerica loader (like all Codemasters games), but by the time they were planned to be released the Super Nintendo would've already been a few years old. It might not have been financially worth it. Nevertheless, they still saw the light of day and we should be forever grateful.
Mystery World Dizzy (Unreleased, NES)
Wonderland Dizzy and Mystery World Dizzy are re-imaginings of Magicland and Fantasy World respectively. There's enough in each of them to be considered new games, but not enough to be brand new. Wonderland has added characters from Alice in Wonderland. Most of their designs would give Disney's lawyers cause for concern, although they missed a trick by not including Humpty Dumpty or the egg-shaped Tweedles. The biggest change is that Daisy is a playable character. You can play them individually or co-operatively. It's a great addition, even if both characters control the same.
Mystery World Dizzy has been graphically overhauled compared to Fantasy World. The areas have been widened and made more complex to accommodate scrolling screens. No static screens here! There are some events that have been added - including an extra dragon - but it is ultimately the same. I think I still prefer the Amiga update of the original but this was certainly worthy of release. In fact, both are.
Dreamworld Pogie (Unreleased, NES)
Bubble Dizzy (1992, Amiga) & Down the Rapids (1992, Commodo64)
Beyond the platform adventures, Dizzy has starred in several spin-offs. None of them are groundbreaking but they're still interesting diversions. Bubble Dizzy is perhaps the most unique of these titles. It's a tough-as-nails arcade platformer where in order to escape from the deep blue seas, you have to use bubbles as platforms to reach higher ground. They can pop quite unexpectedly, which will cause you to tumble right back to the bottom. The way Dizzy controls doesn't lend himself well to twitch-based gameplay. As such, I didn't get very far at all.
Dizzy Down the Rapids was a Commodore 64 exclusive that sees the egg scramble down a rough river. There's plenty of enemies which need to be avoided and you have a limited number of pellets to attack them with, but it plays sluggishly by today's standards.
Fast Food (1989, Amiga) & Dizzy Panic (1992, Amiga)
Dizzy also had a couple of unique games based on old formulas. Fast Food is a Pac-Man style game that has you chasing after runaway burgers, sodas and roast chickens which avoiding enemies. Power-ups pop in randomly that can either help or hinder you. Like Pac-Man, it's fun in short bursts but there's not much to it for extended play.
Panic Dizzy is an addictive puzzler in the vein of Klax. Match shapes with their respective holes and strategically drop them so you can catch the next lot. It's an addictive puzzle game that gets really hard very quickly. Put it this way, they definitely got that name right.
Kwik Snax (1992, Amiga) & Go! Dizzy, Go! (Quattro Arcade) (1992, NES)
The last two games in the collection are two variants on the same theme. Kwik Snax for the Commodore 64 and Amiga and Go Dizzy Go for the NES task our hero with collecting fruit in a maze while avoiding enemies. Some of the blocks can be moved when you push them, making for a good (if optional) way to attack enemies. You and can chain blocks together to make a large blockade. These are also basic arcade games that are designed for short bursts but are a nice curio nevertheless.
That's quite a history of Dizzy games. 17 games over a multitude of platforms, some of which I've not even mentioned (sorry Atari ST and ZX Spectrum, other systems did the same but better). After 1993, the franchise was over. Dizzy always found a home on the home computers. The Commodore 64 had a long run but was waning. Even the Amiga was being overshadowed by the SNES and Mega Drive. The philosophy of Codemasters was also changing. They were once fiercely independent, doggedly refusing to succumb to Nintendo's stringent licensing fees. They could do no such thing for the Super Nintendo. Dizzy was also no longer the company's biggest seller. That honour was passed on to Micro Machines cementing their reputation for racing games that has lasted to this day. It also never really took off outside of Europe, despite many attempts at doing so. The humour and design were very British after all.
After a week of playing way too much Dizzy, I've found there's not too much different about each of them. The core mechanic of items and fetch quests didn't once see a drastic overhaul and that is to its detriment. At the beginning, I liked it quite a bit. It made me think about what I was doing and why, but after 8 games of the same thing, despite their short length, it just got very annoying. I began to see it as a way to artificially lengthen the game by making you cover the same ground multiple times just because you had no room for that pick-axe ten screens back.
Part of me thinks that Dizzy is perhaps Dizzy best left in the past. The stories and way they're told are incredibly simplistic, the puzzles are basic and repetitive and the controls are floaty and often unworkable. Yet somehow, a huge amount of charm still shines through, and that has never aged a day.
As of 23rd October 2020, the Dizzy games are available to buy for the Evercade system in the Oliver Twins Collection.
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FULL LIST OF GAMES:
Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure (Commodore 64)
Treasure Island Dizzy (Commodore 64, Amiga)
Fantasy World Dizzy (Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS)
Magicland Dizzy ((Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS)
Spellbound Dizzy (Commodore 64, Amiga)
Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk (Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS)
Dizzy The Adventurer (NES)
Fantastic Dizzy (Amiga, DOS, Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear)
Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (NES)
Crystal Kingdom Dizzy (Commodore 64, Amiga)
Wonderland Dizzy (NES)
Mystery World Dizzy (NES)
Dreamworld Pogie (NES)
Bubble Dizzy (Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS)
Dizzy: Down the Rapids (Commodore 64)
Fast Food (Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS)
Kwik Snax (Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS)
Dizzy Panic (Commodore 64, Amiga)
Quattro Adventure (NES)
Treasure Island Dizzy
Super Robin Hood
Quattro Arcade (NES)
Go! Dizzy, Go!
CJ's Elephant Antics
Dizzy Legends: Lord of Darkness (Windows)
Dizzy Legends 2: Curse of the Mystics (Windows)
Diamond Mine Dizzy (Windows)
Illusion Island Dizzy (Windows)
Mystic Forest Dizzy (Windows)
Knightmare Dizzy (Windows)
Dizzy: Night at the Museum (Windows)
Dizzy Age: The Other Side (Windows)
Dizzy: The Last Hero (Windows)
Dizzy and the Ring of Zaks (Windows)
Dizzy: Home Alone (Windows)
Rail Road Dizzy (Windows)