Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Dizzy Series - Part 1

Dizzy (1987)
By: Oliver Twins / Code Masters Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 53,800
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

One of my favourite Speccy loading screens :)
Many dozens of computers and consoles have come and gone since the late 70's but only a few of them prove as loved, as enduring, and as legendary as the ZX Spectrum. This is mainly applicable here in the UK of course, where the mighty fine Speccy was invented and consequently also where it was most popular. It still retains a strong following of fans here, some of whom are merely nostalgic former owners, while some others are mighty talented fellows who've continued to release original games for it. However, if you asked a random group of fans what their most favourite and least favourite Speccy games are, you would probably hear the same title mentioned in answer to both questions - Dizzy! Many gamers from outside the UK will have no idea who he even is though, so allow me to elaborate.

The first game screen you'll see - but which way?
Even in the hero-filled world of video games, Dizzy made an unlikely star. He was an egg for one thing, designed by probably the most prolific programmers on Code Masters' books, the Oliver Twins. His strange designation was merely a by-product of his shape though, which itself was only settled on for the purposes of practicality and convenience. Once this was settled, his many games soon started appearing to varied responses from the many 8-bit micro-owners of the time. Indeed, despite the fact that they were all budget releases and therefore superb value, many Speccy gamers looked down on our happy hero for some reason! Poor Dizzy, but he was more loved than hated for sure and his popularity stems right from this first game in the series, subtitled as 'The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure' which is precisely what the Olivers were aiming for. A tall order for a game that cost the same as a pint of beer!

Dangerous crystal caverns - but an extra life tempts!
Dizzy comes from the mystical land of Katmandu (presumably not the one in Nepal) which was a largely peaceful place until an 'Evil Wizard' by the name of Zaks appeared. Whilst stumbling around in a haunted forest one day, Dizzy found a stone tablet which helpfully provided details on how to rid the land of Zaks. All Dizzy needs to do is find a Leprechaun's Wig, a Cloud's Silver Lining, a Vampire Dux Feather, and a Troll Brew, and mix them into an apparently potent potion. These items are of course located in opposite corners of the 60-odd screen game world which is presented in a flick-screen format. You start near enough in the middle of them so it’s not even clear which direction you should try first but progress through the game is achieved by avoiding traps and enemies and collecting various items which all have a use somewhere in the game and most of which need to be used in order to advance further. Working out which item to use where, however, is down to you.

Another extra life, but guarded by a bat - is it worth it?
Most of the puzzles here involve just that - working out where to use each item. Some are fairly obvious - grab the garlic to protect Dizzy from bats, or use the grease gun to move a mine cart blocking entrance to a mine, for example, but success with others is mainly achieved by experimenting. Unfortunately, Dizzy can only carry one item at a time which means lots of walking backwards and forwards getting and dropping each item as you need it. Dizzy starts the game with three lives but they can be lost easily. Contact with any enemy - spiders, birds, bats - loses one immediately, as does contact with any other trap or obstacle such as rain drops, apples dropping from trees, loose stalactites, or falling in water. There are items around to combat most of these things and extra lives can be found fairly abundantly through the game, but Dizzy is still no cakewalk!

This screen often serves as my 'staging area'...
It was actually described as a harshly difficult game in its time but I'm not sure I'd agree with that. It is quite a challenging quest though, and it took me many months of play before I finally finished it. A couple of traps will only catch you out the first time you encounter them - it's mainly trying to avoid the enemies (before you have the necessary item to kill them, of course) that costs lives, or just as often in my case, impatience! The challenge does perhaps mask the game's fairly limited size but considering its price at launch there's not really anything to complain about here. Everything is quite basic - the background is permanently black, there's no in-game music and very limited effects, there are few sprites which feature limited animation, etc, but I'm not sure what more could be expected for £2! The foreground graphics are rather nice and include a nice variety of locales such as wooded areas, caverns, and cellars - near enough every screen looks nice and is filled with detail.

A rare screen in that it has exits on all four sides...
Dizzy himself is a very appealing fellow; so much so, he must surely be part of the reason for the success of the series. He has a perpetually happy face as he jiggles around excitedly and his somersaulty, rolly-polly jump (from which his name was derived) makes navigating the screens and their obstacles something that actually requires a bit of skill and planning. Suffice it to say, I was and remain very keen on Dizzy, as a character as well as a game, as you've probably already worked out! If this game was a full-price release, it would've been a pretty darn good one, but for a couple of quid? It's no wonder our eggy hero's popularity reached such heights in the late 80's. There had been numerous collect 'n' move arcade adventures before this of course, but few had such charm or value for money as Dizzy. The only thing stopping it from getting a higher score is that some of his subsequent adventures were even better. Bring 'em on!

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. I'd never played a Dizzy game until I tried this one recently. As much as I hate to say it, and despite the game sporting Speccy-style graphics, I found Dizzy on the Commodore 64 *spits* the most enjoyable. If only you could still buy games for £1.99. Good review.

  2. Hello sir :) I remember well the CPC and C64 owners whining because their versions of Dizzy had Speccy-style graphics. Hee hee! :) It's a fantastic game for the price though for sure. It was very obvious that many budget games were indeed budget games but not the Dizzy ones :)

  3. Oh yeah, I remember playing a Dizzy game for my blog -- The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy for NES. It does look a bit nicer than this one tho. I assume you'll be covering it as well. Anyhow, you can see the gif I made here.

  4. Yep, I'll be getting to Fantastic Adventures eventually - a few Speccy games to cover first though! Nice gif too :)

  5. I've just been enjoying Magicland Dizzy on my Amiga 600! With exception of annoying & repetitive music, its a thoroughly enjoyable romp: very colourful, fun & you can carry 3 items at once :D
    Check it out Bro!

  6. I'll get there in due course buddy, I've got Treasure Island and Fantasy World to rediscover first, not to mention the spin-offs :)