Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come

With thirteen ‘Absolutely Brilliant (TM)’ Dizzy games to choose from, fathoming out exactly where to start was making my head spin. That is until I recalled that one in particular comes with its own ringing endorsement in the title. Decision made!

Fantastic Dizzy – the Amiga’s answer to the ‘NES Adventure Game of the Year 1991’ – was brought to life by Purple Haze and released in 1993 for ECS Amigas, and the following year for the CD32. The same team spearheaded development of the Mega Drive/Genesis port. This would be the only title they worked on as a group for the Amiga platform, or any for that matter.

[The latest ‘forever-new’ release from the Codies ;)]

‘The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy’, the original NES version all others were based on was designed and developed by the Oliver Twins, and published by Camerica. Andrew and Philip were ably assisted by Peter Williamson and Paul Adams who helped with the mini-games and graphics respectively.

Work commenced on the “massive 2 meg game!” in February 1990 and it was completed in September of the same year. According to Philip it was “easily the longest/biggest game we’d ever developed – by about five times!”

It being one of the later non-Amstrad/Speccy releases, the Oliver Twins weren’t directly responsible for its genesis (extremely witty wordplay entirely intended), yet there’s no doubt it’s a worthy entry in the eulogised lineage.

Owing to the considerable success of its forbear, work commenced on a range of ports in 1992. Dizzy 8 – technically speaking – was released for the Amiga, Sega Megadrive, Master System and Game Gear, NES and DOS. Strangely enough, the Atari ST was shunned.

Originally intended for release in time for the 1990 Christmas present hunt frenzy, it didn’t actually emerge from the Codemasters’ stables until November the following year. This was due to an ongoing, high-profile legal squabble the publishers were engaged in with Nintendo concerning the dubious legality of the Game Genie when used in conjunction with the NES.

Dizzy and his fantastic adventures were certainly worth the wait, a real home run for the Olivers. The platform-puzzler was lavished with critical acclaim by N-Force who wrote a rave review bestowing it with an enviable score of 92%. It subsequently went on to win the esteemed Parents’ Choice Award.

David (and Richard Darling) ultimately triumphed over Goliath, though not before conceding an estimated 375,000 unit loss in sales due to Fantastic Dizzy’s disrupted release schedule. Not that you should lose too much sleep worrying about their finances – they were suitably compensated by the Japanese console giants, who were left with egg on their faces, and inside their cartridge slots!

As such, Fantastic Dizzy straddled the 8 and 16 bit realms without allowing the older systems to restrain its development. In fact, as you would expect, the 16-bit versions raise the bar exponentially on the earlier entries in the series in terms of visuals, mechanics and acoustics.

Especially worthy of note (and omitted from the Game Gear version, though included in the NES version) is the atmospheric day-night cycle and weather effects that convey the impression that time is passing and you are in fact embarking on a scopious mission. Nevertheless, the revered purity of the game-play remains true to the inaugural title, with the Olivers meticulously overseeing the project at every stage.

Coding and the lusciously intricate, pixel art graphics were taken care of by Derek Leigh-Gilchrist (aka ‘DEL’ from the demo scene group, Anarchy) who we also have to thank for bringing us Captain Dynamo, Cosmic Spacehead, Prince of the Yolkfolk, Magicland Dizzy, and Bubble Dizzy.

Joby Wood also assisted in the visuals department, whilst Matthew Simmonds (aka ‘4Mat’, also of Anarchy fame) provided the music.

Matthew was a busy boy back then – he also contributed to Agony, four other Dizzy games, CarVup, Micro Machines, Leander, Chuck Rock, Dojo Dan, and Shadow Dancer to name but a smattering of his progeny. He’s so prolific I expect he was also the maestro behind the musical accompaniment that plays when you open the birthday card I bought for my mum last month.

The Daisy character was an eggy mash-up of Daphne from
Scooby-Doo and Daisy Duke of Dukes of Hazard fame.

To delve a bit deeper into the developer’s involvement with Anarchy I contacted Galahad/Scoopex (formerly of LSD, Razor 1911, Dual Crew Shining, Rednex, and Fairlight). He informed me that, “Although Anarchy wrote cracktros for other groups, they were purely a demo scene group and didn’t ever crack anything and release it.”

I was particularly curious to learn if their connection to the darker side of the gaming scene – at any level – would have represented a conflict of interests, or impeded their ability to secure professional development contracts. Galahad didn’t think for a second that the two worlds colliding would raise the issue of incongruity:-

“As there was no issue with demo coders becoming games programmers, there would have been no problems with the software companies knowing who they were, in fact all of them would have used their scene demos and music as their CV to get the jobs they went for. Del was employed directly, 4-Mat was only ever freelance as I recall.”

Galahad went on to explain that whilst the demo and cracking scenes were entirely disparate entities in this example, the two groups weren’t reticent to swim in the same circles:-

“Dan/Anarchy wrote a cracktro for Skid Row, and it ended up on the front of Lemmings just as he joined Core Design, so whilst Anarchy were not directly connected with cracking themselves, they were quite happy to associate with piracy groups, nothing highlights that more than The Party in 1991, an event organised by Crystal, Silents and Anarchy.”

Fonzie was the inspiration for Denzil. Trivia-amundo!

Talk of piracy naturally led me to wonder what sort of lengths the Darling brothers went to in order to protect their games. As you’d expect, Galahad was able to pinpoint the precise techniques employed, and give me an idea as to their efficacy:-

“As for copy protection on the Codemasters games, 99.99% were Copylock protected, obviously it was cheap enough to use without going overboard because of the price of the games themselves.

They did have a neat thing call Telephone Authorisation System, where if it failed the Copylock check, it would show a text screen with a premium rate telephone number on it, the person calling would be given a code to enter and they could then play the game, though they would need to do this every time they rebooted.

Must have been a semi success for them as it was featured on quite a few of their budget titles, but a stupidly easy protection to defeat.”

Did Philip, Andrew or the Darling brothers ever communicate their thoughts to the crackers in relation to the circumvention of their copyright protection, I inquired.

“The Oliver Twins didn’t say anything or get directly involved in the Amiga stuff, we only got “love notes” from Del about crackers as hidden text ;)”

I did a bit more digging and managed to root out one such example. It was sequestered in the compressed loader of ‘Fast Food’:-

Now where did I leave my glasses? Dora was The Oliver Twin’s
hard-boiled interpretation of Velma Dinkley.

“Project 66 (C) 1990 Codemasters software Ltd.

Programmed & Organized by Derek Leigh-Gilchrist.

Protection track (C) 1990 Rob Northern Computing LTD.

If any hackers are reading this then keep reading…

This protection has been developed by me (DEL/ANARCHY). I know that it is very easy to crack BUT WAIT! I don’t want it cracked! I will lose money! So don’t *bleep* me about by cracking it…. If I do see any cracks of CODEMASTERS games the pirate world is going to have a big suprise…

You have been warned!”

Further probing revealed the same message buried deep inside the code of Miami Chase, Kamikaze, and a number of other Codemasters games.

A slight variation pertaining to the same warning can be found in ‘Little Puff In Dragonland’:

“Project 66 – (C) 1990 Codemasters Ltd. – Programmed by Derek Leigh-Gilchrist. VERSION 1.12 – don’t crack this! For more info read the text at the start of the protection…”

Finally (and most importantly!), I took the opportunity to find out if Galahad is – or was – a Dizzy fan.

“The Dizzy games were OK, got technically better as time went on (once Del took over the coding coincidentally)”.

Fantastic Dizzy’s audio track is comprised of an assortment of landscape-appropriate tunes, which revel in a mock low-tech style. In the easy-going, bright and breezy stages we experience music to match; in parts it embodies a twee, stylophone novelty toy, or kinderklavier, mixed over a £20 Casio keyboard demo beat. That’s not to be derogatory you understand – it’s entirely deliberate I’m sure, and is perfectly suited to Dizzy’s happy-go-lucky, bouncy ethos. Matthew is no amateur.

Taking a nose dive into the ocean, the mood shifts up a gear. The melody evokes a sweeping sensation of enigmatic awe as you voyage into the uncharted depths, discover a dilapidated sunken pirate ship and navigate clandestine cave systems.

Edging cautiously into the hostile territory of the graveyard or Zaks’ castle, the tempo is scaled back, the synthesised twanging timbre becomes laboured, and reverberates to imbue an aura of unsettling dissonance.

Venturing underground we are treated to a medley of jarring, broken-piano monotones, presumably representing the sound of pickaxes chinking against the mine walls. Harsh and unpredictable, these give way to a hauntingly repetitive tremolo, not at all dissimilar to Halloween’s stalker motif.

To find out if I was anywhere close to hitting the mark, I contacted Matt and asked him how he’d describe his composition, style and the techniques exploited. I was also curious to learn if he’d been given a brief to satisfy, ensuring that the soundtrack remained appropriate to the spirit of the franchise.

“I’d worked on a few of the Dizzy games beforehand and there was a kind of ‘house style’ for their music, though I never had a formal outline on what they wanted beyond the location names. From a composition point of view the Dizzy games were always quite ‘bouncy’ and fun sounding, but as there were a couple of spooky levels in this particular game (the Graveyard and Zak’s Castle) I got to try out some other things.

No particular techniques employed here, they’re just 4 channel modules though pretty small in size. I was simultaneously working on the Megadrive version which used stripped-back versions of these songs that the dev team converted to their sound driver (I think the only contribution I had there was picking out the FM instruments). Having heard the released game I think a couple of those Megadrive ones ended up in the Amiga version :), or maybe the Amiga songs were too large in size. The Treehouse song is quite different to the one on my Soundcloud page for example.”

Whilst the manual for the NES version incorporates what is tantamount to a mini novel, expounding the colourful back-stories of the pivotal characters, the other incarnations helpfully consolidate the plot into a single page of dialogue. It’s hard to tell if this was a reflection of the attention span capacities of the disparate groups of gamers, or if Camerica had merely been able to source a more economical paper supplier than the other publishers.

Principally, your girlfriend Daisy has been egg-knapped by the nice-guy-deep-down, yet habitually misunderstood, Wizard Zaks, and imprisoned in his super-happy play centre castle. OK, OK, I know I’m fooling no-one – he’s a wretched lost cause, utterly evil to his decay-blackened core, and his castle is more likely to chill you to the bone than leave you with a frolicsome spring in your step. As if to eliminate all doubt, he’s also gone and cursed Dizzy’s alliterative Yolkfolk compadres. The git! That’s just mean. I’m sure if Dizzy could hold aloft his boxing-gloved hands, he’d raise a clenched fist to the sky and shake it with all the vexed disgruntlement he could muster.

Nigel Planer as Neil and Dylan the rabbit (named after Bob)
Two doped-up hippies stumble into a telepod. One of them says…

You being the hero of the hour, you can probably hazard a wild guess at what your rejoinder may entail. Here’s a clue: it doesn’t pertain to floating on a lilo in a comfortably heated swimming pool, sipping pina coladas… as much fun as tinkering with ‘Sim Playboy’ might be… he says wondering if that was one of the Darling’s early Mastertronic titles.

Before catapulting you into the thick of the action, the cast are introduced by way of their caricatures, sliding into view on olde-worlde papyrus, giving one the impression the whole scenario is as much a pantomime theatre production as a game. And in a way, I suppose it is. It stars preposterous villains, damsels in distress, allegorical fairy tale and nursery rhyme tropes, and an epic schlep from dilemma to object-swapping resolution.

Those of you more familiar with Dizzy 8-bit style should notice quite a striking evolution, both in terms of presentation and mechanics. The sumptuous leap in visuals for instance is akin to the colourised adaptation of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. You know deep down it’s kind of wrong, yet can’t help being swept along by the egg-ceedingly welcome 32 colour foreground and 16 colour parallax background assault to the senses.

Early-Dizzy is synonymous with flick-screen scrolling, whilst two-disk Amiga-Dizzy (ported from the Mega Drive version) wouldn’t be seen dead limboing itself to that level. Instead – for the first time in a Dizzy game – we are lavished with smooth, continuous horizontal scrolling, combined with (mostly) vertical flick scrolling, firmly planting the penultimate game into 16-bit territory.

“They promised us homes fit for heroes, we got heroes fit for homes!”
Grandad played by Lennard Pearce. He was prematurely written

out of the show when he suddenly died of a heart attack in 1984.

Dizzy had to come of age for a new generation. Even so, I do feel that it somehow lost something in the transition; a sense of teased, incremental unveiling perhaps? In some areas, forging through to the next screen was a reward in itself because it marked the juncture at which you overcame an obstacle and were able to advance in the game. If in 1987 you appreciated what is essentially an artifact of technical limitation, here you’ll only be doing so through the medium of rose-tinted goggles.

Your inventory system has also been given a long overdue overhaul. Rather than the single item capacity found in the Ultimate Cartoon Adventure, here we are able to carry three items simultaneously. This is a major improvement because it radically reduces the extent of step-retracing you must do to locate items and carry them to the place where they’ll be deployed. Many would argue that this artificial limitation should be neutered altogether, though perhaps that would make life a bit too easy and fail to acknowledge Dizzy’s gloriously primitive heritage.

In between adventures it appears that Dizzy has paid a visit to the Indiana Jones school of chasm swinging because now the man with the hat is back, and he’s sporting a whip! Well, technically it’s a length of rope. Quibbling aside, it can be used to traverse the levels more efficiently and reach otherwise inaccessible platforms. Just remember not to leave it on one that can only be reached with the rope itself, or you won’t be able to complete the game!

Attention to detail was clearly top of the list of priorities when Fantastic Dizzy was in development. Dizzy has never been so expressive.

Fall too far and he crumples to his knees while stars circle his bonce until he recovers from his dazed state. He looks anxious and panicky when using the tree lift, and glumly disheartened when it begins to rain, or he enters the empty huts of Daisy or Dozy. Aww, how touching.

[The love birds united at last!]

The AGA ‘Big 6’ CD32 release eradicates the annoying borders making the horizontal resolution 32 pixels wider than the ECS version, employs the full spectrum of superior-colour Mega Drive graphics and introduces full image, quarter pixel scrolling.

The enhancements don’t stop there! It’s hard drive installable, multi-load be gone, has improved de-pack times, a save game option (until you switch off your system anyway), 50 frames per second scrolling, 24-bit colour fades for the night-day cycle, and according to Derek, the “background parallax plane is now a full scrolling bitmap image in its own 16 colour palette” whereas the “A500 version used repeated 64 wide static strips in the second half of the game palette”.

A limited run of 20,000 copies of the AGA floppy version was also produced, though few appear to be in circulation today.

While Dizzy blew the minds of many NES gamers who couldn’t fathom why he wasn’t a plumber or green tunic-ed, elfin prince, he did make several appearances on the Nintendo platform. Unlicensed ones at that. Codemasters released the games on their own region flippable, ‘farm-made’ bootleg cartridges (patent pending!), bypassing the lockout chip, and that awkward, expensive transaction involving paying Nintendo royalties for the privilege. Some were even made to look gold-plated to give the impression they were special editions.

[The title screen serves as an animated game-play tutorial. Nice touch!]

Where Fantastic Dizzy was concerned, a standard sized gold cartridge as well as a diminutive one designed to work with the Aladdin Deck Enhancer were made available.

Codemasters’ Master System and Mega Drive releases were also issued via oddly shaped DIY cartridges, though I believe these were officially licensed by Sega, much like EA’s games later came to be following settlement of their protracted legal wranglings.

[Codemasters were cutting corners long before Web 2.0 made rounded squares the next big thing.]

In the absence of bottomless pockets, Dizzy is an exercise in juggling mnemonics, as well as inventory objects. At all times you need to remember who needs which item, and where you left them all to allocate space to execute the task at hand. It’s certainly not the game for Alzheimer’s patients!

The Oliver Twins give with one hand and take back with the other in this outing. Where previously collecting 30 coins (or whatevers) would suffice to complete the game, in Fantastic Dizzy we are tasked with harvesting a whopping 250 stars in order to instigate the denouement battle royale. The NES version isn’t quite so cruel in that a mere 100 stars are sufficient to achieve this end.

As with all the Dizzy games, this system operates as a subtle, visceral progress indicator, serving to motivate you to keep plugging away to reach the final confrontation with your arch nemesis… not a frying pan, Zaks!

Incidentally, the finale is somewhat of an anticlimax if we’re honest in that Zaks is unwittingly the engineer of his own downfall. Upon reaching the apex of his tower castle, you only have to rile him into unleashing a projectile of the wandy variety, duck out of the way and wait for it to ricochet off the adjacent mirror, vanquishing the nefarious wizard overlord without you having to lift a finger.

[When mirrors attack. Proving vanity kills!]

Note that should you attempt to enter the castle with an insufficient quota of stars, Dizzy is stunned by an electrified door forcing you to retrace your steps and mop up any you may have missed before trying again.

Where were we anyway? Stars! They are often deviously hidden behind camouflaged scenery, forcing you to use the pick up command on everything in sight in order to root them out. Part of me suspects that upping the obligatory target is solely a cheap way to synthetically extend the longevity of the game to justify the £25.99 premium rate price tag insisted upon by the Darling brothers… much to the chagrin of Andrew and Philip. Why this became such a bone of contention becomes clear when you consider that Dizzy was incipiently hatched as a £2.99 budget release back in 1987. The burning question on the critics’ lips at the time was, “has Dizzy evolved sufficiently to warrant the price hike?”

Each time you squirrel away another star, the number remaining to be collected flashes on screen in a font so enormous it obliterates swathes of platforming real estate as if to say, “take note, this is important!” (curiously, the countdown notification is much more subtle in the Master System version). Discarding the fruitless point-scoring element of yore neatly ratifies this notion, though collecting nature’s sweets will give you a much-needed energy boost.

[Seymour keepin’ it real in the Wild West.]

The game is split into various themed and conveniently named areas, accompanied by an appropriately reactive soundtrack. These include the tree village, diamond mines, graveyard, pirate ship, crystal falls, city of Keldor, grasslands, Carber Bay, ultimately culminating in a trepidatious field trip to Zak’s cloud castle.

This personable naming scheme was devised as a way to keep you immersed in the fantasy realm carefully cultivated by the Oliver Twins. It avoids breaking the fourth wall, so to speak, making it easier and more engaging to converse with friends about the game, and compare your progress in a way that immediately plonks you on the same page.

Fantastic Dizzy stands head and shoulders above its predecessors for a number of reasons, not least because it features all 16 of the cast from the entire series:- Good Wizard Theodore, Blackheart the Pirate, the Palace Guard, Prince Clumsy, Rockwart the Troll, Shamus the Leprechaun, and the Shop Owner.

In a similar vein, it’s also a hodgepodge of traditional action-adventure platforming and life-sustaining sub-games, some of which are implementations of past and future Dizzy spin-offs, making it the most diverse and multifaceted title in the line-up.

One such diversion is a vertically scrolling, runaway mine cart navigation stage where the goal is to collect as many stars as possible whilst avoiding oncoming obstacles such as Temple of Doom style boulders, troll pursuers, and Dune style sandworms.

Another requires you to ascend the depths of the sea by way of bubble-lifts which allow you to progress so far before bursting, forcing you to leap to another before you fall back to the sea bed. Again, the aim is to amass as many stars as possible enroute. It’s essentially Bubble Dizzy, another Oliver Twins title released in 1990.

[Hold onto your hat! Oh…]

The ‘Dizzy Down the Rapids’ section also became a standalone game in 1991. It’s a Toobin’ clone involving an obstacle and baddie-avoiding trip down a river in a floating barrel. It was omitted from the PC and Mega Drive versions of Fantastic Dizzy.

A castle-themed, troll-shooting gallery comprises another fun sub-game. It’s designed around an Operation Wolf-esque cross-hair scenario whereby quick reflexes and precision targeting are rewarded with extra lives.

Perhaps worth highlighting here is the sustained use of a weapon – a real rarity in the family-friendly Dizzy series. How Nessie has managed to survive all these years playing dodge with a crossbow-wielding nut-job like Dizzy is somewhat perplexing! As is the lack of Nintendo Zapper compatibility.

The least exciting of all the bonus stages is a slide-puzzle affair. As with the analogue version, you’re required to shift square segments of a fragmented image left, right, up and down to reassemble them in the correct order to form the whole image.

Those of you only wanting to dabble with the bonus sub-games may want to try skipping the preamble using the level select cheat:

Hold down the left shift key, S, U, and B on the title screen, and you’ll be whisked off to the ‘Subgame Cheat Thing’ menu from which you can select any of the six games you wish to play. Pressing F10 once the game commences will add an additional six lives to your tally.

Dizzy – the accidental egg named in allusion to his acrobatic prowess – became such only because an oval-shaped protagonist would be easy to draw and animate with limited pixel space in which to work. The resemblance turned out to be fortuitous in that reviewers embraced the poultry word play and the game was aligned with positivity owing to a scarcity of non-superlative egg puns. Rotten eggs are infinitely less enticing compared to egg-cellent, egg-static ones! Not that I could so easily be manipulated into falling for this blatant subterfuge. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to outsmart this egghead!

[If you’ve ever wondered what Dizzy got up to during his semi-retirement phase, let Firo & Klawd shed some light. A scene taken from the FMV introduction sequence of an original Oliver Twins game, released in 1996 for the PC and PlayStation.]

The essence of Dizzy’s amaranthine appeal is to be found in its wholesome, wondrous sense of discovery and exploration. Each incremental puzzle solved advances your cause that little bit further, cracking open a fresh environment to investigate and manipulate to Theodore knows what end.

The Fantastic puzzles are more logical compared with those found in some of the previous games. For instance, thawing Denzil from his ice block prison by way of a cigarette lighter you’ll be rewarded with the gift of a pair of flippers. These are engaged later to propel you through the water stages, where Dizzy does a marvellous impression of Ram Man from Masters of the Universe fame.

Similarly, rescuing your sister, Dora, from a lifetime of ribbiting entails concocting a potion by blending three ingredients in a cauldron. In exchange for this elixir, your sick granddad will furnish you with a golden egg, which can be gifted to a Prince Charming wannabe in exchange for transforming your frog-sister back to normal.

For maxing out the wacky-o-meter alone, one of my favourite puzzles revolves around giving your pet fluffle, Pogie, to Dylan in return for a pygmy cow. This can be swapped with the merchant for a magic green bean used to grow a beanstalk, which can in turn be scaled to reach an as yet unexplored area.

Pogie went on to star in his own Mario clone for the NES, though sadly it was never released into the wild. Watch this space!

The riddles may not seem like they’d trouble the Mensa Christmas quiz shortlist now. Still, breaking the code one pygmy cow at a time as an eight year old kid, you did feel like Einstein’s precocious prodigy. Each piece of the puzzle nimbly slid into place was a pat on the head from an invisible teacher. ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books paled into insignificance next to a Dizzy cassette tape and the Kinder-ous delights it would unfurl with the help of a screeching data-corder. It was the living (and talking …to a degree) story-tale you controlled!

I would, however, take issue with the ‘Ultimate Cartoon Adventure’ hyperbole of the inceptive entry’s title. Set the bar at the pinnacle of what’s possible from the outset and it leaves no room for future titles to develop. You may as well declare, “you’ve seen the best we can do, it’s all downhill from here, folks!”. Except it wasn’t of course. The Oliver Twins had no clue at the time they’d be living and dreaming Dizzymania for the next three decades, and no doubt beyond thanks to the miracle of emulation and the dawn of retro gaming.

The twins learnt from their mistakes, took on board gamer’s feedback, and channelled that knowledge back into making the next game in the line-up that much more nuanced and polished. If they hadn’t kept getting it right, we wouldn’t have invested so much time and energy into playing the same game with slightly tweaked mechanics and a new storyline for so many years without tiring of the concept. The eggy one has come a long way since his colour-clash-tastic Speccy days, and lost none of the unassuming, good-natured charm that made him an unofficial 8-bit mascot in the ’80s.

[How rude! You’d expect better from a tro… oh.]

Rather appropriately, the entire Dizzy series is choc-full of Easter eggs. In Treasure Island Dizzy you’ll find a collectable ‘Sinclair Abuser Mag’, for instance. Drop this in the sea and you’ll earn extra bonus points, in the process taking a swipe at the publication that awarded the previous game an underwhelming score. That aside, it’s a red herring, serving no real purpose, and it’s not the only one you’ll encounter. The portable hole isn’t egg-specially useful either in that it causes all your inventory items to fall through your pockets.

Amongst the hidden gems you’ll discover quotes from the J. Milton Hayes poem, ‘The Green Eye of the Yellow God’, adverts for other Oliver Twins games, and even the laser gun that featured in Ghost Hunters. Plugtastic Dizzy never misses a golden marketing opportunity!

Kim Justice in her Fantastic Dizzy play-through mentioned that she thought the Dock Street and Castle Street names from the tunnel scene were a reference to ‘Dixon of Dock Green’, a BBC TV drama centred around a London Bobby solving petty crimes. I had no idea one way or the other, it was before my time (and Kim’s too) so I asked Philip if there was any connection.

“We based them on what we felt were the major features of each street and were very Old English (Tudor) in feel. A street with a large bridge would be called Bridge street etc.”

Your raison-d’etre in the first game – The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure – is to forage out the necessary ingredients to formulate the ‘Avawiffovee Potion’ and unleash it upon your arch rival, Wizard Zaks, to despatch the troublemaker (and athlete’s foot). I expect it worked much like the perfumes we have today – pumped full of carcinogens you spray into the atmosphere in the office without first asking your colleagues if they mind being passively poisoned.

The scenario is a parody of an episode of the 1982 Cosgrove Hall animated cartoon, Danger Mouse, entitled ‘The Four Tasks of Danger Mouse’.

Here in Katmandu, the essential cauldron-fodder components you are required to track down are a Leprechaun’s Wig, a Cloud’s Silver Lining, a Vampire Dux Feather, and a Troll Brew. The duck’s feather is a reference to Count Duckula, a recurring villain in Danger Mouse who – the year after Dizzy’s initial release – would go on to star in his own spin-off cartoon sit-com voiced by Only Fools and Horses legend, David Jason.

Curious to discover the inspiration behind the oddly named potion I picked Philip’s brain once more:-

“I remember we were sitting in one of the converted barn / stable rooms at the then very small new Codemasters Farmhouse in Southam. We’d delivered the final master and we were making suggestions about the box instructions. Things like – we really want “The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure” written as a flash on the front of the box. We explained to Richard Darling – who was overseeing the production of the cover and the overall basis of the game and we were brainstorming the 30 worder.

In the game it’s just called a Full Potion Bottle. Richard was keen to give the potion a name…  We couldn’t think of anything – so he came up with ‘Avawiffovee’ – saying it’s clearly a really stinky potion. We didn’t mind. It was the small print on the box cover – most people wouldn’t even read it.”

Oh David, you’re such a card. Nothing at all to do with drugs then as it happens. It sounds like something a stereotypical Mancunian might say bouncing off the warehouse walls in a ’90s rave!

[The Speccy tape inlay. All of a sudden I’ve got the urge to watch The Goonies again.]

In Fantasy World Dizzy you can collect a bottle of whiskey, though ironically the problems it causes don’t begin until you try dropping it. Then your controls go haywire making Dizzy impossible to steer until he picks up the bottle again, proving that booze isn’t bad for your health, a lack of it is! See, computer games can be educational despite what your parents say.

We don’t have to overreach to see the roots of the point and click adventure genre in the Dizzy series, and shouldn’t underestimate the inspirational influence the twins had on the gaming industry as a whole. I don’t think it would be over-egging the pudding to envision Dizzy as The Secret of Monkey Island or Fate of Atlantis for pre-teens.

Dizzy is a mind-boggling triumph over 8-bit limitations, that’s what makes it so enchanting. How the Oliver Twins managed to pack so much sheer entertainment into 32k of memory is an utter mystery. Even exploiting canny short-cuts, for instance, the use of repeating tile sets, you could say they possible-ised the impossible… if you found yourself struggling with the deployment of genuine English words.

They made you believe a cephalothoraxian egg could possess a personality with an array of anthropomorphic expressions and aspirations. They did so much, with so little, for so many, to paraphrase and butcher some famous speech or other concerning something infinitely less important than our 8-bit gaming heroes.

You’d learn through trial and error perseverance, and lots and lots of unforeseen and instantaneous deaths and restarts. Dizzy has always been a shy egg – this is the surefire way to bring him out of his shell. Undeterred you’d retrace your unerring steps and dodge the last pitfall that scrambled your innards, edging that tiny bit closer to the final payload.

When Dizzy was nowt but an embryo, literally anything and everything would finish off the poor mite, even elements which at first appear to be background scenery (wall-mounted fire torches for instance), off-screen perils such as cage traps, or unintentionally dropping the aqualung whilst under water.

One hit and you were a goner (never to re-spawn in the case of Treasure Island Dizzy where ‘You Only Live Once’).

Take your eye off the egg once too often and you’d have to restart your quest from ground zero. ‘Unforgiving’ doesn’t begin to cover it.

Dizzy’s Help Line – 0898 555 093

If you can’t, get any further in this game and would like us to give you Hints & Tips on how to solve all the puzzles just phone the number above. Please don’t phone unless you really get stuck & make sure you get permission from the person who pays the bill first!

Calls cost 33p per minute during off-peak times and 44p per minute at all other times. UK only.

The later games – Fantastic Dizzy included – improved greatly on this encumbrance by providing the opportunity to score extra lives, and introducing a life bar that can be replenished by collecting fruit.

Without complaint you’d happily cycle through your one-slot inventory, selecting, dropping and recollecting items to ensure they are at your disposal precisely when required. You’d deal with the pixel-perfect jumps, often over-rolling a precarious platform and falling uncontrollably to your doom. You accepted it as normal – it’s the way it was – you rolled up your shell suit sleeves, egged up and got on with it.

[Dizzy makes an impromptu cameo appearance in ‘Pete Sampras Tennis’ for the Mega Drive.]

The Mega Drive version of Fantastic Dizzy was awarded a respectable score of 80% in Mega (issue 13, page 49, October 1993), and 75% on GamesMaster (S03E04).

Slightly less Fantastic, the Amiga port was still well received on the whole, scoring an average of 74.2% across 10 magazine reviews according to the ‘Hall of Light’ database.

As for my verdict, I’d allot it three lumps of cheese, two and a half trumpets and a pair of pliers. That’s high praise indeed scrutinised by the rigours of my intricately balanced assessment methodology.

If you like Dizzy, you’ll love this egg-ceptionally slick reinterpretation for the next gen systems. Of course in no way does it revolutionise contemporary gaming. Would you really egg-spect, or want it to? It simply wouldn’t be the game you remember so fondly from your dim and distant childhood if it chucked the egg out with the pan-boiled water.

As egg-cruciatingly trite as the analogy may seem, the basic recipe for creme brulee hasn’t been ‘upgraded’ since it was first conceived in 1691. Like the dessert, Dizzy is a timeless classic, which wouldn’t benefit from a garnish of Smarties, Marshmallow Fluff and a wedge of Snickers… even if it was served up on a PlayStation platter.

If you’re in any doubt as to the pervasive magnetism of the Dizzy series, you might like to consult one of the authors of the 228 remakes and spin-off titles listed at www.yolkfolk.com.

TWO… HUNDRED… AND… TWENTY… EIGHT!!!

When even the weapon-worshipping FPS-nut, Stuart ‘Ahoy!’ Brown, can appreciate the eggs-alted legacy of our anatomically challenged chum, I think it’s safe to say we’ve struck gold!

All yolking aside, remember kids, a Dizzy is for life, not just for Easter… and they should never be left in hot cars!

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