Is it time for Codemasters to bring back the Video Game character Dizzy?

The character Dizzy first appeared on the 8-Bit machines: the C64, Spectrum and Amstrad and was the creation of the Oliver Twins (boy geniuses quite frankly). Few people know/realise that Dizzy was just supposed to be a giant face but the fact that he looked ovoid meant that he was assumed to be a walking egg and so the legend was born.

The original game was an adventure-platform game. Dizzy’s quest was to destroy the evil Wizard Zax by brewing up a potion which had ingredients scattered all over the map. Annoyingly enough, he could only pick up one object at a time so in his travels there was a lot of back-and-forth going on. Dizzy was quite fragile, one collision with an enemy or with the frequent acid rain that seems to beset his world killed him. And his frustrating penchant for rolling as he jumped could mean that he’d roll right over a platform and into water.

However, the game was cutesy simple to pick up and understand and with a little trouble, readily finishable. The game was quickly followed by a sequel – Treasure Island Dizzy which saw our hero marooned (deliberately) on a desert island whereby he had to provide the means for his escape. This game introduced a mini-inventory so he could carry more than one item but the downside was that if the inventory was full, the player couldn’t decide what to drop; the first item in the inventory was automatically dropped. Particularly frustrating was the fact that several sections of the game were set underwater and the only way for Dizzy to survive was to use a snorkel and god help you if _that_ was the first item in the inventory.

The designers learned from their errors and released Fantasy World Dizzy, putting Dizzy in the Kingdom of the Yolk Folk and became the staple of the game series whereby he rescues his friends from wicked spells. In his travels, he’ll encounter other characters from fairy stories who will help or hinder him. The games became a little less about the platforming and more about the puzzles which could be quite tricky to solve. Dizzy also received an energy bar which meant that rather than instant death for touching say a bat or a flame, he’d lose life which could be topped up whenever he found one of the 30 coins scattered around the world. The inventory was also fixed allowing complete freedom with whatever items Dizzy wished to carry. There were items that were red herrings also adding to the general fun.

Magicland Dizzy (my personal favourite) was the fourth game in the series – bigger than Fantasy World Dizzy, this game saw the return of the Wizard Zax and Dizzy’s friends in greater trouble. This game was particularly noteworthy for its size and complexity giving players more to think about compared with the previous games and the nasty mirror sequence where Dizzy’s controls are reversed in a horrible, horrible platform screen.

The Dizzy games were very well received by players – chiefly as they were budget games (of £2.99, then £3.99) which were generally within pocket-money range. Gamers of all ages could pick up and play and his appeal was so broad that he began to appear in spin off games, beginning with Fast Food Dizzy and eventually titles such as Kwik Snax and Dizzy Down The Rapids.

It was only a matter of time before the really big players began sniffing round and Codemasters sensing an opportunity to break into the Sega and Nintendo markets began work on converting Dizzy to these machines. They sold reasonably well but by the mid 1990s, the bottom had pretty much dropped out of the 2D platform market as the 5th Generation machines were about ready to come out promising proper and effective 3D play. Games such as Dizzy were seen as old hat and just no longer viable.

Naturally the story doesn’t end there – there were a couple of attempts to bring the character back but it was seen as a financial gamble. An established character like Dizzy would not be able to work within the confines of a simple budget title – the name alone would require a bigger budgeted game but there just wasn’t enough interest. Although Super Mario continued to trailblaze platform games with Spyro the Dragon, Rayman and Sonic providing support for the genre, the older characters seemed destined to remain in Retro-Hell.

The interwebs provided the first source of support – is the ultimate Dizzy fansite which also carries emulations of the original games allowing addicts to get their fix. This was enough to keep a buzz going about the original series of games and finally, Dizzy made it to iOS & Android with a re-released version of Prince of the Yolkfolk. It was hoped that Kickstarter might provide the interest for a brand new Dizzy game but life hasn’t worked out quite like that so any future appearances are likely to be conversions of existing titles, ironically enough at the same price they were twenty years ago.

So does the gaming world need Dizzy? I’d say yes – the character had a particularly good range for a casual game, ideal for the burgeoning tablet and smartphone market. These platforms are ideal for many of the older 8-Bit and 16-Bit games to make their comeback as their ideas were simple and didn’t require much to control the character. Furthermore, by having strong characters who already have their own library of titles, it’ll pique interest in the Retro generation amongst newer gamers rather than a focus on everything new and shiny. Don’t get me wrong, I like your Resident Evils and Grand Theft Autos et al but there’s already such a rich, enjoyable legacy to delve into which technology is the main barrier. It’s not as if you can pick up a C64 cassette and plug it into your iPad; someone has to take the time to convert it and that needs money. If there’s enough demand, it will happen.

And again, is it time to bring back Dizzy?