I wasn’t a very modern kid growing up. When my friends were all playing on their Super Nintendos or Sony PlayStations in the 90s, I was still playing on my Gameboy or my parents Amstrad computer. A lot of the titles for the Amstrad and other home computer systems of the time like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 have been somewhat forgotten over the years but there truly were some brilliant games back then.
One series that is a personal favourite of mine, and that has sadly been somewhat lost to time for the past two decades is the Dizzy Series.
Created in 1987 by the legendary Oliver Twins and published by Codemasters, most of the entries in the series follow a similar design. You play as a little egg called Dizzy, who is a member of the Yolkfolk, who usually has to rescue the rest of the Yolkfolk and/or his girlfriend Daisy, often from the evil wizard Zacks or from other fantastical calamities.
Unlike many other cartoonish games that were popular at the time, the gameplay was more of a puzzle/platformer as opposed to action. Whereas Mario jumped on his enemies heads or Sonic rolled into them, Dizzy would have to try and avoid them entirely or find some item that would remove them. For every obstacle in the game, somewhere would be the means to overcome them, usually by finding an item that would counteract that obstacle, or by giving that item to someone who needs it in exchange for another item which would help.There are only a handful of games I can think of that use items and trading to such an amount, the main one I can think of is the Zelda series where you often had to find items in side quests to trade with other characters, which would eventually be crucial or extremely helpful in completing the main quest.
In the Dizzy games, as previously mentioned the main objective is usually to rescue your friends, but to completely finish the game you often have to collect a certain number of other things as well, like magic stars or cherries. This could often be more difficult than the primary quest as they were often extremely well hidden. I remember my Mum ringing up a games advice hotline in about 1994/95 as she was stuck finding a cherry in “Dizzy Prince of the Yolkfolk”.
I managed to complete “Magicland Dizzy” the other day. Something I had tried to do as a kid and failed. The games were extremely difficult, the earlier ones even more so. Without the internet to search for a walkthrough, some really took some thinking as to how to solve certain parts of the games.I remember going to school and really thinking about all of the items I had found and what they could be used for. For example in “Spellbound Dizzy” you can find a pot of pepper, and by sprinkling it on the back of a whale, it will sneeze and shoot you high up into the air, into a whole new area that would otherwise be unreachable. It wasn’t the most obvious solution, but these games constantly kept me thinking about possible new ways to solve problems. Most of them didn’t work, but when they did I felt like I had really accomplished something.
It was only after downloading an emulator, figuring out how to get it to work and re-playing a couple of the Dizzy games did I realize how much they meant to me as a kid. I remember drawing all of the characters, all of which I can remember the names of twenty years on! I always wanted some Dizzy toys as a kid but sadly they didn’t exist, as far as I know. To this day, I still want some Dizzy toys but I still don’t think they exist unfortunately.
Although just supporting characters and there only really to be rescued, the Yolkfolk all had their own personalities. As a kid I loved that. I didn’t know what a ‘hippie’ was. But there was Dylan to introduce me to the term. I didn’t really know what was ‘cool’ (I was only four when I first played these games!) but there was Denzil with his shades and walkman to show me. I am sure everyone who enjoys video games has a similar game that evokes feelings of nostalgia, and this is definitely mine.
The music for the series was amazing as well. It was after playing through “Spellbound Dizzy” I realized something was lacking. I was playing the ZX Spectrum version which didn’t have the backing music that the Amstrad version did. It was such a catchy and fun tune and playing the game without that element felt really strange. Even from an early age, those games made me realise that music is such an integral part of a video game and life in general. I won’t say that those games are the reason that I first picked up an instrument a decade ago, but my appreciation for music were certainly cemented as a young child because of those games.
There were a few arcade style spin-offs in the Dizzy series, which were a lot of fun but didn’t have the narrative or characters that made me enjoy the main series so much. ‘Dizzy Down the Rapids’ was a fun game in which Dizzy rides down a river in a barrel, throwing apples at enemies. Kwik Snax Dizzy was a pacman-esque title where Dizzy had to gobble food up to progress to the next stage
There was one game which was for a system outside of home computers, I had ‘Fantastic Dizzy’ for the Sega Game Gear, which was also available on the NES and Megadrive/Genesis as well. It was a lot of fun, had much better graphics and ran a lot faster than all of the Dizzy games I was used to on the Amstrad. I haven’t played it in years and didn’t get very far in it, but it was fun, though it doesn’t quite hold the same place in my heart as the games for the Amstrad.
So if you have a penchant for little eggs with faces on them or just like old puzzle or platform games, I cannot recommend enough that you check out the Dizzy series. Eggs-tremely (I am so sorry for that) challenging and chock full of interesting characters and very British humor, I think it is a damn shame more titles weren’t released though the Oliver Twins did try an unsuccessful crowd funding attempt in 2012 to get a new game out, and Codemasters released an updated version of ” Dizzy- Prince of the Yolkfolk” as a app for mobiles in 2011, but there has been little else since. However there is a pretty active community today that makes fan made games, some of which even look like they could be official games in the series.
For me personally, I don’t think any video game character be it Mario or Link, or Master Chief or Cloud Strife or any other of the characters we have come to know and love will ever hold the same place in my heart quite like a smiling little cartoon egg with boxing gloves.