An egg with cute little button feet and hands took the gaming world by storm back in the 1980s and it allowed two bedroom geeks to create a company that still exist to this day. The ovoid hero was named Dizzy and that company was, of course, Codemasters.
Richard and David Darling founded the company in 1986 and in June of that year Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure was released, but I never played that one, so it's difficult to comment on it.
The fourth game, Magicland Dizzy, is where I got my introduction to the series. Our heroic egg was on a quest to save his buddies, the Yolkfolk, from the Evil Wizard Zaks, his arch nemesis throughout the series.
Interestingly, this one was developed by an external team at Big Red Software, so my first foray into ovoid gaming was a third party experience. Nevertheless, it was basically just a regular Dizzy adventure, a rolling-around, jumping and puzzle-solving romp through, this time, a set of fairy tale-inspired areas.
Each of the Yolkfolk are trapped in a different fashion by the wizard. One's turned into a bush, another is inside a block of ice and Dizzy's girlfriend, Daisy, has been enlarged and hidden away. Gameplay was a mixture of platforming action and puzzle solving, collecting objects and using them to rescue the Yolkfolk.
Like a lot of the games from back in those days, 'easy' wasn't a word you could use to describe it. You'd have three lives and would have to start all over again if you lost them all. Dizzy wasn't a fighter, so if you came across any hazards, you'd be dead if you touched them, although not instantly as each life also came with a health bar that depleted when coming into contact with hazards. It could also be replenished by collecting diamonds.
The game world itself was divided into a large number of screens, including ones which were basically just air, which you might tumble through occasionally after a fall from a great height. Luckily, Dizzy's shell was thick and even the highest fall wouldn't result in it shattering, although touching water would see you die.
Although this was my first and main attempt to complete a Dizzy game – something I never actually managed to do – Treasure Island Dizzy is probably the most famous of the series. Set on a desert island, the plot involved a rather bizarre game of cricket using Long John Silver's spare peg legs as stumps.
Like Magicland Dizzy, it was less about encountering beasts and more about solving puzzles with the aid of inventory items. There were two main strands to explore, both of which had to be completed before you could finish the game.
The first was plot-based, a simple “find a way to escape” quest, while the second saw you attempting to find 30 gold coins scattered about the place. Your inventory would store three items, picking up a fourth seeing the one in the top slot pushed out, which could prove particularly hazardous if you happened to be in a dangerous area and the top item was the only thing keeping you from dying.
As you only had one life in this one life, if this happened you'd have to start again, meaning you'd have to extra careful before making any decision. Imagine if this design decision happened in a leading title nowadays, the uproar would see fans slitting the throats of the coders in their rage.
Thankfully, Fantasy World Dizzy introduced the less hair-wrenchingly frustrating three lives system, plus it also allowed you to select which object you were carrying to use in a given situation. It also introduced Dizzy's friends the Yolkfolk for the first time.
In this game, Daisy gets kidnapped (a recurring theme) and our hero has to traipse after her once more. On a personal level, this one left me coldest out of all the Dizzy titles, perhaps because I got stuck much earlier in it than the others. It certainly, to me, featured more puzzles closer to the start of the game than the others (from memory) and therefore allowed for less initial exploration.
As for other games in the series, the only other one that I remember with any degree of clarity is Prince of the Yolkfolk, where Daisy is trapped and needs rescuing for the umpteenth time. Again, it's pretty much the same as before, lots of puzzles to solve and, if memory serves, a trip across a river on a barge piloted by a cowled, scythe-wielding figure.
Spellbound Dizzy is a mystery to me, though I must have played it at some point. This one apparently had more animations for Dizzy, like swimming, eating, looking concussed and more. Now players could also take damage from high falls, ramping up the already quite high difficulty level. Fantastic Dizzy and Crystal Kingdom Dizzy, the last two games, are just as mysterious to me.
Spin-offs were also part of the series, the most famous of which being Fast Food Dizzy and Kwik Snax. Both involved Pacman-style arcade chases through mazes, the former apparently being originally designed to promote Happy Eater restaurants.
Sadly, it's quite tough to actually play any of these games now. Treasure Island Dizzy can still be found on the Codemasters website, but the others are very tricky to track down. Even World of Spectrum is prohibited from hosting them, and so the series is much harder to relive than others of its time.
Even so, if you did manage to get a hold of them, their quality still shines through, tough-as-nails puzzle-platformers that can provide a challenge and a charming experience to this day. A reboot of the Dizzy franchise, if it were to ever come, may well kill all the goodwill felt for the little ovoid urchin, destined as it would no doubt be for some sort of cynical cash-in design. However, if Codemasters are going to attempt to block the games out for all time, they owe us some form of new version in compensation, surely?
Or perhaps nobody wants to save the Yolkfolk anymore? Is it just me?