Whenever people think of noteworthy individuals in the gaming market, some of the more “recognizable” ones, such as Shigeru Miyamoto, tend to come to mind. However, that’s not to say one of the lesser-highlighted ones don’t have strong followings/legacies of their own, if the people behind today’s game are anything to go by.
While some people might not realize it, Phillip and Andrew Oliver, or as most people call them, The Oliver Twins, helped to truly ignite the then-mostly-untapped market of video games in the United Kingdom. Without them, many beloved UK-based developers, such as Rareware, Team17, or Traveller’s Tales, most likely wouldn’t exist as we know them now. As such, I figured it was time to shine the spotlight on what is possibly their most well-known creation through a review of the 1991 adventure-platform game, The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy.
Developed by Codemasters and released in 1991 across several platforms such as the Amiga, the Genesis, and the Game Gear, the version we’re taking a look at today is the unlicensed NES version, published by Camerica. The game’s story revolves around the titular protagonist, an anthropomorphic egg who must embark on a quest to save his fellow Yolkfolk from certain doom and rescue his girlfriend Daisy from the evil Zaks. Is this game truly “fantastic” as the title suggests, or is this a rotten egg that’s not worth your time? Let’s find out, shall we?
THE LOOKS – I have to say, for a game that wasn’t licensed by Nintendo themselves, the graphics here are…actually pretty decent! Okay, it isn’t visually flawless by any stretch, but they are still nice. Although they are kind of simplistic in some cases (then again, this IS a NES game), the graphics are still very good for what they are, providing a vibrant use of colors as well as some creative character models and neat backgrounds. I don’t really have that much to say since, well, they are kind of simplistic like I said earlier, but it isn’t really a severe con, especially since the NES is by no means the greatest video game system of them all in terms of visuals (not to sound like I’m dissing it or anything).
THE SOUND – While I don’t really have that many things to say about the graphics, the music on the other hand is most certainly a stark contrast. Despite the fact that all of their NES-released games went unlicensed, that still didn’t seem to deter the folks at Codemasters from producing some insanely catchy tunes, this game in particular having some of the best ones I’ve heard in an NES game, licensed or not. The music as a whole does a great job of making you pumped to play throughout the entirety of the game, as it really gives off a sense of adventure and energy. Even if the Amiga version is slightly better, the sound here is still incredibly impressive for an unlicensed game.
Jeez, when does this guy NOT have a smile on his face?
THE GAMEPLAY – The best way I can describe how this game plays is this: take the gameplay of Zelda, merge it with the level design of Mario, throw in a few elements of a point-and-click game, and the end result will be, well, this. Many other games have attempted to merge two respective gameplay styles together, some succeeding, and some failing miserably. But that does leave one little question; where exactly does this game fall in? The former, although it is still a bit flawed. Starting off with the good stuff, the level design is actually really good! It’s very open, but still filled with tons of stuff to find as well as plenty of platforming to go around, as well as some rather clever and challenging puzzles and segments, one of the latter of the two taking place underwater, as you have to keep your oxygen bar filled up while trying to get back on dry land, another being a relatively fun minecart ride. Speaking of the puzzles, this is where the point-and-click elements I mentioned earlier come into fruition. What I mean by this is that there are are certain parts in which you’ll run into an obstacle, and will leave you with no other choice than to look into your inventory in order to determine what you’ll need in order to progress. Some might be tough to figure out, while others might not be as tough. It all depends in how used you are to adventure games. You also must collect a certain amount of stars (and by certain amount, I mean a LOT) scattered all throughout the world in order to get to Zaks. But now that we got all of that out of the way, it’s time to move on to what’s bad. Starting off with the controls, they’re fine and solid…when you ignore the jumping. For some reason, no matter what way Dizzy jumps, whether it be left, right, or upwards, he cannot change his direction. This might not sound like it’s THAT much of a problem, but say you were to jump off of a ledge and decided to change your direction. No matter what button you press, you still end up going in that direction, whether you like it or not. And considering the fact this game is rather lengthy, this can be pretty hard to get used to. Next, there’s Dizzy’s health meter. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game in which your health can get depleted this quickly. No matter what comes in contact with Dizzy, you can garuntee that his health will go down faster than a Sonic character. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they ruin the game, but they do kind of bring down the experience.
THE BOTTOM LINE – The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy is a flawed but still enjoyable demonstration of the abilities of two of the most influential video game developers of the U.K. Though it might not be for everyone, I’d suggest giving it a try if you want a platformer that’s not the typical “A to B” stuff.