If I mention the name Dizzy, you’re likely to have one of two reactions. Some will be filled with a warm feeling of 1980’s nostalgia; of hours spent alone in your bedroom, playing with yourself. The rest will just shrug their shoulders in mystery. If I then mention to them that Dizzy was a brave young egg, who wore red boots and boxing gloves, the shrug turns to an expression of concern. If I go on to say he spends his time solving puzzles and rescuing members of his family, they start to wonder if it is time to call the men in white coats with nets.
Just to reassure, I am talking about a classic piece of retro gaming, from back in the day when Lara Croft was an A-cup and birds were merely disgruntled. Dizzy – The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure, along with its many sequels, was an adventure/puzzler game, released on various formats such as ZX Spectrums and Amstrad CPCs. If you’re not old enough to remember those consoles, imagine an era when games came on cassette tapes, and you played them with joysticks, usually with one big red button. It was a time when you would begin loading a game, then go for your tea, watch Thundercats, and, if you were lucky, by the time you got back the games might almost be ready to play.
It was a simpler time, and as a child I knew nothing of realistically rendered three-dimensional environments, surround-sound effects, cooperative online gameplay or immersing storylines. I was happy if a game would load best two times out of three.
But there’s no denying gaming has moved on. As computers advance in accordance with Moore’s Law, the gaming experience they are capable of providing moves far beyond the point those early gamers and programmers would have ever imagined possible within their lifetime. So why was I, and many others it seems, so excited by the news that Codemasters – Dizzy’s publishers – were releasing a glammed-up version of their classic game?
On Friday 9th December, Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk – a reworking of the 6th title in the original series, from 1991 – was released for iPads, iPhone and Android devices, available from the Dizzy website.
Gone is the blocky white oval on a black background, Dizzy and his world are now rendered in full colour HD. The game is largely unaltered, except in cosmetic terms, and Codemasters selected this particular title to titivate as it received much praise for its gameplay upon its original release. But, most importantly, what made the original so appealing is still present. It is simple fun, without flash, explosions or fuss. The games, at the time, were challenging, although they seem far from taxing in retrospect. But this just means that smartphones are the perfect vehicle for them. They’re a lunch break or train journey’s play.
To some, Dizzy was a character bigger than any Italian plumber or blue spiked mammal you’d care to offer. This release, along with the other games Codemasters are reportedly interested in rereleasing, are a nostalgia trip for those familiar with them, and now have the chance to delight a whole new generation.