Monday, 11 March 2013

Fantasy World Dizzy (ZX Spectrum)

Fantasy World Dizzy ZX Spectrum loading screen
Once Dizzy used to be a video game star. He was the Sonic the Hedgehog of the ZX Spectrum, the Master Chief of the Commodore 64! But time hasn't been kind to the adventurous egg and at last count there are only 839 people left in the world who would be willing to spend cash on a new Dizzy game. If last year's Dizzy Returns kickstarter is anything to go by anyway. £25,620 raised with a £350,000 goal, ouch.

Still, there's over a dozen games starring the pugilistic ovoid in the world already and I feel like trying one out, so I decided to do some research into which of them is generally considered by fans to be the very finest of the Dizzy series. Then I learned that research is actually really boring, so in the end I just went with the third one: Dizzy III - Fantasy World Dizzy.

Look at those beautiful ZX Spectrum graphics in action. Even Dizzy's trademark boxing gloves look their correct colour while he's wedged in between those two blocks of red background. It won't last though, as the Speccy can only display two colours per 8x8 pixel block (including black), so our overexcited ovoid avatar is going to take on the hue of anything he moves in front of.

Right, there's a green guy blocking one exit, a roaring fire blocking the other, plus a jug and some fluorescent yellow bread sitting on that table. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do about that.

I moved Dizzy over to the jug with the joystick and pressed fire, bringing up this inventory screen with the jug of water now appearing in it. So the game's a platformer with some adventure game puzzle solving then. Well I'm playing as a naked egg wearing boxing gloves, so I suppose the first puzzle is 'how the fuck is he carrying all this stuff?'

Wow, I'm honestly surprised that the first thing I tried actually worked. I thought I'd be stuck in this room for hours. Okay then, I'll grab the bread then head out through the now extinguished fireplace into freedom!

Damn this guy really likes to roll for a bit after jumping. I nearly ended up taking a tumble into the water here. This is one of those games which jumps to the next screen immediately with no scrolling by the way, so this is the very next thing you see after leaving the cell.

I tried grabbing that red rock, but it appears that Dizzy can only carry two items at once. Which is actually really sensible game design because having to constantly backtrack to pick up items when you need them is a potentially endless source of joy. He said sarcastically.

Hmm, suddenly this rat scurrying around in the ceiling seems like a much bigger problem to me than he did two screens ago. I strayed a little too close the first time I got up here and he nibbled away one of my eggy lives instantly.

Well, I have an apple, some bread, and I know where I can find a boulder. So one of these three items must be the key to this puzzle.

The ravenous rat eats the loaf and runs away.
Excellent, I knew he wouldn't be able to resist running off with that entire loaf of bright yellow bread. And now I may proceed.

The rat goes straight for your neck. You lose a life!
WHAT?

This came up immediately after the last message, without one moment for anything to actually occur. Apparently the rat was close enough to hit me at the same time he grabbed that bread. C'mon game, I solved your puzzle, you can't punish me when I've got the right answer!

Well that's awesome. I escaped up out of the rat room, jumped off screen to the right, and brushed against a torch in the background as I entered the next screen. A torch I had obviously had absolutely no way to know about. But unfortunately even background items can be lethal and so Dizzy instantly burned to death.

Okay fine, I see how this works now. I'll pay more attention from now on, even on the safe looking screens. Not that this room could really be considered safe, not with that bloody snap-happy gator sticking his head up out of that large impassable stretch of water. Doesn't look like I'll be going that way any time soon.

Fantasy World Dizzy starring the Yolkfolk title screen
Uh, what? Two rat bites and a burn is enough for me to lose the game? I only got four screens in!

Okay, I'm going to give this another shot, now I know to stay way clear from rats and... things in the background.


FOUR SCREENS LATER.


This time I went left instead of right and found a gold coin. Don't know what that's for though, it didn't appear in my inventory afterwards.

I could escape from this castle right now if this portcullis wasn't here, and there just so happens to be a lever positioned above it. Seems too convenient though.

Uh, where's it being pulled up into? It's a solid iron gate, these things don't just fold up like a window blind!

Never mind, that's not important right now. All that matters is that I've opened up the path to freedom and I'm finally out of this bloody castle... right after I've gone up these steps and raided the top floors of anything useful or shiny I mean.

Damn, I wonder how these people got that huge table into this room through such a tiny door. Hey, there's another eggman, wearing a Walkman.

Oh, apparently the guy's a friend of Dizzy called Denzil who wandered in here to 'check out the castle'. Dizzy explains that he and his girlfriend Daisy had been kidnapped and he'd just escaped captivity by breaking out of the dungeon, but Denzil couldn't give a fuck.

By the way I know that she's his girlfriend because there's a heart between them on the title screen. That's some pretty efficient storytelling.

Denzil did give back Dizzy's rope though, which he lent to him at some point before the game started. I don't have the space for it though so I'm going to have to leave it here.

Armorog's Den
After finding four coins and more junk than I could carry, I left the castle and found this thing blocking my way. I'm fresh out of loaves though, so I'll need to take a different approach this time.

C'mon, step a little closer and take the apple! Pick it up in your mouth and run off screen you asshole armorog. Actually he might just be far enough across already, I think I might be able to jump this!

Nope. That was my final life so I'm thrown back to the title screen again.


ONE EXTINGUISHED FIREPLACE AND A HUNGRY RAT LATER.


Through a bit of tricky jumping I found a way to get even higher into the castle, though it hasn't gotten me anything so far except a door that Dizzy can't open. You know, I'm sure it must be possible to knock on a door wearing boxing gloves. I think I have a pair lying around in fact, just hold on a sec I'm going to try this out.

Well it turns out that knocking on a door wearing boxing gloves really doesn't make much of a sound, so that myth's confirmed I guess. But he could always just use his head! Actually that's probably not a good idea for an egg, scrap that plan.

I eventually found a meaty bone in the attic, which has to be the solution to this puzzle. Look, he's eating it! Or maybe he just ran up to it because he was coming after me, it's hard to tell. Either way this isn't helping me at all.


ANOTHER RESTART LATER.


Okay I've been around the castle again and brought all the stuff I could find down into one place to take stock of what I've got. Which actually took a fair while seeing as the stubborn egg won't carry more than two things at once.

I've got a rock, an apple, an empty bottle, a key, a bone and a rope. The bottle used to have whisky in it when I found it, but Dizzy refused to part with it until he'd finished it all off. Then he spent the next few seconds randomly rolling around, which is a bloody dangerous thing to do in this deathtrap of a castle. I could have thrown a life away if I'd drank it next to water.

Alright, so what are my options here? I've got an armorog that needs luring away on the left, a alligator blocking a stretch of water on the right, an underground lake and a door I can't knock on.

Oh, and there's that green monster in the cell at the start. You know, I never did try bribing him with the apple!

Bribing the guard with the apple turned out to be the correct move! He decides to help me out by telling me... that I could escape this cell by putting out the fireplace with the jug of water. Great.

Out of frustration and desperation I gave up and asked a friend for help and he told me that the solution is actually perfectly obvious.

All I had to do is jump onto the alligator in the split second his mouth was shut, and quickly use the rope to tie it shut! And now I have a stepping stone to get across the water.

I would have never figured that out myself, not even through trial and error. And trial and error really ain't much fun when I get three chances to get it right before I'm kicked back to the start again.

Oh come on! The alligator path just leads to a bloody dragon. I can't even get close to him as he breathes fire... my only weakness! Besides water, rats, armorogs, spikes, and a single pixel of a rising portcullis that is.


EVENTUALLY.


It turns out that I was on the right track with the armorog, I just didn't put the food far enough across to get him out of my way. He's not like the rat, he doesn't run off with his meal.

Wait, did I just put a key down instead of the meaty bone? Oh fuck...

The armorog path led me here, to a jump I can't make. Though maybe I can go get the empty bottle, and fill up the river with water from the underground lake! It should only take me 50,000 trips.

I suppose I should try jumping down there and see if that does anything to improve my situation. After dropping my valuables on the side of course, so I'll have the inventory space free to grab that other key on the off chance I make it over.

Well this was a really really stupid plan. Yeah, I think I'm turning this game off now.


I can kind of see the appeal of Fantasy World Dizzy, as it's not without charm, but it's just so awkward. Combining a platformer with an adventure game isn't necessarily a great concept in the first place as adventure games tend to work best (in my opinion) when there's no consequence for failure and you're free to mess around and try things. But taking that idea and then adding finite lives, no checkpoints, zero saves, and a two item inventory produces a recipe for despair. No one wants to have to solve the same puzzle again and again, especially when you have hunt down the items each time.

Oh and plus, you know those coins I was finding? Turns out that you need to collect all of them to complete the game, and some are hidden behind pieces of scenery. Yep, you have to go and press fire against every bit of the background until all the coins have been discovered. So basically, fuck this game.

Though on the other hand this was getting scores in the 80-90% range at the time and was voted the 25th best ZX Spectrum game ever made by Your Sinclair magazine, so it apparently entertained someone at some point. But then the Speccy never did get Super Mario Bros. or a Lucasfilm adventure, so I imagine the bar was set incredibly low.


If you want to talk about the Dizzy games, explain how there's actually lots of good ZX Spectrum platformers that I just haven't heard of, or would just like give your opinion on this site in general, you can leave a comment in the box.

7 comments:

  1. Conclusions are borderline offensive LOL.

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    1. That's what I'm here for, to shock the internet with my outrageous opinions about 25 year old games.

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  2. A good Speccy platformer?
    Well, there's Jet Set Willy...

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    1. I'm definitely going to have to get around to that one at some point, even if it's just as an excuse to show off the box art.

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  3. Be glad that you didn't play Treasure Island Dizzy - you only have ONE life, to get you through the whole game... and you can die instantly on the very first screen by walking right instead of left! Stuart Ashen did a video about it, which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-RCHyWcfIU

    I really liked the Dizzy games, back in the day, but I must admit that the addition of checkpoints/saves would have been an improvement. Of course, emulation + save-states improve the situation somewhat...

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    1. I've actually seen that vid before, it somewhat influenced my decision to go with Fantasy World instead. I still don't get why the game even has lives at all! I suppose I should just shut up and be grateful it didn't have a time limit.

      Though I did give Treasure Island a try afterwards out of curiosity and I think I may have actually managed to beat Ashens' time by a millisecond or so by jumping into the water instead. Not 100% certain of that though.

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  4. The painting in the entrance hall is of Treasure Island. I seem to remember that you can examine it and get a little continuity message.

    To get past the broken bridge you need to drop rocks into the water to raise the level, then you can jump across. I can't believe that I remember that after twenty-something years.

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