Wonderful Dizzy

Dizzy will be a name familiar to anyone who enjoyed the 8-bit heyday of gaming. While he may have been the star of his first adventure Dizzy quickly spawned a whole new universe of egg-based characters known as the Yolkfolk and he and they were the creation of wonder-devs of the time, The Oliver Twins.

The Dizzy series was a mainstay of the eighties computer scene in the UK with a series of puzzle platformers that appeared on everything from the ZX Spectrum to the NES by way of the Atari ST and Amiga. His adventures saw him taking on the evil wizard Zaks across treasure islands and fantasy worlds. Alongside the platform games, Dizzy also featured in a number of puzzle games and more recently was the focus of a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 that hoped to bring Dizzy back for a whole new updated adventure on modern platforms.

Unfortunately, that game failed to achieve its funding target and while it looked like new official Dizzy games might be a thing of the past something magical happened – the ZX Spectrum Next – a new, modern take on the Sinclair 8-bit saw its Kickstarter campaign hit stretch goals galore and one of them was to be a brand new Dizzy game.

And here we are – Wonderful Dizzy is finally debuting and it’s as true to the original games as possible having been developed for the 128k ZX Spectrum itself.

You can even play it on the original hardware! Or, as many will via one of the countless Speccy emulators online. For the purposes of this review, the game was played on an Android emulator.

Following this release, there is a plan to then release a ZX Spectrum Next specific version of the game that takes full use of the relaunched platform’s improved hardware at a later date.

Wonderful Dizzy is the first new Dizzy adventure in 26 years that has been designed by The Oliver Twins. It has been developed by the team who remade Crystal Kingdom Dizzy back in 2017 – that remake basically improved everything about the original ZX Spectrum release of the game with improved graphics, smoother gameplay and better sound – so Wonderful Dizzy was in great hands.

The game is loosely based upon L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz with Dizzy taking in the traditional role of Dorothy, and the game is very much what you’d expect from a Dizzy adventure. The gentle puzzles that mostly see you locating items to use in the right places are as close to the gameplay of the original games as it is possible to get. And while Dizzy this time comes equipped with a backpack and hat he’s still the recognisable Yolkfolk hero we remember.

The rest of the Yolkfolk are here too – this time taking on the familiar roles in the original book. Even Pogie – who has had his own spin-off adventures – is along for the ride in place of Toto.

The version of the game we played saw you start the game with three lives – and it’s unforgiving, although not as famously challenging as Treasure Island Dizzy which saw you taking on the game with one life and instant death being around almost every corner. Thankfully the responsive controls mean that death is always avoidable, and it isn’t so pixel perfect in terms of collision detection as to feel unfair.

In a departure from the earlier games, there is something of a 3D feel to the game map this time around with not only exits to the left and right but also paths into and out of the screen. There are also a number of houses and buildings you can enter giving the game something of an RPG feel at times.

Wonderful Dizzy is everything we had hoped for. It’s been a series that, like Star Wars, is entwined in so many people’s childhood memories and everything about this new adventure brings back the feelings of playing on a tiny CRT TV on the ZX Spectrum. The puzzles are familiar and never overly taxing, and the gameplay improvements that have been introduced are sympathetic and totally in keeping with the franchise.

We’d love this to be the start of a Dizzy renaissance – further Dizzy adventures that capture everything we love about the series would be more than welcome although with the news that Dizzy’s owners Codemasters are to be acquired by EA the future of the Yolkfolk is less clear than ever.

Wonderful Dizzy is set for release on 18th December and will cost absolutely nothing. You can download and play the game on an emulator, a ZX Spectrum or ZX Spectrum Next OR you’ll be able to play it online in a browser. Check out the Wonderful Dizzy website for more details.

Colin Polonowski

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

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