As a child, I never doubted the quality of video games. If a particularly difficult video game had lousy controls, incomprehensible dialogue or glitchy graphics, I’d automatically assume that I just had to step up my game. To my 6 year-old self, bad game design was simply part of the challenge. It was only during the Playstation era that I started to think that perhaps some of these games weren’t actually that great and that perhaps a lot of them were just rushed, glitch-riddled cash-ins.
I found The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy particularly irritating as a child and within minutes of playing today, it’s still got the ability to make me want to stick my irate, sweaty hand into the NES game tray and electrocute myself into blissful unconsciousness. But unlike a large number of irritating video games from my childhood, this instalment of the Dizzy franchise isn’t actually a bad game. It’s mind numbingly tedious and annoying, but I still genuinely believe that it’s simply because I’m not very good at it.
By the time you’ve made sufficient progress, collected most of the stars and solved the majority of the puzzles, you’ve probably already wasted a sufficient portion of your day and life. As a child, I wasted many a Saturday attempting to complete this game before I had to inevitably turn the NES off or pause it indefinitely until I have the skill and determination to complete it someday in the future. Perhaps when I had the knowledge and wisdom to complete it.
The box claims that Dizzy “Will entertain you for a long time,” which despite from sounding like a depressingly underwhelming claim, is true. The game is undoubtedly entertaining. But eventually, hours of hard work and puzzle solving starts to seem futile. The previously entertaining mini-games start to feel like obstacles preventing you from getting anything out of the game whatsoever, and finally, you get so frustrated you actually want Dizzy to die; you don’t even want yourself to win.
Nevertheless, for the couple of hours of fun alone, it’s still one of the better egg-based games on the NES. In fact, I guess you could call The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy the Citizen Kane of the egg genre. This is a game that changed the way people think about eggs in video games and eggs in general.
The game features our protagonist (and egg), Dizzy, on his quest to save his girlfriend, Daisy (also an egg), from the evil wizard Zaks. I’m not exactly sure what Zaks’ beef with Dizzy is and why he’s chosen to kidnap an egg, but he has, so bear with me. He’s also put a spell on the people (I mean eggs) of Dizzy’s village, which I should probably point out, is suspended in the trees, for reasons beyond the realms of basic comprehension.
Using You spend much of the game jumping around Dizzy’s village and helping his unbelievably stupid friends, who in turn give you items to help you get to Zaks’ ridiculous, and frankly pretty tacky, cloud castle. Yes, Zaks isn’t just a weird sexual deviant with a fetish for promiscuously dressed eggs; he also lives in a cloud castle: the campest of all castles.
The mini-games are probably my favourite element of the game. I particularly like the mine cart mini-game, in which the player has to travel through a car in a mine cart while avoiding obstacles. There’s also a cool little mini-game where Dizzy is stranded at the bottom of the sea and has to stand on rising bubbles, which pop after just a few seconds, to reach the surface before his air runs out.
The music is another of the games highlights, although it’s difficult to describe why. The music has a bizarre hypnotic quality that sounds strangely inspired by early ’90s acid house and techno, combining piercing synth lines and pulsating, rhythmically driven bass lines. I don’t want to sound hyperbolic here, but I’d go as far as saying that Dizzy is solely responsibly for shaping and defining modern electronica.
Unfortunately, I’ve never come close to completing this game. Even today, I’m still far too inadequate to complete all the puzzles, collect all the stars and make it to Zaks’ daffy cloud castle. Once, after hours upon hours of game play, I did make it to a castle, albeit not cloud, where I had to shoot small gremlin-type creatures with a cross bow, but I actually have no idea if I was close to completing the game or not. Probably not, given my long and farcical history with this game.
Nevertheless, played in short 1 to 2 hour sittings, Dizzy is a very entertaining game. Obviously, due to the many puzzles and mini-games, the longevity is enormous and I respect anyone who’s completed it with the respect only my six year-old self had for Zack Morris. I just advise anyone playing today to use a memory card to spare themselves some of the deep psychological pain I experienced and continue to experience.