Last Saturday, the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, England saw an eggciting celebration of thirty years of a most eggcellent example of the very best of 8-bit home computer gaming – the Dizzy franchise!
Way back in 1987, the legendary Oliver Twins, two of England’s most prominent ‘bedroom coders’ who went on to become software publishers in their own right, remaining in the business right up to the present day, brought to life a tiny but fun cartoon character who was to become so popular that even today his name is known far and wide across the internet – that crazy little egg-shaped adventurer, Dizzy.
Philip and Andrew Oliver began to professionally develop computer games in their bedrooms while they were still at school, contributing their first type-in game to a magazine in 1983. Starting with the Amstrad CPC664, which they also used to port their games to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, as a partnership named Complex Software they worked with software publishers Codemasters for a number of years following their first collaboration, Super Robin Hood, most notably creating the Dizzy series of games and many of Codemasters popular Simulator Series.
Later, they had their games converted to the Commodore 64 and other machines including, eventually, the 16-bit Atari ST, Amiga, and PC, and apart from their own games, the Oliver Twins were also responsible for porting a number of other prominent games to the Sega and Nintendo platforms, including Theme Park and Syndicate. At one point during the 1980s, it was reported that 7% of all UK games sales were attributable to the Oliver Twins.
Moving on from their bedroom coding days, in 1990 at the age of 22 they founded Interactive Studios which later became Blitz Games Studios. In October 2013, working with with long time friend and colleague Richard Smithies, they founded Radiant Worlds, based in Leamington Spa, UK. Today they are often found at major hobbyist events in the UK retro gaming calendar, talking to fans about those heady days and the work they are doing today, such as SkySaga.
A bizzy day for Dizzy!
Saturday’s special anniversary event, however, marking International Dizzy Day, was a singular and very busy occasion for a select group of the keenest of those keen to celebrate the birthday of their digital gaming pal Dizzy, and there was a buzzingly full house in the lecture room at the National Videogame Arcade (NVA), which was not only the venue for this very special event organised by the Oliver Twins working with Chris Wilkins’ Retro Now! magazine and Fusion Retro Books, with the assistance of Andrew Joseph of the popular Dizzy fansite Yolkfolk.com, but also the official launch of a unique exhibition hosted by the NVA and dedicated to Dizzy and the twins’ work – the ‘Dizzy Room‘.
The exhibition, which is on now and is expected to run till at least the end of this summer, is housed in its own dedicated room, which has been deliberately made reminiscent of the twins’ bedroom where they did so much of the early work that made them famous. And apart from many showcased souvenirs of Dizzy, visitors can also view many photographs and game maps, as well as play actual Dizzy games on a variety of home computers and consoles.
Curtains for Dizzy
A really unexpected highlight of the exhibition for our editor Stuart Williams, who attended Saturday’s event to report for Retro Computing News was, however, the Oliver Twins’ original bedroom curtains (!), which had been kept by their parents and, now hanging in the exhibition room windows, with the sunlight shining through them, give the distinct impression of being in that very room all those years ago, where a gaming legend was born. Truly, it was curtains for Dizzy!
Talks and goodies
During the afternoon, those attending the celebration were treated to two very enjoyable illustrated talks by the Oliver Twins, who are very entertaining and enthusiastic speakers, and apart from having the chance to view, buy and have signed their software, books and merchandise, everyone went away happily clutching a bulging goodie bag.
A ‘new’ Dizzy game launched!
One final but very important highlight of the day was, in addition, the launch of a long lost Dizzy game, which had been intended to be published on the Nintendo NES but which for various reasons had never seen the light of day – Mystery World Dizzy. The code for this game had been found on floppy disks in the loft of Philip Oliver, where boxes and boxes of items from their gaming past have been tucked quietly away, but no longer!
Mystery World Dizzy is now not only planned to be the subject of a special anniversary Kickstarter for copies of the game on actual NES cartridge, but as a gift to Dizzy fans world-wide, the game has been placed online, set up to play in your web browser, with the assistance of Yolkfolk.com, and is available now via this link!
What cracking day it was, and a very memorable one. Here’s to another thirty years of Dizzy!
Event and exhibition pictures by Stuart Williams, other pictures courtesy The Oliver Twins