An Estival ST Festival: Fantasy World Dizzy

Greetings all lovers of antiquated computing technology, to this thirtieth anniversary celebration of the Atari ST. A stout little punter, the ST was one of the favored systems for European gamers in the mid-80s to early-90s, where the NES didn't quite make the impact it did elsewhere. Like Japan, Europe had weathered the storm of the 1983 crash by staying within the protective bubble of home computers: systems that ably doubled for productivity centers and occasional video game distractions. The ones people remember most are the Commodore duo of the C64 and the Amiga. Others might fondly recall the various Spectrum ZX models or early IBM clones. For lil' Mento Jr., it was Atari's first 16-bit home system the Atari ST: released thirty years ago this month.

The ST's lifespan is a little hard to quantify historically, as it sits in a very lengthy gap where console technology rose in leaps and bounds. The Atari ST pre-dates the US and European launches of the Nintendo Entertainment System (which celebrates its 30th sometime in November, so watch out for lots of USGamer articles on that), but by the time the ST had discontinued production in 1993, we were seeing the onset of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, and the earliest hints of 32-bit consoles like the PlayStation and Sega Saturn (both of which would debut the following year). The ST didn't quite last as long as the NES did (though it too had all but checked out by 1993) but it hung in there as Europeans gradually flocked to the Genesis and early Windows PCs.

Anyway, there are plenty of history lessons on video game consoles out there to interest/bore you to your heart's content. I want to come at this as a fan of the games it saw during its eight years of life; as someone who grew up with a system many others on this site did not. I especially want to highlight differences between these versions and the better known ones for other platforms: there's a lot here that would eventually see their way to the NES, SNES and Genesis, and even more that originated on the C64, Spectrum or BBC Micro and underwent big graphical upgrades when hitting the Atari ST. Well, depending on how significant you consider a leap from 8-bit to 16-bit to be.

(Estival means "Summer" or "relating to Summer". I'll come right out and admit it: I had to look that one up.)

Fantasy World Dizzy

For our first retrospective, I figured I'd take a crack at an entry from of my favorite Atari ST series; one that still elicits a lot of confused reactions and sardonic references by the Giant Bomb crew. Dizzy's an egg wearing boxing gloves, this is known, but what's less known is the nature of games he tended to appear in, and why they were so popular for a time. Fantasy World Dizzy is, depending on who you ask, the peak of the series. It would get bigger, it would get prettier, but it rarely modified or built on the template this game set. In that regard, you might consider it the Dizzy equivalent of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. (It was originally released in 1989 for the C64, but we're seeing the 1991 ST version here. Also, feel free to jam to its theme tune here. It's super bleepy, huh? That's this era for you.)

Welcome to Fantasy World Dizzy! Disclaimer: The Atari ST's native resolution is 320x200. These screenshots are double that. Also you can see Dizzy's leaving his own intro screen; he got that bored of waiting.
Welcome to Fantasy World Dizzy! Disclaimer: The Atari ST's native resolution is 320x200. These screenshots are double that. Also you can see Dizzy's leaving his own intro screen; he got that bored of waiting.
Dizzy begins the game unceremoniously tossed into the castle dungeon by that troll over there. The Dizzy games always inject a lot of character into each screen, even if it's just a cloud floating in mid-air. Each room has a name too, which sometimes provides a clue.
Dizzy begins the game unceremoniously tossed into the castle dungeon by that troll over there. The Dizzy games always inject a lot of character into each screen, even if it's just a cloud floating in mid-air. Each room has a name too, which sometimes provides a clue.
While Dizzy is primarily a 2D platformer, it's also an adventure game of the sort where you pick up items and use them in the right place to make progress. I begin the game with this delicious apple, for instance, but I have room for one other item.
While Dizzy is primarily a 2D platformer, it's also an adventure game of the sort where you pick up items and use them in the right place to make progress. I begin the game with this delicious apple, for instance, but I have room for one other item.
The apple's useless, so you can either dump it somewhere or give it to this not-so-bad troll for a hint.
The apple's useless, so you can either dump it somewhere or give it to this not-so-bad troll for a hint.
For the record, there are only two other items in this room and a big fire blocking the exit. Not exactly the Labyrinth of Crete. Still, early days.
For the record, there are only two other items in this room and a big fire blocking the exit. Not exactly the Labyrinth of Crete. Still, early days.
To use items, you have to be standing right next to the thing you want to use them on. A lot of Dizzy's problems amount to getting close to hostile creatures to use items, but not so close that they murder you. Oh yes, Dizzy has a finite stock of lives. It's kinda BS.
To use items, you have to be standing right next to the thing you want to use them on. A lot of Dizzy's problems amount to getting close to hostile creatures to use items, but not so close that they murder you. Oh yes, Dizzy has a finite stock of lives. It's kinda BS.
Out of the fire and into the frying pan. There's two new routes here: top right and far left.
Out of the fire and into the frying pan. There's two new routes here: top right and far left.
The smuggler's den appears to have a whole bunch of items, but all of these are useless score boosts. Unless you're looking for bragging rights, there's no reason to come down here.
The smuggler's den appears to have a whole bunch of items, but all of these are useless score boosts. Unless you're looking for bragging rights, there's no reason to come down here.
Our only other item is used for bait to get this rat out of the way. See, Dizzy is an egg, which means he is made of food. More so than even we humans are. Anything the size of that rat or larger will probably try to eat him.
Our only other item is used for bait to get this rat out of the way. See, Dizzy is an egg, which means he is made of food. More so than even we humans are. Anything the size of that rat or larger will probably try to eat him.
The basement leads to this entrance hall, which is also a hub of sorts. There's a lot of areas to explore in all four directions here.
The basement leads to this entrance hall, which is also a hub of sorts. There's a lot of areas to explore in all four directions here.
And here's the game's first coin. The coins play a major role towards the end of the game, and there's exactly thirty of them spread around the world. I think Dizzy was one of the first games to implement an (seemingly) optional collectible side-quest.
And here's the game's first coin. The coins play a major role towards the end of the game, and there's exactly thirty of them spread around the world. I think Dizzy was one of the first games to implement an (seemingly) optional collectible side-quest.
To the right we find the Snap Happy Gator, and some whiskey.
To the right we find the Snap Happy Gator, and some whiskey.
The game does this a few times. You're meant to think that you've screwed yourself over, but the whiskey has no purpose. Dizzy doesn't even start drunk-walking everywhere, suggesting an impressive level of tolerance. Or an impressive level of alcoholism, given he just downed that thing without a second's thought. (This is probably the reason this game was never released on a Nintendo console, come to think of it.)
The game does this a few times. You're meant to think that you've screwed yourself over, but the whiskey has no purpose. Dizzy doesn't even start drunk-walking everywhere, suggesting an impressive level of tolerance. Or an impressive level of alcoholism, given he just downed that thing without a second's thought. (This is probably the reason this game was never released on a Nintendo console, come to think of it.)
Dizzy may be a sentient egg, but he's not the only one. He's actually part of a clan of
Dizzy may be a sentient egg, but he's not the only one. He's actually part of a clan of "Yolkfolk", each of which appears to have more personality than he does.
Dweezil, for instance, is the apathetic cool guy who listens to his giant blocky walkman a lot. Don't you love the late 80s? And also questions without question marks?
Dweezil, for instance, is the apathetic cool guy who listens to his giant blocky walkman a lot. Don't you love the late 80s? And also questions without question marks?
Dweezil's too busy to help, but he's got some rope we lent him. Why did he need rope?
Dweezil's too busy to help, but he's got some rope we lent him. Why did he need rope?
Right, super busy. If you're wondering, there's a few other Atari ST characters named after Frank Zappa's kids. Moon Unit makes an appearance in Lunar Lander, for instance.
Right, super busy. If you're wondering, there's a few other Atari ST characters named after Frank Zappa's kids. Moon Unit makes an appearance in Lunar Lander, for instance.
The castle's a fairly big place, but there's only a handful of items to fetch up here. This tower's a little claustrophobic, but it does have a passage down.
The castle's a fairly big place, but there's only a handful of items to fetch up here. This tower's a little claustrophobic, but it does have a passage down.
Oh hell.
Oh hell.
Because Dizzy can only carry two objects in this game (though in some versions he can carry three. Three items? What is this, Babytown Frolics?) it's good practice to find a good hub area like this and dump everything out. Once you realize what goes where, you don't have to go too far back to get it.
Because Dizzy can only carry two objects in this game (though in some versions he can carry three. Three items? What is this, Babytown Frolics?) it's good practice to find a good hub area like this and dump everything out. Once you realize what goes where, you don't have to go too far back to get it.
There's something to be said for looking up occasionally. One life left.
There's something to be said for looking up occasionally. One life left.
The Armorog is deliberately built to be too long to jump over, and it's certainly too pointy to fight. You'll need an item to proceed here. (You can see it in a previous screenshot, if you need a hint.)
The Armorog is deliberately built to be too long to jump over, and it's certainly too pointy to fight. You'll need an item to proceed here. (You can see it in a previous screenshot, if you need a hint.)
Meanwhile, this route isn't exactly peachy either. The croc's opening mouth has a rhythm to it, much like the ones in Pitfall, and there's also a way to permanently shut it up (we've seen the item for that too).
Meanwhile, this route isn't exactly peachy either. The croc's opening mouth has a rhythm to it, much like the ones in Pitfall, and there's also a way to permanently shut it up (we've seen the item for that too).
Anyway, I didn't survive because I'm a putz, so if you're anything like me you'll want to name your highscore with this cheat for infinite lives. It makes the game a whole lot more palatable, believe you me.
Anyway, I didn't survive because I'm a putz, so if you're anything like me you'll want to name your highscore with this cheat for infinite lives. It makes the game a whole lot more palatable, believe you me.

That's essentially Fantasy World Dizzy, and Dizzy in general for that matter. Big emphasis on exploration, jumping around platforms, finding secrets in the environment, solving puzzles and getting turned into an omelette a lot. They also had incredible graphics and music for the time, though not really a whole lot in the way of sound effects. With the really early games it was often the case where you got music or sound effects but not both.

Fantasy World Dizzy's my favorite, but Magicland Dizzy, Spellbound Dizzy and Prince of the Yolkfolk are all great too. Treasure Island Dizzy, which preceded this one, is perhaps a little too hardcore for its own good - you can get caught in a cage trap and are forced to restart the game from scratch, and there's a lot of underwater areas that require you have a snorkel in your inventory at all times. Ditto for Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure, the first Dizzy game, which was also as hard as... a hard-boiled egg. Which aren't really all that hard. I knew there was a reason I avoided egg goofs up until now.

Day One: Fantasy World DizzyDay Two: Wizball
Day Three: EliteDay Four: Double Dragon I & II
Day Five: Space CrusadeDay Six: Buggy Boy & Chase HQ
Day Seven: Knightmare
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