Fantastic Dizzy

Brad: Kidnapping.  It’s one of the most famous and frequently used plot devices in video games.  From Super Mario, to Bad Dudes, to Double Dragon, few things are as effective at getting us to play through a challenging game than the chance to foil an abduction, except for maybe a chance to win the Super Bowl.  Or to shoot someone in the junk.  After those two things though, we love a good rescue mission.  In fact, if you were to combine all three and make a game where you rescued someone by shooting bad guys in the groin while inside a stadium, it would probably be the greatest thing ever.  Except I think I just described the final stage of Revolution X, and that game was horrible.  So perhaps my theory still needs some fine-tuning.

Fantastic Dizzy003

Just one of those quaint European towns where they leave their execution devices right out in the middle of the street.

Anyway, the whole kidnapping thing brings us to Fantastic Dizzy, the story of a sentient egg and his quest to rescue his abducted girlfriend.  I have to admit that having an egg for a main character seemed kind of weird.  I mean, there’s not too many games where you play as a piece of food.  Some other games may star cute, edible animals, but generally speaking, they don’t look like lunch – a live cow looks a lot different than a Double Whopper, after all.  But an egg?  That’s my breakfast walking around, solving puzzles, and smiling at me.  And I still kind of want to eat him.

Does that make me a bad person?

Plus there’s always the fact that at any given moment, a chicken might come bursting out of him, Alien style.  You know, I kind of feel sorry for Dizzy.  Being an egg seems like a stressful life, even without a kidnapped girlfriend.

Now most of these rescue-themed games are beat ’em ups where you just punch people until you find your girlfriend or the president or whatever.  But violence is not Dizzy’s way (despite the fact that he appears to be wearing boxing gloves at all times) – he’s a pacifist.  Which kinda makes sense, since an egg would probably try to avoid violence.  The only real attack he would have would be to slime someone, and he can’t do that without breaking himself open and spilling his yolky guts on them, which is kind of a game-ender for him.  I guess he could also launch himself into someone’s car, or give his enemies high cholesterol, but again, those are suicide attacks from his point of view.

Of course, this makes it harder for Dizzy to know where he’s supposed to go.  In a beat-em-up, all you have to do is follow the trail of bad guys waiting for you to punch them.  No such luck with Fantastic Dizzy – you’re going to have to explore and solve puzzles if you expect to rescue Dizzy’s girlfriend.  The majority of the gameplay centers around you trying to locate and recover 250 stars that have been scattered around the landscape and, for reasons never fully explained, are a critical part of completing this rescue.

Dizzy’s not alone in this venture, however.  He has several friends who are willing to help him, or at least would be if they weren’t under the influence of a spell.  At least that’s what the game tells you.  To the casual observer, it seems like they’re really just assholes who don’t want to help Dizzy until after he solves their far less significant problems for them.  And even then, their idea of “helping” Dizzy is usually either just getting out of his way, or giving him stuff that they weren’t using anyway.  Hey, sorry you can’t find your bag of gold, but my girlfriend has been kidnapped and might be in serious danger – would you mind letting me use that ladder you’re blocking, and I’ll help you find the gold later?  No?  Fine, I’ll waste time helping you now while she gets hard-boiled, cockmaster.  Thanks for nothing.

Fantastic Dizzy005Ok, this isn’t really relevant to the picture, but it reminds me of the TV Guide description for the movie Leprechaun: “Evil Irish fairy goes on gory quest for gold.”

My biggest complaint with Fantastic Dizzy was the way the game is laid out.  As you explore, you find items you can pick up, and most of the puzzle solving is simply a matter of carrying these items to wherever they are needed.  Where it gets challenging is that you can only carry three items at a time, and if you already have three items, you have to drop one and then try to remember where you left it, because you WILL need it later.  This gets to be especially frustrating because most of the puzzles aren’t exactly obvious, so it’s often a matter of trying every single item you’ve have with you, and if that doesn’t work, backtracking through the entire game to pick up every other item you’ve come across and seeing if those work.

It doesn’t take too long for this to start to get old.

To put it another way – it takes a special kind of failure to make the nightmarish inventory management from Resident Evil seem like a preferable alternative, but Fantastic Dizzy manages to do so.  What I wouldn’t have given for 3 more item slots and those bottomless storage chests that magically teleport your items from one box to another.  Fantastic Dizzy made it pretty far in this contest based on the strength of its concept, but it’s not going to make the Top 50 because its somewhat haphazard execution.

Stryker: Look, Fantastic Dizzy, I’ve got two small kids.  The last thing I want to do is play a game where the object is to pick up junk that someone else left laying around and put it back where it belongs.  I already have that game at home – it’s called “living room”.

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