Monday, 18 July 2011

Dizzy: Prince Of The Yolkfolk (1991/Amiga)

For the most part, the Dizzy games are too long and large for what they are. 1987’s Treasure Island Dizzy sprawled over multiple islands, over which you were expected to solve map-wide puzzles with just three item slots, and one mistake was game over. Furthermore, the upbeat music loop was short, jarring and enough to drive anyone insane. You can argue that carrying items over frustratingly long distances is a feature of many games. Indeed, The Secret Of Monkey Island has a fair share of it, but it and a lot of that sort of game give you the ability to look at, combine, and commit various other unspeakable verbs to much of the scenery. Shifting an unstable egg with boxing gloves around two dozen screens is much more of a chore, especially as you feel that you’re playing something more akin to a platformer.

Fast forward a few years, past a bunch of sequels, and the decision to outsource Dizzy: Prince Of The Yolkfolk, released at the back end of 1991. What improvements are there? Some were already in place by Dizzy: Magicland. The music is characteristically Dizzy (characteristically annoying), but has more depth, variation and length to stave off the men in white coats. Dizzy doesn’t always die now, although he is still susceptible to drowning. He even has a handful of lives if you mess up, and you can pick a spare up on the way. You can control what you drop, which is also handy. The experience of constantly having to drop and shuffle your items in Treasure Island so that the rubber snorkel was always in the bottom spot whenever you went into the water is a timeless frustration. While Dizzy’s post-jump egg roll is as ludicrous and out of control as ever, you can control Dizzy’s descent if he walks off an edge, which, while not pivotal to success, provides a modicum of sense of control. The graphic interface retains the cheap and cheerful feel but is appreciably touched up.

A tough puzzle indeed
The puzzles are fairly easy here, which does leave the game ending a little bit too soon. The biggest difficulty lies in mounting the boat from the left, where you have to hop the inexplicable moat that’s six pixels west of the river, onto a small rock. This is still better than Magicland, where you’re expected to land a rolling egg onto the rim of a well, if you have the audacity to go east, which is, unsurprisingly, a requirement. The monkeys in the treetops with their neverending pile of pebbles being tossed randomly are kind enough to not show up. Rather than being snared by cages from above in ghost towns operated by no one, there’s only one real trap in Prince Of The Yolkfolk, and it’s more of a mental trap than a physical one.

A violent cockney troll blocks the
path to an extra life in sunglasses
Another yob from east London, an
armed hoodie with phat dance moves
So you’ve broken free, solved all the puzzles, paid the ferryman, danced with a doppelganger, flirted shamelessly with the princess, saved the kingdom from an arbitrary troll, scored a promotion to princehood after an altercation with the king, and snogged your hairy egg dame and woken her up from the plot-inducing spell of sleep. Fanfare! Nope, there’s a decent chance that she has the temerity to nag you at this point, and don’t come back until you’ve got it sorted. Why? As in previous titles, you have to do a complete “collect all of the thing” (cherries this time) sweep of the map, because the ultimate goal is in fact to get her the ingredients for a pie. On the plus side, there are less of them, they’re not so hidden, certainly very few actually need to be dug out from the scenery, and most of the ones that are hidden become revealed with quest progress.

The improved inventory
The inexplicable moat

You have won a hairy egg dame, a
pie that you won't eat, and the
helmet from the front cover!
The amazing ability of clouds to act as hard platforms has been curtailed, and there is some timed jumping required (you can jump onto the boat, but you’ve still got to walk along it as if it were a disintegrating bridge for some bizarre reason), which, along with other touches, adds to the arcade aspect of Prince Of The Yolkfolk. The initial scenario of you being locked in a mud cavern behind a door with some equipment acts effectively as a tutorial, one of several examples of things that make the game feel like a more secure adventure puzzle game. The reduced size and decreased ferreting for goodies in bushes and huts allow the game (and the player) to breathe freely, and the ease of the game notwithstanding, the ingredients make for what is arguably the best title in the series, faring better in both aspects of what it is trying to achieve.

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