Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oddities: Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings

Licensed games are usually ephemeral in their appeal -- too often they are slapdash efforts, rushed to market to cash in on the property while it's still hot.

A case can be made for Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings as a minor exception to the rule. It was a late 16-bit era entry featuring the cartoon mascot character of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Izzy character was originally named Whatizit when debuted at the 1992 Olympics closing ceremonies, but it was renamed "Izzy" and its design rounded and softened before the 1996 games, probably to appeal more to children. The videogame apparently began development shortly after the character was introduced, with later revisions as the character evolved, as the title sequence bears copyright notices from 1992, 1993, AND 1995.

The game is a platformer, a bit of an oddity in itself, as most Olympics-based games tend to feature actual Olympic events. Instead of playing any sort of sport, Izzy makes its way around traditional levels, climbing from the bottom to the top, bouncing on enemies and collecting Olympic-themed items like torches and medals.

The extra development time was not wasted, as Izzy's Quest has a nice, rubbery cartoon personality, with colorful graphics and fluid animation. It's not quite in the league of Earthworm Jim or Aladdin, but it looks very nice and would have been an impressive game had it appeared at the time of the Genesis' launch in 1989. By 1995, of course, the Saturn and Playstation were out, and this title's release on the Genesis and SNES benefited from a lifespan's worth of programming experience and technical insight.

(Is that Shrek over there?)

Unfortunately, the game isn't so great from a design perspective. Levels are loose and open, with lots of places to fall and climb that don't necessarily lead anywhere interesting, and the only objective in most levels is to make it to the end of the level without losing whatever collectibles Izzy has picked up. And the spotted eggs that crop up almost everywhere Izzy jumps are not fun -- sometimes they contain a minor collectible, sometimes they contain an explosion that's large enough to damage Izzy even from what seems like a safe distance.

There are "power-ups" that turn Izzy into other types of characters -- a little helicopter, a baseball player, a swordsman -- but they wear off too quickly in most cases to be much fun. At least there's some variety in the bonus rounds -- here, Izzy is a rocketship and must zoom from the bottom to the top, picking up collecti...

...hmmm? Whazzat? Oh, yeah, and avoiding enemies!

So... not a terrible game, but not a great one either. Like most licensed titles, its lifespan was constrained by the source property. When the 1996 Olympic games were over, it was Game Over for Izzy as well.

Calm down, dude. Goes with the territory.

1 comment:

  1. My brother really likes this one, even better than earthworm him or aladin. I think it's simpler and easier.