Villordsutch reviews Let’s Go Dizzy! The Story of the Oliver Twins…
Ignorance is a funny old thing. It can make you believe the most outlandish things just about anything or anyone. In the case of this review, ignorance had been leading to me believe – quite happily – that the Oliver Twins (Philip and Andrew) were a couple of lucky chaps who had instantly captured lightning with Dizzy, via Codemasters, and had never looked back since, due to the weight of wine and roses straining their arms.
However, after reading Let’s Go Dizzy! The Story of the Oliver Twins, by Chris Wilkins & Roger M. Kean, my ignorance has been quite rightly ridiculed and dismissed. It’s clear from a few pages in, that the road to 8-bit gaming stardom and beyond isn’t necessarily paved with pixelated gold.
The book starts at day one with the young Olivers badgering mum and dad for a computer, but wisely they – their parents – brought to them a sense of working for your goal. The future Radiant Worlds owners completed numerous jobs around the home along with a paper round for six months to finally afford a Dragon 32; this soon was upgraded to the BBC Micro and on and on. Through friends and teachers the love of programming in BASIC and then Machine Code led to them creating games, winning TV competitions, having tea and biscuits with Gary Numan and repeatedly being disappointed by Acornsoft.
After being signed up with the rather money-savvy Richard Jones, who knew how to keep his money in his wallet, the twins released numerous titles but didn’t see much money drop into their bank account. That was until they met both Richard and David Darling at the PCW exhibition – in 1986 – and Super Robin Hood appeared under the Codemasters label.
It’s here the world rapidly grows for both Codemasters and the Oliver Twins. First fantastically as numerous Oliver Twins titles sit constantly in the Top 10, but as with all good things we eventually see this sour and it is rather unpleasant when it turns. Though horrible to witness it all end, we know that both Philip and Andrew grew Interactive Studios Limited, Blitz Games and Radiant Worlds after they slammed the door on David Darling’s Ferrari.
What is clear throughout is the work ethic given to both Twins from their parents early their lives is something they are constantly driven by. If you want something, you need to work for it, and when you do achieve congratulations, it’s brilliant! Though you’ll have to prepare yourselves for numerous moments of being knocked back, working in cold portacabins, missing out on a social life, not earning a wage some months, losing friends and realising you’re supposed to tie a boat up with a slack rope at a harbour.
As with all Fusion Retro Books from the stable of Chris Wilkins and Roger Kean, Let’s Go Dizzy! The Story of the Oliver Twins is – as always – packed to the gills with information – no page is left without full colour images, press clippings, old photos and interviews. Here it’s the same, your eyes are always darting across the page finding small slivers of information flowing alongside the main chapter.
The only stumble I found was come the close of the book, just before the interviews and also in between; I feel the “Memorable Games” section would have read better following the interviews, and rather oddly the closing adverts – that separated the interviews – didn’t seem to be up to the impressive standard of images that had ran throughout the book. These are, in truth, though minor grumbles in what is quite frankly a fascinating read.
Let’s Go Dizzy! The Story of the Oliver Twins should be staple reading for anyone who wakes up one day and decides that they could make it as a games programmer/publisher. If they’re not reconsidering their job future after they close the pages then they can start their new career, they just need to remember it’s not all wine and roses.
Let’s Go Dizzy! The Story of the Oliver Twins is available to buy now from Fusion Retro Books.