The Summer Olympics are happening right now, which means it’s time to look at the weirdest Olympic game we can find.
So are we talking about a sports game? Heck no! We found an Olympic-themed 2D sidescroller! We’re talking about Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings for the Super Nintendo! Because if you don’t remember, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta had a mascot and for no good reason at all, that mascot was given a generic 2D platformer.
Olympic games have historically been compilations of many Olympic sports – running, fencing, high-jump, swimming – but they never amount to much beyond poorly designed minigames. Which from a development perspective makes sense, it’s hard to make 5-10 different games at the same time and give them all the same level of polish.
In case you don’t remember, the 1996 Summer Olympic games had a cartoon mascot named Izzy. And this game, Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings, is about Izzy making his way to the opening ceremonies.
Which means Izzy has to travel through 10 levels, including Greece (which makes sense, given the Olympic Games’ origins), a Lava World (which doesn’t make sense), and a futuristic Magic Crystal world (which again, doesn’t make sense).
So what Izzy’s Quest really is is a 16-bit era platformer that has the same level themes of most games of this era. Grass…Fire…Future. Which every game from Sonic to Earthworm Jim to Kirby to Ninja Turtles explored. So it’s really not an Olympic game; it’s a generic platformer from the era that had a famous character license slapped on top of it. If you can call Izzy a famous character license.
So what is Izzy, you may ask? And why does everything say “Copyright 1992 ACOG”? I thought this was the 1996 games. Near as I can tell, Izzy debuted at the end of the 1992 Barcelona games, as a sort of teaser for the 1996 Atlanta games four years later. It sounds like one of the stingers on a Marvel movie — OH SNAP! IZZY’S GONNA BE IN THE NEXT ONE! ACOG is the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and since Izzy was technically created in 1992, they put that 1992 date all over the game about the 1996 Olympics. Which is super-confusing, and completely unnecessary.
Izzy was officially described as a Whatzit. I imagine that board room meeting. What am I looking at? What is it? A Whatzit? Which is to say Izzy’s design was pretty lazy. I’ve heard he was described as a “blue sperm”. I mean, I understand how difficult it must be to create a brand image that appeals to all cultures across the world. People like and respond positively to different things, and from a marketing perspective, it’s a Herculean task to settle on just one image. And I’m not saying that Izzy is worse than the London 2012 graphic that look likes a person fellating another person. I’m just saying Izzy is impossibly dull.
This is a game that uses 2 different jump buttons. Some games have two jump buttons, which in theory allows for some finesse. You use one button for big jumps and one for small, tight, precise jumps. And that’s kind of in-play in Izzy’s Quest, where you’re sometimes making high jumps and sometimes making long jumps. However, for most of the obstacles, you can use whatever jump button you like. You rarely need to understand the nuances of the different jumps.
And the default control set-up has the jump buttons on the Y and A buttons, or for those of you not familiar with the Super Nintendo setup – the West and East buttons on a four-button diamond setup. Most Super Nintendo games use the B or South button for jumping. No games use the Y/West button. It’s very strange.
In certain parts of the game, Izzy also can morph into different things, like a fencer. That’s pretty cool. Instead of just a normal sword or melee attack, they tied it into the Olympic theme. Cool.
But Izzy can also transform into a rocketship or a floating head, and I don’t remember those being Olympic events.
Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings is, if you couldn’t tell already, a pretty dull game. It’s not outright terrible; I just don’t care about it.
Thank you for watching THAT WAS A GAME, and we’ll see you again next time!