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CREATED APR.27.2003
UPDATED JUN.12.2003
CREDITS
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY
MARTIN NIELSEN

Information about Codemasters and their NES games gathered from, www.olivertwins.com, www.codemasters.com (obviously) and various unpublished interviews made by NES WORLD.

ADITIONAL
PICTURES
CODEMASTERS
EUROPE UNLICENSED
Well over the American Game Cartridges Inc article I'm now ready to show you the next project, a Codemasters special. I've often wondered why no NES site sofar has bothered to write anything about Codemasters eventhough their games must be considered as the most professionally made and best unlicensed games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, heck they're even better than most licensed games made.

So, I've decided to give it a go and made serveral contacts with people who should be able to answer my questions along the way, so I hope you'll enjoy the article, I promise you it won't be boring... I hope :)

Codemasters was founded by the Darling brothers, Richard and David, in October 1986 as a developer and publisher of computer and video games. They released a great deal of games for the Commodore64, Amstrad and Spectrum, but by the late 1980's the market was dieing and Codemasters was trying to find new ways to stay in business.

Sometime in 1989 a programmer was asked to make a test game which should run on a Nintendo Entertainment System. While the NES hadn't catched on in Europe yet, Codemasters had heard how successful it was in America. With a little help from electronic engineers and two guys known as "the Oliver Twins" a simple version of Treasure Island Dizzy was developed for the NES. According to the Oliver Twins, the development kit was very basic and didn't allow much memory or graphics, the Dizzy game was well received at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in 1990.

Codemasters then improved the development kits and wanted two games to start off with and decided that Fantasy World Dizzy and Grand Prix Simulator, two of their best seling titles, should be converted to the NES according to Oliver Twins' website. Andrew Oliver would be in charge of converting Grand Prix Simulator while Andrew Oliver with a team of programmers and artists should develop the Dizzy game, which later would be known as The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, an upgraded Fantasy World Dizzy.

Grand Prix Similator, a game Codemasters earlier had some trouble with Atari about, they claimed it was a Super Sprint rip-off, went unreleased and eventually turned into Micro Machines, which became one of Codemasters' best selling NES title. The Oliver Twins actually gave up the royalties on this one, big mistake! :)

After the success of the previous Dizzy games, the Oliver Twins was on a mission to create even another Dizzy game for the Nintendo, with the working title "Wonderland Dizzy". Philip Oliver says about Wonderland Dizzy; It was a new adventure but "was inspired by" ideas we'd done on the Atari ST/Amiga. The big thing about it was that a Cheshire Cat kept appearing and disappearing - and gave you clues. etc. Obviously there were lots of other "Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the looking glass" references.

It was being developed for the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, a gadget Codemasters' RD department had made. NES game cartridges were quite expensive to produce, the more complex a game was, the better graphics and sound it had, the more expensive it was to manufacture. But most games were using a lot of similar components, RAM chip, the Lockout chip or disabler aswell as rge circuitry. All this would make the retail price about $30, but Codemasters then got the idea of putting all the usual stuff that was going into every cartridge into some sort of adapter where the games ROM then was plugged into. This meant that Codemasters could lower the retail price of a game cart to no more than $12 as it basicly just was plastic shell and a single ROM.

Codemasters had already teamed up with a company in Canada to publish their games "over there", in Canada and the US. Camerica began it's operation around 1982, started by David Hardy, as a joystick manufacturer and publisher. They had earlier been selling various joypads for the NES, all of it licensed from a small American company called Acemore.

They were also the ones bringing the Game Genie Game Enhancer (cheat device) onto the market, another gadget developed by Codemasters. When bringing the Game Genie to the American market, basicly just selling their rights to Galoob, they ran into a huge legal battle with Nintendo, which Galoob/Camerica won.

Eventhough Camerica had a huge success as a distributor of Codemasters' games in the US, they ran into a lot of financial trouble in 1993, just after having signed an agreement with Codemasters to release their Aladdin Deck Enhancer in the US. Shortly after, Camerica was out of business.

But Camerica never really managed to sell any Aladdin Deck Enhancers, a lot was manufactured, including 6 games paks previously released as "normal carts", being Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, Micro Machines, Big Nose Freaks-Out, Quattro Sports, Linus Spacehead's Cosmic Crusade and Quattro Adventure. A seventh Aladdin game was made as a pack-in with the Deck Enhancer adapter, Dizzy the Adventurer, a port of Dizzy and the Yolkfolk, which possibly is one of the best NES games ever released.

Well, Codemasters were now in a bit of trouble themselves, bills were rolling in and they were without a publisher in the US. After an attempt to work as a distributor themselves, they eventually gave up their unlicensed NES business in the states, though still releasing a few rereleases in Europe. Earlier European releases of Codemasters games had been saying Camerica on the titlescreen, but this was changed and the games were rereleased.

While Camerica was using gold colored cartridges ( view ) in the US, Codemasters actually invented their own system for Europe, called Plug-Thru ( view ) eventhough the Camerica carts featured a switch to make them work on a European console. Later, after the launch of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, Codemasters changed the cartridge design ( view ) to look more like the Aladdin with a cart plugged in ( view ).

The Codemasters game revisions are pretty hard to figure out as I've got two of the ones looking like the Aladdin, one has the upgraded version of Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, which includes an updated titlescreen as well as the game playable in 5 languages. The other one holds the old Camerica release of Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, so does the Plug-Thru version.

Also the Quattro Sports game was updated, a big V3 is shown on the game select screen, though it's unknown what exactly the upgrade is, could be a fixed Baseball Simulator, something about the innings?.. sorry I know absolutely nothing about baseball, but the games still says Camerica eventhough the upgrade was seen on Codemasters' own Super Sports Challenge "black cartridge" version of the game ( view ).

But since the Aladdin Deck Enhancer was dead right after it's birth, the Oliver Twin's new Dizzy game, Wonderland Dizzy never was released eventhough it was completed, Codemasters had no interest in releasing it as "normal" game cartridge either since the NES market was as good as gone, and Codemasters didn't feel like loosing anymore money, instead Oliver Twins' Interactive Studios did, as they had an unsellable game in their hands.

Recent attempts to have the game dumped, with help from the Twins have unfortunately been unsuccessful as the box of good from those days seems to have dissapeared, if however they manage to find it, we'll most definately see a ROM dump made.

Another game in the works was Dreamworld Pogie, advertised on the back of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer. Around 1993 "Colourful, cute platform games were very popular" Oliver Twins wrote on their website, so they decided to create Dreamworld Pogie, who is more or less known from the Dizzy series. But during the development of Dreamworld Pogie, Oliver Twins relationship with Codemasters took a downturn and the game was cancelled, only making it into the Alpha stage of development.

The Codemasters/Camerica releases:

Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, April 1991
Firehawk, September 1991
Aladdin Deck Enhancer incl. Dizzy the Adventurer, November 1992
Quattro Arcade
Quattro Sports
Quattro Adventure
Big Nose the Caveman
Big Nose Freaks-Out
Linus Spacehead's Cosmic Crusade
Micro Machines
Ultimate Stuntman
Stunt Kids
Bee 52
Ultimate Stuntman

Unreleased:

Dreamworld Pogie (Aladdin), Alpha
Wonderland Dizzy (Aladdin), Complete but unreleased.
Team Sports Basketball (Aladdin), Beta
Metal Man (Aladdin), Beta - plays like Thrust.

ADITIONAL
PICTURES