The evolution of water effects

November 21, 2007

It's probably a toss up between water and skin for the 'most difficult thing to replicate on a computer'. But at least water effects can look pretty even when they're done unrealistically. So here we look backoverhow water effects have progressed over the last 20 or so years. If you can't swim, best keep a few feet back from the screen, just in case.

Treasure Island Dizzy (1987, Spectrum/C64)
Back in the days of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, Dizzy was king of platformers. His games were made up of static screens allowing for exceptional graphics for the time (as they didn't have to scroll) and some amazing two-frame water animations. That's right, a wavy line that alternates between 'up' and 'down' on each tiny peak and trough. But it works - you can't look at it and think 'what's that?' It's water, no question. And when you get the snorkel to allow you to go in it, the bubbles and fish are just brilliant.

Above: Despite its primitive graphics, there's something magical about Treasure Island Dizzy

Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine,, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.