Monday, April 17, 2023

ZZT: Won

You gotta love how almost all these freeware rereleases of old games never bother to remove the "don't copy" bit.
With a name like that, I'm expecting my most hated aspect of the game is going to be in full force. Darkness. I do like that title screen though.

I imagine if you're fast enough, you could shoot the blocks stopping the front gate, not that it would do you much good.
The game begins with a gate forcing the player into the dungeons, as gates close behind him. Hey, wait, I remember something exactly like this in a Best of ZZT level. Seems somewhat cheap, but I guess there's no other way to do that. The story, as I discover, is that the evil guards of the dungeon have thrown me in, not recognizing that I'm a great escape artist. Find the four purple keys, and get out. Why break the usual format at this point?
Why is he so far away from the monsters?

Ah, a human...and it's a skeleton. Funny, you never really think about some minor aspect like this when you're playing, but this was something consistent across the various mods. I never thought it came from something in the base game. After taking out those cougars, I can go in any direction here. That purple door is actually a yellow one, I think they changed the color as a yellow circle against a white background would be hard to see.

I'm not sure if the spinner in the middle can ever shoot at you.

Starting from the south, we of these rooms. Take a key, get past the monster spawners, unlock the door, and because of the one-way paths, go through the other monster spawners. Am I going to deal with these creatures the right way or the cheap way? Eh, like I want to deal with these things. Funny thing is, there's not really any way to break into the tiger enclosure without getting shot.

Next up is a series of long, winding hallways full of cougars and worms. It's not as fun as it looks. It's kind of annoying dealing with worms in this game, as you're never quite sure where they're going to go, and unlike with the other enemies, that isn't an obvious feature. The path splits off too, which means you have to go to 2 different side areas. Past the tigers is the blue key, while to the east is a treasure room guarded by some cougars on a spinner. That much was amusing for a section.

Monsters can't really cross teleporters, and interestingly, you can't reach that bit of ammo in the upper left.

After a section in which I have to get past a series of bouncing bullets, I come to this room. South leads to a cave full of monsters, but that's okay because the game just gives you 250 ammo. It's more about the game's fancy object movement system, which I can't really show you in screenshot form. This nets me another red key. North, the game is also generous, a huge stack of ammo and another blue key. It's very suspicious that the game is this generous with supplies. Blue door's on the same screen so I go west.

Perhaps I'm meant to use way too much ammo here...

Is this a joke? This is one of the purple key rooms? This is incredibly easy. You'd think with the reflecting walls and tigers I might be in trouble, but no, this is simple. I'd go as far as to say this might be one of the simplest rooms in the entire game, possibly even including fan episodes. I keep expecting a shoe to drop in terms of difficulty, but I think this is just going to have a weird difficulty curve at this point. The hardest part of this entire section at this point is just a worm section in the same room as the bouncing bullet one, you can't shoot so you actually have to avoid those guys.

One key down, three to go. Yet only three paths from the opening hub. I decide to go north, through the cyan door. This area isn't interesting of itself, just another combat room without much worth talking about, yet the game just hands you another purple key, to open a door here sure, but it's strange. I'm sure there's something hiding here which gives me reason to use it for it's real purpose rather than trying to speedrun through the episode.

I suppose you could put all the blocks in a specific area, but that would hardly be sporting.

Now, this screen is interesting. You have to go through each of these little areas in turn, grabbing all the gems as you do. This means actually thinking about where you shoot instead of just the usual shot spam you're afforded at this point. The blocks here even turn into tigers at the end of it, which is quite a clever little touch. What's next? A series of red doors hiding some cougars, and a path to the north.

It's really quite simple when you think about it.
Ah. This is another excuse to show off what the game can do automatically, it's a puzzle, but a rather straightforward one. Press the buttons in the correct sequence to grab a key. What makes this slightly more than just a trick is that the initial button press on the machine pushes two keys, one to the left and then one to the right. Don't deal with that properly, and you'll lose a key. I don't think that puts you in an unwinnable situation, but I caught the trick before I could find out.
The spawner in the middle works just like any other, block one exit and he dies, he just spawns two every spawn cycle.

After a simple block pushing puzzle, there's this screen. As per usual, the idea of this screen is that you dodge the tigers in this hall of reflective walls, but in practice I did my usual bit of just blocking the spawner from spawning and all was well. And that's really it for this section, after all the doors you're just given the next purple key, and the only non-tiger challenge here is a spinning gun which is quite easy to avoid.

East from the starting area leads to the area directly south of the last screen, so much so that two of the treasure rooms there are only accessible through here. It's another simple hallway puzzle, with some paths being blocked by bombs and others by gates. More busywork, but interestingly, this place has two paths, one through a series of lasers and one east. I chose the lasers.

Complete with a little invisible maze in the lower left.

Another easy purple key, except this one is actually clever. You can't shoot in this room, so instead you need to exploit the invincibility potions and in one case, gates. Invincibility works like you'd expect it in most games, touching something hostile hurts them, and in this case kills them. So you merely exploit the time you have to deal with any threats. And in those cougars case, the gates actually kill things. I didn't actually know that.

So east, to the final area. This is deceptive, you might think you have to shoot those things at the end, but what you really shoot is that >> symbol, miss and spinning missiles come after you, while you can no longer shoot down wherever you just shot. It's more annoying than clever, because you really have to get this thing's pattern down.

You have to aim the bomb carefully in order to get that pile of gems down south.
South is another simple but interesting room. You've got your requisite combat, but the puzzle here is the star attractive. That central gate there is something you have to make smaller, and to do so you need to take advantage of that bomb on the left. Further complicating matters is that purple holed wall, you activate it from the outside and where the wall is shifts. The next room over also has an interesting concept, using bombs as a shield against spinners.

It's hard to describe combat in this game with any meaningful detail, because it's the very definition of simple.
That's the last key, but not quite the end of this episode. There's one last screen; which is basically a repeat of the earlier gem grab stages. Feels woefully disappointing as a last screen.

So, a dragon is playing ZZT on top of some skyscrapers?

The actual final screen, after an animation of three dudes opening a gate is this, finally, a proper-looking win screen. And with that, Dungeons is done. That was by far the shortest episode, and only took as long as it did because I'm still under the weather. Even with that condition, it was still the easiest too. This is some weird difficulty curve. Guess I better play the last episode, The City of ZZT, in this entry too. There are other episodes, but those all are apparently counted under a sequel/expansion ZZT's Revenge, so I guess that's gonna get it's own entry. I'm also feeling ZZTed out right about now.

City, naturally, is a return to the town format that Town of ZZT started. A den of smog, bureaucracy and corruption as the helpful text crawl tells us. The pawn shop sells things, no tricky stealing items like last time, and the city hall there requires a pass. Guess I'll go west, downtown sounds like a happening place and I'm a happening guy. Strangely, there's a crossroads, with a sign warning of muggers and "Dr. Bob" along with plenty of ammo.

The train station is the way out, but I seem to need to do a lot to get out. I need an ID and some stuff from a travel agent to get out of here. I don't know if there's a travel agent here at all. Guess that's the bureaucracy the game warned me about.

Downtown is enemy heavy. This is, I think, the most enemies this game has thrown on-screen. Thankfully, I have enough ammo for it, but this is actually forcing me to conserve ammo for once. And yeah, watch out for Dr. Bob, because Dr. Bob is the only place you can go. Since I picked up some gems, I buy some ammo. Better safe than sorry, though for all I know I could end up regretting it later.

Interesting. The coin things here move the cyan holed doors. Basically, you have to manipulate these so you can get whatever treasure or key is hidden behind said cyan doors. The other half of this are enemies in tight spaces, not that troublesome at this point. Dr. Bob isn't as bad as he was implied to be, telling me that there's a secret passage to the left of XYZZY in the forest, an Adventure reference.

I like how there's just a bum hanging out with wild animals.
 That's where I head to next. Or rather the park, because that's where the forest is. Turns out what I've been calling cougars are actually lions, forgive me for that slip up. Anyway, despite the next screen being more interesting, this one actually gave me a little trouble. Why? Because as it turns out, enemies in this game are more annoying to deal with when they have wide open spaces; they can dodge quite easily. There's a beggar here, I gave him some gems but he didn't really do anything for me. And it turns out the secret passage needs another key, guess that's why I got a spare one from Dr. Bob. I just need to find the ZZT Bandit.

No funny business here, you have just enough keys to get through this screen.
Continuing counter clockwise, it's time for the Atrium. Okay, this screen's cool. The spinning gun up there gradually shoots bullets into the atrium, following a path made by the reflective asterisks. It's an interesting twist on the key hunt type screen this game tends to have, because this one just doesn't feel like busywork, unlike so many others. Unfortunately, the room beyond it is just another monster hunt, with the end result being torches.
After reflecting on things later, I suspect there might be a secret passage somewhere relating to that X and O.

Finally, the jail. Lots of locked doors and you can't shoot in here, sounds about right. I found this deceptively hard, because the two gates I could use to block the pushers had my full attention. I need to do this puzzle in such a way that allows me to get the maximum possible bombs by pushing the two gates into a certain position. Assuming that would even work, I would still be screwed, you need five at minimum to get out. The actual answer was just pushing the bottom gates out one at a time, and of course using the blocks to move the bombs around.

After this there's a teleporter maze and then I can meet the ZZT Bandit. He more or less tells me what I already know. The green key here allows me to explore previously locked doors in the jail, most importantly, the exit. The bandit's hideout has some gems and a train ticket. I appreciate both, I lost more health than I'd like in the area after the Atrium, but now I'm sort of stuck. I end up finding the answer by luck. After talking to that beggar again, I don't give him money, he shoots me, so I shoot back. Then he offers to sell me a city hall pass for 20 gems.

Basically the only reason to ever worry about those worms is if they somehow enter the series of spinners.
The city hall is another place I can't shoot, guess this is supposed to be a gun free zone. Three places are offered to me for now, and I chose the processing department, seemed like the best choice. I can shoot in here, guess they just didn't want me shooting the clerk. Whatever you think this room is, put that out of your mind, because that thing in the middle is a robot. I can control it with the arrows down there. You might also think I have to shoot the worms, no, it can't hurt anything. Instead, it shoots the walls surrounding those keys and blocks down there, before pushing the keys to me. If that sounds annoying, it's because it is.

North is a dark room containing a key with a ton of bears. The key to the mayor's office, according to the game. The only other thing in this section is some treasure. The executive washroom, another area from the main hall, just has a locked door, with another key and minor treasure. With one toilet in a wide open area. I suspect that's supposed to be the joke. Meanwhile the elevator seems like an exercise in patience, leading to five different areas if you include the one I just came from. The first one I enter is this, the spa. Basically, now the player has to figure out a path for his shot. Only instead of shots going off at an angle like they do for spinning guns, you need to create corners for the shots to bounce off of.

That nets me a cyan key, something which confuses me until I see the mayor's office. Another key hunt. Next room is a dark maintenance room, mostly lions and bears, about as fun as it sounds. Really, this whole section feels like busywork, probably intentional in a way. Waiting constantly for the elevator. The final room I go through is another gem hunt, this time there are rooms with gems on entrances in each cardinal direction, each room is full of monsters. It's more effective to just shoot the things rather than try to obtain all four gems.

I can't help but feel like a town with this much corruption would have something better to advertise itself, but current awful flavor of the month Chicago's big tourist attractive is a big reflective ball in the park...

The trick with the mayor's office is just to walk through the bullets as they bounce away. It's just a single matter of pushing blocks at that point. Then it's just more busywork going back and forth. Finally, the mayor. He has the final piece of the puzzle, an ID card, allowing me to leave the city. He requires a small bribe of 100 gems, naturally.

It's not a very detailed pub...
After successfully dealing with the train, the game ends in a pub. Not the best ending screen, but far from the worst. City, I think, was the best episode. Generally the best combat screens, along with some of the more interesting puzzles; negating the tedious sections. And it wasn't just about finding some purple keys to exit some location. A fitting end to the base game.

This Session: 2 hour 00 minutes

Final Time: 5 hours 10 minutes

No comments:

Post a Comment