Where can I get Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Released: Aug. 28, 1996
Thanksgiving is a holiday that isn't particularly well represented in video games, and ZZT is no different. It's fun to play things that are in some way thematic, and there is the tradition of watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon on Thanksgiving, so while I was watching that, I remembered that there are actually a few MST3K ZZT games out there.
LaChapelle's game is the first MST themed ZZT game, and gives the player the role of Joel Robinson, tasking him with escaping from "The Satellite of Love" and returning to Earth with the bots as well. Another title, "Mystery Science ZZTheater 3000", from an unknown author took the approach of making a game with a story similar to one you'd see in a bad movie and having the team riff on this made up movie/game. The last two are made by acclaimed ZZTer John W. Wells, and are in fact proper riffs of ZZT games created by others. ZZT's readily edited worlds make such a thing very simple to do, and I'm a bit surprised nobody other than Wells ever tried such a thing.
But today, LaChapelle's is the one being examined, and I'll get it out of the way here: It's not a good game.
The title screen gets right to it. Here's the title, here's who made it, and here are the main characters.
"Another week, another movie" you think as
you walk out the theater again. After five
years of watching the worst movies ever
made, you think you've seen everything
there is between giant fire-breating
turtles and silly string ninjas. So you
don't think about looking behind you
toward that wierd noise before the doors
close behind you...
Crow: Boy, Joel, how much longer do we
have to do this before we get down to
Joel: I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure the
Mads have a whole truckload of movies at
Deep 13 just waiting to be shown.
Tom: Yeah. I'm guessing between 3-5 more
years before they get through with them.
Joel: Just don't think too much about it,
guys. We'll be back to earth soon. Trust
Suddenly, the monitor next to Cambot
Dr. Forrester: Hello, booby! I see you got
through another one. I have a little
suprise for you and your little friends.
Joel: Really? What is it?
Dr.: I've....well....tell them, Frank.
Frank: What the doctor is trying to say is
Joel and the bots: WHAT???
Dr.: We've...run out of movies.
Joel: Alright!! That means we finally go
back down to earth, right?
Dr.: Are you kidding? I'm still in the
middle of my experiment. And so are you!
Crow: What? Are you crazy?
Dr.: That's right! You're not leaving that
sattelte for another 3-5 years! And to
make sure of that....
Before he finishes his sentence, the doors
behind you open up and a horde of
creatures walk into the room!
Joel: What's going on here!?
Dr.: It's a result of my latest invention,
the Patented 3-D Projection Screen!
Frank: Or P3DPC!
Dr.: Yeah....huh? Anyway, what it does is
takes anything that is alive on the screen
and makes is come alive in real life!
Frank: In other words, all you see there
has jumped out of the screen and into your
Dr.: Yes, and they've all been programed
to do one thing: Keep you and your robots
from leaving the Sattelite of Love!
Then four of the creatures grab your
robots and take them to different parts of
The Bots: HEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!!!!
Joel: Hey, you can't do that!
Frank: Oh, can't we? We're evil! EVIL!!
Dr.: So long Joeline! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!
Joel: Great! Now what am I supposed to do?
Magic Voice: I suggest you save them.
Joel: But how?
M.V.: You can use your Tickle Bazooka to
make the monsters die laughing.
Joel: Good idea! And?
M.V.: And I just happen to know where the
Joel: Can you show me?
M.V.: Of course! And one more thing...This
was supposed to be a suprise from Gypsy,
but since this is an emergency, I'll tell
you. She's been secretly building a
shuttle that will take you and the robots
back to Earth. She had handed a key to the
four doors leading the shuttle to each of
the robots. But before she was able to
show you, this had to happen.
Joel: Boy, Gypsy never seems to let me
M.V.: If you can save your robots you will
be able to get back home...
Joel: And I can get revenge on the Mads!
Thanks, Magic Voice! Okay, Mads......
• • • • • • • • •
The game opens right away with a wall of text to explain the plot. Despite running out of movies to show, you have to stay behind on the Satellite and now deal with characters from these terrible films being a part of reality. The bots have been kidnapped and you'll need to rescue them to get the necessary keys to escape back to Earth. It's your typical Town of ZZT get the keys in whatever order you like quest.
The game is full of references to the various movies shown in MST3K and that includes giving new names to all the default enemies you'll encounter. This game is dated as being from 1996 but looks and plays like something out of 1993, so standard enemies are in, and objects are pretty simple.
Grabbing the ammo, I headed north to go after Tom Servo first. There's some cute little ascii art made with the text tool to depict Tom. At first I thought that red key was supposed to be him, what with the similar body shapes and all, but it was merely a red key to open one of the doors in the room.
What MST3K the ZZT game loves to do is ask you MST3K trivia questions. I've seen a reasonable number of them over the years, and would consider myself a fan if not a particularly knowledgeable one, so in my case there's a lot of guessing on trivia.
I correctly guessed butter on my first try, since it was the funniest of the three options. With Toga Man out of the way, the player can proceed into the next room.
So this is about what to expect from MST3K. A series of chambers of stock enemies and a key at the end that will let you open the next door in a character hub room. This particular board offers two paths, with the bottom one lacking in lions, or Mr. B-Naturals as the game called them.
Of course, instead of lions, the player has to deal with an invisible wall maze instead, which may be even worse.
The next sections consist of centipedes and more invisible walls, as well as the world's most common boulder puzzle.
The reward for making it through is 100 health and a blue key. There's also a secret path to the double exclamation point object if the player is willing to look around for it and collect 5000 points for their trouble.
With the blue key it's possible to head towards the next section of the Tom hub and another trivia question. Jerry (spelled Gerry on the actual show) was not a movie character and thus the author made sure to explain how he got there lest people raise questions about continuity!
The 2nd challenge to find Tom is to run past some blink walls. They're timed in such a way that the player can't just hold the up key and blast right through them without taking damage so some pacing is necessary. This challenge gives a yellow key for the 3rd challenge, and makes the player backtrack to it again later when they have the cyan key.
Trivia! Again I go with the silliest answer of a hang glider and am rewarded for it.
Town's influence knows no bounds and the same style of slider puzzle appears in MST3K as well. The player has to push some horizontal sliders in order to make complete lines of boulders allowing the pushers to move south and clear a path to the cyan key. In Town the space for the puzzle is smaller, which makes it possible to accidentally push some sliders too far and fail the puzzle, but here there's so much room that it would be extremely difficult to not be able to solve the puzzle.
After obtaining the key and backtracking to the 2nd challenge, it's time to rescue Tom Servo from Gamera.
Gamera is about as simple as a boss object in ZZT can be. He doesn't move, just slowly shoots towards the player which means sometimes shooting to the sides when the player isn't aligned with him. It's very easy to just spam bullets in his direction.
My guessing at trivia questions fails me, but there's no penalty for an incorrect answer. Rescuing Tom Servo gives the player the first of the four keys they'll need to escape to Earth. With one path cleared, it's time to turn in the key and choose another.
For my second bot I went with Gypsy. This time the path doesn't branch off as it did with Tom Servo's route. Once again the player is treated to some ascii art as well.
If you look at my health when failing at trivia questions yet again, you'll see that this time there actually was a 10 health penalty for a wrong answer! I'd say the stakes were higher if not for the fact that these can be done in any order, so more likely the author just forgot to hurt the player on Tom's path.
The next board consists of dodging some spinning guns and safely making your way down to the next trivia question. There are also some secret supplies, this time well worth the effort as it's easily discovered by examining the walls and means another 100 health.
The next screen is a big empty room filled with bears and...
An absolutely massive invisible maze! It was as fun as it looked.
The writing on these characters gets to the trivia so quickly that whether you're familiar with them or not, they have no real personality and the fact that they're from specific movies winds up being meaningless.
The next room is a long winding path with tigers to shoot. So I shoot them. At least the game was nice enough to provide a bunch of ammo from a single object.
The second boss is Daddy-O, who moves continually up and down while shooting a sine wave of bullets. Again the boss is trivial to defeat, and if you're so inclined, it's possible to just run into the gap and get to Gypsy without even fighting.
Gypsy has an interesting choice for a security question, but it gets us our second key.
Next up, Cambot.
At this point I'm becoming numb to the trivia.
Another action sequence follows, this one full of transporters that warp the player from area to area. The first section contains some red objects that shoot endlessly and have to be dodged as they cannot be harmed.
Next, some blinkwalls and a simple puzzle using boulders to block the spinning guns from shooting. Then just some lions and bears. Once again there's also hidden bonus points, but they're not particularly exciting to obtain.
After answering the latest trivia question, the player can proceed onward.
The next board actually stands out a bit. It's still a very simple puzzle, but at least it's not an invisible maze or another fifty tigers. At the end is still more trivia.
Speaking of something new, this next board introduces darkness! Exiting the room involves shooting a switch a few times that can be seen in the lit version of the room. A sound plays when you hit it, so despite it never being visible in torch light, the player can still find it.
It's almost a fun puzzle, trying to find this hidden object, but it falls short since ZZT sharks can't be killed, and they like to move towards the player. Most of your shots will be blocked and trying to find the object in the dark is a pain since you'll be hitting sharks and not realizing it. To get through, you'll need to lure the sharks away and then run to where the switch is and shoot at it then.
The next room is the screening room! Featuring a row of seats, and Rommel from the currently being screened Sidehackers and a friend of his. They try to move in a rectangular shape, but once they've been shot their code desyncs and they'll hit a wall and just stop.
For rescuing Cambot, the player receives the next green key. Just one more to go with Crow.
Last but not least, is Crow's path. How convenient that ZZT's default yellow border in new rooms gets proper use here.
Still more trivia, but this time it will actually be somewhat relevant!
Rita is here and has been kidnapped as well. The movie to life plot winds up having some other effect than just trivia and new names for lions and tigers.
Of course, that doesn't mean the trivia is going to stop anytime soon.
Apparently LaChapelle was a fan of DnD games, as sure enough this room's layout maps 1:1 with the first level of Eye of the Beholder secret passages and all.
The X in front of the very first door turns out to be a pile of bones which the player can revive for 100 health. It's a mandatory payment to progress, but the previous room did have a bonus heart which gives 100 health so the player can definitely afford the toll.
After answering the trivia, the player can fight their way through the rest of the screen. Those bonus points are way too far off for me to care.
And of course, there's trivia to be able to leave the room as well.
This next room contains the BGC-19, a mobile drum machine which here makes the player invincible. Ricochets line the walls to discourage shooting, and the energizers are spaced closely enough that it's easy to just charge through the room, and actually kind of fun.
At the end of the room is Rocky, Rita's kidnapper, who begins to shoot at the player after being talked to. When he's defeated, he kills Rita and the player can go on to the next board. No trivia!
Mike Dawson Ken accuses us of killing Rita and the player
is thrown into a boss fight. Again, the boss just stands still and shoots in the
player's direction. Once defeated, Ken leaves to avenge Rita's death and the
player gets to rescue Crow.
With all four bots successfully rescued, it's time to open the final door and escape to Earth!