After many, many cutscenes, the game finally begins in earnest. The player has control of Penny and it is their goal to guide her safely out of the forest to Alsace.
To the east is a haunted swamp. Penny has no reason to go there and will refuse to continue in that direction.
To the west is the proper path forward. Nadir does a nice job conveying a forest here, with the roughly circular shapes of all the different trees. Compare it to something like Deceiving Guidance's forest which tries to draw every individual tree and ends up being much muddier versus the distinct floors and walls of Frost's forest.
The main gameplay of Frost consists of running into creatures to attack them with your sword, while the creatures attempt to run into you and attack before you can. It's fortunate that the game's graphics and storyline bring the game up so high, since the combat is pretty bad. The enemies react fast enough that it's difficult to run into them directly, and just being adjacent for a moment is enough to take 5 damage. The creatures take two hits, and are knocked back from the first hit so if you can't get them against a wall, they'll get away and begin the process anew.
All that blood is from each time I was bit. To be fair to Nadir, this combat would likely go much more smoothly outside of Dosbox where it's possible to run in a straight line and turn on a dime. The emulator's key repeat issues with ZZT make things harder than they should be.
Sandwiches are provided in the chest as a source of healing, under the circumstances, it's not really enough. To make matters worse, there are hidden duplicators that create more enemies, so it's not actually possible to clear out an entire board.
Up ahead is a bridge that's been blocked by a giant rock creature. The stream here is animated to create the effect of flowing water, and there are also plenty of stones and bits of moss on the ground, adding some more detail to the forest than just having trees. The sprinkling of decorative objects again contributes to making these environments feel less sterile.
PENNY: Great, the bridge is blocked by
this weird rock thing.
(The weird rock thing emits a low roaring
sound. Penny jumps back, alarmed.)
PENNY: Yaah!! What the hell?
(Upon closer inspection, Penny notes that
the `rock' has eyes, a mouth and a greyish
hide. The thing has a long, bleeding gash
up on its shoulder. It's obviously
PENNY: Erm... (approaches nervously- the
creature attempts to move, but is too
weak) Hang on, I know what you are. You're
one of those, things, whatsisnames...
Rogons, aren't you? (the creature appears
docile, and Penny comes up close to it and
strokes its nose. It seems pleased.)
PENNY: Aw, who did that to you... hang on,
you're lucky my dad gave me some bandages
and such this morning.
(After a few minutes of poking around with
her first aid kit, Penny successfully
patches up the wound- but the rogon is
still too weak to move, like she'd perhaps
PENNY: There we go. I wonder what caused
that- those nasty little polliwog things
couldn't have, they're not big enough. It
must have been another traveller maybe, or
a brigand... Uh, could you do me a favour
and like move already? I've got a mountain
to pass over and I'd like to get there
before it sunset. What time is it now...
11:34am. Actually, I'm in no rush. But
still! SHIFT YO ASS
(Impasse. The rogon remains inert.)
PENNY: I said move!!
(Penny attempts to push it out of the way,
to no avail. The rogon makes a low
PENNY: Well, this is going nowhere fast.
I can't get by or over this thing, and
the stream is too fast flowing to cross.
What do you want?!
For the love of Fauna... hmm. If I
recall my Biology correctly, aren't rogan
native to swampy areas? And didn't I pass
by a swamp about half a mile back? Hm.
(The rogon blinks significantly upon
mention of a swamp, and makes a gentle
grunting sound. Penny notices something
shiny in the grass for the first time.)
PENNY: Hang on, what's this?
(She goes to pick it up. It's a name tag.
Don't ask me where it's supposed to hang
from on a creature with no immediately
PENNY: This Henna woman... I'll go to the
swamp and find her. She'll know what to
do with Stumpy here.
• • • • • • • • •
Poor Stumpy! Penny's only hope is to turn back and enter the haunted swamp.
Just getting back to the split path is an ordeal. Penny is almost out of blood.
There's a pretty clear split here between happy peaceful forest, and spooky haunted swamp. The trees get darker, and it becomes too dark to really see the grass.
Penny isn't exactly one to believe in monsters, and figures whoever is living in a swamp probably just wants to be left alone.
The trees in the swamp are drooping, there are reeds everywhere, as well as a few graves, and you can even see a Rogon. That's called world building.
I like this a lot.
When the player is aligned in certain spots, swamp monsters rise out of the water and begin shooting. It's easy to be caught off guard, but they're spaced far enough away that the player should have ample time to get out of the way. Compared to the forest, the swamp is honestly less dangerous.
At least until the actual undead appear! Penny's dismissal of the swamp being haunted would imply to me that this is a world without ghosts and skeletons as things people believe are real. Her reaction to seeing undead in a world that shouldn't have any is pretty calm. Maybe Ilititoa does have these things, and Penny just disregards them since she was raised in a magic-free environment where such things were essentially non-existent.
Or maybe the reality of the situation doesn't hit her until just now.
This next screen introduces zombies and bloodflies, both of which are easier to deal with the the polliwogs from earlier. The zombies will move straight towards the player once they're aligned with them, which makes it a lot easier to run straight into them without having the enemy move away during the approach. The bloodflies have similar behavior, and also are defeated in a single hit. Since both creatures mostly try to move towards the player, it's easy to get them stuck against a wall which makes avoiding them an option.
Like before, signs guide the player where to go, and like before the player will find the obvious direction blocked, and have to take the "wrong" path in order to proceed.
Heading to the house, once more the tiny details make the most out of the scene. That one window has _curtains_.
The fourth wall is totally broken. Penny knows exactly what's going on here.
Heading east leads to the lake along with the usual assortment of zombies and killer flies. There are also several keys and doors scattered throughout the board. The upbeat sound effects from them stick out. It's not often that built in items get use out of later era ZZT games, but they serve their purpose just fine here.
The zombies here in the corner don't move until the door's been opened. Otherwise, they'd almost certianly be pinned up against the door waiting for Penny to open it.
The path ends here due to the high water levels. Though it's pretty clear that you'll need to investigate the dock.
PENNY: Now, I was half expecting there to
be one of those fanboat things here. But
there isn't, and I sort of need one to get
to the other side of this lake...
(Absentmindedly, Penny gives the rope a
tug. It's attached to something, which she
assumes to be an anchor or the lake
PENNY: I wonder what the deal with this
(A rumbling sound begins to emanate from
the lake- quietly at first, but it gets
louder rapidly. Penny takes a step back
from the jetty edge.)
PENNY: What the heck is that...
(the rumbling gets louder. Suddenly, a
HUGE one eyed squid bursts out of the
lake, dousing Penny with swamp water and
causing her to drop her sword.)
• • • • • • • • •
PENNY: HOLY SHIT
GIANT CYCLOPIC SQUID: BLOOOOOORRRRRGHH
(Before Penny can react, the squid thing
wraps a tentacle around her leg and lifts
her off the jetty!)
• • • • • • • • •
This effect is SO GOOD. The giant squid is made up of a variety of invisible walls with dark cyan backgrounds which makes them appear to match the surrounding water. A lot of special colored ZZT items are used as well to produce STK colors like the dark purples and white on gray normals. Check out the code to make this beast rise from the waters:
#put n ammo
#put n slime
#put w fake
#change boulder empty
#change green invisible green normal
#change cyan invisible green breakable
#change white invisible white solid
#change yellow invisible white door
#change white door normal
#change purple invisible energizer
#change energizer solid
#change red invisible energizer
#change energizer normal
#change blue invisible energizer
#change energizer breakable
#change invisible energizer
#change energizer water
/i/i/i/i#change slime water
• • • • • • • • •
There's even a dark cyan slime used to spread water on the jetty! The attention to detail here is astounding. Shortly after the creature rises, the player is teleported away to the next screen.
Showing, and not just telling, the mysterious woman's hands do animate with a simple glowing effect around them.
"This is the best board ever." - Me, playing Frost in 2003
"This is the best board ever." - Me, playing Frost in 2003, 5 seconds later.
Can I keep gushing about this art? Especially the skunk magicing the giant squid board? The perspective on the squid is so well executed. ZZT's low resolution and and non-square tiles make doing anything at an angle a pain to look half decent. Nadir's artwork is really unmatched. The same limitations also make curves frustrating to draw as well, but that tentacle doesn't look angular in the least.
This sequence plays out like a comic book, with each board as a new panel. There's clear thought to the composition of each board. Compare the trees on the board where the squid is being attacked to the board with Penny being pulled out of the lake. There's a level of consistency here that's really unmatched among ZZT games excluding straight up copying and pasting boards.
The screen actually fades to blackness as Penny blacks out.
GIRL: Ah, you're awake at last.
PENNY: Oh, man... I feel like my brain's
been crapped in... (pauses, sits upright
and takes in the surroundings) What
happened to my clothes. These are blue, I
was wearing green. And they're kind of
GIRL: You were sodden from trudging around
the marsh, after about an hour of waiting
for you to regain consciousness I thought
I'd wash 'em.
PENNY: An hour? How long have I been out
and what the hell was that thing and who
the heck are you anyway?
GIRL: ...hang on, are you feeling alright?
You've certainly perked up a whole lot.
PENNY: I feel fine now, really. Anyway,
I would like some answers.
GIRL: In which case, answers you shall
have! In the order you asked the
questions, to boot.
One, not too long. We've been back here
about ninety minutes, or so. You caught a
knock on the head when you fell into the
water, you must have connected with a rock
or something on the way down and sustained
a concussion. You may feel fine, but...
well, I did what I could but I'm no
authority on first aid. I don't think you
should go running around again just yet.
PENNY: Oh, poo.
HENNA: Still, we can talk, as you've
probably noted by now.
Secondly, that giant squid thing has lived
in the lake as long as I've been here. I
don't know much else, I usually stay away
from there but I heard roaring and yelling
while on my way out of the swamp so I went
to look and found you being mauled by
Thirdly, and I'm sure you're dyin' to
know, I'm Henna. Henna Sullrune. And you
PENNY: Ah, I've been looking for you...
What sort of maniac lives in a madhouse
like this? Are you going to keep me here
against my will like in that film?
HENNA: ...Film? Why would I do that?
PENNY: Nevermind, I'm not a famous writer
anyway. At least not to my knowledge.
Anyhow, joking aside... my name's Penny
Shaïwell. That's spelt with two dots over
HENNA: Aye, alright. Well, introductions
aside, what are you doing around here?
Things have gotten nasty lately and it's
PENNY: I noticed. I assumed you'd have
something to do with it.
HENNA: That's a fair enough assumption,
but how do you know my name? I mean, you
must have got it from somewhere to come
looking for me. You're not one of those
stupid witch hunters, are you?
PENNY: Hah! On the contrary! ...oh, it
already feels like an eternity since I
HENNA: I don't follow.
PENNY: Well, it all started yesterday,
but it feels so much longer now...
(Penny starts to recount the previous
day's events. You already know this, and
I'm totally lazy, so I'll not bother
typing it out.)
PENNY: ...and that was when the squid got
me. So y'know, I've not had a good day
HENNA: I thought they'd abandoned exile as
punishment in Gian.
PENNY: Yeah, for everything but the one
thing I did. By mistake. I think.
HENNA: Poor dear. Well, I owe you an
explanation as to the state of the swamp,
but I can't give you a full one because I
don't know what's going on either. See,
I'm a swamp witch by choice- I'm living
away from my homeland, Awtes, by leave of
my father. I've been here for the last
few years with a mentor, to better explore
the possibilities a talent like mine can
extend to, he said.
PENNY: Okay, fair enough... I don't
imagine you'd get much traffic in a place
called "Haunted Swamp".
HENNA: Yeah, but this place was just
labeled such by Silver to keep people out.
But then it started living up to its name,
as you know...
PENNY: Silver? Your mentor, right?
HENNA: Sorry, yes.
PENNY: ...so none of this is your
doing, other than the signs? I had this
mental image of you watching me from your
bubbling cauldron, waiting for the moment
at which you'd release the flying monkeys.
HENNA: Don't be disgusting. And aye,
pretty much. And that's why I was on my
way out... you see, Silver... got killed
by zombies just hours ago... we were both
in the thick when the dead started rising,
she was showing me how to strengthen
forcefields... and before we knew we were
surrounded... and god fuck I just don't
want to talk about it right now.
• • • • • • • • •
Penny awakens in the house she saw earlier, with Henna taking care of her injuries. Apparently the swamp actually being haunted is a new thing, and Henna's mentor is dead from the whole zombies craving flesh epidemic that's going around.
The player is transported to this board, depicting Silver's recent demise. He kind of looks like Sly Cooper, but wearing pants.
PENNY: Fauna... that's terrible. I'm
HENNA: Aye, well. I just ran, there was
nothing I could do for her- she was
mortally injured before I could intervene,
in the worst way... I was going to just
run back here, get what I could and then
scarper, but then you came into the
picture. And you're injured and I'm
worried about you getting hurt too.
PENNY: We're still in the swamp, though.
What if ghosts or zombies or whatever try
to break in?
HENNA: Well, I've managed to erect a
psychic barrier over the windows and
doors- think of it as Silv's parting
gift to me- and I think we'll be fine for
at least a few hours. Plus there's the
gate. We're safe.
PENNY: If you say so, but I'm not waiting
to find out. Where're my clothes, I'm
totally getting out of here, concussion
HENNA: ...I don't know... better to make
sure you're okay first...
PENNY: I know I'll be more okay if I get
the hell out of here! I can worry about
that later. Why don't you come with me?
I mean, those horrible skeletons I met on
my way in could use a few hits of that
fire beam thing I saw you use earlier.
PENNY: You don't know? They effectively
trapped me here shortly after I passed the
second sign. It was one of those
wonderful, wonderful brown trouser
moments. We have to get out of here-
besides, you need to see to Stumpy.
HENNA: (quickly) What? You found her?
PENNY: Yeah, that's why I came to look for
you. She was hurt and blocking a bridge I
needed to cross and I couldn't find any
other way over. I fixed her up, but she
wouldn't shift- I saw your name on her
collar, so I thought I'd come look for
HENNA: (pacing) Oh my, this is terrible...
we have to find her. You remember where
PENNY: Absolutely, it was hard to miss.
HENNA: There's no time to waste! Get your
stuff, let's get going!
PENNY: Hang on, what about all that
HENNA: Oh, we can get that seen to later.
Let's go find Stumpy! Smarten yourself up,
and we'll be off. I'll wait for you, but
• • • • • • • • •
Concussions be damned, it's time to save Stumpy. The player is given control again and gets to collect Penny's things.
No chance to explore the rest of the house, the player needs to exit entirely once they leave the bedroom.
Penny meets up with Henna and they begin traveling together. For those of you in the audience wishing to ship these two, Nadir kindly provided the name for said ship.
You do have to backtrack to Stumpy, which means running away from enemies as much as possible.
Skeletons annihilated, it's now safe to leave the swamp. Although, the swamp creatures that pop up and shoot at you are alive and well, so do be careful of them.
The rest of the trip goes without event, until you reach the board with Stumpy, which triggers a warp to another art board.
(Upon entering the clearing, Henna speeds
towards Stumpy, and gives her a once-over.
Penny stands from a short distance, and
HENNA: Stumpy! Ach, I thought you'd been
abducted or something :( (starts fussing
PENNY: Yeah... I never did ask, what's the
deal here anyway? I mean, how did your
rogon get out here?
HENNA: Well, it makes sense to me now...
About a week ago, she just disappeared. I
got Silver to help me look for her, but to
no avail and we gave up. I guess she
sensed something was up and left the
PENNY: I thought rogon were slow animals
that rely on camouflage and a complete
lack of scent for survival?
HENNA: Here, this'll make you feel
better... (feeds Stumpy some kind of herb.
It grunts and devours it accordingly.)
...uh, aye, mostly. Stumpy's pretty fast,
though. For a rogon, anyway. Walkin'
PENNY: Not bad... so, uh, you had her
HENNA: Now there's a thing. She's really
only a baby, about three years old. My dad
gave her to me when Silver and I first set
off over here, to pull our carriage- it
was quite a way from A to B, after all,
and these guys are good at that from an
early age. And she was so adorable! So we
PENNY: Yeah, she is cute, huh... I wonder
who could do something so mean to such a
non-threatening animal. It's so mean!
HENNA: Well, you did a good job patching
her up, and I'm grateful to you. I don't
know who did it, but they're going to get
my staff in their face if I find them.
PENNY: So, what are you going to do now? I
mean, you've effectively been evicted from
the swamp by eeevil undead.
HENNA: Point. Well, I was meaning to talk
to you about that... how about I come with
you? You seem like you could use some
company right now, and I've a window.
Besides, maybe you'll need an eye kept on
you- you ARE injured, remember...
PENNY: Sure, I thought you'd say that. And
for Delta's sake I feel fine, it's just a
lump. But yeah, fair dos. Besides, you've
had quite the harrowing experience today,
you need someone around I suppose. Yeah,
come to Alsace with me.
HENNA: So, this Alsace... is it far?
PENNY: Oh, at least four days on foot, I'm
afraid. It'd be shorter but we've a
mountain range to cross once we get out of
this forest, but it's pretty plain sailing
HENNA: Eeh, these aren't my hiking boots
PENNY: They're not huge. Well, they're
hardly the Umbraq mountains, anyway. My
map says there's a pretty low pass through
'em. We'll be fine.
STUMPY: snrt pgggf
HENNA: Well, shall we go? What time is it,
I've not got a watch.
PENNY: ...5:35pm. It's starting to get
dark, actually... shall we camp here
tonight? I mean, this is a pretty good
HENNA: Aye, we can set off tomorrow. Go
get some wood, I can start a fire easily.
DRY wood, mind.
PENNY: Oh come on, even a damn city kid
like myself knows that.
HENNA: GO FORTH
PENNY: Y'know, you're reminding me a whole
lot of someone I used to know.
HENNA: I choose to take that as a
• • • • • • • • •
Henna patches Stumpy up, and the two decide to made the trip to Alssace together. "My map says there's a pretty low pass through 'em. We'll be fine." is a line to note, because ZZT doesn't actually display it correctly! Since one of the lines starts with an apostrophe, ZZT treats it as a comment (or pre-#zapped label, same difference), so the sentence just ends. It's not noticeable at all since the sentence still work without it, and at worst looks like it's just missing punctuation.
(Henna and Penny stay up late that night,
playing "getting to know you". The night
sky is much clearer than it was during the
day, so they lie under the stars. Stumpy
sleeps quietly on the other side of the
path while the two girls cackle
HENNA: Now that is totally a chicken.
Albeit a messy one.
PENNY: ...no, that was meant to be a dog.
Man, I'm no good at this game.
HENNA: Really? We used to make hand
shadows all the time when we were kids.
PENNY: I guess. I just played a bunch of
video games. Anyway, it's late, and we've
ground to cover tomorrow. We should turn
HENNA: You're just copping out because
you're losing... hey, what's that you've
PENNY: Ah, just some comic books.
HENNA: "Speeduck", huh. Sounds dumb.
PENNY: No way! It's about a duck called
Horace who gains superpowers after getting
bitten by a radioactive flea. He's blue
and he saves the world from evil robots
by running around really really fast!
HENNA: ...I rest my case. DUMB
PENNY: No! There's more to it than that,
there's all kinds of moral and
socialogical issues raised in it. It's
really good, you can have a look if you
want, the art's great...
HENNA: If you say so. I think I'll pass,
though. Maybe later.
PENNY: Oh, be quiet. I'm going to hide in
my sleeping bag now.
HENNA: Alright, unsheu morpaus.
PENNY: Will you stop doing that!
HENNA: What! I was only saying "sweet
dreams" in Awtis.
PENNY: Yeah, but for all I know it could
be "fuck you penny you suck dicks" or
HENNA: Penny, piso te jaim. Te suio.
PENNY: ...y'know, I think this could be
the start of a beautiful cliche. I mean,
• • • • • • • • •
Almost everything by Zenith Nadir
Music by MadTom O'Bedlam, who did a super
duper job if I may say so myself.
Greets go out to everyone who deserves
greets. Basically, if you've somehow
inspired or encouraged me, knowingly or
not, your name goes here.
The people who belong on the "no thanks
to" list go here, but those idiots know
who they damn well are.
...And I'm not divulging any tasters as to
what happens next, you'll just have to
wait. I'm sure you're all very patient.
No, I don't know when I'll finish part
two either. Whenever I feel like it, I
guess, but I think a break is in order
right now. I have been a busy Nadir =(
Anyway, thanks for playing, I hope you
enjoyed my first proper game in three
years. No, really! Because I'm going to
RAM IT DOWN YOUR THROAT (nmiaow)
• • • • • • • • •
And so the game ends, with Penny having gained a new friend and traveling companion, and the player stuck waiting for a sequel. Alas, the sequel was never completed, though an incomplete version was released by Nadir in 2007 with author commentary sprinkled throughout.
There was also a period where Nadir tried his hand at telling the Frost story via a webcomic. The comic has about 30 pages, covers everything shown here up to Penny arriving in the woods, and cleans up the writing enough that going from the comic to the ZZT game, there's a noticeable difference. It'll be posted on the Museum beta site (both public and private) later this month, so be sure to check that out!
This game extremely captivating. Its world is clearly one that was thought out and whose surface was barely scratched in the first game. I keep repeating myself, but the game's graphics, both in the dedicated art boards as well as those with player control are without a doubt some of the best seen in ZZT.
The writing is pretty solid. Nadir seems a bit afraid of creating a dead serious world and the writing definitely imparts a bit of lightheartedness even when the situations can be pretty grim. Penny's reactions can be a bit underwhelming, but overall there's nothing eyerolling here. Some plot threads aren't really explored, like the whole Set character, and the exact mixture of fantasy/sci-fi/reality that's blended together isn't really defined. It's a bit like the blend of magic and technology you'd see out of a Final Fantasy game, but the world isn't really developed to the point where you could confidently guess whether something like computers or guns exist. Exactly what can and can't be done with magic isn't explored either.
Such criticisms about the unknowns of the world would likely not apply had the series been completed of course. Frost includes the "1" in its own title. Of course the first chapter wouldn't have all the answers.
As for the gameplay, it feels a bit tacked on. I'm not surprised Nadir later tried to tell the story through comics, since it seems like a better fit. The combat seems to be there for the sake of having more traditional ZZT gameplay, and not just calling the ZZT world a cinema. Playing under Dosbox, you'll probably need to cheat for health, but while it's a bit harsh on the player, it's not the sort of thing that makes you wonder how it was supposed to be enjoyable.
It's a shame the series was never completed, but even the brief foray into the world of Ilititoa offered by Frost 1; Power is a trip worth taking.
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