Where can I get Aceland?
Released: Jul. 4, 1994
It's very difficult to say what a ZZT game is. There are so many of them released over 25 years covering dozens of genres, aesthetics, and ways to play. Yet somehow amongst all the chaos, there are some games that just capture the essence of ZZT, and Aceland is a shining example of this. It's a bright grand adventure through forests, caves, and castles, but it's not a fantasy themed world. It has oddities and eccentricities, and just creates a mixture of ideas in that way that only ZZT can. Prak's Aceland is an iconic ZZT adventure.
Aceland has a very peculiar title screen. There's a blue and green blob which might be the world the game takes place on? It's being shot by spinning guns? There's a yellow object shooting from the opposite side.
Eventually the yellow object will shoot and reveal this number eight that starts shooting back? I have no idea what any of this means.
The starting board isn't any more traditional. An object pushes you up towards the passage. The other half of the room is a bonus object that can't be gotten for quite some time.
Finally, the game itself starts. A small street with a few homes, all very clearly labeled for the player. The pool warns of sharks, and sure enough there are a few there. It's just a silly addition, and completely avoidable.
The bad neighbor can be seen shooting bullets randomly, living up to his name.
Your roommate is standing outside your home, and gives you some starting motivation, but doesn't really tell you all that much. It won't take long before the game's plot is actually revealed to the player though.
The first place to check out is your house. As far as homes in ZZT go, this one is pretty lacking in the realism department. No bed, couch, oven, or even a toilet to be found. Just rooms containing some supplies to get the player up and running.
The scroll is a message from the author, who refers to himself as Prak, telling the player that they'll die in Aceland.
With some ammo now, the player is likely to try shooting their neighbor, only to find it has no effect on him.
The gardener expresses dissatisfaction at working for such a jerk. The cyan club is a tree with a gem on it that the player takes, which also causes the tree object to vanish. Other than that, there's nothing else the player can do on this board for now, since both the other homes are locked.
The city in Aceland is this single board. There's a lone object wandering the streets who will greet the player when touched, and also a single tiger for some reason.
The sign in the middle of the road gives the player the game's plot. They'll need to collect some keys (that aren't purple!) and defeat Mugerlock, who I guess must be evil. To do this, the player will need a microwave oven, the one thing that can kill a sorcerer. Don't question it.
With that all established, it's time to explore Trala.
The store consists of a regular shopkeeper who sells ammo and torches, and Tricia the great, a friendly magic user who beckons the player as soon as they enter the store.
For 5 gems, Tricia will transform the enemies on the board into ammo, which compared to the shopkeeper's prices is a very good deal.
The shopkeeper sells the usual items, and no healing. The player is given some interesting choices for how to respond to somebody who is talking about beans and pork. Aceland is a weird game.
Next up is the museum, which is an interesting thing to include in an unofficial ZZT world. This board explains what the default ZZT enemies do, and I can't imagine how few people (especially in 1994) played a fan ZZT game before playing Town and Demo where they'd learn all about these creatures.
There's also a "Torture room".
Even in 1994 people were questioning why tigers can shoot bullets.
Also take note that there are still centipedes in the tiger cage. This board features some overlapping stats that happen with ZZT sometimes, and as the tigers move around, centipedes will begin to appear.
Pushers being classified as creatures is a bit of an odd decision, but it does have some precedent since they're listed under the creatures menu and not terrain in ZZT's editor.
The back of the museum shows off more of ZZT's features, conveyors that move things along, invisible walls (which are annoying), fake walls, blink walls, breakable walls, bombs, duplicators, and energizers! It is a pretty decent overview for two screens.
Although the game suggest the museum for beginners, it's actually necessary in order to talk to your neighbor's wife. She gives you the key to her house to make up for him being such an awful neighbor!
With a key, rather than explore the remaining areas of the city, I head straight to the neighbor's house.
The neighbor's house is structured similarly to your own, only considerably more deadly. The green boulders that make up the background repeatedly flash colors which really make this board pop out visually in action.
The objective here is the cyan key which lets the player into the basement.
The basement is dark, but I'm showing it lit up here. The key gives the player more supplies, and a red key which can open the gardener's house as well as the supply room in the shop. Unfortunately I have the memory of the goldfish and did not get all the goodies in the shop with it.
There's a secret passage to the south to a world map. Passages show up in dark boards so the fake walls of the basement and hidden world map aren't really much of a secret, but I'm unsure still if it was meant as a reward for a player or a debug room.
The world map consists of two screens, and can take the player to essentially every board in the game, and even marks boards that are dark with torches. Seeing as how it's possible to warp to one board away from the game's end, I opted to just pretend like I had never found it and move on to the gardener's house.
This is another weird board. The gardener is a big fan of trees.
Of course, seeing a notice to not shoot the gardener's trees, I immediately do so, which causes it to fall down. Though there's nothing that happens for doing so, even if you shoot away ever single tree like I did. It's not being an awful person, it's a social experiment to see what will happen.
There's also a white key to pick up here. It's not a regular ZZT key, but an object. This is one of the keys that is needed to get in the tower of Pzia.
The museum quest is now completed in its entirety, and I can get back to exploring the rest of the city.
Banking in the 90s was a terrible experience from what I gather.
There's a fake wall that lets the player get right to the tellers, but none of them will have anything to do with the player. Invisible walls prevent the player from entering the passage or attempting to unlock the vault.
You can't cut in line, but you can kill this person to get into the passage. In Aceland, the player's not so much a hero as they are a person who never has to suffer any consequences.
The bank's basement is a normally dark room, filled with various creatures, keys, and multiple exits.
The scroll blatantly hints at which passage to try to get to, with the others leading to sections of the bank that are dead ends. There's not a lot to say about the combat here. It's just a few enemies scattered about in darkness. Nothing too difficult given how little the player can see. The board is plenty fair.
The correct exit leads to a rather tiny invisible maze, hence the message about having fun.
The transporter leads to the back of the vault, where there's a second white key to the tower, as well as a "disintergrater" which causes the green objects waiting in line to all be destroyed. From here the player needs to backtrack to exit the bank.
The big red section of the bank is actually a maze made out of fake walls which can be used to gain access to the vault and collect as many gems as the player is willing to wait for to be duplicated into the vault. Aceland does a pretty solid job at giving the player ample resources, so it's not really necessary, but it does mean a source of infinite healing, and the gems can be spent on ammo and torches for an infinite number of them as well.
The last building in the Trala is the church, where the player can exchange their score for health. I don't think high scores were ever really much of a focus with ZZT, but I do like how maximizing your score involves avoiding healing. Or at least it would, if not for infinite score and health giving gems in the bank vault.
I headed west of the city to the tower gates, a dangerous board full of spinning guns that rain bullets down on the player with several creatures roaming the board as well. The white doors are here, and any keys that you've collected are consumed by just entering the board rather than touching the doors themselves. Since the path is still blocked off, I turned around and headed in the opposite direction.
East of the city is the forest, which is broken up into a few different segments, the first of which is a simple puzzle of lining up boulders to get the pushers to open up the next section.
The player will have to push some boulders off to the side as well in order to actually get enough clearance to go inside.
The talking trees pretty much ignore the player, but if you bug them too many times...
They start shooting in all directions! So, please leave these trees alone.
The weird "turn it off" button can turn the pushers into gems, which is good since it's easy to trap yourself in this area otherwise if you didn't push enough boulders out of the way to have an exit. I actually reloaded a save since I thought I had accidentally trapped myself and the button's purpose wasn't readily apparent.
The eastern path in the forest leads to even more forest. I like the weird hybrid of art and gameplay here.
It's pretty easy to move through the forest in a way that doesn't release any of the lions. After defeating the rest of the enemies it's safe to head north to the "Fortress of doom" the sign helpfully guides the player to.
I really enjoy how this board looks. It's just a very large, imposing fort.
It has very poor security.