Mr. Shapiro Cares Not For LiesBy: Eurakarte
Released: July 07, 2000
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This month's Patron poll winner was Eurakarte's Mr. Shapiro Cares Not For Lies. It's the first of a short lived series and slightly longer running webcomic which takes major inspiration from Pokey The Penguin. If you're familiar with Pokey at all, it might be difficult to figure out how you'd turn its surreal and absurdist humor into a ZZT game, and Eurakarte's effort is a valiant one. Ultimately, the game feels likes it's trying to be both a traditional ZZT game while also being this bizarre thing, and it doesn't quite work out how you'd hope.
But that's not to say it's a bad title! It's still cute and tries to be something a little different than most surreal ZZT games which tend to go for "trippy" more than anything else.
Like Gem Hunter as we've seen before it, there's a plentiful cast right away, but here the characters are distinct enough, and not really meant to be important. They're all very much a single trait that makes up their entire personality which is more than adequate for a short ZZT adventure.
One day, shapiro and his friends were
eating a picnic lunch in the shade of
SHAPIRO: my, this Blue When Brand Sauce is
EVERYONE: it's tasty cuz it's blue!
TRIANGY: AAA! NON-CORPOREAL LIFEFORMS FROM
THE PLANET CAPPELLA ARE INVADING MY BODY!
IBO: I am Ibo! I think-ibo triangy's been
watching-ibo too much Star Trek-ibo.
SHAPIRO: YES, friend ibo!
• • • • • • • • •
Right away we get a bit of insight into this world. Firstly there's the Blue When brand sauce. Expect "It's tasty cuz it's blue!" to be repeated frequently throughout the game. Secondly, I am fascinated by Eurakarte's graphics. The shading is a mess, (that sky looks awful,) but I'm much more curious about the fact that the game's cast of triangles is so detailed. The zip file for this game includes a few of the Mr. Shapiro comics, and they're all solidly colored MS-Paint pencil based drawings. The characters have more detail in ZZT than their source material!
Perhaps this is because of the rules on z2 mandating the use of STK colors throughout submitted games? Even then though, it would be easy to spew those dark cyan and dark blue skies in a background and keep the characters flatly shaded. This is probably the only time something is more realistic looking in the ZZT version of whatever is being created.
Mr. Shapiro (yellow) is our protagonist, a generally enthusiastic triangle who is ready to rescue his girlfriend who will soon be kidnapped as girls in ZZT games frequently are.
Triangy (green) is the frightened and paranoid of everything ever triangle. He will constantly scream about things.
Lastly is Ibo, who has a habit of using "-ibo" as a suffix in various words whenever he speaks.
These characters aren't the most captivating, but at the very least they're pretty easy to write for.
SHAPIROETTE: i am female!
ROB BLOB: i am in this picture just so
you know what I look like!
BIG U WITH UMLAUTS: i am dr. kabadbot!
SHAPIROETTE: you are blinking.
DR KABADBOT: that is correct.
DR KABADBOT: i kidnap you!
SHAPIROETTE: i am kidnapped!
ROB BLOB: i make a valiant attempt to
DR. KABADBOT: it is too late!
• • • • • • • • •
The rest of the cast is quickly introduced as well. Shapiroette is pictured here expressing her unique personality trait of "girl".
Rob Blob on the left expresses that he's here entirely so the player will know what he looks like. He really doesn't have a personality at all? He's just there sometimes.Lastly is Dr. Kabadbot, a "U with umlauts". Thank you Eurakarte for teaching me the name of that particular accent back in the day. Kabadbot has _two_ notable features. First, is that he uses blinking graphics, including in these art boards where he will flash between dark gray and solid black. Secondly, is his habit of vocalizing whatever it is he is currently doing no matter how obvious it may be.
In our most commonly used plot in gaming, Shapiroette is kidnapped, and Shapiro must rescue her. The hole in the fabric of space is honestly probably slightly above average in terms of the game's humor.
The cutscenes end and the game begins proper. Expect lots of random humor, aka saying things for no real reason such as "yam ham spam".
Or "I like to see cows disco".
Ibo is running a shop, despite the player having no money at all which is kind of an odd choice. The player can backtrack to a certain extent, and Ibo will appear again with another shop in the future. In these first few seconds of the game though, it's very easy to completely forget this is even an option.
The first room inside meanwhile contains plenty of ammo to pick up, including an "ammo nummy" which gives 25 bullets.
Cheese gives you health! This is 100% from that time when just the very mention of the word cheese was supposed to be funny.
Lastly, is a bottle of Blue When. It doesn't actually give the player anything but a chance to hear the phrase "It's tasty cuz it's blue" again.
Stocked up on ammo and cheese, Mr. Shapiro can enter Mt. Fobster and begin his assault on Dr. Kabadbot's lair, which brings us to the overall structure of the game.
You might not expect something intended to be mostly nonsense to have a structure, but Eurakarte makes things pretty straightforward really. Shapiro will go from floor to floor solving some puzzles and shooting some classic ZZT baddies to find a way to gain access to the next floor. It's actually an old fashioned adventure really. The self contained format makes each floor essentially a new level to clear.
For the first, there's a few ruffians and centipedes running around, some wiring, a broken machine, and a little ricochet based security system protecting a brown (yellow) key. Visually, it works out nicely. This board, along with the others, all feel like there's something going on at all times. Mt. Fobster has some life in it, and it definitely makes you feel eager to explore and figure out what all the strange devices on each floor will be used for.
There's still plenty of nonsense to go around however.
Touching the now exposed wiring results in a non-damaging electrical shock,
which takes advantage of the fact that objects can
multiple things in a single cycle to shove the player backwards by putting
boulders and then changing them to breakables and water to represent a jolt of
electricity knocking Shapiro backwards.
Up top in the middle is a sleeping hamster that would be giving power to a nearby computer were they running along their wheel.
In the lower right, the dollar sign is a pile of gems. Made in Taiwan. The donut. It's a joke, I'm sure. More importantly is the small pebble right next to it, which is describes as having no useful purpose. Shapiro eagerly takes it.
The pebble can then be thrown at the hamster to wake them up and begin running to get the computer up and running.
Shapiro can then open up the bulkheads to access the final corner of the room with the yellow key. Rather fortunately for myself, the centipede decided to run across the bullets and ricochets which disappeared harmlessly against it.
You can't normally just put bullets like this down in ZZT's own editor, but external tools and modifying saves to capture bullets in motion makes it easy to do so. Bullets have a property that tracks if they were fired by a player or a creature. Here they were set as creature bullets which means they won't harm other creatures. Had they been set as player bullets, the centipede would have actually been destroyed as the bullets hit it instead.
I can't in good faith tease Eurakarte's random humor because it is absolutely all over the ZZT community in this era, and Zenith Nadir's "Green is evil!" phrase is no exception. It fits in perfectly here.
The second floor has a few lions, and a lot more objects to interact with in order to find a way across a river. The yellow @ is a rope to collect. Up top is what may appear to be another computer, but is in fact a more specific device:
Syndicated Incorporated is a reference to the Weird Al song of the same name.
The bridgemaker 9000/bridge-o-matic depending on what object you're looking at can't be activated since Shapiro is too short. The puzzle here is finding a way to lower a shield and then shoot an emergency activation switch.
A metal rod in the wall can be tied down and acquired using the rope from earlier. The rod can then be used to smash open a grate on the bottom of the screen, leading to a hammer. Then the hammer gets used on a peg, which in turns lowers the safety shield.
The last thing to do is shoot across the river at the emergency switch and get the bridge-o-matic activated.
Floor 3 is all action, with a few object based enemies: maxiruffians, daemons, and snakes. Though he doesn't comment as such, the sequel to this game is titled Mr. Shapiro Cares Not For Snakes, so do not doubt that Shapiro is not a fan of these snakes.
He does care for cheese though.
Once the enemies are defeated, it's easy enough to solve the "puzzle" here, throwing three levers which operate on timers and making it to the exit fast enough. The levers are all named levers of _something_, dark cyanness, purpleness, and "torchiness" for brown which I admit to being amused by!
Once inside there's an emergency exit lever which keeps the gates opened permanently. The timing is pretty generous, though it is in theory possible to get yourself trapped between two of the gates.
The fourth floor deviates from what we've seen so far and offers a bit of respite. There's no danger here, just a couch, your friends, and a tv. The exit to the next level is still obstructed however, by three keys which require completing a few minigames in order to acquire them.
set in a very comfy-ibo couch!
ibo, ibo wants-ibo to be on the fourth
level of mt. fobster-ibo!" and so i am
here-ibo, along with this comfy-ibo couch!
want to buy something, for i love money.
• • • • • • • • •
But first, some important conversations with Shapiro's friends. Once again Ibo offers the player a chance to buy something, and once again I complete ignore it without issue.
And Nadir, who continues his random zany humor that we all find very endearing.
Ibo has a shop if the player needs to buy anything, but the game gives ample supplies making it not really necessary.
If you were worried Eurakarte might have gotten tired of the cheese shtick, don't fret. There's still plenty of cheese to encounter in this first minigame.
The only thing that really makes this minigame different than all the previous levels is the time limit. Other than that it's just a regular level leaning in on the default ZZT enemies a bit.
The time limit is actually really tight. There isn't much time the player can safely spend on clearing out enemies. If you want to beat the timer, you should really just focus on dodging.
Thankfully, the penalty for failure is just losing 50 health. That's not a small amount by any means, but so many other games would've just triggered a game over.
I made an extra attempt so I could hold onto my health and see if avoiding enemies would be a valid strategy. There's extra cheese to collect as well so you can skip some of it. (But not much!)
Next up is a sidescroller engine. It too is a vehicle for talking about cheese.
Normally a sidescroller would be something to worry about. They're almost always extremely cumbersome to play and require extreme precision that the controls do not lend themselves to, but Eurakarte's engine holds up quite well! The key to its competence comes from the fact that pressing left or right when in the air doesn't stop Shapiro from continuing his ascent, allowing the player the ability to jump consistently. These pits would be massive in most ZZT sidescrollers, but I had no issue at all getting through this one.
The molten cheese pits for Shapiro to fall into are also non-lethal, which definitely helps prevent any frustration. In the above screenshot you can see some of the platforms count down once they've been stood on before disappearing, forcing the player to have to make a few quick jumps, but still with enough time to realize what's going on.
Lastly, hitting a large button activates a moving platform powered by some sliders and a pusher. Again Shapiro has some timed jumps in order to leap off the platform and back onto it. Only one platform will appear so the stakes are higher here as not making it back on in time is almost certainly going to mean Shapiro's death.
All in all, it's very impressive! I'd honestly enjoy playing a full platformer with this engine.
So far Eurakarte's made two fun minigames, but unfortunately this final one falls a little flat. It's not poorly made, just not entertaining in the least. It's a simple shooting gallery that requires the player hit a few targets before time runs out. It's just incredibly easy to do so, which is honestly for the best, as long range shooting in ZZT games is just awful. (Hello Sivion's final boss) Here there are plenty of targets, free ammo, and a generous time limit. It's just dull after the others, but it's easy to imagine how this shooting gallery could be a lot worse.
After completing it, Shapiro acquires his final key and can proceed to the next level.