Whoa. A giant strip of color was not what I was expecting. I'm not sure if it's meant to be a wall, or a tear in reality, or something else entirely, but I love it. When Flimsy breaks out colors for this game, he does an excellent job.
Of course, it's yet another dead end. Back to the house of gray.
But this time through its front door, into the forest. This is probably the saddest board of them all. The trees are all dead, and while there are still a few creatures, most of the duplicators are broken along with a transporter, preventing exploring the earlier portions of the forest.
There are only two things of note, some gems that still retained their color, and...
The board may seem like a dead end, but we had some gems that aren't gray, and sure enough a hidden object sets a flag once they've been collected. The player can finally bribe the troll and learn what's happened.
Well, it was really really big, and kind
of bean shaped. And it was all differnt
Oo, rubys! By the way, in the castle there
was this sceptre. The Sceptre of Lots 'n
Lots of Power. It might have survived the
So there is a bit of information revealed here. Something big and colorful crashed out of the sky and took out the castle, turning it into a crater. But whatever crashed is no longer there, and while the troll can tell the player how this all started, there's still no explanation for what exactly is happening or why.
With a sharp eye, the player can find the slope into the crater that they can use to get inside of it safely. Then it's a matter of searching for the sceptre.
Despite there being no real need to do so, the sceptre actually moves around the crater randomly until the troll reveals that it can be found there, sending the object a message to stand still. It's possible to stumble across it while it's moving if the player happens to go in the crater without being told about it, similar to how one can access the secret passages in Town's armory without being told about them.
The sceptre is a powerful artifact, whose purpose can probably be guessed fairly easily.
The machine shatters into several pieces, and a few deadly stars as well! Using the same animation technique later used in Card Prime to take advantage of ZZT's stat limit to only change a portion of the board when destroying its colors.
After bashing the machine to pieces, only one bit remains.
Back in the palace, the strange device can be used to dissolve a way through the band of color and into Town's endgame.
The left path leads to the Rube board, but the passage is blocked off, and the cave the path normally leads to has already been explored from a new opening in the Rube board anyway. The only real way to proceed is through some breakables, past the supplies, and to the east.
More of the unusual connections in Town work in Flimsy's favor, with this bonus room doubling as the armory's secret passage.
Aw jeeze. Aw heck. Aw beans.
This is all that can be revealed of the bank's combination, so perhaps it's for the best that it's a red herring.
Aside from that, and a winding mass of color, there's nothing else to do but venture out of bounds once more...
And here's the source of all the trouble. This massive technicolor ship, a vibrant tangle of high-intensity colors.
And the all too common ending, setting up for a sequel which never happened.
So ultimately, the game is still a mystery.
For Flimsy's first release, you can definitely see a glimpse of what was to come. Shades of Gray expertly builds on top of the burned in memories of playing Town that so many ZZTers have. Flimsy manages to take something that so much of his audience would have been intimately familiar with, and bring back that sense of mystery and wonder from the days when you didn't know what would be around the corner.
And he accomplishes this not just with the few boards that take place outside of Town's walls, but by bringing a sense of wonder and also dread with what each new board will bring in its now tainted form. As you head to each new location, you get that same sense of wondering what's going to come next that you'd get as a child playing Town and making it into the Palace for the first time.
Artistically, Flimsy works wonders with the limited palette. There are a small handful of ZZT worlds out there which are in shades of gray only, and some like Commodore's Angelis Finale where the only color you get is red for blood, but here Flimsy doesn't actually shy away from color. He's just smart enough to only use it when it's necessary. After an endless sea of gray, things like the color sucking appendage or the amazing spectacle of the strange machine above the Three Lakes make memorable looking boards truly stand out.
The animations are also some of the better ones you'll find out there. They play with the concept of perspective in these boards, and there's a lot of love put into them. You kind of want to see everything break, just to see exactly how it will happen.
This being such an early Flimsy title, you can see the surreal sensibilities out there, but there's still a connection to traditional ZZT world game design. It feels like a modern Flimsy game, but suddenly seems like it wants to explain itself. The fact that there is no sequel makes me wonder though, if there ever was an explanation in mind for all of it. Perhaps the game's story ultimately being inscrutable makes it an iconic Flimsy Parkins game in the end.
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