[parallel.zip] - Parallel

MadTom, Boonob
Dec. 8, 2001
41 KB
16 / 28
No rating

Closer Look: Parallel

By: Dr. Dos
Date: Sept. 28, 2018
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By: MadTom/Boonob
Released: December 12, 2001
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Now here we have an interesting concept. The majority of ZZT worlds were coded by one person, with only a few working as teams, but Parallel isn't exactly a typical collaboration. The idea is simple: MadTom and Boonob would each work on the game, alternating every board. This could be an interesting way of seeing how two people would interpret the same game, but no such luck. What we have here with Parallel, is a game where the two authors weren't allowed to see or even discuss the boards they had made.

So what we get is something a little disjointed, and more of a few short experiments than any real attempt at cohesion, even when looking at just one author's boards. It's a neat little attempt at making something different, and that's exactly what you'll get.

The title screen is one of the few instances where the game does offer some collaboration. Boonob opting for mirrored text, and MadTom writing an original composition with lyrics! I don't know what the lyrics have to do with anything, but the melody is solid. MadTom really did not take long to begin standing out for his abilities in ZZT compositions.

The game opens with a shared board that's been split in half, with each author explaining the game and beckoning the player onward.


A big part of the reason why collaborative games weren't really a thing in the ZZT community was that ZZT isn't very well suited for it. Everything is contained in a single file which makes it work poorly with version control, and let's be honest, freshmen in high school were not going to use version control to begin with. But, just as the Netherlands had Hercules and Hydra78, New Zealand had MadTom and Boonob, two friends who went to school together and could easily pass around a floppy disk. Psyche, by Zenith Nadir gets brought up a few times in the game's opening and credits, and was a ZZT game with two split paths, one for Zenith and one for Nadir, with the idea that one was the happy positive one and the other the serious and dramatic one. I suspect the "split-personality" thing does not hold up today. Fortunately, here the personalities are split because we are dealing with two people.


That the result of this is going to be a chaotic mess is admitted right from the start. Fortunately, ZZT boards can serve as decent vignettes. Parallel is a game of constant change, but all that works in its favor.


You can really get an idea as to the differences in how the duo approached making ZZT games. MadTom takes it far more seriously, and that seriousness shows in his ZZT games in general. They're frequently dark, gritty, and dramatic: the ideal creative output for a teenager in the early 2000s. Boonob meanwhile uses ZZT for the absurdity. He creates his worlds to be weird, random, and completely nonsensical: the ideal creative output for a teenager in the early 2000s. The scroll claims that they tried to link the boards in a way to form a storyline, but I absolutely do not believe a word of it. There is one moment where two boards in a row could conceivable connect, but they end up doing so backwards. None of it matters though, as the point of Parallel isn't to create something cohesive.


Touching the representations of the authors will lead to a description of the other. Boonob tells us that MadTom is a young musician, smart, and a churchgoer. All of this is something you'll be able to glean from MadTom's boards.


The two differing personalities are recognized as well. MadTom challenges the player to guess who made which board, but this is the most blatantly obvious thing I have ever seen in a ZZT game. The approach these two take could not be more different.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
A Description of Boonob
  A Monty Pythonic sense of humour
combined with an inquisitive mind ... a
prolific reader with a caffeine addiction
and a love of strangling small juvenile
animals. Boonob is wildly funny and is
at his best when he doesn't make an
effort to be funny. In this respect he
is far superior to me.
  However, Boonob is afraid of the
unexplained and finds it uncomfortable to
think long on any philosophical or
theological subject ... he would much
rather talk about HAMMM or why eels have
legs in parallel universes.
  As a ZZTer he is hardworking and
skilful but claims he has problems with
originality and music. Two bottles of
Bundaberg ginger beer appear to put him
in the best ZZTing mood ... with rather
incomprehensible silly results.
  There's Boonob for you. A similar
friend ... but also a great opposite.

"I'm not stopping there, got my own
row left to hoe; just another line in
the field of time; when the thrashers
come and I'm stuck in the sun, with
dinosaurs in shrines, I'll know the
time has come to give what's mine."
                          - Neil Young
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Boonob is wacky and doesn't actually strangle animals. This was how we made jokes back then. Also some Neil Young. If Sweeney could quote Led Zeppelin, I suppose MadTom can include some Neil Young.


The first board opens up, and what do you know, without even unpausing it's so very much a MadTom board. The player starts caged on top of a dark mountain with foggy mist swirling in the air. Things escalate immediately with the injured woman Rachel lying on the ground, slowly breathing.


Demons teleport in, and begin to attack Rachel without mercy. The objects repeatedly move back and forth next to Rachel to simulate their beating. Red fakes appear.


The adrenaline giving the player strength allows them to smash open their cage and fight off the demons. This is done by running into them and hurting them before they can hurt you. It's easy to get surrounded, but the demon's attacks are slow enough that the player can pretty easily survive to fight them all off.


So yeah. The game opens to a rather dramatic and intense start. Fortunately, the dark tone doesn't last very long, but what a bummer of a start.




Boonob's first board is a side-scrolling engine in which the player can jump, move, and shoot. There won't be any demons attacking your girlfriend here.


The engine is reasonably responsive, but the jumping feels stiffer than some other platforming engines out there. It's only a single board, and there's only a lone spike and a swinging mace that can result in instant death from a bad jump, so it's not a horrible experience or anything. Platformers in ZZT are notoriously difficult to make feel smooth, and even at their best are mediocre. You're not going to get anything close to Mario, or even Jill of the Jungle here.


One issue you often run into is bullets being solid tiles. It's possible to land on top of them and throw off your momentum as far as where you expect the player to be. And of course, a bullet hitting the object just as it starts to jump will cause it to abort its jump. They're clunky, okay?


There's still a progressive challenge to all this though! The first floor lets the player use gravity to just fall into holes to avoid bullets. The second requires that they leap over them instead. Thankfully the enemies firing do so pretty slowly.


The bottom level has a falling spike if the player steps under it (which they have no reason to do unless they want to watch it fall), and this boss enemy who jumps up and down while firing.


You can shoot a bunch of bullets all at once, but run the risk of the evli mna ending up landing on top of them instead of getting shot.


The most reliable form of attack is to actually stand on top of the boss's head, jump, and shoot downward. Any bullet you manage to fire like this will hit. After a handful of shots, the boss dies, and the passage to the next board opens.

Aethar's light glows all the brighter
as you approach the incendent town. The
flickering flames give a red glow to the
night sky ... and you see the Grey Men
riding away from their deed.
You tear off your cloth cap and allow
your fair hair to flow down your back.
The riders near the flames stop and
stare at you in fear as you shriek,
"I am Elanir, the woman sword-wielder,
and I will pursue thee, riders, unto thy
deaths ... every man ... for what you
have done here today! ... "
Aethar feels hot even to the hilt. You
drop it on the ground in pain and sob
quietly as the riders gallop off into
the distance.

MadTom brings things back to seriousness, with this awesome drawing of a swords-woman and a heck of a lot of flickering flames. I have no idea what any of this means, but I'm interested in more of it. This board is the sort of game MadTom would start several of, and finishing very few. It's a shame there's nothing more to it than this board because I would really love to see this go on.


Boonob returns us to wackyland. Alfred the Duck needs to get to Bangladesh! The only way to proceed is to kill all the enemies around the board.


You probably didn't expect the enemies to be kitchen drawers, but that's your own fault. Boonob uses another engine here, this time an RPG battle system that's self contained to each object. I want to say this was first done by Tseng in his Da Hood series, but there could be something earlier than that. These engines typically use a counter to represent an enemy's hit points, but here it's all handled by zapping labels. Every single fight is with the same enemy and has the same attacks, which makes this board drag on too long.


There is some randomness involved, but after a few pecks the drawers will die. Just repeat these seven screenshots four times and you've got this board.


There are a few medkits to pick up to set your health to 100 if you have some particularly nasty luck, but you won't need all of them. Once you've cleared the enemies away, either of the passages can be entered to MadTom's next board, which is neither a diner nor a hardware store.

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