Ned the Knight
Featured Game: Ned the Knight
By: Zenith Nadir
Although the game is set with a definite level layout (ie. complete a certain task to move onto another, repeat as necessary), its geography is all interlinking and backwardly accessible- that is, the castle leads out to the town, outside the town is the forest, the forest leads to a cave through which there is a beach and arena, and so on. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and I'm giving away things you probably should discover on your own so I'll speak of specifics. The graphics in this game are a treat- they're simple but bold and atmospheric, and give a definite cartoony feel to the game, although the first few boards feel somewhat basic. Wherever you are, be it a town, a forest or mountains, you really do feel convinced by the graphics- they have a unique charm unmatched in any ZZT game before or since (except maybe *p0p*). Special mention must go to the big bosses you'll encounter- although ZZT's limitations stop them from moving around, they are all animated in such a way you feel they're somehow more than a couple of objects tied to solids and a few invisible walls throwing stars at you. Extra special mention goes to Zlabfrinz the Goober King, the last boss in the game and an amazing piece of programming.
Speaking of whom, the one negative point I have regarding this game is that final puzzle where you have to beat the goobers in a certain order. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. Well, no, I managed it once, but that was a long, long time ago. And that board gives you a runtime error! Other than that mishap, the gameplay is diverse and engaging- mostly it involves shooting arrows or hitting stuff with your sword, or beating memory puzzles and finding secrets and items/advice needed to continue onwards. All very simple, usual RPG kinda things, but again, done in an entertaining, well-humoured manner.
The music in this game is noteworthy, too. As well as incidental music, when each board is first visited a little bit of background music will play as way of introduction. This is probably the nearest ZZT will ever get to background music, and it's strangely effective. The actual music is pretty listenable, so I'd keep your speaker sound on for this one. Although the theme for the Snake family gets really, really annoying after the fifth time.
In conclusion; Ned the Knight is for super dudes, I can't really do it justice in words. And if you're interested, there's a sequel, Bernard the Bard, in MegaZeux! Which is worth playing if only for the inclusion of Ned flexing his muscles and looking all vikingy.