[forests1.zip] - The Forests Will Echo With Laughter (1994-02-13)

Author
Leonard Richardson
Released
Feb. 13, 1994
Genre
Adventure
Company
Hareware Productions
Size
29.8 KB
Boards
15 / 15
Rating
No rating

Closer Look: The Forests Will Echo With Laughter

By: Dr. Dos
Date: April 20, 2019
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title

The Forests Will Echo With Laughter (1994-02-13)

By: Leonard Richardson
Published Under: Hareware Productions
Released: February 02, 1994
Download | Play Online | View Files

It looks like the allure of this game's summary couldn't be resisted. Winning its poll just as quickly as it was added, The Forests Will Echo With Laughter instantly grabbed attention thanks to its plot of finding a kidnapped Tim Sweeney, mayor of the City of ZZT.

I'm glad it did win though! This was definitely a title I played as a child upon learning of it, and I think I can appreciate it more now, since it's loaded with talks of BBSes which I knew nothing about back then. This is a straightforward adventure with some very 90s BBS sysop humor. The game's author, Leonard Richardson, was the operator of "Da Warren BBS" out of California, and the BBS seems to have been a reasonable success. Lots of old ZZT worlds will have text files indicating they came from there, and a lot of ZZT's early legacy seems to owe a lot to Da Warren.

NOTE: This game has been published for the sole purpose of getting people to call Da Warren BBS at (***) ***-****. Anyone who wishes to show respect to a certain programmer should not touch this game with a ten-foot pole.

Calling the game an ad for the BBS would be overdoing it, but it certainly feels almost sponsored at times.

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Forests opens up with a nice ZZT house. It's got lots of furniture to interact with, which is actually quite necessary to make any progress in the game. The game is rather front loaded, with the opening few boards to explore having the bulk of the objects to interact with and get a lot of very 90s jokes from, before heading to the forest which takes on a more classical ZZT style adventure format.
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Specifically, it begins with the player in bed and next to a brief introductory scroll. You take on the role of Jean-Pierre Arcson, a private detective (who works at the police department) and whose day begins with a phone call. Sure enough, the phone in the bedroom is ringing, playing some sound effects and alternating between parenthesis characters as its representation.

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Richardson gets right to it, immediately giving you the necessary plot: Tim Sweeney has been kidnapped. It's up to you to rescue him. The call stresses to head right to the police station, but there's a lot to explore before actually getting there.

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Throughout the home are windows which all show this message. Has anybody ever done anything on this sort of humor? The sort of rejection of anything "cutesy"? It seems really prominent of the era, and 90s online culture in general.

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This is embarrassingly relatable. Uh, the clothes in the dryer part, not the bullets in the dresser.

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The computer is the first opportunity for the author's personality to really get to shine. Firstly, Jean-Pierre can call the author's BBS, which is featured pretty prominently throughout the game. Secondly, is that he absolutely loves making "of ZZT" jokes. Count em all!

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All of the options give the same response (excluding the part about Da Warren if you're not dialing into the BBS.)

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There's a lot to check up on throughout the house, but little of purpose. Though Jean-Pierre does need to find some clean clothes to be able to go outside later. The laundry basket does actually slide across the room until it hits a wall, which offers some interactivity. It's definitely more fun than it should be.

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The lamp in the living room is pretty great, changing between white and yellow depending on whether it's on or not.

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The living room also includes a TV and the "Couch of ZZT". That's two "of ZZTs" so far.

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The kitchen offers up something a little different: An animated ceiling fan! I honestly don't think I've ever seen one in ZZT since there's no way the player can walk underneath it. I got a laugh out of how Richardson managed to justify it being treated as a wall to the player. The rest of the kitchen is less interesting, no jokes or comments, just an empty fridge suggesting ordering a pizza for food, and a plain old gas stove.

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Now for the most important room in a ZZT home: the bathroom. Richardson opts for an unusual choice of using two characters to depict the john, and is willing to admit it. It's weirding me out how well OD works for a toilet with either character as the bowl or tank.

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A dirty towel can be picked up, which doesn't do anything other than add one more instance of interactivity to the house. Also missing from my screenshots is the sink, which has a few gems in it. These are vital to LEAVING THE HOUSE ALIVE.

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Detective Jean-Pierre cares not for hygiene. I've seen so many ZZT toilets that let you use them, but I can't think of any where the player's ever actually given the chance to bathe. Fortunately, I took to Twitter with this observation and eventually remembered Jami's Undercity which opens with the protagonist in the shower. Completely unrelated: There are some empties with stats in the bathroom which mean the player will sometimes unexpectedly move two spaces with one key press. It's quite strange for them to be there, but it'll become clear why they were placed accidentally shortly.

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Anyway, enough time has been wasted picking up towels and avoiding ceiling fans. It's time to head to the station and get cracking on this case.

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Yes. And The Forests Will Echo With Laughter is absolutely one of those games. Step one: Find enough money to not be killed upon exiting Jean's home despite not having ordered a pizza.

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This involves finding various gems hidden throughout the house. The sink revealed some, and heading back into the house, I walked behind the couch where I found a few more. Then I noticed there's obviously a secret room in the middle of the building.

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Weirdly, there's this message after revealing the hidden room, which contains a few more empties with stats (formerly breakables with stats), which cause the player to move extra steps in a single cycle when walked on. It's rather strange to use these at all, and it's done here just as an odd moment that happens.

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The hidden room not only contains the last of the gems, but a torch and some ammo as well, giving the player some supplies, though more are provided along the way.

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Now Jean-Pierre can devour his pizza and live another day.

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And lastly, before heading to town, is the poor dead vegetable garden.

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The city of ZZT here is quite tiny! Four buildings, and half of them are decorative and can't be entered. The apartments and forest text bring our total "of ZZTs" to four.

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Putting off going to the police department once more, I checked out the other buildings. This one here is Tim Sweeney's home. The path to the south is a dead-end, with "nothing interesting over there". Unlike the one random path in Stupid RPG, this one will forever be a dead-end and is totally superfluous. Visually, the extra road breaks up the board and makes it look a little nicer, but there's no need to let the player wander all the way to the edge to tell them they wasted their time.

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The obvious place to head next is to the store. If you thought you were getting 90s Internet humor in the house, this is where Richardson really lays it on thick. The store has very little to actually purchase, health, ammo, torches, and slurpees (for health); but it is loaded with parodies and jokes for all sorts of drinks, junk food, magazines, and random knick-knacks on the shelves.

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When the player enters, an object runs up to them and follows them around the whole time, pushing them away and being rather annoying. Hadif is a literal pushy salesman. He's also a part of an all too long running stereotype of the people who run convenience stores. I didn't notice the line about large ears. I'm guess this is supposed to be a Star Trek joke implying he's a Ferengi.

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Firstly there's a typo with the 100 ammo option which only costs 40 gems, and not a completely unobtainable 405. But for some reason I chose to take it as a joke option and wound up buying any ammo purchased 10 shots at a time.

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The pricing of torches and health are more sensible and typo free. They offer several quantities, and a better deal if you're willing to pay for more.

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It's 1994 and we are absolutely getting jokes about Spam. Don't try it though, as it's lethal and results in a game over. The other flavors each give a small amount of health, with the flavor of the day being "Soap scum".

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Hadif's constant moving of the player can lead to frustrating moments where Jean-Pierre winds up pinned in a corner. Fortunately, Hadif's movement is a little more varied than always trying to move towards the player, so you'll get a chance to wiggle out of it eventually.

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The supplies are useful, but Richardson isn't going to miss out of the chance to make a ton of jokes. There's a magazine rack, random items for sale on the shelves, drinks, and junk food. Every tile's got something to say. The magazine rack is a bit meta, with the magazines talking not only about how Jean-Pierre should go to the police station, but also a review for the game itself which Jean-Pierre is disappointed to find there aren't any hints in the review.

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Playbeing is an extremely good title though, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised it's from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

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There's just massive amounts of reading material here, and none of it matters to the game. It's all just endless jokes and plugs for Da Warren BBS.

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I am however, very intrigued by this article. I've never heard of anything like this, didn't get online until the heyday of the BBS was done, and as a child always dreamed of some form of online ZZT. I do feel like something like this actually existing would have been a huge deal and not some obscure thing lost to the ages. There are plenty of older ZZT games out there sourced from Da Warren, so I can't imagine there'd just be nothing about it anywhere.

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So this "Hareware" term that's being thrown about is elaborated on a little bit as well.

Magazines
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
BBS Reviews
By John Rectum
Next Month
Bill's Database Junction
This Month
Da Warren BBS & Grill
(***) ***-****

Sysop: Leonard Richardson
Location: Arvin, CA
Telephone Number: ***-***-****
BBS Software: Wildcat! 3.55S
Modem Type: Accex 14.4
Motto: "We are the silliest BBS in the
      world!"

It's hard to imagine this incredibly fun
and silly BBS running so near Bakersfield,
a city known as the most boring place on
the face of the planet. Sysop Leonard
Richardson explains, "That's exactly the
reason I started this BBS. I had nothing
at all to do and I figured that the local
BBS callers didn't have much to do either,
so I did the only thing that would keep us
busy."
This strategy seems to work, since Da
Warren is quickly becoming the fastest
growing BBS in the area. Leonard and his
trusty co-sysop, Andy Schile, roam BBSes
around the country night and day, in
search of a tidbit to make Da Warren
better.
"We're pretty much everything that's
great about BBSing, all lumped together in
one BBS," says Andy.
And it shows. With the most customized
Wildcat prompt file I've ever seen, and
welcome screens that Leonard assured me
are changed regularly, Da Warren always
keeps you on your toes.
The file areas are no different. I was
astounded at the sheer number of rare
files in Da Warren's file base. From the
complete lyrics to the Rocky Horror
Picture Show to games like Bunny Blast,
Apples and Oranges, and Construction Bob
in the Bounce Factory, to the huge base of
ZZT game worlds, it was a veritable
treasure trove. Da Warren also features a
huge base of Star Trek files, including
over 20 original parodies and "the world's
first Star Trek typing tutor."
As for doors, Da Warren has over 40
doors, from such classics as Tradewars
2002 and The Pit, to rare finds like
Cripple Smash, Evangelist Wars, and
Netrunner, more are being added all the
time.
I haven't even begun to touch on all the
strangeness and fun avaliable just a phone
call away. Give Da Warren a call and check
it out for yourself.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Thankfully Richardson reviewed his BBS so we can actually learn a good deal about it and its history! Games, Star Trek parodies, ZZT worlds, and even Bunny Blast!

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There's really just so much junk here and none of the jokes are particularly funny. If you really want to see all of them, it's probably best to just go through the board in the file viewer.

forests_1

With the store as explored as it's going to be, it's time to finally let this game get moving, with the police station, which of course opens up with a parody of Dragnet

It even plays the music!
forests_4

Jean is given free reign of the station, and while there's still some time wasters here, it's significantly faster to get through than his home or the shop. It was refreshing to not have a board where I was being shot in the head or shoved into corners, but could just be safe in.

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I didn't quite understand what I was looking at with the police chief here and these two brown objects, but it's actually a rather clever depiction of the chief sitting behind his desk! Jean-Pierre has his own desk in the other office in the opposite corner which has the gap in it despite nobody sitting at it, and the effect doesn't quite work as well when it's unoccupied.

Chief
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Hey, Chief, what's new?
"Tim Sweeney's been kidnapped, that's
what! You're his last hope!"
What about all the Squad Cars of ZZT?
"You can't drive in the Forest in a
squad car!"
Why are you looking through the forest
for Tim Sweeney?
The Chief rummages through his desk and
pulls out a piece of paper.
"It's Tim's handwriting; it says, `And
the forests will echo with laughter!' He
must have written it just before he was
kidnapped!"
Very incriminating evidence Chief, but
how do you know he's in the forest?
"Because it's a clue! That's what clues
do!"
Gee you're smart Chief.
"Here's 150 gems from your expense
account for supplies. Go to the Qwik-Mart
and then into the forest."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Finally moving the story along, the chief reveals what they know. Tim Sweeney is suspected to be in the forest due to a note in his handwriting which quotes Stairway To Heaven the advice given in Town of ZZT by the shopkeeper. He also gives a good amount of gems so the player can buy stuff at the Qwik-Mart. Forests suffers from the way the town board is laid out, making it likely that players will enter the first passage to the store before going to the station like I did. Flip the buildings around and things would flow more smoothly.

Oh yeah, and then the theme from Get Smart plays!

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This watercooler design is fantastic. Props to Richardson's unique designs for it and the desks. They do a fantastic job of conveying what they're supposed to.

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As tends to be the case in (especially early) ZZT games, the jail is well populated and you can read or talk to the prisoners to learn about their misdeeds.

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Most notably here is Leonard Richardson himself! Plenty of ZZT worlds have self-inserts of the author, but this is the first time I can think of seeing the author as a joke.

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Then we get some more Star Trek: The Next Generation references.

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No clue on this one.

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This one I like, firstly because of the extremely good "Manslider" pun, but also because even in a game from 1994, everybody hated slider puzzles.

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I got nothing here.

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Outside of the small jail, there are some parked squad cars that won't be necessary. The swerve joke sounds really familiar, and it looks like it's been used elsewhere, but I can't find an obvious source on it.

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Jean-Pierre's office being basically empty is admittedly a little disappointing in a game that's otherwise just been so full of stuff. I'd have loved some filing cabinets filled with case files to read through.

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Instead, there's an empty filing cabinet and a generic desk. Not a single joke! Still, this has been a very very drawn out start, and perhaps Richardson also wanted to just get on with it already. Forests is a very short game that feels so much longer because of all these early gags. We're already through more than half the screenshots I took for the playthrough.

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