Fred! Episode 1: Space Fred!

Author
myth
Released
Aug. 7, 1995
Genre
Adventure
Size
27.0 KB
Boards
22 / 32
Rating
No rating

Closer Look: Fred! Episode 1: Space Fred!

By: Dr. Dos
Date: Sept. 30, 2019
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Trying my luck in the arboretum again, this time I take notice of the single gem tucked away in a corner that can only be accessed with a transporter. It turns out to be a good call, as the gem is actually an object that gives one thousand points, fifty gems (which have no use), and twenty health.

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Things go much better on the second try. I'm able to ignore plenty of the monsters and leave with a decent amount of health and ammo.

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Fred continues on to the next section of the ship, Hallway Beta. This time the paths are nicely labeled for both the bridge and the brig. As a child I had no idea what either of these words meant in relation to a spaceship. The decor changes again too, with the more circuitry looking background being replaced with just some flashing boulders, which may or may not represent anything in particular.

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Once again Snargon makes an announcement, but he doesn't seem too concerned about Fred, not even knowing his name yet. Well, he is concerned enough to send out mutants.

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I really like the design on the mutants. I mean, it's ZZT objects so there's not a whole lot of design, but previously "alien" has meant omega character, and the intersection character used for set notation here is a bit like you took that omega shape and messed it up a little. They also change colors along with the background which does give a little surreal touch. The mutants themselves aren't all that scary however, shooting bullets randomly and often hitting each other.

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The path splits again, but the brig seems like the obvious choice to not advance things. It features some laser based security with blinkwalls requiring some very tight timing to make it through and towards the cells.

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In ZZT tradition, you can check out all the imprisoned aliens and hear from them for little messages like this.

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Of course, the real purpose of the room is to speak with Fredetta while she's been captured. She gives Fred some info on how to find the key to free her.

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Conveniently, the head guard is in the next room over waiting to attack.

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The fight is simple and straightforward. Fred clears out a few aliens that happen to be close to the room's entrance, and then can start the assault on the head guard. The head guard moves around, shooting mostly in Fred's direction with a few shots in random directions. It's basic, but it really doesn't need to be anything more.

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Each hit on the head guard produces a message similar to the earlier fight with Snargon, where they pretend Fred isn't accomplishing anything, but quickly folding. The head guard also reacts a little more aggressively after a few hits, spitting out a lion or throwing a star to make things slightly more difficult for Fred.

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Again the writing is the best thing about this game with Myth having quite a way with her words.

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I LOVE THIS. I love that she hands you an object that the player probably doesn't know exists, and that she calls somebody a dweeb, and that not only do we get a weird line about disappearing into the mist, but that unlike Fred, she actually pulls it off! She always was weird.

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Not that I knew, but the Orb of Control is needed to complete the game. Heading towards the bridge leads to Gamma Control, where the next battle ensues.

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Mixing Star Wars and Star Trek, the next fight is with "Lt. Centipede Head". Take a guess what they do.

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They move around shooting and throwing the occasional star while Fred has to deal with mutants as well as robots that explode into walls when defeated. If Fred isn't too careful, he can be trapped by the walls.

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After a few hits, Centipede Head quotes The Wizard of Oz before realizing that they're not yet actually defeated and resuming things.

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But he's properly defeated moments later and explodes into the key to the bridge.

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This leads to the game's final board, which disappointingly isn't a final showdown with Snargon, but just a fight with a bunch of aliens while on a time limit. The limit isn't much of anything since getting hit resets the timer and the "re-enter when zapped" options is disabled for the board. The board contains one last fight with a lot of the standard aliens, all positioned to be operating controls on the bridge. In order to leave, Fred needs to save the Earth from destruction.

screen1
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
This is the main control screen.  Being
displayed right now is The Intergalactic
Sears Catalog, on page 20977864, which
displays many intruiging and delightful
ways to destroy the Earth, such as:

Cover the whole thing with Cottage Cheese,
Get a D'inarian Garbleblaster Chompum
  monster to eat the thing
Plant a species of Barney plants, which
  cover the Earth with Barney spores,
  which undoubtedly cover the Earth
  with the most horrid creature in the
  universe, Barney
Fire a Kill-O-Blaster HyperDeathRay at
  Fred's house
and other inventive and destructive ways
to destroy the Earth.

And all this for $19.95? What a deal!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Phew, we almost went through an entire game from the mid-1990s that didn't mention Barney the dinosaur. The catalog reveals several potential plans to destroy the Earth without even paying for the whole product!

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Lastly, in the corner is the control panel to stop it. There are eight choices here, and as far as I can tell, it's just a blind guess. The 40 second time remaining matches the time limit set on the board, but there's no harm in letting the ZZT timer expire, so Fred can take all the time he needs (provided he has the health for time resets).

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This would be where I show you one answer at a time, but a convenient programming error causes you to see several at a time. (Each wrong choice ends with a #endgame command, but that doesn't stop code from executing. So picking the first option results in displaying the messages for the first two wrong choices and the correct "Captain Snargon is a dweeb" shutdown code. Fred becomes a hero and everybody loves him, including Bill Clinton.

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The last few wrong options have their own Earth destruction text as well, with the last one resulting in no game over, but no progress. I'm kind of curious about this bug solely based on there being an old document which incorrectly states that in addition to ending a game, that #endgame also causes objects to jump to the label :endgame. No such thing happens (and there's no :endgame here to jump to anyway. It seems like the command was getting a lot of inaccurate information spread about its behavior, which... is very easily tested?

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Oh, and for the curious, one final incorrect password option that also does nothing.

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With the planet safe, Fred ventures into one final room which exists solely for the credits and delivering the game over.

Thank You!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

You have won
FRED! Episode I!!!

Thank you for playing!!

Credits:

Design:
    Myth

ASCII artwork (isn't it wonderful?)
    Myth

ZZT-OOP programming:
    Myth

Beta Testing:
    Marty Vowles
    Kevin Ogzewalla
    The gang at ZZT Central on AOL

A special thanks to:
    Mom and Dad for not locking up the
    computer while I was programming;

    Marty Vowles for interesting me in
    computers in the first place

    The great guys on AOL that helped me
    through the programming
and
    All of you people that enjoy ZZT.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Final Thoughts

I'm just such a big fan of this game to this day. I played it dozens of times as a child since it's so brief, visually distinct, and I could tell something was up with the strange humor as a kid, even if I didn't quite get it.

Myth had a very solid reputation in the ZZT and MZX communities with the Fred series, winning the first ever 24 Hours of ZZT contest, and just generally producing quality work. She even made a brief return to ZZT in 2014 with International Jetpack Conference.

I think for the vast majority of ZZTers, looking back on their earliest work tends to be a little embarrassing, but honestly this game holds up very well! It's straightforward, but it paints such a fun world. It doesn't try to be the most grand ZZT adventure ever told, but just a goofy little game that shows what young programmers are capable of quite nicely! The bizarre humor feels like it was a decades ahead of its time and it was just such a blast exploring Fred's house and eating the flowers.

The alien ship's design is distinctly ZZT, and the sort of thing you'd never really see in a modern game where you're going to get some ultra-sleek white or chrome futuristic environment, or a gritty brown and gray industrial looking thing. Even ZZT sci-fi would fall into this trap of shiny or gritty, but Myth used the bright palette of ZZT and quirks of blinking colors to make a ship that really does feel alien and weird.

The gameplay is pretty repetitive, and the humor mostly goes away as the ship gets explored, which to be fair makes Fredetta disappearing into the mist absolutely brilliant, but overall Space Fred! is still a treat and an excellent introduction to the strange sort of games ZZT allowed people to produce.

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