[ktl.zip] - Koopo The Lemming

Author
Koopo
Released
March 10, 2000
Genre
Platformer
Company
Interactive Fantasies
Size
89.6 KB
Boards
98 / 117
Rating
No rating

Closer Look: Koopo The Lemming

By: Dr. Dos
Date: July 2, 2019
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Koopo The Lemming

By: Koopo
Published Under: Interactive Fantasies
Released: March 03, 2000
Download | Play Online | View Files

There is both a strange prevalence of Lemmings inspired ZZT games, and me gravitating towards writing about them. The second ever Closer Look article covered Newt's Zem! and Zem! 2, which were about the sort of thing I'd expect from a clone that's aware of the limits of ZZT. The first game of which involved moving a cursor to just place blocks for Zem to climb, and the second offering the ability to issue commands to Zem directly, telling him to burrow, build, and dig as necessary.

Then we took a look at Scooter, the game about a guinea pig that plays pretty similarly to Zem! 2. It had some cute graphics on the title and ending, but other than that, didn't stand out too much. All three of these games suffered being really easy, and feeling very repetitive. Fun games that didn't really stand out, especially from one another.

So, I tossed Koopo The Lemming on the poll to cheat my way into it not winning the first month I added it like the last several poll winners have. Surely, the fourth ZZT Lemmings game would be more of the same and linger on the poll for at least a month.

  1. Y'all did it again and voted for it immediately.
  2. Actually at the time of writing this I'm only like 7 levels and and it's blowing me away.

Koopo, the author of Koopo The Lemming figured out what the others could not, and seems to have created a game that understands a need for variety in level design to keep the player interested. It looks different than the rest, it plays different than the rest, and it brings in unique mechanics in different levels that keep things fresh constantly.

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But before we can get to any of that, we've got a menu to navigate. I quite like the pointing hand you'd see in a Final Fantasy title being adapted so well here. Plus, Koopo's eyes follow it around.

Checkers
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
░▒▓█ Creditz!

░▒▓█ Programming/Graphics

        - Koopo

░▒▓█ Title Screen

        - Hercules

░▒▓█ Ideas

        - Koopo
        - lemmer
        - tseng

░▒▓█ Beta-testing

        - Hercules
        - lemmer
        - tseng
        - Hydra78
        - MeBo
        - Yenrab
        - HM
        - Dragonlord

░▒▓█ Interactive Fantasies, 2000. █▓▒░

░▒▓█ Greetz go out to...

  - Shigesato, for being the bastard
                that he is.
  - Dragonlord
  - tseng
  - lemmer
  - HM
  - Hydra78
  - Zenith
  - Barjesse, for making Nightmare
  - Gerbil, release Scooter
  - And everyone I might have missed
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The game's credits are what you'd expect, lots of testers on this, and I think most if not all of them were members of Interactive Fantasies at the time. Definitely noteworthy is the greeting to Gerbil, who made their own ZZT Lemmings game with the previously seen Scooter. Going by the release dates for these worlds, Scooter beat Koopo by a mere two days! More than likely, they were published to the archive in the same news post. I can't of any other time two authors would independently create games with such similar concepts and finish them so closely to each other. It's very easy to imagine the hypothetical community drama over stealing ideas, but there's no bad blood here. There was room for both games to do their own take on the formula Psygnosis originated with Lemmings.

Cata
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
░▒▓█ Interactive Fantasies Catalog..

░▒▓█ Released ZZT games..

- Asmodeus (Blue Magus)
- Shades (Blue Magus)
- Blind Remix (Blue Magus)
- Bear Hunting + Beer Hunting
- Castle of ZZT (HM)
- CV:827 (Venom)
- Chickenwire 1.2 (Zenith)
- Darkness Falls (Koopo)
- Deep December (Blue Magus)
- Dungeon Master's Gallerly (Blue Magus)
- Forest of ZZT (The Agonizer)
- Freak Da Cat (Hydra78)
- Indiana Jones (Hydra78)
- Jami's Undercity Remix (Blue Magus)
- Journey to the Center of Nowhere
- King's Quest ZZT (Hydra78, MeBo)
- Magic land Dizzy (Zenith)
- Pingball (Ethan Hunt)
- PAC (Hercules)
- Red Light Zone (Hercules, Hydra78)
- Quest for Glory (Hydra78, MeBo)
- Rocket Xnight 1 (Koopo)
- Savage Isle (Hercules)
- The Life of a Scotter (Herc/Hydra78)
- Welcome to Hell (tseng)
- ZZT Arcades 1 (Koopo)

░▒▓█ Released MZX Games

- The Endless Journey: Ethan's Test
                      (The Almighty Cow.)

░▒▓█ Released Super ZZT Games

- Fantasy of Freedom (Hydra78)
- The Incredible Building (Hydra78)
- The Search for the Lost Dog (Hercules)

░▒▓█ Other stuff

- ADBI Demo (Hercules)
- An Ewok's Life Demo 2.0 (Herc/EvilMario
- Brotherhood Demo 0.0198 (Herc/Agonizer)
- Despayre 4 by 3 engine (Fejj)
- ERR Z3 preview (Blue Magus)
- Fireball Engine (Hercules)
- FFB demo (Venom)
- IF Birthday World (All of IF)
- IF Logo Animation (Venom)
- JP ZZT demo (HM)
- Mega Color Box (Xabbott)
- Mosaic (Venom)
- Project g (Yllek)
- Random Battle Engine (Yllek)
- Snack 4 (Venom)
- Super ZZT Tools (HM)
- ZZT Pal Plus (Lord of Chaos)
- And of course, all IF mags!

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The catalog is just a straight up list of IF releases at the time. I say this every time, but I'm surprised that IF was the only company smart enough to include this. It gives anybody who plays this game and enjoys it a jumping off point to not only other Koopo releases, but people who Koopo associated with.

story
Interaction
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
@Story
  You are Koopo, Koopo the Lemming. You
were part of a cheery little race called
the lemmings. They were little creatures
with no sense of salvation. You were
blessed with an increased intelligence so
therefore you became the leader of the
lemmings.

  Anyway, One dark night the great lemm-
ing shaman foretold of a great disaster.

Shaman: One day, We shall be released
from our isolated little town into the
world.. The world will be filled with
evil. And so forth and so forth, Don't
you have to go to bed, Little ones.

Little ones: No.

Shaman: Darn.

As predicted, their little isolated town
was found by the evil profesors. One
Lemming was taken secretly and was whisked
off for study.. Unfortunately the Evil
Lemming eaters were also found. They
decided that humans tasted better than
lemmings and they went to explore the
world.

Koopo: Ughh.... What the heck? I'm inside
some sort of lab.

(Distant Screams.)

Koopo: This doesn't sound good.

And so you got up and went to see what
was the trouble...
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

And lastly, we have the game's story and a little drawing of our lemming protagonist. It's not really important, and it's the same "gotta reunite with the others" story these games all seem to have.

screen9

Borrowing from the Psygnosis original, each level of Koopo opens with an explanation of the upcoming stage, its name, difficulty, time limit, goal, and sometimes some tips on how to complete it. There's also a gag of "Lemmings" and "Lemmings needed to be saved", which are always one.

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So this is what we're dealing with for the game's structure. It takes an approach to controls that differs from the other Lemmings-worlds out there, giving Koopo a dedicated jump button, a dedicated stop button, and buttons to use whatever tool he currently has. Unlike Zem! 2 and Scooter, Koopo doesn't have a fixed set of abilities, and they'll change as he progresses through the game.

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Before the player can get situated, it's revealed that Koopo has been shrunk. I have no idea how tall he's supposed to be. It's also not much of a plot twist with how little story there's been so far.

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And so Koopo begins his journey. There's a few things that stand out immediately: Firstly, the graphics are much nicer than than the other games. Koopo fares significantly better at making its levels feel like natural locations and not constructed puzzles. Secondly, the player is surrounded. This makes a tough game even more of a challenge since the player can't save in the middle of a level as they'll be unable to unpause on loading if they can't move. Anyway, Koopo does what lemmings stereotypically do and marches to the right at a fast speed, happily plunging off the very first cliff if the player doesn't do anything (and with no frame of reference for how Koopo moves, it's not that difficult to do so.)

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Like Scooter, Koopo can jump, and it's a massive leap with a lot of horizontal and vertical movement. It's very common to need to jump earlier than expected in order to not overshoot ledges.

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But what gets my attention the most in the first level, is the dynamic stage element. In this case, hitting these spinning red objects will launch Koopo straight up. The other games are very rigid in their design, with little more in the way of things to interact with than things that would kill Zem/Scooter immediately.

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Koopo lands, and continues on to the pencil, finishing the level and opening the goal.

l2
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Level 2 ends up being even easier than the first, requiring just one jump to be made, but the player needs to do so quickly. or else they'll plummet into the "FRY O MATIC 20000".

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Which rules. This game has personality to it. There's also this strange flickering object in the corner which led me to believe it might be possible to jump twice, turn around on the books, (Prescription drugs and "Koopo The Lemming"), and land it on for a bonus or secret level or something, but it does nothing other than animate? It's strange. Last second update: It actually is an unfinished object that's meant to take the player to a secret level! This board has another board connected to it that explains the bonus level. The bonus level lets Koopo talk to another one of Koopo's characters, "Rocket Xknight" (so perhaps the RX book isn't related to medicine), and take one of three passages for warps to later levels.

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The third stage serves to introduce the player to Koopo's other innate ability, temporarily halting movement. In order to not overshoot his jumps, hitting the down arrow will cause Koopo to pause momentarily. By mashing it, you can make him move forward one step at a time, which makes it much easier to time multiple jumps in a row, but something about the game's controls feels unresponsive. It never really feels like pressing a button will make Koopo do what you tell him, and much of the game is played with fingers crossed, hoping he gets the signal. The code itself looks sound, so I'm not sure where the random latency is coming from exactly.

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Timing jumps is crucial, as even hitting these bouncers at the very last possible tile will result in Koopo's deflected angle causing him to still plummet into the pit.

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The gray platform turns out to be a teleporter, and creates a new Koopo object above. With an engine robust enough to support this, and difficult to cause numerous deaths on every level, I think using a duplicator to let Koopo "respawn" would've done wonders. However, later levels introduce things that would be significantly more difficult to reset the state of the board, so I suppose there's good reason the game doesn't let you respawn.

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Attempting to jump over the acid failed, and I wasn't sure how to proceed, but it turns out that hitting the acid from the side will just make Koopo turn around, where he can then bounce against that hanging spring and launch himself to the other side. All it would take would be placing a wall there and I'd have believed that was the way to do it instead of Koopo just here deciding to turn around from danger.

l4
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Again there's some cute art. The faux-3D style the game has (and sadly abandons) is something that's difficult to do decent art for, but Koopo can make an otherwise boring looking level a bit more notable. The challenge for this level is a gun that fires a line of bullets, which in ZZT terms represents a makeshift platform that Koopo the lemming needs to ride on.

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The full platform is large enough that the timing is forgiving if Koopo misses his opportunity at the start. It's fortunate that you don't need to let Koopo bounce back and forth waiting for his jump to line up with the bullets. After that it's just a few jumps and a casual stroll to the finish line.

l5

And now things get interesting. So far, Koopo The Lemming, has been a sparse Lemmings-like. There's clearly more to it with the still unused tool buttons, and while it's offered variety in stage elements which already make it feel like its own game rather than another Zem! or Scooter, really it's just been an endless runner. Suddenly things feel like they're going to escalate. Lemming eaters? Knocking out teeth? You can't get to this board and not immediately be curious for what's coming up.

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And what's coming up is a boss fight!

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Just like that, I'm immediately sold on this game. The others have nothing that compares to this and we're only on the fifth level. The giant (well, compared to a shrunken Koopo) lemming eater uses the rods they hold to electrify the chain across the center of the screen. If Koopo touches it while its charged, he'll be launched vertically and lose health.

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Koopo needs to avoid charged chains by timing jumps or halting before walking across them. Then to mount his own attack he needs to jump onto the rods and smash into the lemming eater's teeth.

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Though I do love the idea here, and believe me, it's absolutely wow-ing nearly 20 years later, this fight is ultimately way too difficult. The bottom teeth are easy to hit, just jumping from below when it's safe to be on the chain, but getting the angle of the jump correct to land on the top teeth is extremely finicky. There are invisible walls along the top which limit your jump height. Going back to it after completing the game, the trick is in recognizing that "Halt" will cancel Koopo's jump, but I remain unsure if this is a deliberate feature or just a quirk of the code.

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After more tries than I'd care to admit, the lemming eater goes down.

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Frame this board.

Story
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
  And so Koopo defeated the evil Ghost
Lemming Eater, only to find that his small
size seems to be permanent.

  Koopo walks over to where the Lemming
Eater was, and finds a mysterious bag...
A bag full of bricks...

  "Hrm.. What is this?"

  Koopo fingers over the bag, then a
skeleton drops out of it!

  "...Poor guy. Probably a builder... damn
those lemming eaters. Ah well. Prolly
won't need his endless sack of bricks
then."

  Koopo drapes the bag over his shoulder
and proceeds onward...

  Towards a Metal Structure labeled..

"Shrink Machine"
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The grisly skeleton isn't the lemming eater, but one of the lemming eater's previous victims. This is yet another way in which Koopo's game distinguishes itself, by including these short scenes that give the game some basic story, compared to Zem!'s abstract levels and Scooter's only real sense of progression coming from the scenery changing.

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With the loot from his deceased brethren, Koopo gets a new toy with bricks. But first I want to check out these trampolines.

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Update: They are not trampolines, they are a high-voltage electrical current. Touching one causes Koopo to be launched up, first diagonally and then entirely horizontally for a considerable distance. Clearly this is a problem that can be solved with bricks.

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But not like this, but even in this failed state we can learn a lot about what makes Koopo's programming in this game so smart (when it's responding). Both Zem! 2 and Scooter had a build command, and both of them had the same issue where you would build at a 45-degree angle, requiring any large staircases to be pin-point accurate in order to actually lead where they needed to. Meanwhile in Koopo, Koopo gives Koopo a much smarter system. By building using #put e boulder twice, and then changing the boulders to breakable walls, he creates a much more gentle slope, letting Koopo cover horizontal distances much more easily. Plus, you can interrupt the brick laying (which will place four bricks if not interrupted) via issuing another brick command allowing the more common 45-degree slope to be constructed instead.

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Speaking of good programming, note the left stairs that build on top of the electrified wiring. ZZT can't tell what is blocking an object, and in most games this would instead cause an endless loop of Koopo being shocked to death regardless of where he actually is. Though Koopo hasn't solved the problem, he did include a case to mitigate it. Since Koopo is knocked away when shocked, the electricity waits a moment and checks if it's still blocked. If it is, it must not be Koopo and the object instead switches to a loop where it makes itself harmless. So Koopo will still be shocked once, but it won't result in having to restart the level.

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Things get a little weird here, not in terms of the level or its mechanics, but in the object at the top. Someone is suspended from the ceiling and swings about wildly, clearly in a panic as they animate between the two smiley characters. It's actually one of the most unnerving things I've seen in a ZZT game!

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This level sucks because Koopo's weird latency for just when you can actually deliver an input makes it difficult to not just walk right off the cliff onto the electricity which in this case does result in a game over as Koopo keeps getting launched against the left wall before landing on more electricity and bouncing into the corner again.

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Once the jump is made however, there's nothing else to it.

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Level 8's climb shows off Koopo's superior construction skills compared to his competitors in this genre of ZZT world. Not only can the angle be adjusted, but since the build command also includes a direction, it allows Koopo to change direction by building the other way.

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Realizing that bricks can be used to steer Koopo in a way not usually possible results in some interesting construction as I try to get through the level. The tight final climb makes it take a few attempts.

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Eventually I get through with this mess, after more than a few instances of trapping Koopo in a corner.

l9
l9b
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Before anything else, the level begins with another suspended person on the ceiling, only this time they're immediately yanked upward, screaming. WHY IS THIS GAME SCARY

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Although nearly every level has had a time limit, this one is a bit more frantic as after set amounts of time the small crevices will begin oozing slime which rapidly spreads. Koopo needs to build his stairs fast enough to keep ahead of it, and while you can in some cases use stairs to cut it off, the time spent doing so is counting against how long until the next slime releases.

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This level demands you get your timing down.

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Success also requires that you remember your jump button, it'll cover more ground than building, provided there's somewhere to land.

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THIS IS A VIOLENT GAME

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