Scarlet, Green

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16 / 37
2.25 / 5.00

Closer Look: Scarlet Green

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Oct. 31, 2019

A secret biological weapon has been set loose and only... the jerk who was well aware of it can save the day

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Without a time limit on his life, Dr. Stein can enter the rather nice looking president's office. This is definitely one of the nicer looking boards and the choice of colors is far less garish than Stein's own home.

The desk layout is also really good. I adore the knobs on the desk drawers.


Oh yeah, I forgot this game had action sequences.


I'm putting off examining the obvious and most important thing in the room, another person, to check out some of the other stuff first lest I advance the plot and miss my chance. Despite Scarlet, Green already having used ZZT keys before, this blue one is actually a magnifying glass to pick up.

It's a reasonable choice of character to use for one, and misreading it as a key is harmless, but I think going with a dark gray would've better indicated it wasn't actually a key. (You can have dark keys and they do work correctly, but dark gray is considered a black key which causes a garbled message and messes with your gem count when collected and generally doesn't get used.)


Honestly, I was just glad the president wasn't a zombie. I don't know how "realistic" this game's plague is, but just slowly killing you gives the game a more grounded feel than a living dead situation.


Though if this was a zombie game, I suspect the president would dump some plot exposition before dying/becoming a zombie. Instead, Dr. Stein just picks up a grown man and prepares to carry him out of the building.


There's still the president's desk to get that lore from at least. The drawers are unfortunately empty. (A shame, since they look so cool that I really wanted to interact with them!)


Fortunately, survival horror tropes pull through and there's a file to read with incriminating information. The true clients of Baille Labs are revealed. Thanks to the game's name, you can probably guess the important one here.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Jackpot! You've found a laptop with
internet access! Now you can do some real
detective work.

You look up the Order of the Scarlet Band
and find that they have set up a website!

The Scarlet Bands appear to be alchemists,
a profession thought dead long ago (for
good reason). Apparently they see the
scientists of Baille Labs as "charlatans"
. On one portion of the page you see a
complete dismissal of scientific method.

This is rather odd, indeed. Would a hatred
of modern science be enough of a motive
for them to cause the destruction of
Baille Labs? They apparently do seek to
bring about a new "alchemical age",
and are willing do take whatever action
is necessary. What a bunch of nuts.

The Scarlet Bands clearly commissioned
the labs to create various biological
weapons, then somehow released them.
How? You seem to have replaced one
mystery with another.

Suddenly, a figure emerges from behind
the bookcase! The robed man says,
"You may have divined our plans, but
you shall not live to tell the world of
them! Prepare to die!"
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

With a name to G‍o‍o‍g‍l‍e, things come together quickly. The Order of the Scarlet Band commissioned the bio-weapon from their own enemy to wreak havoc, and they didn't even have to take it from the lab to do so.

Now it's time to fight an alchemist to the death.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Band: Hold it... What's my
motivation here? How should I play this?
Should I act calm or fanatical or what?

A hollow voice booms:
Just fight the player, you moron.

Band: I am not an object. I am an ACTOR!

A hollow voice replies:
As a matter of fact, you are an object,
and if you don't stop whining, I'll turn
you into a brick wall!

Band: You can't do that!

The hollow voice booms:

Band: Okay! Okay! Where was I? Oh, yeah:
"Prepare to die!"

Band: "Nothing personal, man. It's just
my job..."

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

I can't begin to express how bizarre it is to see Wells of all people doing the cliché "argue with the author" shtick. Everyone starts somewhere I suppose.

The yelling of "lock/unlock" is a new one though. I've never seen these ZZT arguments invoke commands, and means that there's good reason the player doesn't just shoot at the object during all this.


The contrast between the object and the floor is terrible, but since it's the only thing moving it doesn't cause problems with the fight. It's the usual move and shoot randomly fight and isn't meant to be some great obstacle. The toughest part is that on a successful hit a star gets thrown which greatly slows down the player's offense as it blocks bullets and forces them to run away.


After killing a man for hopefully the first time, Dr. Stein plays it cool and loots the body, picking up another key, and also an arm band used to identify members of the Scarlet Band. So now we've got our Scarlet, and our Green.

And now that the assassination attempts are over and done with, it's time to get back to checking the room for clues.


The obvious clue as to what happened in this room in particular is a syringe that appears to have been filled with Scarlet plague. No doubt injected into the president here.


And at the front of the desk, a cute joke. That's all for the office, but it was a pretty productive trip. Dr. Stein knows who did it and why.

And knowing that it's an active act of sabotage, he needs to stop things from escalating further. The key to the next hallway opens up new areas to explore and figure out how to go about doing that.


Entering the next hallway, the player is told of their new goal to contain and destroy the infected rats and distribute antidote to survivors.


This new location doesn't look all that different from the previous hall, but it does end. There's not a whole lot of things left to do actually.

Firstly, is getting past these Scarlets.


Since the assassin from earlier dropped both the key and band simultaneously, this is a non-puzzle, solved by just walking in. There's got to be a lot of these guys running around if none of them are the least bit suspicious about this person they've never seen before acting like a member.


Four new locations to explore, but the custodian's office is blocked off by both a locked door and another member of the Scarlets. I opted to go with the security office first.


It's much more colorful, and carpeted. I honestly thought this was outside at first.

More importantly, there's a survivor! And giant ants! And a big hole in the building! It's a good thing the plague isn't airborne or this would be a pretty bad breach. Heck, it still might be if any of those mutant ants climbed out.

Whoops, sorry, I wrote that forgetting that the plague is in fact airborne. Bad news for humanity.


There's plenty of debris on the ground, but most importantly a lot of bombs.


The code's structure causes a message to pop-up rather than one on the bottom when the queen is bombed, which is a little annoying. It's also rather awkward to use bombs in this room because of the fake walls used as carpet. Bombs won't draw an explosion over fakes so when the bomb goes off, there's no visible explosion.


A single piece of explosion is visible here in front of the passage out.

With the queen out of commission, the room becomes safe to explore and Dr. Stein can work on his rescue mission. Starting by checking out a turned over trash can.


It's a credit card! Can you guess what this will be used for?


The only thing connecting the trapped employee to the rest of the security office as too tiny hole dug by some of the rats.


The only other item of interest is some damaged wiring that the animals have been chewing on. The door with some ammo and health behind it requires a yellow key, and the debris can't be moved by hand to get to the trapped victim. It's time to head to the second lab.


As soon as the player enters the board, they're warning that a protective suit is needed to enter the lab proper. If you thought this might be an obstacle to overcome, you'd be wrong. A suit is immediately available to put on. It's even in the way so you can't walk in without it and get yourself killed. Though, admittedly, that's probably a good thing.


Another airlock keep the creatures inside from getting out, and also gives them a chance to pile up at the door in their endless attempts to move towards the player whenever possible.


They're dispatched with a few bullets. Oddly, it's not stated what kind of animals they are. The "æ" objects may look like enemies, but they're just harmless... uh rat's nests. I don't think they're meant to be harmless seeing as they all have code saying #bind ratsnest, but no such object exists so they don't do anything.


The blue bottle on the ground is an empty bottle of water. A red herring towards a puzzle that was solved 10 minutes ago?


Now we're solving puzzles. We're gonna make some TNT.


The storage room is empty save for a roll of duct tape which Dr. Stein promptly snags.


This one is probably my favorite joke. Broken glass being treated as the danger rather than the exposure to a biological weapon.


This explains what the broken wires are all about.


And this is obviously going to be used to make a stick of TNT?


And this... I've got no idea. Lab 2 is done for now, which leaves us with the basement.


The building is doing pretty good for being infested with mutant animals spreading a deadly plague and having had multiple grenades explode within it.


I had to look back to remember where I got my torches. This is the sort of game that should involve picking up a flashlight of some sort, but it was back in Dr. Leber's office where they were presented as just torches on the ground to collect with no explanation given.


For now the spider web is a barrier preventing exploring the rest of the basement, but Dr. Stein can pick up a fuse for his T.N.T. project.


I figured I should find out what this guy's deal was as well, but like the other member of the Scarlet order, he just gladly stepped aside. Him being here is apparently in case the player opts to take the violent approach and shoots at the guards which causes them to raise an alarm and begin attacking.

Still no red key though, so it's time to backtrack.


Back in the security office, a little bit of tape is enough to repair the wiring.


Which powers the mixer back in the second lab, allowing the explosive to be created.


And properly contained in stick form.


Which gets put in the hole and lit thanks to a sunny day and a magnifying glass.


The explosion is quite small and there's no need for the player to take cover, or you know, alert the person trapped that there's about to be an explosion.


Phew. I was worried that this game wasn't going to abide by the concept of Checkov's desk drawer knobs. That red key will get Dr. Stein into the last room, the ever important custodian's office.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Chief: Thanks. We've got to do something
about the rats. I have an idea: We could
flood the vents with a pesticide. It
should do little harm to us, but will
kill the rats in a matter of minutes.
The pesticide is kept in the custodian's
office. The key to the custodian's office
is in my desk. My desk is jammed, and
the latch is bulletproof. Maybe you could
flip it with something...

Once you have the pesticide, go into
the vent room in the basement and release
it into the building. After that, play
it by ear and try to get us out of this
mess with the Order of the Scarlet Band.

Oh, wait... Here's the key to my supply
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Damn. It sucks this the chief of security got trapped because they instantly provide a solid plan for preventing the plague from becoming an epidemic.

This plan to use pesticide that will be too much for the rats but easily handled by humans is especially notable for the shared plot point with Evil Sorcerers' Party where a later chapter involves stopping a plot to use a ventilation system in a hotel to infect its occupants with a virus to neutralize the vaccination that prevents them from being hypnotized. (I swear it's a really good game and actually that chapter is my favorite one no matter how outlandish that summary sounds.)

Seeing the use of vents to spread something around a building in this earlier work was quite the surprise!


The small supply closet can be opened with the security chief's key and offers a few first aid kits, additional ammo, a proper flashlight with batteries, and a wad of emergency cash amounting to 20 gems.

The earlier torches now do feel a bit out of place, since we get a more modern flashlight here.


The moment Dr. Stein enters the custodian's office, he's immediately attacked by a member of the Scarlet order who doesn't say a word prior to attacking. Apparently wearing the arm band isn't as fool-proof as it seemed.


Five shots is enough to stop them and make the office safe to explore. There's no reward for defeating the foe, and you're welcome to ignore them entirely and just explore the room while being shot at as they move slowly enough to be easily avoided.


In one corner, there's yet more ammo with this message about how silly video games are.


More of that dry dry Wells humor.


Here we get something a tad more interesting. A scythe! Not exactly a tool I'd expect to find in modern day lab setting, but it does allow for a reference to The Seventh Seal.

ESP would go on to include a segment about how Death has all the souls he needs and prefers to play marbles for keeps instead.


I think of all the jokes in Scarlet, Green, this is the one that falls flat most of all.


In the corner here, are a few more items of interest.


This joke isn't very funny either, but it feels much less forced.


Wells tries to cram in a lot of humor on this board. The game never took itself particularly seriously, but it seems like nearly everything in this room is at least a half-hearted attempt at making the player laugh.


With so much to examine, it's easy to forget that Dr. Stein is here for a reason, and that there are still puzzles left to solve. The scythe for the spiderweb is obvious, but what use the rubber bands are is currently unclear.


One corner left to examine. This office is the most crammed thing yet.


I admit, I got stupidly excited at having a math problem to solve. Probably because I could remember the math necessary to solve for x.


Remembering that a² + b² = c², and plugging things into the formula so that 5² + 12² = c²...

25 + 144 = c²

169 = c²

√169 = c

13 = c.


It was only after receiving my points that I realized how absurd a 13 foot (3.96m) long broom is!


I must have been really excited about math because I actually left the room and went back to the basement only to get stuck again because I didn't finish exploring this last corner which contains a bag of fertilizer and the necessary pesticide.


It also contains this chemistry problem, which is to say a game over if you drink sulfuric acid. No bonus points are awarded for not chugging chemicals found in a closet.

Pesticide acquired, now it's time to put the plan to action and save the day.


The dedication to losing items after you use them is phenomenal here. Dr. Stein what the hell did you do?


I turned on the lights to get a screenshot of the basement which is pretty simple. A dozen or so centipedes, and two rooms with switches on the bottom that open up access to the vent.


One thing I don't like is that at a glance it looks like there's an exit up top here when in fact there isn't.


There is an exit to the west, but Dr. Stein refuses to go inside.


With the switches flipped, the vent can be accessed and the pesticide dumped inside.


The plan work, and immediately everything that isn't human drops dead. Alas, the ceiling collapses to cut off access to the earlier boards (where you might see some living enemies if they weren't killed by Dr. Stein already). Time for the dark dank tunnel.


A tunnel that just so happens to lead outside. I hope none of the giant centipedes down there went this way earlier.


This is the ending screen, and it's quite nice looking! The silhouetted city-scape makes good use of solid blackness. All that remains is saying our goodbyes.


The plague has been contained, the mayor loves us, and Dr. Stein is not going to be jailed or even the subject of a grand jury inquiry into Baille Labs's ties to terrorist organizations and illegal research.

That's about as good as Dr. Stein could hope for really.


The other objects take away remaining supplies. You see this sort of thing in plenty of ZZT games, but this feels unique because the items being removed are being taken by a person and not just an object.

It's also weird in that it doesn't give points for them, making this completely pointless.


But you know what? I absolutely adore it just for this line about the torches being taken away safely. Mr. Cyan is wonderful.


Just one object remains.


And it's a jerk who takes the twenty bucks from the security office closet. If you don't pick up the money (which exists solely for this object), he offers the photo before realizing Dr. Stein is broke and rescinds the offer.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Thank goodness that ordeal's over! You
take a taxi home and go to bed. Now you
can catch up on some lost sleep.

Maybe there you can get the movie rights
to this whole sordid business, anyway.

Five minutes into your nap, the phone

Stein: Hello?

A familiar voice replies in a rather loud

"Ask nicely..."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The ending is suitably silly and does a nice job closing out the game. It is a dynamic ending, as the latter half only happens if you feed the keys to the fish.

Also you drove to work, but I suppose one might be too tired to drive after fending off a terrorist attack, preventing a plague, and tunneling underground for an hour or two.

Final Thoughts

Scarlet, Green isn't a bad game, but it feels like Wells didn't really have his footing here. It's difficult to describe the experience of playing it without sounding too hard on it. Things move at a steady enough pace that calling it "tedious" is too strong, but I'd be lying if I said it was overall enjoyable. For me, somebody committed to playing it for a poll (albeit a game I put on the poll because I wanted to experience it), Scarlet, Green felt like homework. This is especially apt given that I solved a math problem for extra credit.

But it isn't terrible. It's the usual bland ZZT adventure. The sort of game that makes up probably a third of ZZT worlds out there. If it's your first time playing something like this, you'll probably get something out of it, but I've shot a lot of centipedes and mutant animals in these games over the years so for me the effect is lost.

Scarlet, Green doesn't really excel at anything. The action is adequate. The puzzles solve themselves for you, though in a way where the alternative of having to do things like pick temperatures or adjust the timer on the microwave to properly make some substrate, and mix the right chemicals with the right tools probably wouldn't have been particularly fun either. The sort of puzzle whose solution is just "did you write this down" or not.

The graphics are all over the place. Likely because of Funk taking a stab at cleaning things up. The title screen is good! Your home is not. There are these hints of smart and rarely seen forms of shading like the silhouetted buildings at the end and the shadows of buildings being cast on the Baille Labs building. For another fun ESP comparison, that game's city hall is deliberately meant to look garish and it fits it a little too well here.

The game is probably just the right length.I was definitely starting to get impatient towards the end, but there wasn't much left by that point, and I played through it in one sitting. Talking with Wells about the game's history he revealed to me that a lot was stripped out of this release to make it less tedious. It was a good call, though apparently things really went absurd and Dr. Stein went inside an arcade machine at some point. Maybe I'd have appreciated a more absurd game just to give me more to say about it.

If you look at the game in the editor, there are an extra twenty-one blank boards at the end. If those were all removed gameplay boards it would more than double the number of boards! Yikes. As terrifying as that sounds though, Wells has since found an provided me with a copy and I feel like I've got to stream it at some point.

The best reason to play this game is to appreciate ESP all the more, both in terms of the few similar threads of story as well as seeing just how much of a difference in quality there is. I can't recommend this one, but you have to crawl before you learn to walk, and as this game wobbles and tries to find its footing, know that it was necessary to have been made in order for Wells to truly shine later.

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