Gem Hunter 2

Author
tseng
Released
Oct. 3, 1998
Genre
Adventure
Size
64.5 KB
Boards
67 / 73
Rating
No rating

Closer Look: Gem Hunter 2

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Aug. 10, 2021

Creative boss fights and a non-linear urban exploration put this sequel ahead, but the flaws remain unfixed. Agh.

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The final board for this district is actually dark making the few torches purchased go to good use. It's also the only dark board in the game so don't go spending all your money on torches.

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Let's just turn on the lights. The only other restaurant is "Hood Burger" which actually has some cars parked outside.

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Despite the place being open for business, Gem Hunter refuses to step inside. This board also has no gems so it exists solely as a torch sink. I'm very curious why it's dark.

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The size of Austin Powers cannot be understated. This far into the game and I'm still hitting new boards without even trying to find places I've yet to explore. This is McQueen Park in the southwest corner of McQueen Heights nestled between McQueen's Pyramid and McQueen Burger.

It's your typical ZZT park. A gem twinkles near the pond, there are benches, and the trees look nasty.

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The secret reason I play Tseng games is to have an excuse to listen to Stayin' Alive. No wonder this series has a planet named Seegeeb.

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It gets even better when you talk to the other person named "Quitter" who is apparently yet another named and "established" character in Tseng's ZZT universe.

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Only one region remains here on the southern border of Austin Powers. Like the Evil Weasel building this one also exists for just one place.

Its monument looks to be a really big trash can.

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The final guide gives some obvious information that if it was going to be communicated to the player probably should've been done by the spaceport so I wouldn't have already found a bunch of these sparkling gems before being told that sparkling things are gems.

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CONFIRMED.

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There's a gap in the fence which I assumed would mean getting "out of bounds" and finding a gem or two which is actually just the intended route to the "boys in blue headquarters" which this region is named after.

It's a bit clunky to access and I suspect it's out of a weird sense of realism that if the front door was on the northern part of this blue rectangle then the text should be backwards to match the perspective of a character approaching the building from the street? It's really weird and easily avoided by just having the building be higher on the board with the road running along the bottom instead.

In practice, all this accomplishes is making it more of a pain to actually get inside.

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While the region itself is just three boards in size, the actual BIB HQ is actually the largest interior in the game save for the Evil Weasel building. It also offers a nice change of pace. Austin Powers is a very big city for ZZT, but it's incredibly devoid of people. This area of the game offers plenty of folks to interact with in a much more compact space.

Right from the start there are two sets of stairs to differently floors, a whole bunch of people, and an armory in the corner.

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I ran right to the guns since these kind of multi-character weapons are also featured prominently in November Eve. Perhaps there'd be a Sonic Hanson Blaster here?

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These are shockingly cartoonish guns for a series where people are getting shot to death all the time.

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And the smaller guns on the right are either equally cartoonish or deadly sci-fi weaponry.

Notably no ammo can be acquired. At this point my ammunition issues are well-over, but I cannot imagine how frustrated I would've been if instead of heading to Moronix first I went here instead. Imagine wandering half the city for ammo, ending up in a police armory and leaving empty-handed.

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Lore! And some weird lore at that since sure enough November Eve does take place in Puerto del Agua and there aren't any cool transporters in the BIB HQ there.

Of course this guy and the armory meant that I ran past the first person in the building without stopping to say hello, so I had to fix that.

Elena
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
ELENA: Get the hell away from me.

GEM HUNTER: Wow. You're in a good mood.

ELENA: Shut up.

GEM HUNTER: No. I'm the main character of
this game, and you're just a lowly cameo
in it.

ELENA: Why do you think I'm so pissed off?

GEM HUNTER: Haw haw. Haw.

ELENA: One of these days, I'm going to get
my own game, and then, your sorry ass will
regret what you just said to me.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Poor Elena doesn't get a break in this game. She suffers the same fate as the beggar, appearing in the secret area of the original game and dropped from the remake.

I don't think she ever did get a game of her own either.

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:rimshot:

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The talking to everybody strategy is paying off at least. Try not to think too hard about how this works.

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Oh yeah, so the "Geriatrics". They get namedropped in November Eve and I always just kind of assumed that they were in this game... but they aren't. Nor are they in the first game. Nor the third. Nor the incomplete Gem Hunter RPG intended to take place between the first two games. I'm honestly more confused than ever at who the hell they are.

There's a computer log in one of the games that mentions them as being responsible for the destruction of Gem Hunter's home planet and a few other incidental mentions. I guess they're meant to be the big baddies of the whole series that operate on a level far above the Evil Weasel corporation.

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There are still plenty more people to talk to and plenty more plants to check for gems. This place looks to be the center of operations here with the big screen on the wall and all that.

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No comment.

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You just don't get this openness in mainstream gaming.

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It just keeps going.

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Just endless musical opinions.

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He. Does. Not. Stop.

Falsey
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
FALSE LEADER: Gem Hunter, yes?

GEM HUNTER: Yeah yeah. I'm kinda in a
hurry right now. Where is `kazie?

FALSE LEADER: Kamakazie has taken control
of the left cell block. Someone has to
get rid of him... not even Qwerty can,
because we can't find his weak point.

GEM HUNTER: Guess I'll have to find it,
eh?

FALSE LEADER: Hey! Yeah! You're an item
hunter. Yay. Now go kill the bastard.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

There's a brief break from the musical ranting to again stress that Kamakazie needs to be dealt with.

Spoilers: Later on Gem Hunter will get a CD and have to give it to False Leader here to make sure we learn what bands are good or bad from this object too.

Anita
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
ANITA BLUE: Hi. Remember me? I'm Anita,
the person who gave you that levitate
spell in Gem Hunter:Special Edition?

GEM HUNTER: Oh yes. You. Wait, if you own
a house on Earth, how come you live here?

ANITA BLUE: Didn't you hear? I sold that
house.

GEM HUNTER: Why the hell would you own a
house on Earth in the first place?

ANITA BLUE: The scenery was nice.

GEM HUNTER: Oh.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

For some actual content another GHSE character gets their obligatory cameo.

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Fuck you Bach, you're not the Smashing Pumpkins.

And that's the floor! I hope you all are re-evaluating your taste in music.

Perhaps the desolate city outside isn't so bad after all.

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Nah, I kid. The bulk of that room was gratuitous, but to get to the prison Gem Hunter has to play some traditional ZZT puzzles. Here the structure of the game shifts dramatically and might feel out of place were it not for the fact that 90% of the people in this building are insufferable and I'm glad to see transporters and boulders and bright colors instead.

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In a strange choice the rooms are accessed by setting a flag using ZZT's cheat prompt. I guess this makes it easier to let Tseng make these little challenges without having to worry about adding entrances for the player, but this is clearly just to show off a cool ZZT trick that was new enough for some folks to potentially be introduced to manually setting flags by playing this board.

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It all works smoothly enough. There's a list of colors and the option to go back to the entrance. Nothing stops you from just changing your mind in the middle of solving one of the rooms, but I don't think you can break the game in any of them except for the blue one which involves making the puzzle unwinnable to do anyway.

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Selecting a color places a player clone and then requires the player to move in a specific direction to have the clone destroyed. Tseng doesn't tell the player which way to move or that they need to move in the first place after picking a color so there could be some potential confusion to a player unfamiliar with using player clones to teleport the actual player around.

The first puzzle is to just push the boulders through the transporter and have them be destroyed.

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The second puzzle is an AKWare annoying impromptu quiz. (Don't worry, it doesn't use the music so Tseng is safe.)

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It's canon. Kim and Gem Hunter are actually together.

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I hope you're familiar with late 90s ZZT IRC drama. I think I picked Knightt the first time since I was under the impression there was some rivalry between the two, but either I'm wrong or this predates such a thing. Getting a wrong answer results in being shot.

The correct answer here is Masamune, creator of ZZTris who wins this one for reasons entirely unknown to me.

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This looks to be one of those random questions where you just have to guess, but Tseng has brought up Todd's Adventure and MadGuy on multiple occasions already. Enough to make me assume that this is a specific reference to that game. (It is.)

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These are not getting any less obscure.

"Chaos and Disorder" was a ZZT company though the only release currently credited to them is the original Teen Priest.

"Cherry Pie" is another Tsengism. This time it's Cherry Pie aka November Eve 2.

Surely though it's a Hanson CD as that's a weapon in November Eve? Nope.

It's "Lazy Grasshopper" as everybody obviously remembers from either a minor line by Kim in Gem Hunter: Special Edition or from the secret room in the original release (apparently the most important room in the game)

Afterwards Gem Hunter gets his green key.

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For cyan, it's the world's tiniest transporter maze. I don't know if "maze" is the best way to put it since there's only one point where the path splits and the wrong choice is immediately a dead-end.

Still, it's a big improvement over the transporter maze in the previous Gem Hunter that takes place in the dark and has plenty of one-way transporters that force you to reload a save if you choose poorly.

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For red it's one of the less common maze types where the floor and walls constantly alternate. This one also has a gem inside making it slightly more involved.

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For purple, we have a more traditional invisible maze, though this one makes the wall you bump into flicker before turning invisible again. The entire maze doesn't flash, just the one tile, making it potentially more annoying than a regular invisible maze that's saved by how tiny it is.

The slider and boulder are also a red herring. The boulder is actually an object that erases the slider and allows Gem Hunter to proceed to the key.

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Yellow actually does look pretty scary. It's a boulder and slider puzzle made more complicated by a conveyor that will shift around any boulders surrounding it if they aren't blocked by sliders.

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Thankfully though, fear of getting a bad review from Hydra78 (It got an 80% from him on the old Interactive Fantasies ZZT scores page) the puzzle immediately erases upon touching the scroll. I am in enough agreement with Hydra that I haven't looked into seeing if there's an actual puzzle that can be solved here or just a joke.

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Bonus board? Secret boss? Hidden gem?

Nope. This is just an ominous blocked off path to nothing.

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Finally, the white key puzzle which is just touching all the dots until you find the one with the key.

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One of them also has a gem which could be a little sneaky but it's so early that you're certain to find it before finding the key and leaving. You can go back whenever even if you do miss it.

Kamakazie
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
KAMAKAZIE: Hey! Aren't you that Gem Hunter
guy who shot the hell out of me back on
Earth!?

GEM HUNTER: No.

KAMAKAZIE: Attack!

GEM HUNTER: Aww... nuts.

VOICE: This has quickly become a Todd's
Adventure ripoff!

KAMAKAZIE & GEM HUNTER: Shut up.

VOICE: Please don't hurt me, maaaan!

KAMAKAZIE: Where were we?
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

I'm kind of curious now about the lineage of Tseng saying his games are a rip off of MadGuy's because undoubtedly there are plenty of folks who would describe their games as rip offs of Tseng's games. Who was MadGuy ripping off? Who is being ripped off today?

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Kamakazie is by far the most difficult fight yet and probably the most difficult period. While I'm willing to defend the fights with Stealth and Cubed/Erd for their creativity, this one is just bad.

Kamakazie himself doesn't move, nor can he be shot up top. The player is instead tasked with finding a way to beat him while duplicators slowly fill the room with ZZT's creatures. That's a little dull, but reasonable enough.

As you can see though, I'm already dead in this screenshot before any enemies even got a chance to really do anything. The real challenge here is just crossing the board as the bottom is lined with two kinds of traps. One of which shoots bullets upwards when the player gets close, but not actually aligned. This makes it so you'll easily run directly into some bullets. The other is that when you line up with one of the many blinkwalls along the bottom the object blocking them steps out of the way and the player will have to either move immediately to the side or be zapped.

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This gauntlet doesn't seem to have any strategy to it. It's not safe to be lined up with the blink walls and because the bullets are being fired ahead of the player it's nearly as dangerous to be adjacent to one. Every attempt I made to make it across that wasn't just holding left and praying resulted in my death. Holding left and praying means taking roughly five hits depending on your timing when you start running and where the bullets currently are. It feels entirely reliant on luck without anything the player can do to shift the odds in their favor.

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Getting across is only step one. You still need to actually start attacking.

On the left side of the screen are some dots that move around. What Gem Hunter doesn't know (unless he listens to Mr. Blue) is that they're moving around invisible ricochets. The intent is to find a spot where you can actually get a bullet to ricochet as needed to hit an invisible target that drains Kamikazie's health. That target is also moving and with every component being invisible it's just blind shooting and hoping you can get a lucky shot.

I couldn't really tell because I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING but I suspect it's possible to desync some of the objects by having them be blocked by a still-traveling bullet. If this happens there's likely the potential to prevent a chain of ricochet bounces from working anymore. This is definitely the worst part of the game by a significant margin and were it not for the ability to exploit an oversight from Tseng I think it would have absolutely ruined any positive feelings I had for this game.

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Everything about this fight is luck, and sure enough luck is ultimately on my side as Tseng's shading method used here means you can shoot a breakable wall and get into the inner workings of all this madness. The target only moves left and right so once you stumble across it you can just unload enough shots into it to win that fight almost immediately. Just watch your back as creatures will still spawn in nearby.

If this one tile had been replaced with an object instead of using an actual breakable wall this game would have been ruined.

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I mean, it's still extremely bad for things to have come to this. This is a disaster of a fight from start to finish and nothing else in the game will come close to being this rough. The exploit at least means you can still enjoy the rest of the game.

There's not even any dialog when you win. Kamakazie just falls down from his perch and leaves a gem behind. Nobody in the HQ will even acknowledge Gem Hunter's victory.

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That's it for the boys in blue. Back outside there's just this one last unexplored part of the map where some kind of concert is being performed. The crowd dances to the silence as the band plays.

Not a single object here can be spoken with, which is absolutely incredible to me given that this is actually a place where Tseng's rants about who makes or doesn't make good music might actually be relevant.

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There's still this one building in Triple Towers that can be entered that I haven't been to since I last had any ammo.

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With ammo, it's not all that exciting, but it is a little bit of variety to have some traditional action. The snake enemies behave as snake enemies in ZZT often do, moving randomly until they're aligned before charging at the player. They go down in one shot and since they stay lined up once they get lined up Gem Hunter can pretty much just fire forward until they're gone.

The one interesting thing here is that in the lower right is another player clone powered teleporter while the other floors are reached by just climbing some stairs. This whole scenario could have been avoided by just flipping the second floor around.

Walnut
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
MASTER WALNUT: Oh hell. Here's the fuckin'
calvary.

GEM HUNTER: You're in a good mood.

MASTER WALNUT: Yes, I am. Go to hell.

GEM HUNTER: I'm already there. Where's
Kim?

MASTER WALNUT: Do I care? All I really
care about is if the walnuts take over the
universe. You humans are pitifully weak.

GEM HUNTER: The degree of civilazation in
a society can be judged upon by me kicking
your sorry ass from here to Junon.

MASTER WALNUT: So be it.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The boss for this area is fan-favorite Master Walnut. I never understood his popularity. I guess it's just that Tseng was able to create something iconic with the character which is lesser used than most.

Maybe the snakes on the previous floor should have been walnuts? I don't know, I'm just spit balling here.

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The advice for this boss says to just shoot him really fast and that he's the easiest boss in the game. This is correct to the point that I have no screenshots of the fight which ended so fast that the boss music was still playing when I had already won.

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Now though, it was time for the hurdle I wasn't looking forward to clearing. I've explored the entire world and picked up a mere 23 gems out of 42. Granted, there are still plenty more inside the Evil Weasel building, but I didn't even get enough to be allowed entry.

Again, I highly recommend that anybody interested in playing Tseng's Gem Hunter games doesn't hesitate to use the gem lists provided with The Gem Hunter Anthology. These games are fun to run through, but actually getting all the gems possible is not worth the effort. Time for a whirlwind tour of Austin Powers to see what I managed to miss!

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Remember this guy in McQueen Heights who gave Gem Hunter a gem for not hurting him?

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"3. shoot the same guy."

Well, if you shoot him he drops a second gem!

Also if you shoot him before talking to him you permanently miss a gem so don't do that.

Verdict: Middling. Gratuitous violence is commonplace enough in ZZT games, especially ones with a tone like Gem Hunter 2's that it's not too outlandish to think that a player might shoot the man who asked to not be shot. If you don't do so immediately though, you're probably not going to think to do so later.

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"7. a plant in francine's house."

I... did not touch this plant despite commenting on how if you see a plant in a ZZT game, Gem Hunter or otherwise you absolutely have to touch it and see if there's a gem?

Verdict: I'm a dummy. This one is a gimme.

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"16. The twin pools in the triple towers district"

There is no gem on this board.

Verdict: An error in the list, but also arguably an error in the game since monuments are supposed to have gems.

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"22. one of the walls in east moronix"

Fuck off.

Verdict: This is the definition of bad gem hiding. A completely arbitrary wall of which there are hundreds of in the game. The only thing remotely close to a hint for this is that it's the board in Moronix that's cut in half so entering it from the west makes it look like there's a whole bunch of gangsters with no reason to ever go near on the rest of the board.

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"23. to the left of the windmill in moronix."

There is no gem on this board either.

Verdict: Another error in the list, but also arguably another error in the game since monuments are supposed to have gems.

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"42. the northeastern-most tower of the triple towers has a false wall."

Verdict: Even worse than the one in Moronix. Oddly enough though this one gives you three gems. In other instances where this is the case Tseng counts them as multiple spots on the list. The list seems to be tailored to Gem Hunter 2: Special Edition which does have gems on the windmill and twin pools boards added. However that version also doesn't have this secret passage which means it has a gem that's gone missing? Also note that the guide puts this as the very last gem in the game when they're otherwise roughly ordered (at least pre-/post-Evil Weasel building).

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So I think the triple gems in triple towers means everything is on track. That's two more gems than the guards require to let Gem Hunter inside, but you're going to need to find the triple towers secret in order to do so. I'd say this is worse than Gem Hunter: Special Edition overall which is a shame, though the monuments getting their missing gems in the special edition for this game mean that it should be a bit more reasonable to get inside in that version.

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The EW building makes up the rest of the game and has the last thirteen gems to collect. The initial path splits into two halves with another restricted until a red key can also be collected.

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The obligatory ZZT bathroom lies to the left.

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