July 4, 1994
39.8 KB
47 / 47
No rating

Closer Look: Aceland

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jan. 23, 2017

MEEEEOOOOOOWWWWW (You microwaved a cat)

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Which involves zapping past all the doors due to programming errors!

Honestly I can't believe how many games exhibit issues with code that gets executed too many or too few times. It's not really a bug I really saw much of with ZZT until I began writing about it. In this case, the doors check if the player has the flag set for their key and disappears if they do. It doesn't make this check when the player touches a door, and it doesn't loop the check for the flag, which means if you enter this board without all the keys, you have to ?ZAP your way through since the check only ever happens once.

So if you happen to play Aceland yourself, don't go west of the city until you have all the keys!

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The tower entrance is guarded by a boss that can only be defeated with the microwave. Talking to the person or shooting the boss will get him to tell you the solution.


A block of ice blocks the door to the tower and needs to be microwaved to proceed. The boss can be ignored entirely if the player wishes to do so.

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More objects attack the player in the tower, they can be microwaved or shot at. This means they'll mostly shoot each other. ZZT's bullets do track whether they're been shot by a player, creature, or object, but there's no way to distinguish in code what type shot something, which makes this scenario all too common.


A large supply of ammo is the reward, but the game gives the player so much ammunition that they can just run right past it without worry.

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The next floor features bullet-proof and microwave-proof bats. It doesn't take long for an opening to form that the player can run through. The second half contains tigers that will likely also be ignored by this point.


The fourth floor is split in half. Some lions, as well as the lion bosses from outside the mountains earlier appear here. This time only one of them drops a purple key as only one key is needed to proceed.


The passage leads to the top of the tower, where one might expect to confront Mugerlock, but instead the only thing around is a passage to begin descending the tower from the other side.

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The player has to solve a slider puzzle in order to proceed, and despite most of the sliders being cruft to distract the player, it took me a few attempts to get it down right. (Even with the hint on how to solve it no less!)


Mugerlock makes his first appearance, laughing at the player, throwing a star at them, and disappearing. So much for being microwaved.


The next floor down is the first fight with Mugerlock. He needs to be shot a few times, or just touched once to teleport away again and open the path to the next board. He's just your typical run and shoot ZZT boss like all the others in Aceland, just leaning more heavily towards shooting.

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The player gets a ride via conveyors to the next Mugerlock encounter. Here Mugerlock watches while the player is forced to fight an invisible enemy.

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He takes even more shots than his health messages indicate, and doesn't actually need to be microwaved. Microwaving him counts as three shots and can cause him to become invincible if you mix bullets and microwaves in such a way that he stops responding to being shot. Once he's defeated, the player can proceed to the ending.

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Did you know there's a Princess ZZT? Also she needed to be rescued.

The ending is just a chance to talk to some of the game's characters one last time (without microwaving any of them).

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There's really not much to say here. Aceland doesn't exactly have strongly defined characters.

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There's actually a bit of a postgame sequence! A small demo of the game's sequel, "Acecaves". There is a version of Acecaves that was released, but it's incomplete.

There are a few more boards of these caves, but they're all just narrow corridors with stock enemies and linewalls. It's really lacking in the charm that Aceland itself has.


The last board is a beach with more enemies. There are some bonus gems if the player has extra keys (I have no idea what my blue key is for.)

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Your done, turn off the computer

Go to bed

Eat something

Run away from home

Get a life

Play Aceland2

Do something

Make pancakes

Wash dishes

Get a job

Play basketball

Make your own ZZT world

Erase mine for fun

Jump off a roof

Burn down your house or apartment

Eat some tunafish

Watch beavis and butthead

Sleep in a bathtub full of water

Listen to some music

Kill your little brother


Print out a ZZT Registration form

Send it in the mail

Receive Caves of ZZT

Jump off a cliff

Lover Taxes for all

Kill Mugerlock again

Play Aceland all over again

Edit Aceland so you have 1,000,000 health

Go to a friends house

Go to great Adventure

Eat a nice Subway sandwich

Go to McDonalds

Would you like fries with that

Read a Pornographic Magazine

Scream at the top of your lungs

Do something else

End this stupid game

Phone home

Play Ultima Underworld

Screw up your computer by doing the fol-

Edit your config.sys Device C:\ZZT

Putting a virus in your computer

Open you computer and puncture your hard

Rip out some wires inside your computer

Press Reset 25 times in a row

Leave your monitor on all week

Leave your computer on for a month

Look at your computer

              In other words

Go away
Au Revoir
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Poor kid needed his parents' permission to register his shareware so he didn't want to burden others with having to ask their parents for money to register his.


The game doesn't end with a game over, but with an object turning into a passage, which can only lead to one possible board.


Back to the title screen! And its passage leads back to your home at the start of the game. You'll have to get yourself killed to end the game and submit a high score. The only way out of Aceland is through death.

Final Thoughts

Aceland is really something else. It feels like the quintessential game where you just do things for the sake of doing them. The story is barebones, with the player's sole motivation for defeating Mugerlock being that a sign in the middle of the road told them to. Everything in it feels so meaningless as if any questioning on why the player is going somewhere or doing something is only answered with a simple "because".

And yet, its opportunity to explore such a video game typical world ends up ultimately being a lot of fun. Aceland is a very traditional ZZT game about getting keys, shooting lions, and talking with NPCs who feel far more like props than people. The same could be said of Town of ZZT really.

Where Aceland shines, is in its ability to somehow transfix the player despite its inanities. Once the player gets that microwave oven and realizes that nearly every object in the game will die to it, it becomes this absolutely bizarre game less about exploring environments and more about exploring interactions. Who will live? Why? What will they say when they're fried? It's all very juvenile, but it makes the person playing want to see things through.

Aceland is a game about being labeled a hero and escaping consequences because of it, and it does this without a hint of irony. The game never comments on the player's actions. Mugerlock doesn't actually do anything, and there's no reason you can't just interpret the player themselves as being the antagonist. It's a playground where the player gets to do whatever they like, whether that be microwaving cats, freeing prisoners, or shooting evil wizards.

I had a lot of fun playing through Aceland (though the caves dragged on a bit). It feels like a natural evolution of the formula provided in ZZT's original worlds, and is definitely one anybody who enjoys ZZT games needs to at least give a try.

The Closer Looks series is a part of the Worlds of ZZT project, committed to the preservation of ZZT and its history.
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