ZZT has its limits, to be honest. Yet they games that are considered remarkable are the games that seem to know no limits. Wong Chung Bang's The Mercenary are one of these few elite. What sets this game apart from others it that it may be the most re-playable game in the lifespan of ZZT. You may find yourself playing this game a dozen times, each time with a different path. You start out your journey placed with a pivotal decision. You must decide from three items are placed before you: a rope, a gauntlet, and a lockpick. Your choice on which of the three "relics", as they are called in the game, you take with you molds the quest ahead of you. To explore new areas, rocks must be crushed, crevasses must be crossed, and locked doors must be opened. All of those tasks require a certain item complete the action, yet it depends on which one you have that determines your continuing journey. But don't fret over this early decision; you will be able to acess the other two relics, along with a bonus one, after beating the game's unique and challenging bosses.
Yet there's much more to this quest than passing barriers. You confront a variety of enemies, such as statues, mummies, and fireballs, all of which are killed in a specific way. A system of upgrading weapons from touch attack swords to long range attack guns make this possible. These upgrades, along with the essential health, ammunition, and torches to light the way, can be puchaced with gems found throughout the game.
Wong Chung's genius doesn't end there. He provides the player with a system of experience, which is obtained through killing enemies and discovering items. This system sets a limit on the number of heath, torches, and ammo you can hold, adding more challenge to the game and an rpg-ish feel.
The game is one of few first-rate ZZT games that does without a developing plot. Yet it need not have one, for it is a game of exploration, not narration. His bright colored graphics also set proper mood for the contrasting enviroments you will traverse through. With The Mercenary, Wong Chung Bang's creativity has produced, quite simply, quality, five-star ZZT-gaming.