War of ZZT

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Closer Look: War of ZZT

War!! W-War is breaking out fast!

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Apr 23, 2018
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In fact, one of the aliens is even hanging out just outside the ship. Despite their threats, the player can wander around as much as they like. I ran around the UFO area hoping to find a secret, but there's nothing else there.


On board the ship, the player will find themselves trapped the moment they step inside as pushers block the only exit. They'll also run across a few humans as well.


There's one last opportunity to be a jerk to a child, but it just results in the kid asking to reconsider, with the only option being to agree to help. You get the same generic thank you response if you choose to be dedicated or reluctant to save the world.


The other person in the room is already dead, but does net the player some extra ammo.


The aliens in charge with guarding the prisoners aren't too pleased about breaking out and begin to attack. They go down pretty easily.


Despite the prison, outside there is somebody friendly to humans (or at least capitalism) that gives the player a chance to spend all those gems they've been collecting on some extra health. I don't think there's enough in the game to be able to afford more than one.


Not much farther ahead is a locked door to a closet. Opening it give the player a bit of ammo found inside, but knocking...


...turns things into a spooky story where the player is suddenly killed by whatever else happens to be inside.


The bottom right corner of the UFO has a path that appears to lead outside. I immediately ran out excited to find out I'd die of exposure or something.


But it's not that sinister. Instead, there's just another invisible wall maze, so the player isn't actually outside of the ship. At the end is a lone gem.


The lone gem however _is_ an instant game over when touched. Cool.


Following the rest of the path took me to a door with a key I never managed to pick up. Looking back, one of the alien guards was holding it, and it happened to be the one I didn't bother killing. I cheated my way past and never thought twice about it.


I believe Monster Zoo has a similar sequence to this where the player crosses a bridge via transporters.


The bridge is one of those things that would normally go completely unnoticed, but by giving it a scroll to make it sound important, it becomes a landmark of the game. This sort of thing is why people remember Town's "House of Blues" but not the unnamed slider puzzle past the prison.


Again like Monster Zoo, there's a sequence with a lot of currents and some islands. In the original version of this, the board wraps around itself making it seem far larger than it really is, but there are still several islands to explore, and it's one of the game's high points.


Here there are only two islands beyond the bridge, and you can see the next island from whatever one the player is currently on. Jon's variant doesn't really work here.


The first island has this treasure room on it, which has some more ammo and gems, as well as another pointless stone of power. Due to the way the passage is positioned, the player also needs to enter this room twice to get everything.


The only other thing of interest on the island is a small field of flowers. The one odd flower in the mix brings up a prompt to let the player pick the flower or eat it.


Surprising nobody, eating the flower results in the player's death. Surprising everybody, eating the flower results in the player's death by spontaneous combustion.


The other option doesn't kill the player outright but does take off a large chunk of health. Just stay out of the flowers.

And as another example of the incompleteness of Super ZZT, you can see the second "s" in "shoots" appears in the lower left corner as the ZZT-OOP window in the editor is still the same width as ZZT's. This causes problems where the display for lines of text is smaller in Super ZZT than the original, so you'll wind up getting stray letters like this.


The last island is the portal to the final boss and the last set of supplies.


The final fight is pretty darn bland. There are a mess of tigers running around the place and shooting, while the evil alien boss does the same. The boss does throw some stars as well, and it's very easy to get overwhelmed and have to cheat for health during the fight since you can't hide from the stars.

Defeating the boss results in no dialog, just the alien turning into a blue key to open a door to hit a switch to open another door to the game's ending.


The game wraps itself up right away, humanity is safe, the other aliens are defeated, and the spaceship is of course in the science lab.

Credit to Jong, most of those other games to check out actually do exist, a rarity in ZZT worlds.

Final Thoughts

It's not good, like at all. War of ZZT really has nothing at all going for. Boring gameplay, an extreme disconnect from the opening school and later level structure, and a story that doesn't have the least bit of impact on anything. Still, I can't fault Chris Jong, as this is one of his first worlds and clearly just him messing around with Super ZZT's editor and turning it into a full game. It's really no different than Flower of Light or Chowder, where a small child is given the ability to create something because of ZZT. Those games feel a bit more structured, but just the same, aren't really compelling beyond being an insight into the sort of thing somebody who would otherwise be unable to make a videogame might create.

It does help knowing that Jong kept at it, his previously explored The Lost Monkeys is a classic ZZT world and War of ZZT just shows him starting to grasp what he could actually do with (Super) ZZT. This game is ultimately a historical curiosity, one of those games so early that they tend to go unpublished. It's a mess in every way, but it's a mess we're very lucky that 26 years after its creation is still around for people to play.

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