Closer Look: Ezanya

Commit war crimes in the name of the king in this early fantasy that stands the test of time

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Sep 21, 2018

Page #1/3
1 2 3 >

Back when ZZT was first released, Tim Sweeney had the wise idea to encourage some game creation and hosted a contest to submit content to be included in the Best of ZZT series. From the looks of it, it was quite successful as not only were there two Best of ZZT games released, but a few of the submissions went above and beyond and impressed him so much that they received official releases as ZZT's Revenge, a pack consisting of six worlds, and like Best of ZZT released freely. Of these, Ezanya was declared the winner, and it's pretty apparent why. The game is very ambitious for something so early, and easily stands tall with games released years and years later for ZZT.


From the very start, Ezanya sets itself apart from most worlds, starting the player on the title screen. It's an odd choice, and one usually frowned upon. Typically, it's the sort of thing you only see in games that are purposely trying to be as small as possible. It works well enough here, as nothing is happening while you wait to hit "P" and start the game.

Inside the small circular home is nothing more than a backpack that provides a very small amount of ammo, torches, and gems. The player in Ezanya is nameless, and has had a rough life, and I'm afraid things are only going to get rougher for them.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Welcome to the World of Ezanya!

     You play the role of a country
serf, ekking out a passable living from
the land around you. Life is hard, and
usually dull, but you have found the
honest company worth many times the

     Several weeks ago the local gossip
was all of the King's mysterious
disappearance, though over time even the
most flaming rumors fell to a low roar.
It seemed all would return to a quiet
tranquility, for the intrigues of court
little touch your life this far out in
the country.

     All that changed, however, when
the breathless messenger arrived from
the capital yesterday bearing twin
tidings - the King had returned in
just as mysterious a fashion as he had
left, and your dear Aunt has passed away,
leaving her town cottage to you!

     Breathless with hope for a brighter
future, you set forth for the city to
visit old friends you haven't seen in
years, and to seek out the adventures
which lie ahead.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Ezanya's setting is that of a medieval fantasy. Royal kings, tensions between humans and dwarves, and artifacts of grand power abound. The player leads a simple life, until they inherit a small cottage in town. The player begins with some optimism for a better life, but that won't last.


The town (which I assume is named "Ezanya"), is hardly a sprawling city. It's deliberately very sparse, with only the necessary locations for the player being explorable. A few other cottages dot the riverside, and you can see the inspiration from Town with the outer forests made of torches.

As mentioned in the House Hunting article from last month, Ezanya's player's home is one of the first that can be described as an actual home. There's a bed, a plant, and some supplies. There's also a mysterious locked door that won't be opened for quite some time.


Ezanya is a game about details. If something can be interacted with, there's probably a reason for it. The Zepordeeda plant seems like any other plant in a ZZT home, but will become essential later on.


The opening scroll speaks of king's mysterious disappearance, and just as sudden mysterious reappearance. King Exasperata III is the character who the game's plot revolves around. The player will take quests from him, and earn rewards for doing so.

This sign and the game's opening scroll contrast sharply with Town. There's no need to break the fourth wall and explain health and saving or what anything is. Daggert is one of the first people to make a world in ZZT that is as much of a world as it is a game to play. Ezanya, as you'll soon see, comes off less like a ZZT game and more like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or early computer RPG.

None of this is particularly surprising if you look at the author's portfolio online, and see her background in making Apple 2 RPGs. ZZT is often associated with young programmers getting their first taste of coding, but here we get a game made by somebody who already knows a thing or two about it, and it shows in the game's quality.


The barkeep just so happens to be an old friend of the player's and is more than happy to talk as well as providing healing or supplies for the player. The prices are a little expensive, and it's tedious to actually buy ammo one bullet at a time.


The barkeep doesn't really have a whole lot to say, but perhaps after quintupling the player's starting money things will change.


I do appreciate that the game tries to have a history to it, and one that's personal to the player. Old friends, their aunt, a fence built by their father all bring in some personality to the world and the kind of person the player is meant to be.


This may be the first instance in ZZT of a plant having a gem on it.


While Town's Palace is very abstract, here it's more in line with what you'd expect: a large throne seating the king, lined with pillars. Daggert makes sure to provide descriptions of some of the gates and doors, made of bronze and seemingly affixed to the spot.

King Exasperata III
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
King Exasperata III, with regal bearing,
gestures for you to rise from your
genuflection. He then addresses you,
with a slight nasal twang:

  "My loyal subject. You are honored to
be able to serve your country in this
hour of trial, and it is my solemn hope
that your abilities will suffice our need.
As you know, those malevolent cavern
dwarves have begun raiding the kingdom,
unleashing dragons and demons upon my
helpless subjects. I can stop them, but
only with your help. Several weeks ago
Dwarven spies infiltrated the palace and
stole the magical emblems of power that I
possessed. Without these I am powerless to
stop the growing evil. I charge you, in
the name of all that is good, to recover
for me the Royal Crown, Jewels, Sceptre,
and Signet Ring; in return you will be
granted fame for all time, and wealth to
last you all your days. I give you the key
to the Dwarven mines, may your strength
never fail! I give you my blessing."

With this he allows you to kiss his ring,
then he gestures you away impatiently.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Town of ZZT: It sure is tough being an object!

Ezanya: "rise from your genuflection"

It's wordy, and formal, and very proper. The king enlightens the player on the situation of the land. Dwarves have been leading attacks on villagers, infiltrated the palace, and stole the royal treasures. The player is tasked with recovering them at any cost with the reward of wealth and fame. It's straightforward stuff, but it's also a proper story compared to the original ZZT worlds. The narrative, above all else, is where Ezanya truly shines.


Perhaps stemming from a roleplaying background, the game is surprisingly detailed in giving the player choices. Granted, most of them end in their immediate death, but it would have been simple to not code in a :shot response. Daggert has to force the player along a single plotline because this is a ZZT game, but she's doesn't want to leave a player thinking "Why can't I just do <X>?"


And don't talk to the king without obtaining the treasure, lest you begin to suffer from the more negative aspects of feudalism. Seriously that last sentence is beautiful.


The world of Ezanya is quite tiny! A trip to the mountain cave is merely a trip to the corner of the board. Daggert does quite a lot with very little space.


Not all that surprisingly, the cave is dark. Here we get our first taste of what gameplay is like. And it's going to be like any other ZZT world of its time: shooting centipedes and bears.


But unlike the original worlds, Ezanya adds in the little details to make the space less abstract. It's not a cave because it's dark and says CAVE in big letters, but because it's filled with mining equipment, an underground river, and the paths are narrow and twisty. It's a place, not a ZZT board. There are mine carts and beaten old pick axes lying throughout.


There are two paths to take, and I of course wound up choosing incorrectly by heading north first. The river that runs through here is protected by a spinning gun, and it requires a bit of luck to get past without taking damage.

The yellow key, whose purpose is still unknown, is hidden behind a fake wall.


The corner offers some essential supplies. It's not really known just how long the player is going to be in here, or how much shooting will be necessary, but Ezanya is very much a game where you need to manage your resources.


For example: There are INFINITE TIGERS. Fortunately, the duplicator is very slow, but it's still worth tanking a hit in front of it to break the duplicator and not have to worry about more spawning in.

There's also a mess of purple breakables from what was once a slime. If the player is fast enough they can stop the spread and save some bullets, but without any reason presented to rush, it's not likely to happen unless they happen to take the perfect path for it by luck.


Continuing along are some more spinning guns, but these ones can be neutered by using some boulders in the area.


If the player wants to venture in deeper, they're going to have a hard time getting out safely. This is going to pose a problem, since the player needs to be able to make multiple trips through here if they haven't gotten a flag set from another path yet, which... can't be done.


You can see a pusher that can be used to exit the passageway once, but it's already too late for me.


And then there's this unfortunate slider puzzle.I can't speak for how difficult it is because I never managed to solve it. Which doesn't mean that it's necessarily a hard puzzle, just one with an element of sabotage!

Here's the problem: See that little circle object on the right there? That's a dwarf. A dwarf with code to wander around aimlessly, that is dangerously close to a delicate puzzle. Given the time it takes the player to get to this point of the board, that dwarf has a decent chance that it will start pushing boulders and sliders with reckless abandon. So, it looks like the dwarves are going to win this battle.


I've got to break out some cheats, so I ought to turn the lights on as well then. Ezanya bucks the trend of early ZZT games where its gameplay plays second fiddle to its story rather than the other way around. With the cave now visible you can see the secret underground forest the other path would have lead to, as well as a vault filled with gems and other items (including the king's ring).

Sadly, the dwarf, in addition to breaking the puzzle, also suffers from a bug where it won't respond to being touched by the player as they #lock themselves after hitting a wall for the first time. All they'd say is to see Doc.


Doc is close by, and guards the entrance to the dwarven city. The player can play violently, shooting either of these dwarves, but it will result in a softlock for the game, either right away if Doc is killed, or at the very end of the game if the wandering dwarf is killed. There's some vicious game design at work here.


For having been involved with espionage and theft, the dwarf seems pretty relaxed.


The player gets a chance of getting five health and five torches if they ask for some help.

And here's where the roadblock comes in. Unsurprisingly, Doc isn't going to just hand over the ring to some random human, and seems to be unaware if his people even have it.

Despite there seemingly being a transporter out, it's blocked by an invisible wall, and the mithril door refuses to open from the other side. The player has to walk out, but won't be able to get back in. So whoops. Go south first.


At least this underground garden sounds really cool. I want to give Daggert credit for putting in these descriptions to really bring "a room with some forest tiles" to life.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
A shimmering vortex appears in the air
before you, and a deep voice speaks to
your mind.

  "Welcome traveller, to my home. In you
I sense a deep feeling for the earth, in
you lies my true hope for freedom. My
cousins which work the rock and tunnel
the stone are dying, threatened by the
growing meanace above, as soon you shall
be if you succeed here. Do as you must,
but aid the earth as she moans in pain
at the birthing of evil. Seek out and
destroy that which threatens us. Spare
those who do not seek to destroy you.
I give you the blessing of the earthpower,
and pray you go swiftly.

   The vortex then seems to dim, and
you feel a renewed strength!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The protagonist is no mere country bumpkin that moved to the city. They're chosen by this... vortex to save the earth. Something big is happening, something evil, and the player is caught up in something far bigger than some stolen treasures.


The vortex remains in place, and upon being touched again reveals the name Salkan. This, is ultimately meaningless to the player, but it does mean they have a story to share with Doc.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You explain your quest and he remains
impassive, until you tell him of your
encounter with Salkan. Then his brows
knit, and he becomes serious.

    "I didn't know you were a friend of
the earth. Forgive me. I cannot speak
for the other dwarves, there are many
who cannot stand the sight of surface-
dwellers and would kill you out of hand,
but knowing this I at least will aid you
as I can. I am sworn not to allow humans
to enter the dwarven homeland so I cannot
let you past the gate, but I will give
you this key to aid your quest, and
truly wish you blessings."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This time, talking to Doc with knowledge of Salkan, leads to him taking the player a bit more seriously. As a "friend of the earth", he's now willing to aid you, but won't betray his fellow dwarves. He gives the player the key to the vault and leaves.

The key to the vault doesn't come with information on where it is. The player has to take advantage of the light radius of their torches to catch a glimpse of the vault and find the hidden path to it. It's filled with plenty of gems and torches.


But most importantly, it contains the ring! This is the first of the four treasures the player needs to obtain in order to return King Exasperata III to his full powers.


Due to the broken puzzle, the trip back out involves use of ?ZAP to tunnel through the walls. Once back on the surface the player can return the ring to the king.

Funny how his smile is "malevolent"...

Anyway! Now trusted as an accomplished adventurer, the king will permit you to take a more dangerous quest to get the jewels back next. This involves infiltrating a dwarven citadel and shouldn't be done without getting some sleep.


But first, this is a good time to find out what the barkeep friend will say if the player bribes them. The player learns that the good king was having a dwarf tortured for trying to find out where the Dwarven crown is. I admit, I'm a tad confused here as to whether or not these treasures being obtained are the king's to begin with.

Still, it's in the player's best interest here to just not sound all that impressed as it results in learning how to cure poisons.


The player will find themselves able to rest between each quest in bed to restore a measly ten health. For comparison, the bar offers pints of ale to restore _one_ health for one gem, or kegs that restore twelve for ten gems.

This game suffers immensely from a lack of healing.

While the resting in bed isn't the most effective at restoring missing health, it does serve as a tidy little bookend to each quest.


The cure for the poisons is never really elaborated on, but it does require a Zepordeeda blossom. It's better to find this out now than later. The blossom can be plucked at any time, regardless of whether or not the player has any idea why they'd need it. The player can also shoot the plant to destroy it and get some bonus points stating "You never really liked that plant anyway".


The citadel is deeper in the mountains, and its entrance is protected by a fierce dragon that wanders around and shoots occasionally. It takes a few shots to defeat them, and stars spawn with every hit making it better off to just try and avoid if possible as defeating the dragon only gives the player a single gem.


The citadel is a quite busy looking board, with a fantastic design for its entrance! There's a lot going on at first glance, lots of spinning guns and blink walls, another tiger duplicator, some dwarves running around and shooting each other in the barracks, an experimental steamroller in the Experientia room (and the Pt character is a brilliant choice for it) which all serves to make the player immediately unsure what they should be doing.

The actual goal is to obtain the three keys to the vault. One from the experientia room, one from the alchemy lab, and the last being carried by the captain in the barracks.


Doc wasn't kidding about a lot of dwarves wanting nothing to do with humans. Though this policy seems to be specifically in response to the player taking the ring from the vault. There's definitely some dispute as to just who actually owns these royal treasures.


The hidden yellow key from the caverns can be used here to obtain an energizer, which is well worth taking. While it's possible to get through the opening gauntlet of spinning guns safely, it does require a bit of patience to get a clear path, and a bit of luck for it to remain clear.


The center chamber has even more spinning guns, with a few opting to shoot stars rather than bullets. Thankfully these fire pretty slowly so it's not an issue to avoid them. The room is filled with invisible walls making a grid which is a simple enough pattern to recognize that it's not so hard to keep safe. The player is presented with two exits for which path they want to take first.


Also they're both trapped!

I was expecting an instant game over, but there's an actual poison mechanic implemented. An object will begin slowly draining 1 health from the player roughly every five seconds.


I suppose since the poison was so gradual that I didn't think it'd be a big deal and continued on my way through the northern path. This involves first running through some blinkwalls. I managed to get hit by the very first one of course, and ZZT happily put the player on top of a transporter, a fun bug, that's better than the correct behavior of an instant game over since there was no safe place to place the player.

The room itself isn't anything too notable. There are a few ruffians which take up the last of my ammo (without me noticing), and it's easy to move forward.


Ignoring the infinite tigers and poison, I opt to get that key. That the creation is in fact some sort of steamroller is only revealed when the object is touched, which is typically what you'd avoid if you were dealing with a steamroller enemy.

In my case, quickly learning I was out of ammo, I ran off to the other side of the room while being chased.


Thankfully, a lot of early ZZT worlds are happy to use bombs as an alternative weapon, and the explosion takes out a lot of tigers as well as the steamroller. The player needs to be careful however, as one of the bombs is a trap which explodes instantly when touched. (It doesn't explode in the ZZT bomb explosion, it just says BOOOOM and takes away ten health.)


Using a second bomb is all it takes to destroy the tiger behind the duplicator and make the ammo safe to collect. With no other danger in the upper half, it's easy to backtrack to the experientia room and collect the first vault key.


The lower half meanwhile, is a bit more deadly with spinning guns and blinkwalls being mixed together. I let my health get critically low here (down to just eight!), and die a few times trying to reach the alchemy lab to cure my poison. I just can't get across however and break out more health cheats.

It is possible to leave the citadel and get health at the bar, but there's an object checking for poison status there as well. Once the player opens a door, it's a race to get the to lab.


Cruelly, the door to the alchemy lab has a small delay on it before it will open, just to get that last poison tic on the player.


Within the lab is a small dot used for a bubbling potion. There's no code for it, but I wonder if it was intended to animate, as it's character is right by a few more that would be fit for bubbling: °∙·

In ZZT, where the player can save anytime they like, these sort of "is it safe?" puzzles are rather pointless. The potion restores 40 health, but generates a "yuk!" message. Later on there will be some more potions, both good and bad, but their contents are revealed in the object name. "Elixer" is safe.


Finally, the alchemist's workbench is reached and the player can use their Zepordeeda blossom to cure their poison.

In my case, I opened both doors before curing the poison. The code is structured so that once the player has made the antidote, any future poison effects won't happen, so there's no worry of having to obtain another blossom or anything of that nature.


Adjacent to the alchemy lab is the jail, and one of the walls is breakable. It's pretty clear that the other is a fake and the play can break on in (or out) of here.

Inside is the dwarf spoken of by the barkeeper. The one who was trying to find out the location of the dwarven crown. (Not to spoil it, but it turns out the dwarven king has it.) Tortured by Exasperata, the prisoner gave him all those keys that the player has been receiving in order to complete each quest. Despite being done to save his life, the other dwarves believe his actions were an act of treason.

It sounds like Exasperata is not a good king, but our protagonist comments on none of this, and continues to not question his loyalty or Exasperata's intentions, or even if Exasperata has in fact been killed and replaced with a demon assuming his form.


Heading to the last corner, and picking off the weakened dwarven army that was shooting each other the whole time, as well as the captain, nets the player a pair of keys. One cyan for the vault, and the other green for the jail's main entrance.

The object based enemies here are the usual, move seek, move random, shoot seek, repeat for the most part. With the majority of the board cleared out, the player can get to work on opening the vault.


Or open up the jail cells, expect to maybe talk with the other prisoner that's an object and learn that they're a horrifying insect monster! I like this flavor, but like the steamroller, a lot of players won't actually get to see it. (If I paid attention I'd have seen the ripper throwing stars sometimes in its cell.)


Finally, after running around to pick up the remaining keys ?ZAPping my way inside the vault, it's time to collect some supplies and the jewels.

King Exasperata III
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
    As you return once again, the King
gives you a leering grin and opens his
arms wide to you.

    "Well Done! Well done, indeed!
On behalf of this office and this
country I congratulate you on the
job you have done. Returning these
precious jewels from the clutches of
those thieving underworlders is a task
whose success no better man can boast
of than you. You exceeded our wildest
hopes, my countryman, and I predict
that yours will be the good fortune that
shall bring us all everlasting peace.
Please, return home and rest. Here is
another key to the underground, when you
are ready go and retreive my Royal
Sceptre. Good luck!"
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Jewels collected, it's time to return to the king and present him with the treasure.

He's his usual excited and definitely evil self, and provides the key to the next quest of obtaining the sceptre. And this is the moment the game really really breaks.

Page #1/3
1 2 3 >

Top of Page
Article directory
Main page