Frost 2: Ice (incomplete)

May 24, 2007
98.3 KB
40 / 42
3.25 / 5.00

Closer Look: Frost 2: Ice

Nadir's zenith, Preservation Through Piracy, a nearly unreleased gem capturing ZZT at its peak

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jan 27, 2019
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Frost 2: Ice (incomplete)

By: Zenith Nadir
Released: May 05, 2007
Download | Play Online | View Files

Sometimes I feel like my biases in personal taste and familiarity with ZZT worlds is a little too apparent. I keep gravitating towards companies like Interactive Fantasies and names like Commodore and Zenith Nadir. Well too bad because Frost 2: Ice may be another Nadir game, but it's got so much to talk about both within the game itself and what surrounded its release.

Just over a year ago I played through Frost 1; Power, and while there's honestly not a ton of connections between Power and Ice, it certainly doesn't hurt to be familiar with it. Nadir also covered the first half of the events of Power in a very cross hatched webcomic which you can also check out if you're looking for a refresher.

But to sum up the first game in a single paragraph: Penny is a fox on a planet full of anthropomorphic animals. She lives in a technology focused nation which has outlawed magic. She gets in a fight with a girl after school and unintentionally obliterates her with some magic that she neither wants nor knows how to use. The penalty is exile and she's kicked out to an adjacent country and has to set off and start a new life. On her travels she meets a skunk named Henna, fights some zombies, and she and Henna travel off together.

We've seen a lot of ZZT worlds that are just part 1 out there without a single sequel being released. There are countless grand adventures that stop on cliffhangers just after their first act, and Frost 2 was very nearly one more game for the list of unfinished stories. As we'll see, the story of the game's eventual release is one worth telling, and it's darn fortunate that Ice wasn't lost to time. The game itself is a lot of fun to play, features some more of Nadir's best art, and also a soundtrack by MadTom that I personally feel contains some of the best ZZT music ever written.


Frost 2: Ice opens to a musical theme by MadTom "Winter Breeze" originally written for the first game but unused until now, set over the absolutely expected by this point, quality Nadir art both in background scenery and some really good character art.

The two characters are the game's main protagonist, a hamster named Jubal, and a sparkly turtle named Martina. I think it's a considerable improvement over the title screen of the original game which doesn't really give you the slightest idea what it's all about. This time, Nadir gives us a depiction of the game's most vital characters rather than a lot of green and a symbol which is meaningless the first time the player sees it.


The game itself opens with this message that just immediately gets right into the troubled story of Ice's release.

Back in early 2004 the ZZT community, being broke teenagers and early 20-somethings, were big fans of a peer-to-peer file sharing program called Soulseek. What made Soulseek different from other peer-to-peer programs of the era was that rather than just letting users search for files and download them from users that had them, it had the ability to browse all the files a user was sharing. The idea was that if a user had that song you wanted to pirate, they probably had other songs you'd like as well.

Since you could browse anything a user shared, the more you hosted the more "respected" you were. You'd run into the odd person just sharing their entire hard drive (in case you wanted to get some cool DLLs from C:\Windows\System32 or whatever), and garbage in general to both inflate the numbers and also cover the unlikely scenario that you would run into somebody who wanted a copy of Strong Bad Sings and also the registered version of Quake 1.

Anyway, you can probably see where this is going. Nadir made his entire system shared. This included his ZZT folder obviously, which contained an abandoned work-in-progress copy of Frost 2: Ice. A young me noticed this, and immediately downloaded it. I distinctly remember downloading some random music with it as well to make it less likely that Nadir would notice it in his list of files people recently downloaded from him.

Information, wanting to be free and all, meant that it wasn't long after playing it myself that I began hosting a file called NOTFROST2.ZIP on some hosting and privately sharing the link with folks who might be interested.

Y'all, in 2004, a ZZT game got leaked.

I don't recall being particularly sneaky about it and Nadir quickly found out (I almost certainly just told him "haha I have Frost 2 now"). He was not upset at least!

(For the curious, there wasn't anything else notable there except for a collection of artwork which was also later released as Ownage Triangle

Anyway, I think we can get back to the game itself now.


Oh, and then there's Frost 2: Bread, a fake upload by Flimsy Parkins (who else would it be) with the original game's title screen and some random chaotic looking boards. This got uploaded not long after Ice was leaked, and was probably done in response! The unofficial copy was only ever distributed through private channels (aka me yelling anywhere on IRC that I had a copy if anyone wanted it).


Nadir was nice enough to do some final clean up for the official release and give a bit of commentary on the rest of the game when the content runs dry for what was actually completed. It's really awesome that he did all this since for the most part, any abandoned ZZT series has next to no information about what was supposed to happen next.


Okay, it's almost time to really begin. Nadir self-flagellates his abilities a lot here and for the most part there's not really any issues with the writing other than sometimes getting a little too into the minutiae of how the world's society is designed.

Frost 1 had a line when Penny was being exiled and her family was saying their goodbyes and giving her things to survive in the wilderness until she reached civilization again and she totally asked about tampons. If you want people to laugh at you in 2003, bringing up the menstrual cycle of anthropomorphic foxes is a very good way to do it. Several reviews mention the line, and a screenshot of the abandoned ZZT clone Tyger uses the conversation just prior to the line as a way of showing that scroll windows were implemented.



Penny (green) and Henna (purple) are still traveling and are stopped at an inn for the night. Penny immediately crashes in bed and Henna takes the moment's peace to write a letter to her father.

Graphically Nadir likes to add small details to make things come to life. We've got stables (one of which holds Stumpy, the sentient rock creature that's Henna's pet), a communal toilet for the guests, some animated fireplaces, and a random sleeping guest in another room.


Nadir also isn't afraid to make more work for himself during these cutscenes. It would've been considerably easier to just give Penny and Henna a single large room, but Nadir gives them each their own, and keeps them cramped. The cramped nature means a lot of extra code for Henna as she has to pull her chair out, move to the desk, pull the chair back in, and then even makes a little piece of paper appear on it.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Dear Dad,                  HENNA SULLRUNE

     Henna here. I'm dropping you a line
as I've some pretty important things to
tell you. Things you'll not like at all,
to boot. First off, you're probably
wondering about the lack of correspondence
from Silver or myself from the swamp.
There's a story in that; in short, you'll
not believe this, but the dead rose from
the marshes and tried to kill us. And
partly succeeded. Dad, Silver's dead,
however improbable the cause of death may
sound. I'm not going into details because
it'll only upset you. I know it upset me,
but I try not to think about it too much
because, as you say, there's no undoing
things like that once they've happened and
there's no point.

  I've since fled the swamp, and I
currently sit at a desk in room above a
small country pub as I write this. There's
no electricity, which I'm used to- as you
know, Vasqueth is pretty backwater, real
hick country. In honesty, I appreciate the
change of scenery- not that I'd willingly
exchange it for a life, but you have to
take your opportunities when you find

  Speaking of which, I'm not alone- as
well as bringing along Stumpy, I've also
acquired a travelling partner, a girl
called Penny. She's a fox from Gian, the
high-tech country a way north from here?
She's an exile from that country on
account of having killed someone, but
she's really nice. We met in less than
sterling consequences in the swamp just
after Silver was killed. Having spent her
whole life in Gian, she's amazed at how
comparatively primitive life is out here
without widgets and doohickeys and
whatever the hell they have over there.
But then, so was I when I first came here,
so it's hardly surprising!

  I think she appreciates my company, and
I can't blame her- being made homeless at
such short notice must be terrible for
her. I came along with her about a week
ago now- when we met, she was making her
way to Alsace, so we've spent the last
few days going west. We had to pass over
the Gi mountains, which isn't as bad as it
sounds. We've had a few run-ins with
bandits and the like, but you'll be
pleased to know that Silver's taught me
well, and Penny's pin-accurate with a
sword. We've come off richer in several

  She keeps calling me "Melissa".

  Anyway, it's been a long day. I shall
post this in the morning.

With love, Henna.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Frost 2 is extremely text heavy, but unlike certain other games, it's worth reading. The magical nature of the world here makes it so zombies showing up might not come off as unusual, but it becomes clear that the dead reanimating is not something that should be possible. Henna takes it... pretty well.

The letter gives a lot of geography of the world of Ilititoa: Vasqueth, Gian, Alsace. It's very apparent that Nadir spent a lot of time developing this world as opposed to most ZZT games feeling like every place was made up as the author went along.

For a refresher, Melissa was the name of Penny's best friend pre-exile.


Henna being so chill about zombies and death are acknowledged in-character. This would be a pretty definitive example of the game's writing not being all that great, and while it's still a lackluster response to ZOMBIES, her admitting it's a bit blunt takes the edge off.


Henna heads off to sleep, and Nadir codes in her moving her bag off the bed as well as pushing the chair back in to the desk. Details.


Before the next cutscene begins to play, you're treated to a short tune by MadTom called "Mider".

Here we get to see a nice suburban home (specifically in Soulforge, Awtes, yet more named places), with a nice backyard, Nadir's staple oven, and some closets full of junk.

CEDRIC: Ah, I'll never tire of this
CEDRIC: world's classics... Jeremy W.
CEDRIC: Wells never fails to intrigue,
CEDRIC: even after repeat readings.

Our first of several references to ZZT and its community. Johnathan Wellington Wells is the author of Evil Sorcerer's Party, one of ZZT"s best games, and one which Nadir provided the artwork for two of the files.

CEDRIC: Anyway. Coffee time.

CEDRIC: Ah, the mail. Nicely timed.

CEDRIC: Water bill, electricity bill...
CEDRIC: Ahh! A letter from Henna! Let's
CEDRIC: see how she and Silver are...

(Cedric puts his coffee cup on the table,
before cutting the white envelope with a
butter knife.)

CEDRIC: Oh my... oh no...
CEDRIC: Silver... my colleague... dead?
CEDRIC: ....this can't be right. Zombies?!
CEDRIC: That's just not natural... unless.
CEDRIC: Unless... unless HE had something
CEDRIC: to do with it. Nobody else can
CEDRIC: raise the dead, not here at least-
CEDRIC: and it's entirely possible that he
CEDRIC: landed in this era. And now he's
CEDRIC: after those of us who survived...

CEDRIC: I wonder why. No matter.
CEDRIC: He'll come for me next. I may not
CEDRIC: have long... luckily, I am
CEDRIC: prepared. And he must pay for his
CEDRIC: crimes.

The home belongs to Cedric, the recipient of Henna's letter. Again Nadir commits to the details with a book on the table that Cedric takes with him when he goes to get his coffee. The kettle of hot water whistles, the postal worker shows up to deliver the mail and rings the doorbell to make their presence known, and when Cedric returns to the dining room table, a mug is set on it along with the letter.

Despite two games in the series being released, and the fact that the villain is introduced mysteriously on the very first board of the first game, you'll never get to learn what the overarching plot of the series is supposed to be. The villain, Set, has landed in this era of time (so there's some form of time travel) and I think is going around trying to kill the survivors of some event.

Frost 1 covers nothing of Set, these events, or why all these characters presumably are eventually going to meet up, and he's just as much of an unexplained mystery here. Cedric doesn't even provide his name, and just like the first game, Set only shows up on a single board.


Hey this board is beautiful. It has some masterful perspective work with the buildings shrinking as they're placed farther away from the camera. Everything being non-orthogonal makes the shot much more difficult to create, especially when stuck with ZZT's non-square character size. Then we've got those trees mostly in shadow as the sun sets and taking up a large portion of the foreground which I feel like almost nobody else would have thought to include in their city street board.

Compare it with another angled street seen in MadTom's Burglar!, where his graphics are solid, and the angle still makes the board feel distinct. It looks good, but Nadir could cram so much detail in a way that no one else was really able to compare to.


So of course, a scroll with some commentary by Nadir explains that it's actually nothing notable at all. Have some confidence Nadir!!

The all caps isn't as hyperbolic as it may sound, as mentioned in the Closer Look for Algorithm, where the author would frequently ask Nadir for "graphical secrets".

only the tough and the streetwise survive
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
In the shadows between the grand spires
and buildings of Soulforge, Awtes, all is
not well. Gang activity and crime is at an
all-time high, with the crime lord Mammoth
at the helm of the most powerful
protection racketeering outfit, Berzerkaz.
Authorities have thus far failed to end
the business, or apprehend Mammoth.

When you're a lowly street urchin,
between the buildings is where you live,
and usually die.

Jubal Hardcastle, a small-time thief, is
about to find out just what is going down
in the 'hood...


Name; Jubal Hardcastle
Gender; m
Species; Hamster
DOB; 27/9/863 PA
Age as of 13/7/879 PA; 15
Blood Type; O
Location; Outside Pizza Go!, Avatarn
Street, Soulforge, Awtes, Nort; 1:34am*

(* - It's light because we're in the far

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

More geography! While the names of the cities and streets isn't of any importance to you, the rest of details do a lot more for setting the scene and introducing some more villains like Mammoth, who is not in this game. If you are a villain in Frost, do not expect much screentime.

What is important, is that we get introduced to Jubal, the game's protagonist. Much like it's predecessor, Frost 2 takes some time before the player gets to actually do anything. The biggest complaints the first game received were it taking so long to start, and then the actual gameplay being pretty mediocre.

Ice still has the same flaws, though there's at least a little bit more to the main gameplay. The big difference though is just the change in taste over four years from Power to Ice. In 2003, a game being story first and foremost was a much harder sell. Plus, it's also easier to dismiss flaws in Ice since it's not actually a finished game.

ALFRED: Hey, Jube. What's the problem?

JUBAL: Alfred, hey, sorry for the short
JUBAL: notice. I need your help with
JUBAL: something.

ALFRED: Oh, boy... what is it this time?

JUBAL: Well, it's kind of weird...
JUBAL: I was just locking up my apartment
JUBAL: for the night, when I got a knock
JUBAL: at the door. I answered and this
JUBAL: guy with a kind of glassy look in
JUBAL: his eyes was standing there,
JUBAL: holding a pizza box.

ALFRED: Wrong address?

JUBAL: Yeah, but that's not the end. He
JUBAL: thrust it on me and wandered off,
JUBAL: and I figured "hey, free pizza".
JUBAL: It was good eatin', too. I almost
JUBAL: didn't notice the note that had
JUBAL: been left on the receipt. It just
JUBAL: said "HELP ME" and gave this
JUBAL: address. So here I am. I figured
JUBAL: I'd need a hand, so I called you.

ALFRED: So we're breaking in?

ALFRED: Right... well, I've never heard of
ALFRED: this pizzaria before. Kind of in a
ALFRED: rough area, dontcha think?

JUBAL: Yeah... good thing it's quiet.

JUBAL: Anyway, I'm getting a feeling...
JUBAL: It's weird, but somebody's calling
JUBAL: me on the edge of my senses while
JUBAL: I'm standing here.

ALFRED: A psychic force, maybe?

JUBAL: That'd be my guess. I want to help,
JUBAL: at any rate.

ALFRED: Yeah, you'd seem a good bet...
ALFRED: you're the smartest thief I know,
ALFRED: and all; you'd be able to help
ALFRED: someone trapped like that.

JUBAL: Well, let's not waste time. I feel
JUBAL: we've not got long...

For all the worldbuilding Nadir does, I wish I had any idea what the rules on magic were. Is it legal here? Encouraged? Discouraged? How many fuzzy critters know magic? Neither Jubal nor Alfred (a beaver) seem to think a psychic force is that unusual, but Nadir doesn't give you the context to grasp how you at your computer should feel about all this.

Jubal and Alfred are both introduced as a kindhearted thieves more interested in stealing for survival than profit.


What I still can't get over, is that Nadir pulls off these characters with a vertical resolution of 16 characters. And again he's not afraid to go above and beyond with what's necessary. Alfred's bandanna isn't just a solid red, but has yellow spots, but more impressively is that he's wearing a tie-dye shirt in a text mode game with 16 colors available!

Jubal gets to be dressed in layers with a jacket over his own shirt, and something is up with his eye.

Then in the background we get to see a bit of ZZT graffiti with "Mad Edgar" being a reference to MadTom, and even including the symbol he frequently included in his work. "RAWCUS CRU" is probably a reference to #rawr, the main ZZT IRC channel of the time.

breaking your face
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
ALFRED: Hang on, hang on. I need tools if
I'm to do all this stuff you want. Did you
think to bring any, poindexter?

JUBAL: ...Damnit. You've a good point
there, Alf. Uh... I'm sure we can pick
some stuff up once we're inside... take
this army knife for now, though. Those are
always good.

ALFRED: Fair enough, man. If it's all the
same to you, though, I'll let you go

JUBAL: Anyway, I found this window. It's
reinforced, but it's been broken. I'll be
able to get in, with the aid of something
heavy... the way, when you said I was the
"smartest thief I know", how many DO you
know, man?

ALFRED: ... quit bein' so pedantic and get
us inside.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The comedy stylings of Alfred and Jubal as they discuss the plan (or lack thereof) to get into the building and help whoever it is that need help.


Look! Gameplay!

The player finally gets to move somewhere other than a tiny box in a corner. This is also the board Nadir said he preferred to the city street board with the pretty trees. It still looks quite nice. The background city skyline and mountains are a nice layering effect, and the inside of the residence next to the pizza parlor also have a lot crammed inside. I feel like it's both not as good looking as the earlier art board, but also that it's unfair to compare boards that the player needs to walk around in to mostly static cutscene boards. (Admittedly I did just that comparing it to Burglar! but streets and sidewalks don't change all that much whether they're restricted to tiles a player can walk on or not)


Step one is getting inside, which is made pretty clear as to how.


The only other items to interact with are some chicken bones. Dwell on which animals do and do not get anthropomorphized if you want.

You can't actually take them since Alfred tell you they're gross and asks why in the world would you want to carry chicken bones.


After smashing through the window Jubal and Alfred both go inside. Alfred is on top of things and immediately checks to see the kitchen door is locked. Jubal may be the smartest thief Alfred knows, but Alfred definitely takes the lead in this break-in.


Before the player can explore too much, movement is heard from the next room and some sort of creature walks right up to the door. The duo agrees they're going to have to figure out something since it's the only way forward.


Alfred is weirded out either by Jubal's sudden narration or his suddenly more flowery language.


Armed with a plate, Jubal rushes in to deal with the... dog. (It's not a dog.)


The critter is indeed distracted, but the plate shattering on the ground gets the attention of one of the home's occupants that's upstairs. (Oddly the breaking of the window did not.)


It really doesn't go well for our heroes. The sinister XX kills both Jubal and Alfred with a single blast of magic.


Nadir keeps his trademark humor.


Once Benji moves towards the door, then you're free to pick up the chicken bones. This makes some sense for you with a view of the entire first floor, but Alfred and Jubal don't get any hints about what's on the other side. All it'd take would be hearing a growl when you examine the door to provide the context needed. We also learn the creature is a yikeu!


I don't know why Benji dies! It's very unnecessary.

ALFRED: Aha, keys!

ALFRED: Hmm... hang on, hang on...
ALFRED: Jube, is that door over there
ALFRED: locked?

JUBAL: The kitchen? I don't think so...

ALFRED: Right. The blue one it is, then.

Alfred moves into the foyer and begins examining some of the keys on a counter. Talking to him afterwards he explains that the "kitchen" key is probably booby trapped in some way since there is no lock on the kitchen door. The other key is assumed to be the one for the locked room, but there's still a trap on the other side.


There's a door that connects to the neighboring pizzeria, and I can't imagine how bad it must be to literally live adjacent to one. My first apartment had one next door to one that was its own separate building and the parking area constantly smelled like pizza. It would be miserable.


There's still some sort of laser on the other side of the locked door, so a key alone isn't enough. The kitchen is the only place left to explore since the upstairs area is occupied.

Alfred dutifully follows. Having a partner that's actually shown on the board is pretty uncommon in ZZT worlds, and one that makes so many movements and constantly has new things to say about the situation make Alfred feel like a character that's really with you and trying to help.


The kitchen contains the expected items. An oven, a sink, a fridge (which Jubal jokes about taking some sodas from), but most importantly are the controls for the alarm system and some cans of dry ingredients.

The alarm is obviously important for being something to disable the lasers, but that requires a code. The cans...


Jubal, master thief, knows all about hiding things in the rice. Nadir codes in Alfred walking up to the controls and shutting down the lasers. Once they've been disabled, it's time to enter the forbidden chamber.


Entering the room leads to a passage to this art board. We get a good look at the imprisoned turtle that's both chained up and trapped beneath a magical forcefield. Again I want to compliment Nadir on making that bubble look bubbly.

i'll see you on the other side
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
With the laser lowered, Jubal and Alfred
make their way into the dining room of the
house. They are shocked to find the room
illuminated from one corner by a faintly
glowing forcefield, inside which is
trapped a turtle with a chain around its
neck, with no amenities other than an
empty food bowl.

JUBAL: Oh, shit... and that yikeu was so
damn spoilt lookin' too...

ALFRED: Jube, what're you... oh, no...

TURTLE: ...Is that Jubal? You've come to
save me! I knew you'd come! I'm Martina,
you came to save me! SAVE ME ALREADY


ALFRED: ...a talking turtle. That's
cert'nly new.

MARTINA: Look, I've no time to explain,
just get me the hell out of here!!

ALFRED: If you insist! Uh, how?

MARTINA: I need you to break the spell, it
can only be broken outside the perimeter
of the field... you know magic?


MARTINA: Great... right, I'll need you to
repeat some incantations after me in that

JUBAL: Well, I guess I shouldn't be
surprised... I mean, the set up itself
was royally weird... what with the message
in the misdelivered pizza and all...
alright, hold tight. We'll free ya. Fire
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Martina and Jubal, both seen on the title screen, finally get to meet. Martina's ability to talk is the first time something unusual has happened with a character making darn sure you know that no, this is not normal.


The board layout shifts, and instead focuses entirely on the room where Martina's been held captive. Don't worry, the furniture still correctly matches up with the earlier board!

JUBAL: There we go... that's out. You
JUBAL: should be able to get around now.

ALFRED: Um, are you okay? You walk worse
ALFRED: than my grandma.

MARTINA: *gasp* Yeah, I'm fine, I've just
MARTINA: been chained up for too long.

JUBAL: Well, you'd better get your feet
JUBAL: back, we have to get out of here.

The escape begins.


And immediately ends.

JUBAL: SHIT! We've been rumbled! RUN!!!

XX: We warned you. Stay put or we kill
XX: her.

JUBAL: Wha... um, okay, we don't want no
JUBAL: trouble...

MARTINA: Don't be an idiot! I'm too
MARTINA: valuable to them!


MARTINA: Aie! ...I'll be good.

XY: They've seen too much. We should
XY: terminate them, sister.

XX: I concur. Mammoth would be displeased
XX: if she were to depart our company.

ALFRED: Wh... what's goin' on? We weren't
ALFRED: meaning to hurt your pet...

XX: You're either playing dumb, or just
XX: stupid, boy. You wish to do the
XX: honours, brother?

XY: Gladly... little bastards killed Ben..

ALFRED: What the... zzz...

Two siblings, known to the player only as XX and XY to differentiate between their genders (it's 2004) immediately catch everyone. You learn that the siblings are working for Mammoth and it seems like Jubal and Alfred are about to be killed when they're instead put to sleep. This screenshot here is just at the start of the screen fading to solid white.


Penny and Henna _love_ to write.

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