Closer Look: Nevada Bob 1: He's On The Job

Good humor, great music, poor design, and the giant robot battle is optional?

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Mar 27, 2019
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Ferneau actually mentions in the text file that the game has this branching path to let you play it twice and get a different experience. It's... appreciated, but also this path on the left is a lot cooler than the one on the right.

It begins with some slightly more creative gameplay!


First is a simple maze of ricochets with fake keys and some fake passageways. It doesn't take long to correctly guess that the keys that seem to be unreachable are where the real key is located.

Yes, you are messed over because
you opened the wrong door.

No, I'm not going to turn into
an extra key for you.

Oh, fine.

There's also another door that leads to a deadend. I was really curious about how Ferneau would handle it, and I'm glad he passes this game design test quite well. Nothing good would come of a softlock, even if it's so incredibly obvious that one was coming. He teases the player instead, but doesn't punish them for being curious.


Next is a classic ZZT slider puzzle. This one is very well made! The cramped space means that the player has to make sure they won't cut off access to anything on the outside in addition to solving the puzzle within the box itself. There aren't a lot of moves available at any time which makes it nothing too difficult, but a pleasant puzzle that feels well thought out.


The third chamber falls flat in comparison, with a simple trick passage full of gems and health (hmm maybe I shouldn't have praised Ferneau's softlock avoiding earlier.), a switch that erases the walls of the previous puzzle (pointless even if the player wanted to backtrack), and some tigers and ruffians that have been duplicating this whole time.


Finally, Nevada Bob sets off an alarm and a group of creatures and spinning guns appear. By this point it's far easier to just charge through them rather than try to fight.

So overall, only the slider puzzle really stands out, but the first maze is at least silly fun.


Next is Potcrack's lab. There are some objects all around the room that NB can play with including fireworks and weird machinery that play little animations, but it doesn't take long before Potcrack himself shows up to chastise Nevada.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Bob: Wowza! Ah see ya got sum tricks up
     yer sleeve! But yew gotta give back
     whatehver yew stole, 'cause Ah can't
     let ya git away with stealin' mah

Potcrack: OYoYYOyO!! i HAvE ONlY stoLeN
          A mEAslY DRiVeR OF scrEwS: a
          SCReWdriVeR!!!!!@!@#@! It aL-
          LoWEd mE to FINisH puTTinG to-
          GEthEr mY HAlF of THE FuSiOn
          SWoRd so tHaT I CaN FUse wIth
          1337 |-|4><0|2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          aNd THen I wIlL rULE thE WOrLd.

Bob: Na-who's Leet Haxor?

Potcrack: i WOUld tEll yOu, BUT theN I
          woULD hAvE TO KiLL YOu! oR MAyBE
          I WIll anyWaY. OY!

Bob: Well Ah will face ya in an old-
     fashioned duel! Jist you and meh!

Potcrack: OYoYYOOYoyyOYOY!! I've BeeN
          wEigH-TIn So lONG tO hAvE a
          gREat do-L!!! OyOYOyOYOYoyoYoyY!
          COmE wIth me, bRAinLeSS cOuntRy
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

His appearance serves several purposes. You get to learn what was stolen from Nevada Bob (a screwdriver), some plot information that fleshes out later events better (the sword), and to move things along to a really fun boss fight that's unlike any other fights in the game!

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
   As Bob journeys deeper into the dark
lair, the professor begins to chuckle.

Potcrack: OyOY hOyHOy! lOOk WhAt i'VE bEEN

Bob: Uh what???

   And Potcrack wheels out a gigantic
steel robot! He intends to smash Nevada
Bob with its sheer size!

Bob: Good thing ah came perpared!

   Thinking quickly, Bob pulls his trusty
toy robot "Flashypants" out of his pocket.
Out of his other pocket he pulls a water
dropper, and with one squeeze...


   The toy robot becomes enormous!

Bob: All right, Stupid Stu Potcrack! I'll
     duel yer robot, even if it means
     crashin' Flashypants in thuh process!

   Bob leaps into Flashypants's cockpit.

Potcrack: OY yoy! wE sHaLL sEE AbouT thAT!
          OR at LEaSt, CrackbOT v2.0 wILl!

   Professor Potcrack climbs the long lad-
der to CrackBot 2.0's cockpit while Bob
starts up Flashypants. And the battle
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

You get a great closeup of Potcrack and the introduction and (not shown) rules for the the upcoming GIANT ROBOT FIGHT.

I can't believe Ferneau made this optional. Even if it turned out that the fight was no better or different than the others in the game, this seems like such an important fight to have. You know the saying, if you introduce a salesman of giant robots in the first act, there has to be a giant robot fight by the third


First off, this board looks awesome. There's no tiny objects taking a step forward and then back to attack, these are giant robots and they look huge and weird and cool.

The previous board explains how the fight works, and good news, it sounds like a creative and original engine to keep you actually invested! ZZT RPG fights are so prevalent, and pretty universally terrible, so anything entertaining is definitely notable. (Admittedly, it still drags on a little too long for my tastes.)

Ferneau's explanation on the mechanics makes it sound way more complex than it actually is so let me just cover it myself.

Both Nevada Bob and Professor Potcrack have the same moves, basic attacks (left/right) and specials (up/down). Once an attack has been selected, the opponent can select a direction to try and block the blow. The direction to block is always the opposite of the direction the attacker chose. Block opposite the attack and take no damage. Block perpendicular to the attack and take half damage. Block in the direction of the attack and take full damage.

Special moves are easier to dodge as picking anything other than same as the direction selected results in no damage.

The fight also has a cool rendition of the base music from Contra playing throughout.

This system works really nicely even if it still falls into what's usually a boring trap of "weak attack hits more easily" and "strong attack misses a lot". It's fun because you need to pay attention. The message boxes provide information on who is attacking, but not _how_. You need to see the message for the windup to the attack and then quickly move your eye over to Potcrack in his robot and watch how he moves, and hit the opposite direction. If you're too slow you won't block at all and will take full damage.

There's actual skill involved in defensive play! It's not just hoping your dice rolls are better than the AI. It's ultimately a sort of fast paced rock-paper-scissors which is something ZZT can handle quite well. It's an outright shame that what's easily the most fun gameplay in Nevada Bob comes down to a coin flip on which path the player takes.


Also the giant robots explode into slimes when defeated producing a vibrant mess of color all over the place.


What will befall Nevada Bob now? The same Potcrack fight in the cavern. The paths merge on that fight and that brings us back to where things left off.

Since I was taking this path on an alternate playthrough, I thankfully got to avoid the sudden change in excitement going from this cool robot fight to a really brutal classical ZZT boss battle.


The machine area is just this one board known as "Mechanical Madness" and oh no, it's also pretty terrible. In order to make it to the next room, NB is supposed to place the three boulders on the three sensors.

Let's start with the red. The player here is intended to push the boulder along a seemingly impossible path. The actual path has a few invisible walls to trip up the player, and requires finding which walls on the board are fake to actually push the boulder into position. This isn't really difficult at all, but there's a lot of going back and forth to push the boulder around each corner, running along the white walls underneath the red structure, and then back inside it.

The yellow boulder is the easy one, requiring pushing it against flow of some conveyors. Both the yellow ╣ characters reverse the conveyors when touched, so this one is just pointing them in the right direction, and then charging in yourself to be able to pin the boulder down for long enough for the sensor to activate. Since all three are needed to be activated at once, this has to be the final sensor.


Lastly is this maddening one in the middle. The boulder is carried around by the conveyors, while the switch to reverse the conveyors moves around the edges on its own (conveyors can't push objects).

To get the boulder out, the player needs to basically hope all the pieces fall into place. The boulder needs to get "trapped" in the gap. This happens when the conveyors are pointing in the right direction, and the cycles line up so that the boulder oscillates being pushed west and east rather than north or south which will cause it to spin around the room again.

The player has to get the boulder into this state, then ram it through the exit, and to have enough time to do this before the button moving around the room knocks the boulder out of position.

This is incredibly frustrating to pull off and every mistake tends to end up with the boulder spinning around the room and the player either spinning around as well or getting sucked out the exit and having to hit the switch by the yellow boulder sensor to be able to get back in.

Also that outside switch is adjacent to a conveyor so it's often difficult to even manage to hit that switch without being pushed aside!

This puzzle really just doesn't work. I never felt like I was "solving" anything here, just mashing my keyboard until the game would give me a break and let me get the boulder out.

Oh, which by the way, you're not actually done when that happens, because the boulder will still be riding on the outside of the conveyors and the player has to chase it away from them before it reaches the end, hits a wall, and becomes stuck in a corner. You can hit a switch again when this happens, but there's no time to catch the boulder before it gets sucked back in to where it started.


Free of mechanical madness, NB gets to check out the hacker's own base of operations.


For my many complaints about how Nevada Bob is structured, I did like this transition to an art board to get a closeup of the next villain.

I'm not sure how intentional looking like a Sonic The Hedgehog OC was, but I love him?

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
     Suddenly, this "new evil" turns
around and begins screaming nonsense at
Nevada Bob.

U NOT |\|337 1337 WIT DA 8337 ƒ337! i MEEN

Bob: Now whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis, I
     mean uh...


Bob: Ohhhhhhhh. Well, Mister Haxor, I hear
     of a new evil in town...

            U DA NEW E-VILLE! U TEH
            EARL!!!!!!! EARL EATS YOUR

Bob: What--

Leet: SEOUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob: But--

Leet: SULL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Y

Bob: Now just a goshdanged dogwent dag-
     nabbed flibdeurned minute! I just
     went through a big ol' mechanical
     through a big ol' mechanical maze cuz
     I was told Ah could git some
     ayinswers, an' now Ah want some
     answers! So what's yer deal,
     screamin' at me?

Leet: AYIIEEEEEIYIYEEEEE!!! i will hack
      you......... TO
Bob: That doesn't sound very nice.

Leet: |-|4><0|2 71|\/|3!!!!!!!!!11!!!!1!!1
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Or at least I did until he spoke.


The Leet chapter is significantly shorter than Potcrack. NB meets Leet. Leet fights NB.


This battle was immediately intense with Leet running around until aligned and then just non-stop firing bullets. You'd never get a shot off yourself, but that's okay because it's not how to defeat Leet.


Scattered along the edges of the board are a bunch of hidden bombs. Getting Leet into the blast radius was a challenge since they only move when not aligned, requiring a lot of weaving back and forth between bullets to get them to a bomb.

There are seven bombs on the board and Leet takes 3 hits with them to be defeated. (On checking, bullets do work, but good luck hitting them ever.) However you can count the one in the top right out as there's no way to get Leet into its blast radius without being pinned by both bullets and the Leet object themself.

It's not an easy fight, but it's at least do-able. Overall, it's way more enjoyable than the fight with Potcrack.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
     As Bob examines Leet Haxor's lifeless
body, a slip of paper falls out of Leet's
pocket.  It reads as follows:


HeRe iS tHE PLAn, haXOr!: yoU tAkE YOuR
hALf of ThE sWORd you GOT ANd I WIll tAkE
MInE, AnD we wIll BOTh skee-DaDDlE anD
paRty-HeaRTiLy dOWn tO the pARK nORtheAsT
oF bob'S (bRainLESs CounTRY bOY's) STUpid
sToRe. ThiS sworD wiLL FUse uS togETHer
(LikE on THat onE STUpid tv SHOW) inTO onE
BEing And MOsT lIkELy GIve US ulTRA Uber
POwERs ovER tHe UNIverse. AS thIs SUpER
bEIng, wE shOUld go EAt DEsSeRT as WE hAvE
NeVeR eaTEN bEfore. Oh aND We wilL RUle
thE WORld, tOo. bUT to KEep NeVaDa bOYOYOY
frOM snOOpIng, be SUre To fAKe YouR oWN
DeATH IN bAtTLE. Do NOt dIE fOr REal, fOR
My rESeaRCH sHoWS thaT sWoRds DO not wOrk
                  --yOUr coHORt iN criMe,
                 ProF. STU pOTcrAcK

Nevada Bob: Yikes!  Ah gotta git to the
park FAST!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Gasp. It was all a trick. This is good because Nevada Bob doesn't seem the type to outright kill. The game is way more Saturday morning cartoon than that. Also this is a good reminder that the board that looks like a park to me is the forest. The actual park is to the north of the starting hub.

On the way there, another cool song plays.

I think I've said somewhere before that ZZT worlds rarely show anime influences since by the time anime was booming in the US, ZZT was slowing down, and a lot of the older crowd were a little bit past the peak age for it. Anyway here's two guys fusing together via a giant powerful sword.

The way the sword half moves into the other to combined into one object looks pretty fantastic. I'd be praising the graphics on the sword itself as well if the credits didn't admit to taking the giant sword art from Ned The Knight, but on looking through that game I'm not seeing it?

Potcrack and Leet fuse into the ultra powerful "Sheerake Ebinjer". There's absolutely got to be some meaning behind that name, but I'm stumped. Ebinjer is supposed to be extra dangerous by actually being sane, something that couldn't be said about their source personalities.

Sheerake Ebinjer
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
    So let's see here... In order to make
cheesecake, I need cheese and pie, right?
I like cheese. I like pie. And maybe
ducks. But this isn't duck soup we're
making here. It's cheesepie. I mean
cheesecake. And... Hm... HEY! THERE'S NO
aM iNsAnE!@!@!@!

....Um, no. I have a handle on things. Who
took the cheesecake ingredients?
Obviously, it was Nevada Bob. He couldn't
get that fat without cheesecake. I must
duel him to the death! And you're right
here, Nevada Bob! I have you now!

    ...Better move this sword out of our
reality. I don't need it, and I don't want
you using it.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

But that's quickly thrown out. Instead it's time for the game's final boss fight.

And I'll remove the rest of the
surroundings so you'll have nothing to
hide behind. There's no escape now!

Ferneau gets a little experimental here. The park is erased from existence, turning the battlefield into an empty board.


Unlike the other fights, Ebinjer doesn't attack directly, instead spawning more and more creatures. With just 30 ammo this looks to be an impossible fight, and well, it is, but it's supposed to be that way.

Beating Undertale by more than a decade, the correct thing to do is run away, off the edge of the screen and into the weird void that is now reality.


Ebinjer follows, telling NB he can't escape, and begins the same routine again with some different monsters in a more strange looking landscape.


But again, NB must run. To another board with a squiggly red thing. A really important squiggly red thing.


A really important and kind of buggy squiggly red thing. A stray bullet went into the gap in the red shape, and an object inside saw that it was blocked, and assumed it was blocked by Ebinjer. So the correct way to do this fight is to lure them inside, but anything works really. Unlike the other boards, on this one Ebinjer doesn't spawn creatures, but instead chases the Nevada Bob directly and drains his health when next to him.

Hold on... What's this? I'm trapped!


It wasn't supposed to end this way!

I hate this world!

AnD i HaTe ChEeSePiE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
fRoM nOw On, I wIlL oNlY dEfEnD

YoU'lL pAy FoR tHiS, cApTaIn PlAnEt! AnD
yOuR lItTlE mEdDlInG kIdS, tOo! ! ! ! ! !


Bob: Yew c'n moo all ya want, but Ah'm
still Nevada Bob, 'n' Ah'm still on the
job! (Butcha knew that already)

The fight ends immediately, and a player clone surrounded by passages appears to warp the player to the ending.


This truck design is adorable!

NB calls the cops who quickly arrive to prevent Ebinjer from causing any more damage.


Fortunately, they're used to this sort of thing and have a system to unfuse Ebinjer back into Potcrack and Leet. Except... Ebinjer is still there inside the "P".


NB even points this out to the cop, but hey, I'm sure it'll be fine.

After settling that matter, some text appears and a passage is revealed leading to the game's ending sequence.


The game draws to a close with Nevada Bob reopening his shop and the customers rushing in to purchase their giant robots.

I will NOT be forced to live forever
inside this horrible letter P!

Now, what was that cheat again?


Hmm, nothing.


No? Darn!













(huff) (puff) (huff) (puff) (fluff)

Isn't there a secret passage somewhere?

Somebody let me out!

This isn't funny!

SOMEDAY... SsSoOoMmMeEeDdDaAaYyY......!!!!

The actual ending is of course the endless suffering of Ebinjer. The transcript isn't doing the scene justice here. In actual gameplay there are pauses of varying lengths as they try to think up new cheats. It's a nice little touch!

Update Apr. 15, 2021:

Zinfandel over on the Museum of ZZT Discord has made a bit of a discovery with this "P" that Ebinjer is stuck inside is no zany random thing to be stuck inside, but actually a a way to tie this game to Noctrocide's This Game Has No Point where the very same "P" is used on the title screen with a trapped occupant finally managing to break out. Why this game is secretly setup as a prequel to a game released by a different author eight years earlier is a mystery, but the connection is indisputable.

Thank you for the cool find!


Lastly, the credits!

This is split into two components, firstly some animated text on the side that scrolls by, and actually looks pretty nice as well! I can't recall ever seeing moving credits like these that scroll like you'd see in a movie.


These ones are a tad basic.

--------------FULL CREDITS--------------
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
---------------FULL CREDITS---------------

                Created by


               Ryan Ferneau

             Illustrations by

               Ryan Ferneau

               Directed by


               Beta Testing

          (insert your name here)

            Special Thanks to

               Tim's Weenie

            (for ZZT.........)

              Kelsey Grammer

           (the characters.....)

              Sword Graphic

         Shamelessly stolen from

              Ned the Knight

            GRS Battle Music

         Shamelessly stolen from

            Contra (Spirits?)

           Self-narration song

         Shamelessly stolen from


            Nevada Bob's Name

        Shamelessly Stolen From...

    some golf store franchise, I think
            (Herbert Hoover?)

Legend of Zelda song stolen from--oh, why
do I even bother? I probably stole from
Home*Star Runner at some point, too.

             Boxers or Briefs

                Provided by

           The Men's Warehouse

            Executive Producer

                 Yo Momma

            The Nevada Bob Game

           was brought to you by

              The Letter `E'

              The Number `6'
















           The Old TNN

              and the rest

         Here on Gilligan's Isle



             I hAVe taKEN oVer

            tHE cReDITs!!!!@#!$

          BwA hAH hAh HaH!!!@#!!$

                Nevada Bob:

         Well, ye're a crazy goon,


              Git outta here,

              or Ah'm-a gonna



          yOU'rE goiNG tO wHAt...?

               Nevada Bob:

               Ah'm-a gonna

             clean yer clock!



           yOu ARen'T suPpOSeD

            tO clEAN clOcKs!!

             i LIke mIne WHen

          it'S dIrTY!!!!@!#!@@#$

           *PotCrack runs away*

            That's all, folks!

             Yuk yuk yuk yuk!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The scroll provides a lot more info. I've been referring solely to Ryan Ferneau and not his brother Goldenboy, since everything seems to indicate that this game was Ryan's doing and his brother just started a ZZT game that Ferneau got inspired by to use the Nevada Bob character with and turned into its own thing instead.

But it does provide some music sources! Ferneau has done an excellent job with the music here, regardless of whether or not it's transcribed or not. The pieces are complex and play well with ZZT's audio capabilities. He was also a bit of a Nintendo nerd and his choice of video game music shows it.

This interest went beyond goofy ZZT games, and back in the day Ryan Ferneau also participated in the Tool Assisted Speedrunning community, making TASes for games like Eggerland, Rockman World, and Mega Man Battle Network among others!

Final Thoughts

Nevada Bob: He's On The Job is a well-intentioned game. Ferneau has a lot of ideas for these characters, and they stand out. They're all goofy, but not annoying, feel distinct, and their humor works significantly better than that of most ZZT games. It's really difficult to say if the pros outweigh the cons. The boss fights have nice music, but those fights are terrible. The jokes are funny, but the puzzles are frustrating. The graphics can be colorful and eye-pleasing, but there's a giant sewer maze in darkness. It's a really mixed game when you try to take it in altogether.

I want to like it more. Ferneau here shows what at the time would have been a lot of promise. The mistakes he makes in Nevada Bob with tedious mazes, poor boss fights, and a lack of resources for the player are the same mistakes you see in a lot of people's first ZZT worlds. This is the sort of thing a new game creator does and then learns from. At the same time though, Ferneau does an excellent job with characterization. The story manages to be as silly as it's trying to be, and the jokes actually land. This is the sort of thing a lot of ZZTers never pulled off. The giant robot fight needs to scale back Potcrack's health a little, but the engine could absolutely be fleshed out into the basis of a game itself. Back in 2003 this would be a rough game despite its flaws, would absolutely leave you awaiting Ferneau's next game. Sadly there's no such thing, so instead you get a weird feeling of "well, that was almost good" and move on to the next game.

Playing this game legitimately isn't something I can recommend. You'll get so much more enjoyment out of Nevada Bob by giving yourself 5000 health and ammo and ?ZAPping your way through the more dull bits. The writing and music are there, and a welcome reprieve from the shock humor of Teen Priest, the utter nonsense of NextGame 33, or the primitive RPG trope parodies of Stupid RPG. Writing and music are the toughest things to get right in ZZT, and Ferneau demonstrates that he's more than capable of both here. The lack of a more carefully designed followup is disappointing, but Nevada Bob as it is feels like one of the "best" mediocre worlds you'll find.

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