The Forests Will Echo With Laughter (1994-02-13)

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Closer Look: The Forests Will Echo With Laughter

By: Dr. Dos
Published: April 20, 2019

And it's whispered that soon, If we all call the tune, then Da Warren will lead us to reason

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So! The forest! Finally the game can begin proper with a classic twisty path, and a light arrangement of some green spades for specific trees. The path immediately splits with one road being blocked.


The arrows are used as signs, but ultimately it doesn't matter since the yellow smiley refuses to let Jean-Pierre pass until he's talked to the hermit, saying it's because the developer said so. Linearity wins this battle.


This is such an incredibly simple ZZT board, but something about it makes me absolutely love it. That winding stream? The use of line walls outlining the board? I don't know what it is specifically, but it looks so peaceful and is communicating a lot with very little.


With just a handful of tree objects around, it's worth checking them out in case any of them have messages. Only the first one days where the hermit loves company.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You are the Hermit of ZZT?
Why did--
Don't say it! Everybody always asks me
why I became a hermit.
Well, I'll tell you. Once upon a time, I
was the head programmer for a huge
computing firm. But over the years, they
started making me do more and more work,
and gave me less and less time to do it
in! And once I'd written a program, they
went out and sold it for twice what it was
worth! I told them, when you do that, you
upset the programming gods, but they
didn't listen! So I quit and became a
hermit. Last year their LAN system went
down and all the programmers quit at the
same time. I warned them...
What does this have to do with the game?
Let me finish!
All right.
So I became the Hermit of ZZT,
programming for the joy of it, shunning
material goods, and working at my own
pace! That is the true way of programming,
unfortunately nobody practices it anymore.
Programmers wonder why they never get any
babes, that's why.
Well, what does this have to do with the
Hm, I seem to have forgotten. There seems
to be something terribly important I need
tell you, and that's why I'm in the game,
but I can't remember what it is. Maybe if
I had some coffee I could think better.
Here's my coffee mug, go get me some
coffee from the machine over there.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Despite being made in the early 90s, this is still a very apt scenario for professional coding.

The hermit is heavily implied to be a very important character, but won't tell Jean-Pierre anything until he's had his coffee. Fortunately the hermit keeps a coffee machine nearby.


The hermit is kind of a messy guy, with lots of garbage lying around. He's personified quite well honestly! This random character has a backstory and insights on what kind of person he is scattered around the board. This is honestly more development than a ton of ZZT characters ever get.


Plus he's got this extremely good 986 computer with a massive harddrive. I bet it's got a ludicrous amount of RAM, like a whole gigabyte or something.


Piled up in the corner here is a collection of catalogs where he's writing artisan code. This guy is way ahead of the times.


The hermit's fridge is full of Bob's choice, calling back to the soda available earlier in the police station.


But anyway, Jean is supposed to be getting some coffee, of which the hermit is fresh out. While the game claims to be about finding a kidnapped Tim Sweeney, the bulk of the game is actually a fetch quest to find some coffee beans for the hermit.


With the coffee quest in progress, Jean-Pierre is now free to head the other way which is some proper forest. I do like the mix of actual forest tiles and empties here rather than just flooding the board with one or the other.

Of course the obvious thing here is the forest gift shop.


Gary sells two things. Postcards and coffee beans. Or at least he normally does. He's all sold out of coffee beans. Jean can buy a postcard for a single gem, but it doesn't actually do anything, no points, no flag, no joke. This gift shop is kind of a flop compared to the intricate convenient store in town.


The Cave of ZZT is also a trick, resulting in getting admonished via a Get Smart shoe-phone. I object to this since the CAVE is still in the FOREST after all.


Continuing past the gift shop and into the denser forest leads to... traditional ZZT gameplay! It's actually pretty unexpected with the way the game's been set up so far, but sure enough there's some shooting of pre-fab creatures to be had here.


Fighting creatures in ZZT forests (that are actually made of forest tiles) often leads to these situations where the player has to step on a forest tile and immediately shoot or step backwards to avoid taking damage. It's always frustrating since to even be able to do so requires the game being on a cycle count where the creatures won't get a chance to just immediately attack. It's unfortunately a coin flip.


The goal of the board is to collect four green keys scattered around, with a few other doors to be unlocked for good measure. For the most part, it's rather straight forward.


The one exception to this is the "falling rocks" made up of pushers in the corner. This is a small puzzle where the player needs to make sure they have the room they need to maneuver to the top and also be able to get back out safely. It's nothing too tough, but it's a nice break from shooting when the player needs one.


There's also this unfortunate break from shooting where I ran out of ammo. This is technically my own dang fault for not buying a bunch from Hadif, but I'm still going to yell about how the game was arranged in a way where I was inclined to go to the store before getting the money from the police station.

I just took the lazy way and tried to avoid the last two enemies, which I failed miserably at. Then I backtracked to do my shopping.


I spent most but not all of my cash on resupplying, and 149 health and 100 ammo let me feel confident while still having money to spend if I needed to.


The next area of the forest is a rocky mountain with a blocked off cave entrance. The gameplay changes again as this time Jean-Pierre needs to deal with some object based enemies that can't be shot.


It's a sort of more active puzzle this time, with shover bunnies (mentioned as one of the games on Jean's computer) that need to be defeated by surrounding them with boulders. I'm curious if this was an actual game in some form only because of how prominently it's featured.


The bunnies move pretty slowly and aren't too aggressive, which helps make boxing them in actually manageble. Honestly, I preferred the previous board to this, but I can appreciate Richardson continuing to offer something new.


The bunnies aren't the scary part here. What you're more likely to worry about is accidentally pushing boulders in a way that will block off the cave entrance entirely.


And by "cave" I mean "Underground Garden"! It sounds pretty cool at least.


Unsurprisingly, the cave is dark, so Jean's torches finally get some purpose. The underground garden is another action board that's full of these giant mushrooms. There's a duplicator in a corner slowly filling the room with lions, but it runs at a gentle pace.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
It's the skeleton of a dead adventurer.
In his pockets you find two mysterious
scraps of paper:
        ∙ ·  --Flammable

        .·   --Shrink

        ∙    --Grow

        · .

And the other one:
(***) ***-****
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

There is a dead body here, which might be something for the police to investigate, but for now Jean-Pierre is more invested in some papers the skeleton was carrying. Not surprisingly, the phone number at the end is for Da Warren.

They're a tad cryptic, but it won't take long before their meaning becomes obvious (if you haven't deduced it immediately.)


This southwest corner here holds the exit, but Jean is too big to fit. If only there was something to be done about that...


Looking around with the lights on, the board is pretty simple, and each of the mushrooms has a pattern on it that matches up with the patterns on the skeleton's note. Jean gets to find the shrinking mushroom and take a bite.


It's not exactly a dramatic change like one might expect, but Jean loses a few inches which is apparently enough to crawl through the rest of the cave.


  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You nibble at the mushroom and suddenly
see Dan Quayle at his 1996 inaguration.
Not realizing that it's a hallucination,
you panic, have a heart attack, and die.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Picking incorrectly results in either growing (and returning to perfectly normal size), getting a stomach ache and breathing fire (losing some health and possibly dying if you have very little), and this wild one joking about Dan Quayle being elected which is always an instant game over.


The rest of the cave is a far more difficult action board. The layout goes from a nice open space to a tightly-packed maze full of lions, ruffians, and tigers. There are keys to collect and duplicators repopulating the board.


Oh, and a spinning gun


Things get dicey, and I'm forced to walk back through six boards to buy health commence cheating.


The good news is that when I reach the end of the maze, I've already managed to come across two of the keys needed.

The bad news is there's more to it than just the keys, thanks to this object in the way.


Rather annoyingly, the collector won't let you to the doors until you find some fungi for him. I didn't find a single one on my way here, and my first fear was that something was bugged.


In reality, it's all these purple objects scattered around, which only become visible and collectible after talking to the collector, forcing the player to backtrack regardless of their keys.


It involves more running, and getting dangerously low and health and ammo again, but it's doable. By this point, the gameplay is running a little thin. There's not a whole lot of shooting in this game, but it just feels like a ZZT game going through the motions. It's not all that compelling and being told to get the fungi and basically have to play the same board all over again isn't very appealing.


With the action out of the way, Richardson tries his hand at some puzzle design. Firstly, there's getting a white key out of a pile of boulders without accidentally trapping the key in a corner. Then that key has to be used in one of those puzzles where you have to choose the correct door(s) to unlock to get more keys.

This is a more simplistic take on the puzzle, with basically everything being crammed into a corner, compared to Caves of ZZT's "Oh No, Another Weird Puzzle!" which required more thought, or the more contemporary Ana's "Forbidden Forest" segment which involves multiple colors of keys.


Solving it is of utmost importance since there's a coffee shop in this very poorly chosen location!


This is the end of the forest, a coffee shop and a single tree. The tree has initials carved into it, "L.R. & S.G.". The former is obviously the game's author, but I'm not completely confident as to who the other person is.


The only thing left to do is talk to Captain Coffee. I'm honestly surprised Jean sticks to the case and asks about Tim Sweeney instead of immediately going for getting some coffee for the hermit. There's no word on Tim, but at least the coffee quest is complete.


The passage saves the player a lot of treacherous backtracking, dumping them unceremoniously back at the forest entrance. It's quick and effective, though the decision to not have a hidden exit passage for the player to come out of is an interesting choice! It's not a bad thing, it's just a little different feeling.


  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
<SLUUUUURP> Aaaah...
Aha, now I remember why I'm in this game!
To tell you to call Da Warren BBS at
(***) ***-****! And to allow you access to
the Amazing Talking Tree of ZZT, across
the river from here. He claims to know
where Tim is.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The hermit is nearby and plugs Da Warren one last time before making a bridge across the river to a talking tree.


Now for some very rapid progress. The tree knows where Sweeney is and he's actually very close! Soon his kidnappers will be brought to justice.


His er, centipede kidnappers.

This is the final fight of the game and it's honestly the easiest of these shooting boards. Though I did run back to town since I was down to 2 health and almost out of ammo again.


Finally the quest is over. It's time to talk to Tim Sweeney.


I love this.

It's the perfect way for this goofy game to end. There was never any threat or danger. It was all just a misunderstanding, and Tim Sweeney just happens to love quoting Led Zeppelin lyrics.

Tim Sweeney
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Yes, you have successfully rescued Tim
Sweeney from the utter evils that hadn't
kidnapped him, and in the process been
promoted to Leiutenant! Aren't you lucky!

Game written by:
            Leonard Richardson
Game tested by:
      Leonard and Susanna Richardson
Shameless plugs for Da Warren BBS by:
            Leonard Richardson
Rubber vomit supplied by:
         Bob's Rubber Vomit Ltd.

Many of the scenes in this game were
of an extremely silly nature, and were
performed by experienced stunt workers. Do
not attempt to duplicate them at home.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The game closes with some credits (actually Susanna Richardson being the S.G. would make sense if they've since been married) and ends happily. Cute game!

Final Thoughts

This game is such a timepiece. It also feels very transitional. The early game is very much in that mid-90s vein of ZZT worlds where you're supposed to touch every object and get something out of it. Jean-Pierre's home fits right in with Code Red and the many games it inspired (despite predating it by a few months!) where it feels like there's a lot to see. Yet at the same time it feels very old fashioned once you're actually in the forest. Suddenly it's all about shooting lions and solving some simple puzzles. The cave segment feels a lot like something out of Beth Daggert's Ezanya.

Overall, it's still fun to play, and is a pretty brief game. It's just very frontloaded. You can see the humor in it, but the vast majority of the jokes and references feel dated and cliché today. More than twenty-five years after its release, it's not all that compelling, but it doesn't overstay its welcome and excluding the instant game over from the pizza delivery, is generally well designed if nothing too amazing.

For somebody looking for an old fashioned ZZT adventure game, it's fine. I wouldn't put it on a list of the best ZZT worlds of the era or anything, but you could definitely do a lot worse. For those with an interest in early internet history however, I think there's a lot more to appreciate, as Richardson's many reasons to visit his BBS feel so surreal now. Star Trek and Rocky Horror in a world where getting information on such things isn't a matter of checking a massive wiki-based database. It's a neat like relic of its time, and if you are into old online culture it feels like it's a good cross-section of what you might be looking for.

As a tribute to Tim Sweeney, it's, well, whatever. He's there to get your attention turned to Da Warren and to give the game a light-hearted ending. It's far more of a tribute to the BBS than anything else.

One last thing to note is that Richardson actually released updated versions of a few of his games in the later 1990s. There's a 1998 edition of The Forests Will Echo With Laughter which adds some shading and makes the game a bit prettier overall without seeming to touch the game's writing. Up until quite recently, this was the only version of the game readily available so it was neat to see the more primitive versions of each board. If you do decide to check this world out, there's little reason to go with the 1993 edition over the remastered version.

Oh. And here all all the "of ZZT" things mentioned in this game:

  1. City of ZZT
  2. Couch of ZZT
  3. Word Processor of ZZT
  4. Apartments of ZZT
  5. Forest of ZZT
  6. Soda of ZZT
  7. Squad Car of ZZT
  8. Housing Developments of ZZT
  9. Boring Slider Puzzle Factory of ZZT
  10. Amazing Talking Tree of ZZT! (tm)
  11. Hermit of ZZT
  12. Recycling Center of ZZT
  13. Cave of ZZT
  14. Underground Garden of ZZT
  15. Crawlway of ZZT
  16. Fungi of ZZT
  17. Collector of ZZT
  18. Captain Coffee's Coffee Hosue of ZZT

Feel free to make a Twitter bot that's just every noun + of ZZT.

====== A Worlds of ZZT Production ======

The Worlds of ZZT project is committed to the preservation of ZZT and its history.

This article was produced thanks to supporters on Patreon.

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