The Cliff

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Closer Look: The Cliff

By: Dr. Dos
Published: May 15, 2019

The cliff has killed another! Find the saboteur before they strike again

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Heading west leads to a new building, the palace, which will ultimately turn out not to be a palace, but a night club.

Shipley here, whether intentionally or not, is doing a good job of creating anticipation for the player. You can enter the store and see inside, but the palace is entirely out of reach.

This board also seems to have some half finished writing in the grass, likely an Easter egg if it was ever anything.


Continuing down the road leads to a completely different car accident resulting in the deaths of at least two people. Is this related to the sabotage at the cliff? No. It's just an excuse to close off the road and keep the player from leaving town.


Behind the accident is a tow truck whose surly driver isn't able to do anything about the situation since their tow tuck is missing its chain. The driver won't bring it up themselves, leaving it as something Joshua needs to notice himself.


Following the road, there's some more stopped traffic, and few confused gawkers. I really like the ≡ used for the tires from this perspective. These car designs are all different and unlike any I've really seen in ZZT. It looks like Shipley had fun designing them all.


The cop in front of the car is keeping them from moving towards the accident, but their halting of traffic like this is keeping people from getting onto Josh's street which would help prevent a jam!


Shipley has an interesting relationship with heavy metal, where he gives the protagonist a poster for a band, but also doesn't seem to be that fond of the genre, making lots of jokes about how it's just noisy. (But better than rap apparently!)


Down the street is another stopped car that is unable to see the two cars just up ahead. If it's not on screen it doesn't exist I suppose.


More backed up traffic, and a perfectly open side road. Maybe it's a one-way street.


Joshua, the little kid who bugs every adult he meets finally catches a break. This annoyed driver has given up on ever making it to a local sporting event. In futility he gives Joshua his... football ticket... for the baseball game.

I feel bad for this guy because if he turned right here he'd be on the road to the stadium.


The road finally ends, and Shipley doesn't have any convenient excuses for why Joshua can't go any farther. The road just stops abruptly, and is still cut off to keep Joshua from crossing to the other side. However! There is a new place to explore with an arcade that's in violation of probably a lot of zoning laws and building codes with its location.


Arcades are always one of my favorite locations in ZZT worlds. You never know what to expect in them. Some will offer playable mini-games, some will reference actual arcade games, some will make them up, some will reference other games, and they're generally just fun places where you really want to touch every object you can find.


Here Shipley just mashes it all together with ten games from all sort of mediums, including one of his own, and some of his opinions on what games he likes. Wolfenstein 3-D is a well made and important PC game, but it's funny to see somebody super excited about it, but I guess you would be in 1992 when it was this cutting edge title.

Also as a child who had a VHS recording of Killer Klowns From Outer Space I'm excited to see it get referenced in a ZZT game.


Unfortunately, the board is entirely pointless and Shipley admits as much through the arcade owner. It exists entirely to add another building you'd find in a town. It's pointless as a ZZT board, but a great look at Shipley's thoughts on gaming in the early 90s, so I'm glad it's here.

We still haven't really gotten into the main hook of the game, which is just a whole lot of fetch quests (though plenty of items have already been collected), but I'm surprised that Shipley didn't squeeze in a kid needing quarters or something to add one more step to the chain of item swaps. With nothing to do here, I headed back north and then east, to take the street past the man with the football/baseball tickets.


Next up is an apartment building which offers four different entrances for four different apartments to explore. This kind of arrangement is pretty unusual, giving each one its own door.


It's some good design though in how the interior is split across two boards, with each half using a pair of passages. I feel like a lot of ZZT games would either stick with making every apartment interior a single board each, or cramming them all onto one board. These boards feel different to explore because of the decision on how they were split up.

Unlike Josh's home, the apartments are much more spartan. They feel so weirdly abstract with the use of line walls to divide them up into rooms, but being almost entirely empty.


Unlike in his own home, Joshua is free to change the channel on this TV as much as he wants, which means short snippets of 90s TV shows and commercials, but also some local flavor.

Having one of the stations talk about the baseball game that's going on does so much to make the world feel cohesive that I can't believe more ZZT games didn't do it.

And of course, the big news is that the cliff in fact, has not killed another. The victim of the crash is alive! Joshua definitely wants to speak with him and maybe figure out just what happened on the road that night.


Yes! Chairs that are just boulders! There is something satisfying about this incredibly petty act of vandalism in ruining somebody's dinner arrangements.


Lastly, is the person who lives here, who has little to say other than lamenting that they have a stereo, but no tapes. I'm glad I didn't think to head back to Josh's house to get some of his, since you can't actually do that.

The stereo itself can also be interacted with, but with no tape inside, there's nothing to actually do with it.


The other apartment is empty, but luckily for once Joshua can get inside without finding a key. The scroll provides some more information saying that Joshua can see a cellar door, but nothing else.


I'm in agreement with this random scroll. The layout of the left apartment is pretty reasonable, but this one would be miserable to try and put furniture inside.

This use of scrolls for providing us with Joshua's thoughts is a novel one. It is kind of nice having this sort of thing made visible. (After all, I wouldn't have gone over there if that scroll wasn't there.) Most games would opt to have a hidden object check when the player was next to it and then pop up the message and die for a more immersive way of pulling off the same effect.


In the top left corner, is a ruined bed. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be left behind by the previous occupant of the apartment, or a squatter taking shelter thanks to an unlocked door. Alas this is one mystery Joshua won't be solving.


Lastly, there is a basement, which honestly comes off as a little creepy thanks to the bed here. Joshua wisely refuses to venture inside without a flashlight.


Again I just really like the geometry for these apartment boards. The other two apartments are on this board, and both of them are just as empty looking as the first.


This one isn't nearly as creepy as the one with the dark basement and old bed, being empty entirely with the exception of a rap tape! It's time to finally make some progress with all these items Joshua has been collecting and head two doors down back to that first apartment.


In exchange for the rap tape, Joshua receives a cross. Yes this game will have religious symbolism in it.

Oh, and just like his father, if Joshua refuses to offer up the rap tape, there's an instant game over as this person decides to take it anyway, and "hits you over the head, killing you instantly". Yikes.


He then walks over to the stereo and begins listening to the tape. There's no actual music and that one line is the only lyric we get, just like Joshua's own rap tape.


The last apartment breaks form from the boulder chairs earlier by making chairs that look like sliders but are in fact objects.

The back room contains yet another stereo with no tapes (there must be a shortage or something).


The occupant meanwhile has just moved in and is surrounded with a bunch of moving boxes. Starting their new life by wanting to begin a hat collection. Joshua does not yet have a hat.


Once more heading down the road leads to another intersection, the police department, and a decorative fountain. The police are probably the people Joshua should be talking to, since they're no doubt running their own investigation into the car accident on the cliff and the saboteur.


Whoops, it's locked up tight. So much for that plan. Not that I expected them to blab to some random kid, even if his last name is Fury.


Coming to the end of this street is the local stadium, which has a very boxy looking design that doesn't really look like a stadium to me. This board also has some visible sky in the corner, which is kind of a shame because the game's map is very consistent with how it connects, but that bit of sky here breaks that.


This is the first time a locked up place has been made accessible thanks to that person stuck in traffic giving Joshua a ticket. The stadium uses the same sort of sliced view the other buildings have, while also making it look as if everyone is spectating the baseball diamond from above.


All the people in red just repeat this same message.


Meanwhile BAD PERSON is here to give a child a gun at a sporting event. It may help!

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