Fred! Episode 1: Space Fred! (v2.00 Gold)

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Closer Look: Fred! Episode 1: Space Fred!


Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Sep 30, 2019
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This month, the Closer Look poll winner was the 1995 classic, Fred! by Myth. This is one of those games that holds a special place in my heart, as it's one I played countless times in my childhood. It's such a weird ZZT game, but also feels very representative of the era.

It's got that post-Alexis Janson's Code Red "wake up and save the world" storyline, some rather bizarre humor, and graphics that are so garish thanks to (again) Alexis Janson's STK now being readily available to anybody connected to the ZZT community.

It's also quite short, which is probably why I played it so much. Especially compared to its sequel which 25 years later, maintains the record for the single largest ZZT file at a whopping 389KB! (The rule of thumb, is that if you're approaching 300KB, it's probably time to start a second file.)

So let's enjoy a nice trip to 1995 and see what Fred Episode 1 - Space Fred offers us today.


The title screen has an animated star field background (I am going to look this up later, but I swear to god if this was also pioneered by Janson...), and some very rudimentary shading. This is a textbook example of a ZZT adventure and the level of sophistication involved in making one. Just name it after the protagonist and go.

Specifically, I'm looking at version 2.00, the "Gold" edition going by the filename. Both this and its sequel have gold versions, which for as long as I can remember have been the only available copies until our good ZZT archivist pal Hubz shared his collection and the originals were recovered. The differences mostly amount to a little more STK and some very minor tweaks to board shapes, but the games are pretty much the same.

Fred! Episode I
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Episode I--

Space Fred!



The Kringons

And a special appearance by Captain

Have fun!!!!!
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This is what I'm saying about the justification needed for ZZT adventures. You play as Fred. His sister is named Fredetta. The aliens are not Klingons. Have fun!!!!!


One way that Fred does date itself just a little is apparent from the very start. Fred's bedroom is very much an early style ZZT home, one that spans several boards and features absolutely massive furniture like the bright white bed here.

Do pay attention to all the special dark colors throughout the game. Fred's own home is quite muted in color, owing to STK, but it also contrasts quite starkly compared to the alien ship Fred will be boarding in the near future.


The first thing to happen in Fred is the alarm clock going off. Touching it gives the player their real first impression of just what this game is going to offer.

Some ZZT games wouldn't really elaborate on the choices here, while others love to do jokes like "No, I love how it sounds", but Myth brings in these rare third choices. Strange non-sequiturs whose true meaning (if any) goes unknown.

So of course I chose to disappear.


And it's these options that make Fred stand out against the many other ZZT worlds that would open to an alarm clock like this.


Random acts of violence are encouraged. These choices generally have little to no effect on the game itself, but frequently reward the player with points for not taking things too seriously.


Fred's bedroom offers a little bit more to explore, a computer, a dresser, and a book.


I love little touches like this because I refuse to believe that Myth made this game on anything other than a 33MHz 486DX. It may not run Doom, but it can run MegaZeux!


Similarly, based on reality is playing The Legend of Durin, a BBS game plugged in the game's sequel (as still in development of course). Fred offers a little wish fulfillment here.


The dresser again brings the player the same three options, be responsible, be silly, or be outright bizarre. As always, it's impossible to resist not trying the last option.


Alas, still nothing. Half the fun of the early parts of Fred is the unshakable feeling that eventually, one of these options will work.


This time, being responsible pays off with some gems and points. Well, actually the gems aren't used, so maybe it's not that helpful.


And you can change right back into your pajamas immediately after anyway, so maybe silliness still wins after all.


Still being silly, Fred's first suspicion of an alien invasion comes from the idea that his dresser is being used to store their books. It should go without saying by now that this game doesn't take things too seriously.


Fred's house really is massive, opening into a giant board spanning hallway. It's almost entirely devoid of things to interact with except for a potted plant next to one of the doors.




No points, no punishment, nothing. Just some delicious flowers. I'm just so on board for what this game offers.


Breaking the flowerpot is a little more dangerous. Causing a slime to be spawned. This could potentially be dangerous if the player doesn't react fast enough to get out of there, and it's very easy for the other passages to be blocked off since Fred has no ammo yet.


But no, Myth won't cut the player off or potentially force them to cheat/quit the game. It gets used for an opportunity to make another joke and the slimes and breakables are slowly dissolved away.


The lower room is Fredetta's bedroom, which is a bit nicer than Fred's with a table and chairy-wareys, her own computer, an even larger bed, and a dresser of her own which isn't storing alien literature.


Now, I believe Fred's computer, but I'm actually kind of curious about the reality of this situation (assuming Myth has a sister to begin with). Owning multiple computers, even if they are a tad outdated, is really really expensive in the mid 90s. It's tough to imagine a financial situation that results in 2 computers, that aren't identical, but are also probably very close in age compared to getting a hand-me-down 286 or something when a relative gets a new Pentium.

I like computers, sorry.


Far more important is digging through your sister's dresser for a laser gun! Now Fred's getting somewhere.

I love that it uses "normal ammo". Does this mean bullets? I also always imagined this laser gun to be pink and extremely stereotypically girly and pink to go with everything else of Fredetta's.


Next is the requisite bathroom. Something about it seems to lifeless, even though there's some animated water in the bathtub. In addition, there's a funny looking sink made from a delta, and an even more unusual choice of toilet in an accented "o".


There are the expected decisions to be made, but-


Our first encounter! So much for the toilet, which turns out to be an alien in disguise. It's just a single lion that's going to move about pretty haphazardly, but if the player hasn't explored Fredetta's room thoroughly before coming here, they won't have any ammo to defeat it with.

You can still turn the sink on, which fills, but doesn't overflow. How unexpected!


Far more important is to check the toilet _first_ in order to see the joke. Note that the object is named "Toidey".


After an exciting adventure in the empty portions of the house, it's time to eat breakfast with the family. A scroll explains that this is the living room, which is actually pretty weird since they're sitting at a table eating breakfast, more of a kitcheny thing.


The family doesn't have much to say, but their dialog will change based on Fred's choices. Mom and dad will complain about lasers in the living room, or ask Fred to get dressed. Freddetta will simply say hello.


The plate can't be interacted with, but the TV can. This is definitely another thing that's got to be based on Myth's own childhood.


Oh no! The news broadcast is very much catered towards an audience of Fred and the truth of his parents is revealed. It's lion alien fighting time.


Of course, only Fred's parents are aliens (whether this is a recent change or not is left unexplained), Fredetta is just there watching helplessly. Her dialog doesn't change at all, so she'll still complain we took her gun, which is a valid complaint since she's now defenseless.


The plot here is just "it would be a good idea". There's no immediate reason for Fred to actually risk his life.


Now things get a little more difficult. The aliens have parked just outside Fred's home and several of them are guarding the entrance. Since these are lions placed in advance rather than via ZZT-OOP, they have an adjustable intelligence setting, which is turned up enough to make the lions generally move towards Fred, but this works out in his favor as it means they'll be lining up with his laser blasts. It's easy to keep your distance and take very little, if any, damage.


The ship itself flashes with color. Fred has a very distinct visual style in which it really embraces STK introducing the ability to have blinking colors. Myth also has objects change the colors of a lot of elements like linewalls manually. This can be a little overdone on some boards, making them rough on the eyes, but it does a wonderful job of making the environment of the ship seem properly "alien".


This may have been the first game I played as a child that used STK colors, and I remember being amazed at ammo that was dark blue here. STK wasn't just adding more colors for things with selectable colors, it was adding the ability to change the colors of things that previously couldn't be adjusted at all.


Actually getting inside however, requires knowing the aliens' secret code. This is just a blind guess that results in the player being shot once if they answer incorrectly, however you can also just shoot the object and get a bunch of points and an apology from the Alpha guard.

I guessed correctly because my brain apparently held on to "q-theta omega" being correct for the past 20-some years of my life. With the sliders out of the way, Fred can collect the ammo, a blue key, and then shoot the next few aliens and proceed into the heart of the ship.


These visuals are a chaotic mess, but I 100% mean that in a good way. Weird background elements of linewalls may be pipes or circuits, or just some more weird alien technology. The objects, (including Captain Snargon!) flash between several colors along with the boulders.

Of course, this is also a boss fight. Fred has to defeat Captain Snargon who attacks mostly by spawning in ruffians and lions, but will occasionally throw a star at the player. It's an easy fight, and in just a few hits he's defeated.


As revenge for Fred's assault, Snargon vows to destroy the Earth entirely, but is more than happy to explain to Fred how to achieve his next goal of stopping that from happening.


I think I got stuck here the first time I played Fred, since defeating Captain Snargon doesn't actually open the door. Fred needs to shoot at the large purple thing in the corner to proceed, and since it's mostly made up of solid walls (or what look like them), it's difficult to read that as the way forward.


A few more shots and the objects are destroyed with the passageway opening.


The next segment of the ship is filled with more aliens, as well as some spinning guns and boulders. The boulders are meant to be used to block off the guns, but can easily crush enemies against walls as well.

Once again everything in flashing, but what I like most about this board is the use of centipede heads as machinery. They automatically oscillate back and forth in the limited areas of the screen they inhabit and it just looks nice.


In addition to crushing a bunch of lions, the player also gets their first split path. Fred will have to go through both paths to proceed in the end, but can tackle them in either order.


As soon as Fred heads north, he learns that Fredetta has been captured and will need to be rescued. At a glance, this is just a typical damsel in distress that anybody who's played video games has seen countless times by now, but I really do like how it's not that Fredetta is helpless, it's just that Fred is a big jerk who stole her laser blaster.


The rest of the room is uneventful. It's empty and flashes like everything else.


Now here's a lovely looking board. STK's ability to create "wrong" colors really gets used here to depict an alien ecology. Purple forests and green water cover the room.

Oddly enough, Super Tool Kit doesn't have a dedicated board for forest tiles, only including a small handful of alternatives, but calling them things like "Wheat" or "Ash", possibly hinting at the first idea of pre-created blends.

Actually playing the board, it's a basic forest based action board. Collect keys, avoid making the paths wider than they need to be, and enjoy shooting in a straight corridor.


The arboretum expands onto a second board which contains the locked doors and several more keys. Myth does something pretty uncommon here by mixing forests with sliders. It's not really much of a puzzle, but instead it forces the player to destroy a lot of forest tiles to collect the key inside, ensuring a wide area for enemies to now move about it.

It worked on me! I wound up dying here. Oops. Upon reloading, I'm back in the split before the aborteum, so I opted to try the other path first instead.


Beta control offers an impressive amount of aliens to fight, and without much in the way of cover.


The intelligence values are once again tilted upwards, causing long lines of creatures which makes this room a lot more survivable than it might have otherwise been. My ammo at this point was enough to shoot pretty freely, but not so much that I could just hold down the button without worry if I was hitting anything yet or not.


By this point, the game's visual vocabulary is clearer, and the player will know to shoot up the control panel to be rewarded with a key.


There's still another set of controls in the middle of the room however, which gives Fred the chance to gamble on pushing a button. I'm saddened that there's no third choice here.


The button's purpose isn't that difficult to guess. It opens up all the locked doors, letting out the last few aliens, but also rewarding Fred with a good amount of gems and ammo for his trouble.

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