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Closer Look: Village

Stop and admire the scenery on your quest for vigilante justice

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Nov 15, 2019

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Our poll winner this month was the recently added option Village. I can't be sure whether it won because of its plot synopsis, of "You witness a murder and the killer is after you! You decide you don't wanna run or hide, but seek and kill this guy" or because of its very distinct looking title screen which shows off one of this game's unique features: the use of a custom font.

For me, choosing to add it to the poll was because of the plot, but in the end this game has such a unique look to it that it feels otherworldly almost. There aren't too many ZZT worlds that actually use custom fonts, and in fact the only other game covered on this site since 2016 to use one was Commodore's Angelis Finale.

Fonts ultimately don't get a lot of use in ZZT because the offered increase in fidelity when representing something comes at the cost of a lack of abstractness. Since so many of ZZT's elements have one and only one character, you run into these situations where a now more concrete representation suddenly becomes inappropriate to use for something else. Passages are probably the best example of this. ZZT's "≡" notation with a background might not look like how one would draw a door or a staircase, but you can kind of see a bit of either in there. Actually turn that character into an 8x14 drawing of a door, and suddenly you need to consider how if at all, your game will have stairs.


Where Village's font truly stands out is in its lack of consistency, and how it manages to turn that lack of consistency into something that still looks very deliberately designed. Take a look at the title screen where there are a few unique smiley faces, but also a person leaning against a building or the purple figure (a ruffian) next to a brown cat (a lion). Trees are made of the usual blends of walls here, and later there will be single tile trees and even trees made up of multiple objects.

It absolutely works though. This game's visuals give Village an unparalleled look. By not knowing how it wants to present itself, the game presents something new and eye-catching.

Before you even hit play, check out the extremely cool player, now sporting sunglasses and hair. Note that other than the player and the door, this board is entirely stock ZZT.

Now be sure to hit play and instantly fall in love with this beautiful rain effect which is as simple as having objects that toggle their visibility, no movement necessary. The rain combined with the randomized lightning bolt appearance would make this a really moody scene were it not for the goofy dialog. If you were expecting a gritty manhunt, look elsewhere.

The introduction is the plot. Cool player is out and about and just happens to witness a murder. The assailant makes no mention of the witness, and the player is free to leave and report the crime.


Although the writing isn't serious, it can be weirdly intense at times like this.


The police are of course no help. They're well aware of the killings done by this "god damn man" as well as the fact that the player is certainly now a target. Smiley faces with sunglasses aren't the type to run and hide however, and instead our protagonist announces his goal to kill the killer.

Village immediately leans into its visuals with three different looking buildings; set pieces like planted trees, a half moon, and a street light; and then still using "☼" for flowers! Maybe it's the strange mixture of ASCII and custom graphics or maybe it's the decision for the entire game to take place on a (sometimes) rainy night, but I think this board is beautiful.

It can't all be flowers and palm trees though. You can let the intro's "Yuck! I'm not going to screw him!" slide by taking it to mean that the killer isn't attracted to his boss rather than the more likely intended interpretation of "Yuck! Sex with another man!", but if you happen to talk to this lady she exists entirely to be part of a rape joke before disappearing.

The good news is that we're done with the sub-par humor in this vein and it's very easy to just not speak with her and move along if you're aware of the content.

(There is a single exception to this, and it's one line in the credits which is part of a wall of text.)


Near the starting point is a crate (which actually does manage to keep some ASCII ambiguity, as the same character gets used as a trash can later on). Inside is a purple key whose purpose is yet unknown.


Entering the middle building and we get to see our first interior. It's full of crates and planted palm trees. Where it really shines is in the second room, where three people are playing video games on TVs whose screens constantly flash colors. The extensive use of color changing throughout Village is yet another way its visuals stand out. The person sitting on a large throne shares a color with the TV screens and thus flashes as well.


Don't expect people to be particularly helpful. They're mostly speak nonsense as an attempt at humor. Though, we do learn the murderer's name is Mondo. I don't know if the "nakedhunter" part is a joke or not.


In the back room are a bunch of game testers, as mentioned by a scroll leading up to it. Talking to them plays unique sound effects for each. Two of them definitely sound like Mrs. Clause just mashed some notes, and one which I'm pretty sure is taken from another ZZT game.


The building on the right is loaded with choices of where to go. It has four passages (and two rectangular doors that are just regular old locked ZZT doors). The first leads to a biological research lab. This may sound like it's leading up to something, but the room is just a bunch of glass tubes with lions, ruffians, and bears trapped inside.

In the corner are some coins marked with dollar signs which are regular ZZT gems.


And up top is a scroll telling the player to keep out. That's all the board is.


The adjacent room is simply some storage. It's full of green boulders that are blocking access to some ammo, torches, and gems.

It's worth noting that though there are several boards with torches to collect Village has zero dark rooms.


Pushing everything in such a way to be able to pick up all the items is easy enough. Village is a game about exploring weird locations, and there's very little in terms of puzzles or action to move the focus away from the exploration.


The last room on the ground floor of the building is locked with a white door, but by making the board accessible we get an idea of what to expect later. There's another flashing TV, and an object near it that also shares colors and thus flashes along with it.


Hiding in the corner is Farmer Jill, who wants to sell some cider jack. The player lacks the money to buy it right now and has to decline.


Upstairs the building has just one accessible door which leads to an apartment filled with trees and somebody upset that the player just walked on it. It seems purposeless, but there's a back door...


Which in turn leads to what's technically a pointless board, but it's such a nice one!

This sort of balcony view of the night sky and a mountain peak is pretty simple but is able to capture the imagination so well. It's a gorgeous board, and there's even a small red dot for a plane that flies across the nighttime sky.

This didn't need to be here, but I'm so glad it is.


The pleasant visuals aren't confined to optional rooms. Heading down the street leads to this excellent use of perspective with a long bridge fading in the distance. There's a cyan object that prevents the player from crossing before they've finished with the first area, though what the goal for this first area even is remains unclear.

And I love the power-lines running across the bottom of the screen.


South of the main road is this pier. Village manages to avoid the all too common trap of not making it clear where there are board exits by making a small dirt path that connects the two boards. If it wasn't for this, I wouldn't have thought that walking south was an option.


This is the first board that has some action, with a small number of brown lions prowling the area. The objective is this key in the center of the board. This board also shows off the really nice larger trees that are made up of several objects. It's a shame that stat limits prevent them from appearing in greater numbers, but they end up looking nicer than any other ZZT trees I've ever seen.


Heading on into the slums, there's more shooting as these ruffians begin to attack. I definitely walked right into the first one thinking it was a friendly object and not a creature out to kill me.


My assumption was that the big building in the slums was a shop, but it's just another home to explore. This time it's got a person who fell asleep standing up (or perhaps we're supposed to see it as them lying down on their side,) and an unexpected guest behind the doors.


Why, it's none other than Lucca from then Squaresoft's 1995 SNES RPG Chrono Trigger! No doubt, you can see the resemblance in the graphic. Lucca is thirsty and all out of soda. This is absolutely a mandatory quest.


If I had gotten to this board earlier, I'd probably be praising its visuals more. Don't get me wrong, it's still a really nice looking board with a different shot of the bridge from earlier, but it doesn't have as much of an impact as the other did.


Exploring the board itself, there's just this guy standing around.


But more importantly in the corner is the 19 missing dollars needed to buy some funky cider jack from Farmer Jill.


I wasn't entirely sure of what it was for, but it was progress. (I didn't think I was actually going to have to find Lucca something to drink.)


The white key from the river opens up the locked apartment and a scroll on the ground reveals that it's Mondo's home!


Being able to get in means finding out that the object by the TV is a stick that can't be picked up because it's sticky.


The only other thing of interest is exploring the armoire for some bonus points.


Even with the key, most of Mondo's home is off limits thanks to a big rock blocking a door. At this point I found myself stuck and looked up the solution, which is to use the sticky stick on it. In order to pick up the stick, the player needs to get gloves.


Which is where the cider jack comes into play.


The top half of Mondo's home first needs to be cleared of ruffians. Then the player can check out Mondo's PC.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Wo! You turn on the computer and enter on
of Mondo's text files.


DEAR Brother Londo,
    I have killed secret agent Edward and
I know I saw someone else there!!! I must
seek and kill this mon I mean Man! I will
be at Lilly park hunting!

                    Your brother,

YOU: Hhmm! He thinks he is going to kill
me! Oh, I will show him!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Mondo has a brother! The person killed was a secret agent, and now our unnamed protagonist knows that Mondo is in a nearby park.


The purple key found in the crate early on can be used to access this pantry which is full of food that restores three health each.

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