Flame Frost Blade

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Closer Look: Demos Without Finished Games

Exploring several demos for games that were never finished

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jun 15, 2020
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Next we have Kings, which at first glance is just another fantasy role-playing game, but the name will turn out to be a bit deceiving. The title screen is a bit flashy, with horizontal bars appearing behind the "Kings" text in a repeating pattern and a nice looking marquee of text on the bottom explaining that it's a demo for 1996.

What makes this one unique is that it takes yet another approach to making a demo for ZZT that I honestly haven't seen before (and lucked into by picking this game): The editor has a lot of erased boards and indicates that the demo was made from a more complete game that was then stripped down for a demo release. This demo is 12 boards long, but the ZZT file contains more than 50 board in it! Going off the grand plans for this one, I don't think that even at 50 boards it was complete, but there is perhaps a small chance that a full version exists somewhere.


Despite being built off a more developed world, there's still a menu with two areas to venture off to a-la Jurassic Park ZZT.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–ˆ KINGS DEMO.1 โ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘
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Thank You for downloading the "KINGS Demo"
This demo will show you some boards of my
*BIG* upcoming game due in 1997! I call
this Demo.1 because I will release a
bigger more playable demo very soon.
Look for news,boards,demo,games,and other
stuff at my FTP site
I have all ZOP ZZT game here!

You arrive home from a vaction when you
read a note saying your wife has been
kiddnapped by a gang called "The New Kings
The story doesn't sound like much at first
but play and wait till you see what
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Things open with a rather large scroll that contains a whole lot of information. The "kings" aren't royalty, but part of a gang, and of course the plans are huge.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–ˆ KINGS DEMO.1 โ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘
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Here is what you can expect in KINGS:
A huge RPG world with many different paths
and endings!Different play modes like a
3-D level,a side view level,and more! A
complex story wich twists and turns as you
play. And some great graphics and

Stuff about me,
I'm doing other projects but KINGS is my
main game.I started it Sep.96 it has went
through *MANY* changes.I'm on AOL alot my
e mail address is
My favorite games are "Lost Monkeys" by
Chris Jong and "NED the Knight" by Jeremy
LaMar. I'm 14 years old.I'm male. I like
to play video games,read,and program.
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Every ZZT game is the same isn't it? Kings, like Jurassic Park ZZT will have a 3-D level and a side view level. The graphics will be staggering. Then just as in Flame Frost Blade we can expect a huge RPG world with a story full of twists and incredible programming.

But that's being mean. Matthew, the game's author, just wants to make a cool game, and so did the others who made demos we've seen so far. There's room for a lot of ZZT RPGs and there will be plenty of overlap when features are as vague as "good graphics".


Finally the scroll explains the two paths. Credit to Matthew, he wants to get people interested in the big story, and realizing that it will take more than a few opening boards to get things going, he's also included some extra boards to help the player get invested in the game's plot.


Also showing some good foresight, passages that can't be entered have been replaced with an equals sign. This really helps the player not waste time checking every door in case they can go inside. Since ZZT passages (without the use of special colors) are always white on a dark background, a more common convention once special colors became available was to do something like black on a dark background for doors that don't open. Of course, another popular alternative is to just use doors or objects that use door-like characters as well. Still, considering the need for the player to know where they can and can't go is a promising sign!


Well, here's our story. Already I understand more about this plot than anything in Flame Frost Blade.


The demo begins in your home which has some interesting shading for the walls, and a lot of nice furniture.

I feel like it's been awhile now since I've gotten to take dozens of screenshots touching everything in the player's house. So let's see... this starting room has a plant and the ransom note on the ground. You can (and should) pick up the note and take it with you.


The lower right is our bathroom, with toilet, shower (a rarity), and sink.


You can of course flush the toilet and get a scrolling marquee of text saying "<FlUsH!>". You cannot shower, but you can wash your hands. I kind of see what Matthew was going for with the triangular shower as perhaps a shower-head, but it seems like an odd choice to me.


There's a kitchen with some burners you can turn on despite having nothing good in the fridge. The player and his wife also have a dishwasher.

This room connects to the basement, but like in Flame Frost, it's a decorative part of the house that can't be entered at all.


The bedroom is actually the important part of the house as it contains the phone to call the police from.


Dang, they won't even send somebody over.


This whole phone is one of those weirdly complex ZZT things. It's not enough to just have a phone object, but there's one for the cord and another for the "phone box".


I don't understand.

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A cord with a plug on the end of it...
You take a closer look and see:
โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”                           โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”
โ”‚     โ”‚                           โ”‚     โ”‚
โ”‚     โ”‚                           โ”‚     โ”‚
โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“PLUGS FOR UPCOMING ZOP GAMESโ–’โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘
Stinky the Sock Muching Ocelot!
A great and humorous game with real RPG

Secret Agent Joe Moe!
Coming Dec 25,1996!!!

A game thats been in the works for 3 years

Remember come to:
for latest games,news,boards and demos!
โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’END OF PLUGโ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘โ–‘
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The dresser contains a plug in both senses of the word with some ASCII art of an electrical plug and a list of upcoming games by Zed-Omega Productions. This apparently includes the recently streamed Secret Agent Joe Moe. Only a small handful of worlds on the Museum are credited to ZOP, yet I seem to recall its name coming up quite a bit in older ZZT worlds. This might be because of the toolkit A.I.Z.I Enhanced with ZOP which was fairly popular.


In addition to the phone and dresser, the player can also get some sleep (but only on his half of the bed) which adds 100 health.


Finally, we have the living room with a bowl of candy, plant, couch, and TV. Continuing the trend with the phone, there's a separate message if you touch the back of the couch or its arm rests. Amazing detail.


I'd watch this.


Going outside we get a rather strange looking town. Buildings come in all sorts of shapes here. The warehouse is falling apart, and whatever the red building is meant to be also has something weird going on around it. At first I thought this was some weird shadow, but the path near it is also weird.

The lighting is also really stark. Most of the board has a fairly standard grass fade, but the top right has a huge jump in brightness that makes it looks like there's a storm clearing up or something. If Matthew said this was the case I'd be impressed, instead I think it's just a weird quirk of how he opted to shade the board.


All the buildings are marked with inaccessible passages, but the warehouse has a note outside warning about how dangerous it is.


Another sign points out that there's another scary place not yet available.


Lastly, down in the corner by the lake is a note written by your wife! She's going to be taken to a red house. Oh no!

I don't know if any of you are invested in this, but I'm afraid that's it for this opening segment of the demo. The player will never get to tell the police that the Kings have taken his wife to a red house.

I'd be a little disappointed if it was the red house on this board.


Unlike Jurassic Park there is no way to return to the main menu, requiring the game to be restarted to see the rest of Palson and the full story for the game.

Sure right now it looks like this is just another part of town in which your wife has been kidnapped, but the kidnapping plot is merely the start of this adventure.


Only two boards of the town are accessible, and there still aren't any places to go inside. This second board seems to break convention by having some passages, but they're objects where you can just knock on doors and talk to occupants.


They don't really have anything to say. The red house is empty, the blue building is closed for remodeling, the hotel next to it just has no response when the door is touched, and the one person you can speak with in the green home yells at you to get off his property.


This Boy's club house rules. Do they exclude women? No! Girls allowed.

Convenient grammar mistakes aside, you still can't enter the tree house either. This demo isn't very substantial.


I went from praising the use of a distinct character to mark inaccessible buildings, to discovering that the diamond shaped building that's blocked by a locked ZZT door actually isn't a door at all.


Okay so this is the inside of that building and things are looking rather intense suddenly. Two portraits of aliens(?) take up a large part o the board, and lots of the linewalls and floors use blinking colors making for a quite flashy experience.


I'm not sure if this is meant to be before or after you save your wife. Are these two members of the Kings gang or is this a Secret Agent Joe Moe situation, where what at first seems to be the game's plot resolves when you're barely a third of the way through the entire game.


The back room is also very flashy and has another fake door. This leads to a "Wise Man" who has quite a bit to say and really does expand on this game's story quite a bit. Get ready for a lot of text.


Oh my god.

Wise Man
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What they don't have lungs!

Well they do but only one and that one is
very small.So they can not run or be very
active for long period of time thats why
they use a lot of techlogy.Well anyway
I am you from a different dimension a
dimension of water beings.I have to look
at every dimension and find the defender
for each one.Thats what those large "tvs"
were looking at.If you win this battle
you will lead others like I do but you
have the hardest fight to win.They have
never been harder they are invading many
dimensions at once...so you have to travel
a lot using the machines to my left and
right you must chosse if you go to the
correct one you will live and the adventur
will start...If you chosse the wrong one..
you will die...


Do you have a hearing problem?

Well um...no.

So you know what I said right.


Hey can Homer sue me for saying that?

Well if he can...Zo'h!

Get it! ZZT "Z" in Do'h! Cool.

That was not funny


Don't say that!

Zo'h! Zo'h! Zo'h!

Go chosse and leave me alone!
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I love everything about this. This is peak over-imaginative fiction here, and nothing else in this demo would have made me think there'd be anything like powerful monsters from another dimension who want humanity's lungs.

So our hero is in fact the chosen one and his poor wife just had the misfortune of being the one picked to reveal the secrets of our respiratory systems to the Kings gang.

And then we get philosophical about Simpsons quotes.


Lastly, the conversation ends with this note revealing the scope of the game. This seems to imply that there isn't a wrong choice for where to go, which is better than picking a bad door and being instantly killed. I actually kind of like the idea of there being four paths to take, with each one being the "canon" one and the paths not taken being implied to be deadly.

Of course, this is the exact kind of thing that ensures a ZZT world won't be finished. Now the author has to make four games instead of one. This kind of massive variety of scenarios to this day I believe has only been pulled off by Alexis Janson with Code Red which has a whopping eight paths to choose from. Most games that attempt this simply don't happen, though we've seen with NextGame 33 that an alternative is to just cut your losses and release the game with only a few of the planned scenarios completed.


It's a little confusing how the game says there are two paths here, but none available. I don't know why the other two rooms like this one wouldn't be in the other corners even in the demo. This board is empty and has a passage that just loops back to the same board. (I imagine the two missing boards would be the same way.)


The last corner though, has an object that matches the player's appearance.


It's you from the future warning you to avoid this path. Try not to think about how if the player takes this path they'll die, but also go back in time to warn their past self about how they will be dead. Time and space is always like that.

The passage here actually does lead back to the main menu which is strange, but I guess it means there's at least a chance of playing the entire demo all at once.

Final Thoughts

This one's kind of a trip. Kings starts off as a pretty typical adventure with the basic "save girl" story, but it seems like the author had some far larger ambitions than that. There's really not a whole lot here so it's hard to get a feeling for what the game would actually play like. All you really get is the player's house and talking to some weirdo who introduces you to dimensional travel.

Nothing here is bad. The story kind of running all over the place makes me fear that the full version wouldn't be that great of a game, but the writing is bizarre enough that this would probably make for a fun stream if there was a more complete game. Kings seems to be too ambitious to succeed based on what little is seen in the demo, but also silly enough that I feel like 20 more boards of this would be a lot more interesting than 20 more boards of Land of Gannon.

At the same time because everything is so vague, there's honestly a chance it could have been a genuinely good game. I'm not expecting an instant classic, but this could definitely be B-tier quality if Matthew managed to avoid the common pitfalls of these sort of games like piles of enemies, not enough resources, obtuse puzzles, or easy soft locks. The recognition of ambiguous passages gives me hope that there could be something good to come out of this. I'd be cautiously optimistic about playing more of Kings.

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