🗝️Overflow 2.0

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Closer Look: Overflow (Part 2)

Treasure, fortresses, and really big palm trees. Overflow continues to impress throughout its back half

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jun 30, 2021
Part of Series: Overflow Closer Look
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Riddle1
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To get by the Hut, and to the top of the
Palm Tree, you must pass a series of
questions. Here's the first!

What is the only thing you can add to a
barrel, to make it weigh less?

Air

Apples

Baloon

Computer

Dan's Cat

Ether

Fogurt =)

Gumdrops

Helium

Hole

Ice

Liquid Water

MegaZeux Games

Nitrogen

Orb CD

Sunlight

UFOs

ZZT Games

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

You're a fool if you think any child of the 90s wasn't watching Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

Riddles in ZZT like this are always made significantly easier by having to be multiple choice, especially when half the answers are clearly jokes. Just reading the list will make the answer apparent. Barjesse's Nightmare, a quintessential ZZT puzzle game suffers from this as well, even to the point where after correctly answering one of the tougher riddles the player is given the ability to say "I just guessed" and have the answer explained.

Drelick's riddles are a bit friendlier, which depending on your perspective may be better or worse than what Barjesse concocts.

Riddle2
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Unlike it's cousins, it can't fly, but
what it lacks in flying ability, it makes
up for by swimming.

Bird

Bat

Cats

Chicken

Emu

Flying Fish

Kiwi

Man

Ostrich

Penguin

Squirrel

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This one seems even easier than the previous.

Riddle3
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2-4-16-256-?

Complete this pattern...

62250

64000

65536

68225

72250

73442

75275

80000

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This one is easy enough for programmers or those with a calculator. Just looking for the "65" that I knew the answer started with was enough.

Riddle4
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
J-F-M-A-M-?

Complete this pattern...

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This one is still pretty easy, but I have to give it credit in that it doesn't become easier by being multiple choice. Drelick wrote the alphabet out as options so you're stuck recognizing the pattern as the months of the year.

Riddle5
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
When it's light, I'm dark; when it's
dark, I'm gone; when I'm gone for good,
so are you. What am I?

Black Hole

Black Hole Sun =)

Night

Darkness

The Mu

The Cleft of Dimension

Your Shadow

Vortex

Vacuum

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Another one weakened by the multiple choice. This one is also notable in that some of the wrong answers deliver special messages, though they flash by too quickly once the game over is triggered so you won't really be able to see them without looking at the code.

"The Mu" and "The Cleft of Dimension" bring up "Even though FF5j is an AWESOME game, the answer is still wrong!". I'm a big fan of FF5 and when this article is out will in the middle of a Four Job Fiesta run. I have no idea what "The Mu" is.

Which means I had to at least do some minimum effort to find out. And thanks to a guide by Exdeath on GameFAQS last updated in 2002 which contains a complete translated script for the SNES version I was able to find out "The Mu" is "The void". I think this is what they mean by translation and localization not being the same thing because one of those sounds far more imposing.

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The riddles are probably the weakest puzzle segment of the game.

They're made even weaker by the fact that the objects are running at a slower speed so with a bit of luck for your starting cycle you can actually dash past all of them.

Also the layout of this board means that the player will almost certainly go to the other people to see what their deal is and get attacked. This is the first time there have been any hostile humans and while the pirates are obviously going to be human opponents I don't get what's supposed to be going on in this hut.

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Ah, it's our favorite board again. The hut connecting to here kind of throws out any interpretation of these boards being different sides of the tree out the window.

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...Especially when that board then leads right back here. I wonder if the hut was going to lead here originally only for Drelick to realize he still had a path that couldn't be accessed.

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...And back on the palm tree. Or maybe it's a different one? You can't see the coast from here at all.

This isn't three brown ruffians either. These are objects that are shooting, and the three together are the boss of the Palm Tree: Cocoa-Bomber. Sure it doesn't sound nearly as threatening as "Robotic Armageddon", but it's still a great name.

Actually Robotic Armageddon is a good comparison. They have very similar code, although these bombers run at a slower speed, probably to try and balance out that you need to fight three of them.

Drelick is clever enough here to design the arena in such a way that the bombers probably won't start shooting each other. This is good, but it also means that it doesn't feel like a one-on-three fight and is instead three identical one-on-one fights.

Ammo duplicators are provided in the event that the player went here early on they'll be safe to finish the fight. It still feels like a clunky solution that's rendered unnecessary by the fact that Charlie starts with 200 ammo as long as he talks to everybody in the first board of the game.

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There's also this strange scroll. Unlike most areas the keycard isn't handed to the player after beating the boss.

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Which makes this fight even less showy than usual as the battle just ends and Charlie gets to leave. Come to think of it, the background here isn't showing me what those bombers even look like. It's a weak end to an otherwise well-made section.

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There we go. Now the wandering vengeful humans make a little more sense. I still don't get why this outer ring is even here since just defeating the boss could have given the keycard like it always does.

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Time out! There's still more Palm Tree to explore.

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It's the mother-lode. The scroll explains that the only person who knows the way inside might need to be contacted over the phone on Native's Isle. This is the only point in the game where the islands have any connection with each other.

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Remember way way back on Native's Isle? There was a phone number written on a rock in the jungle portion which led to this conversation which provides the code to the safe.

...which I didn't write down at the time when I was playing.

So I just left. I have more than enough ammo and gems right now. The scroll inside simply says "Wrong way!"

If you have the password, sure, go on in, but the idea of descending this tree, walking back to where that note was, and then inputting a phone number on the pay phone again did not feel like a good use of time.

All the same though, I do kind of wish there was more interplay between the islands rather than keeping them entirely isolated from each other. Treasure rooms like this are one such idea. Maybe the shops could have prices changes or let you buy in bulk if you clear certain areas or something like that. Instead they just exist in vacuums which isn't a fault. For one thing it keeps the game open to be explored how the player wants to without creating an optimal route.

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But that's all five keycards! It's time to take on Captain Kurt and his band of sky-pirates! Skyrates.

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Oh yeah, and to avenge Nick.

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Landing atop a runway lined with blinking red lights Charlie begins the final challenge.

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It gets abstract pretty fast as things promptly return to a view of the flooded world and some massive pillars. It looks nice though! The curved archway is something you wouldn't expect to see in ZZT's frequently rigid architecture. Likely the implication here is that wherever Charlie docked is probably in some way connected to Smuggler's Shanty based on the architecture as well as that island being the one time we've seen Captain Kurt.

One downside to non-linear games is that by opening every area immediately every area has to be treated as if it's the very first one the player sees. Once you hit a final area like this however the author can be more confident that the player can handle more of a challenge from what they've learned about the game over time. Drelick doesn't really do that here, and the fortress doesn't feel any tougher than the previous islands. What it tries to do instead is to just be really long. The fortress takes up just shy of twenty boards which is a pretty significant amount in a 100 board game. Smuggler's Shanty was the next lengthiest area by board count with thirteen boards of dungeon.

screen735

Early attempts here at increasing difficulty fall a bit flat. These enemies are "Pissed Cubs" but they move at the default cycle of three and only harm Charlie if he touches them.

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The sleek futuristic linewall style that has defined much of Overflow gets puts to good use here. Way back in the shanty there was a mixture of metallic walls with natural greenery which made for a strangely tranquil aesthetic. That look will eventually return here as Charlie makes his way from these early strongholds to areas meant to be more livable in the safer inner confines of the fortress, but for now things skew mechanical.

Everything certainly looks more imposing with spinning conveyors and clock-like apparatuses on the sides of this strange structure.

The red checkmark or square root characters are called Cyborgs, but still don't pose much challenge. They actually do suffer from a minor programming bug where they have a :thud label despite not using #walk which means they end up doing nothing but moving randomly. (Their thud label just has them move perpendicular to the player and restart so the threat is pretty minimal regardless.) Like the pissed cubs they again require actual touch to hurt the player which isn't the kind of behavior you'd expect in end-game enemies.

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A more careful study of the backgrounds gives a better idea of what Drelick was going for. From the skyline runway Charlie ascends via elevator to the actual flying fortress here.

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This is revealed on the next board when the fortress takes off. Despite now being airborne the player isn't cut-off from backtracking if they wanted to leave for some reason. I'd be more forgiving of this design as a way to still let the player head to the shops in the two towns, but soon enough Charlie actually will be locked inside and unable to retreat. The "point of no return" is an obvious choice for a final level like this, but it's one that would have more thematic impact if the ship's takeoff was that point.

screen742

A small gauntlet of spinning guns makes up the challenge for this board. They fit in nicely with the theme of pirates with advanced technology and I'm kind of surprised they didn't show up in Smuggler's Shanty earlier. Drelick balances the guns nicely pacing the player with safe gaps and keeping the firing rate on the guns manageable enough that there will still be gaps in the gunfire for Charlie to swooce on through.

screen748

Now Charlie's about to actually have to commit. A button at the bottom of the board opens the gate for a short period before closing behind Charlie.

Meanwhile in the background things are looking neat again. At this scale the conveyors do a great job of being spinning gears or other machinery and the linewalls are complimented with objects that give the impression of some kind of pipes transporting who knows what across the ship. I appreciate the contrast as well between the fortress along the bottom and the beautiful looking day outside. There are plenty of gradients here with the fortress, mountains, trees, and clouds, but that sky is pristine. A perfectly solid cyan sky makes for as bright of a sky as ZZT can provide.

screen750

And then you hit this second button to open a second gate which also closes behind Charlie. The redundancy makes it really clear that there's no going back now. Charlie is either going to leave with a time machine or not at all.

screen752
screen752

This second gate actually does have an exit switch for some reason. Again, it wouldn't matter even if it functioned.

screen753

Welcome to Kurt's house.

I really love that this is not just included, but still part of the dungeon gameplay. This board doesn't exist to give you Captain Kurt's history, motivations, or reveal some secret to defeating him. It's just the dude's living space.

screen755
screen755

Though most objects are decorative and just create obstacles in the way of shooting enemies some can still provide an explanation as to what they are. ("Hellstruggles" in the bedroom here who again require the player to touch them to inflict damage.)

screen757

Plus it provides a great opportunity to search Kurt's dresser clothing drawer for embarrassing underwear or something.

screen758

Well, this makes more sense actually.

screen759
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screen760

The guards think nothing of the noise from Charlie shooting the Hellstruggles, but please be considerate of not making a racket when looking through a drawer.

This is an instant game over. I'm not a fan of its inclusion. Since this is an action game first and foremost saving is happening pretty constantly and no real progress is going to be lost, but nothing is added here. A crude stealth segment could almost be fun here if the player wasn't allowed to shoot due to the noise on this board which would make avoiding enemies a new challenge.

But then I'd be asking for stealth mechanics in a ZZT game and good luck making that not worse than an instant game over for checking the drawers wrong. Plus while it might be tolerable for the objects, there's clearly a dining room full of lions and tigers that wouldn't be particularly fun for an unarmed Charlie to get past.

screen768
screen768

[√] ZZT toilet

screen772

The bathroom is actually a devious trick to get the player to be roughly southeast of the creatures in the back half of the home which makes for a big pileup behind the door.

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Pretty much everything else is just decoration. A lamp, chairs, that sort of thing. There is this wrench on a shelf which makes it apparent that there's more to this board than a drawer with a key as there's still another door to go.

screen781

I'm so proud of Drelick for making this joke.

screen784

The answer of course lies with the tank as it always does.

screen786

The wet bandits strike again. Take that Captain Kurt McCallister.

Please don't dwell on my metaphor here.

screen787

The brief detour through a living space ends and things return to the normal format of linewalls and creatures in a non-specific location. There's a small hint of greenery now and some more decoration in the patterned carpeting around the center of the floor, but the background has been degraded to a basic blue fade. It was like this on the last board as well, but there was a lot more to be distracted by.

Here it's not as much. Sadly, the fortress just falls back to a basic gradient for a background a decent portion of the area, but there are still some great backgrounds to look forward to.

This is also the first board in quite a while to not have any object based enemies, but it demonstrates just how effectively built-ins can be used. The bears provide a quick ambush as soon as Charlie enters the floor. Ruffians hold their own on the sides where an inattentive player distracted by ammo might not realize that they're being given more room to maneuver by picking items up. The centipedes which don't even have any segments are actually quite smart to use here where these diagonal halls would make other creatures want to walk into walls while the centipedes are capable of trying to avoid them.

Unlike earlier, keys are now a pretty big part of exploring these floors and make sure that Charlie can't just ignore half the floor. The doors are often not even on the same board so the player needs to scan each board to make sure they collect everything lest they find themselves without a key soon after.

screen795

And back to being pretty.

This one I particularly like as it lets the foreground and background blend once more with these giant columns that have playable space overlapping them so neatly. The chain motif returns again giving the sense that Charlie is currently on some movable platform.

I suspect that this new base is where the pirates were flying their fortress to. That sense of movement is really only noticeable if you're actively looking for it, but it feels very much ahead of its time to even attempt to communicate to the player that flight has happened solely through gameplay boards and not some cut-scene outright showing the fortress moving from point A to point B.

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Move over beanmen. There's new best enemy ever and it's the EVIL SCROLL or "SadistScroll" as the objects are named. I wish some code had been put in place to make them change colors, and that they didn't immediately start moving around. It could have been an amazing trick on the player to suddenly make them have to distrust scrolls. Drelick opts to make them enemies like any other though aside from this message when they're touched.

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This shift is gameplay aligning with the fortress arriving at a new location is also pretty great. So far this final area has been a linear trek in the style of Smuggler's Shanty, but at the base it opens up and becomes more maze-like akin to Palm Tree for a bit.

Some snakes appear here that are definitely more dangerous than the ones way back on Native's Isle. These ones can shoot! Although their positioning makes it very likely that they'll shoot each other. Had they been put into place to protect the ammo and gems at the end of each side here they'd have been more threatening for sure.

Even with the snakes being a bust this floor is pretty good overall, managing to cram in a lot of paths in a limited space.

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The two passages in turn lead to the pillars on the previous board.

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...which lead to the columns on the next board.

I said it's very Palm Tree and I meant it.

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Well, the Palm Tree's branches were far more likely to lead to piles of gems. Here we get our actual puzzle for the dungeon, and it's nowhere near as imposing as it might look.

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Some lengthy instructions don't make it sound any easier. All this amounts to is a glorified Sokoban puzzle where pusher objects will do half the work for you. Given how many times I've pushed boulders onto fake walls in ZZT before, getting to half-ass it like this is a relief.

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Some effort is still required. You do need to think ahead a little bit to make sure you don't block off a path or push a box into a corner by mistake. Once you've got this part done all that's left is to hit the button.

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The pushers start to push and the square boxes go into the round holes. This unlocks a door on a later floor that would be more easily made clear to the player if it just gave them a key.

Afterwards Charlie needs to loop around to the other side...

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I'm really getting Palm Tree flashbacks here.

The other side of this floor is devoid of enemies thanks to shooting needing to be disabled on this board to prevent the holes from being cheesed by just blocking them for a cycle with a bullet. Instead Charlie gets a little break as he uses his two keys from a few floors down to in turn get a different key.

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And that door leads to a passage to a much more green looking room. There's a lot to take in with so many passages plus locked doors and buttons to press. It's clearly a board that will be returned to quite a few times.

Initially everything is locked, but by solving the Sokoban puzzle the door to the blue passage will open with a message of congratulations for solving the puzzle.

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Split rooms are the new hotness giving the player an idea of what to expect in the near future. For now it's a quick shootout with some creatures that helpfully line themselves up in this narrow corridor.

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And then the game changes direction again. Charlie finds himself in an elevator with access to a few different locations. This section is mostly about collecting the keys to get to those buttons from earlier. All these areas are open to Charlie including Kurt's office which no doubt will be of interest.

Because it's such a drastic change I wondered if the previous section had multiple paths that led here since there were plenty of skipped passages and I turned myself around to make sure I didn't miss anything. And what I did miss was taking screenshots as I have nothing from this elevator through various passages of the maze-like floors below that took me...

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