Closer Look: Fantasy of Freedom

Gus Turnell's isekai adventure

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Oct 31, 2022
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This October has marked Super ZZT's 31st anniversary since its original release way back in 1992. I figured it would only be appropriate to play a Super ZZT game for a Closer Look, and that's where the trouble begins. See, right now the Museum hosts 3350 files tagged as containing at least one ZZT world. There's a lot of options available when you want to check out a ZZT game.

Poor Super ZZT meanwhile gets the short end of the stick. Despite ZZT having less than a 2-year head start, the number of files that contain a Super ZZT world is tremendously smaller: sixty. We can talk semantics and cover revisions, compilations, remakes, or anything else that bolsters the number of ZZT worlds out there, but no matter how much you attempt to scale it back, the fact is that Super ZZT's long term success is basically zip. And if you want to make those arguments to scale things back, six of those sixty are just various releases of the program itself. For all the modern messing around with the Reconstruction, it's safe to say that 10% of all ZZT worlds are most certainly not just re-releases of ZZT programs.

There's something to be said about the vastly uneven playing field. Every time I discuss Super ZZT I get to bring up the list of reasons for the disparity. Its hidden editor. Its reduced number of boards per world. Its subjectively ugly appearance on many systems that didn't typically handle the pixel aspect ratio of a 40-column game properly. Its lack of any third-party editors all the way up until 2008. Its larger boards with the same number of permitted stats per board...

That's mean though. It's Super ZZT's anniversary and whatever troubles it may have, and whatever few successes come from riding on ZZT's coattails be damned. Super ZZT is still a capable medium and you very much can make a great game with it. Any doubts one might have had being quickly discarded upon playing 8x14's Tyrobain from 2016 which is designed around Super ZZT's strengths and unique capabilities creating something that would need heavy tweaking and compromise for a ZZT equivalent.

The trouble though, is that thanks in part to Super ZZT's lack of a groundbreaking title for so dang long, the bar is so much lower. The last time I did a Closer Look for a Super ZZT game I went with War of ZZT , relying on the familiar and respected name of Chris Jong only to get an absolute mess of a game. Even names like Alexis Janson fumble with the medium with House of Horrors living off nostalgia and name recognition. It's game that helps remind us that just because something says "Software Visions", doesn't mean it's going to be on par with Mission: Enigma .

But this game says "Interactive Fantasies" so there's no way I'm going to be disappointed!

title

Fantasy of Freedom v2.0

By: Hydra
Published Under: Interactive Fantasies
Released: October 10, 1997
Played Using: Super ZZT v2.0 via Zeta 40b
Download | Play Online | View Files

No, no, I won't be fooled again. I struggled quite a bit trying to decide what to pick as a subject for this month. Bad games, whether for ZZT, Super ZZT, or neither can at least make for an entertaining stream. I needed something I could actually write about, and with plans to stream several Super ZZT worlds for October regardless, I had to choose very carefully.

The handful of Super ZZT releases attributed to Interactive Fantasies were the standouts. Fantasy of Freedom is one of the company's earliest releases, visually looks like an Interactive Fantasies title, and appears be the first game made by Hydra. Not a bad start. Having now played it from beginning to end, I'm confident I picked a winner here. Fantasy of Freedom does not free Super ZZT of its reputation as an inferior sequel. That's fantasy. However, it is certainly significantly more enjoyable than War of ZZT was and a bit more competent than House of Horrors. Can it surpass Monster Zoo? Well... that's a bit harder to say decisively.

Still, what I can say for the game up front is that I enjoyed the experience overall. There are some rough design issues with surprise game overs, mandatory secrets, and the potential for a nasty soft-lock (sort of). Yet if those problems mean there's nothing of value here, things don't look good for quite a number of imperfect yet fondly remembered ZZT worlds either. The flaws here are the flaws of any younger developer creating games with little guidance. Super ZZT's own mechanics aren't to blame here when the game struggles.

So let's get lost in a fantasy world and see if we can find our bearings and figure out exactly what we're dealing with here.

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As a Super ZZT world, the title screen is water-powered, relying on the player riding currents to scroll the camera automatically. This is partially just Super ZZTers learning from example. All the official Super ZZT worlds utilize this, but I feel like it's less of a long-running tradition and more that with only twenty-four characters of horizontal resolution visible at any given time, it's all but mandatory if you want your game's title to be written in anything other than the stock text elements.

You may want to flip along through the file viewer for the game if you'd like to take in a wider view of things. (Be sure to click the arrows in the top right of the center column to hide the other columns so you can fit the screen comfortably on most desktop displays.)

While the water is very Super ZZT, the rest of the title looks a lot more like it's from the eldest child. The pathing is really just used to show off the title and nothing else, making up for the tiny viewport that ironically would fit just fine on a regular ZZT board.

Of note is that this is the 2.0 version of the game. According to the game's documentation, Fantasy of Freedom actually dates back to the summer of 1996. This updated version is said to be mostly a graphical overhaul, with some additional sound effects and corrections to some spelling errors. I would have loved to see the original, but currently it remains unpreserved, and given the short time frame between releases, it may be a tough one to come by. The sounds are welcome, if very key-smashy. This is very evident on the title screen whose music is just a wild burst of various sounds until it goes silent. I'd have politely refrained from mentioning it entirely if the documentation didn't draw attention to it.

The language too is also messy. As stated in other articles/streams of early IF content, the founding members were Dutch speakers first and foremost, and still rather young for game developers. Hydra would have been twelve or thirteen at most for Fantasy of Freedom's initial release. The game's English honestly isn't that bad all things considered. Certainly better than my Dutch at the very least.

-=( Fantasy of Freedom )=-
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Welcome to my first
Interactive Fantasies title.

You are Gus Turnell. You and
your family live in New York.
As you were enjoying your
daily walk through the centre
of New York City, suddenly
a sorcerer came up to you.
You were very surprised;
A sorcerer in the middle
of the city?  Before you
could do anything, he casted
a spell and you
couldn't see anything but
strange lights. And then you
fell asleep...

When you woke up, you noticed
you weren't in New York any
more. You are in a strange
world of Orcs, Trolls and
more wierd creatures. Your
goal is to go back to
your own world.
When you have enough
keys there is something you
can do ...

Niels "Hydra78" Reyngound.
Interactive Fantasies 1996.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Before the player can even get their bearings at the start of the game, an information scroll gives us the story. Gus Turnell is just one of many iconic ZZT character names that belong in Fighting Baseball and will be our protagonist today. Just your typical everyday New Yorker as written by a (pre-)teen in the Netherlands. I'm sold.

Some early bits of Interactive Fantasies history point to the company beginning when Hydra's cousin Hercules wanted to make a ZZT company to publish ZZT games in English under, with Hydra also being interested in the idea and joining shortly after. I wouldn't be surprised if the New York City detail was added entirely to be more relatable to a presumably American audience. Sometimes ZZT companies get to act like real ones!

Like most New Yorkers, Gus is caught off guard by the appearance of a sorcerer and even more surprised when he's isekai-ed into a typical fantasy world. Given Hydra's later work on King's Quest ZZT and Quest for Glory , you can see the fantasy genre is a longstanding interest of his. From that perspective, I was very much interested in what this game would be like. The Sierra inspired worlds used existing characters, creatures and locations. Here however, Hydra has free reign to create whatever world he likes. I eagerly awaited discovering what that could mean, hoping that it wouldn't just be a dry run for King's Quest with the Graham family's name crossed out and Turnell written in its place.

The keys are also brought up right away here as well as in the manual. In these two instances, it's unclear if the keys are a way home, or something else entirely. I wasn't even sure if they were mandatory, as the wording to me implied that they were a sort of optional bonus for some sort of reward instead. I'm always a sucker for games that encourage the player to go above and beyond the expectations. No such luck here, as it will soon be revealed the keys are simply part of the process to return home.

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The game begins with the player in the middle of a field with four paths seemingly open to them. This feels more like Town with its open-ended structure than Monster Zoo's linear level-based design. Gus isn't entirely lost though. There's a sign right by the start that clears up what's in three of the four directions. The lair of the orcs lies west, the village of Zarc to the east, and up north is a town of dwarves that lies past the troll's bridge.

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Before you can even make a choice though, somebody starts calling out for help. This message loops indefinitely until you finally find the person calling for help. No guidance on where the cry is coming from is given, so they may be stuck waiting for quite a bit.

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One feature Super ZZT offers over ZZT is the ability to code in custom hints for the player. This makes it a lot easier to decide which way to go as Hydra is upfront that heading to the west is the way to go.

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Instead though, I went east. A pile of ammo can't just be ignored, and if I'm already picking it up, why not keep going that way? Plus it's supposed to lead to a town and surely I could get some more information there to learn what Gus had to do if he wanted to return to his own world.

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The path splits fairly quickly, though the split is narrow enough that you can't miss this lovely little fountain. What you see is what you get with the fountain. There's no animation in the water resulting in a rigid body of water. Of course, as it's a dead end it's clear that there must be some purpose to it. Investigating the the fountain pays off quite literally, with a bag of gems being discovered! Money will end up being a rather critical resource, so being a softball of a secret is for the best as you really don't want to overlook the opportunity to get a few gems.

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The limited viewport means that when it's time to shoot some creatures you probably won't know it until they're fairly close to the player. The lengthy hallways and empty rooms of ZZT that let the player recklessly shoot before any monsters can become a threat is a lot harder to come by in Super ZZT. A handful of rotons stand between the player and the first person Gus has come across. Hopefully they're the one that's screaming so we can get them to stop.

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Nope! I hate when I accidentally talk to a wicked man. I guess he's not all that wicked as he politely explains how to get past the gate and even gives the player some ammo in order to shoot the target.

You can't simply walk into Zarc. You've got to play some annoying little games first. To open the first gate Gus gets to do some target practice on this red object that moves erratically around the area. Random movement and the water currents preventing the player from just picking a spot and waiting make this surprisingly difficult.

It's also a great example of a (Super) ZZT-OOP nuance. The object moves randomly with #TRY in an infinite loop. Since there's no command that will end the cycle other than successful movement or the OOP parser manually breaking the loop to prevent the game from hanging, this means any attempt to move in a randomly selected direction that fails will immediately be repeated. In short, your own bullets will often obstruct the MovingThing forcing it to move out of the way of a bullet that was going to hit on the next tick. Will I work this into an Oktrollberfest entry this year? Maybe.

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Speaking of Oktrollberfest, upon finally hitting the target the player learns that they need to do it a second time for no reason other than their own personal torment. My luck was at least better the second time and it only took a handful of shots to land the extra shot.

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One nice little touch Fantasy of Freedom offers is that it rewards the player for completing tasks with bonus points, and goes out of its way to draw attention to it. It certainly felt like an accomplishment, so receiving a prize like this clearly rather than quietly increasing score helps ease the sting of all that wasted ammo.

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A second wicked man keeps the player from opening the second and thankfully final gate. While the first challenge may have felt like luck, this one undoubtedly is. In order to get past, Gus has to correctly guess which of the four numbers will be randomly shot. It seems like just another time waster, though this one is worse. The first wicked man at least gave the player some extra ammo for their challenge. This one requires five gems to play.

Super ZZT still allows saving anywhere so you can get past with just one payment of course, but it's rather annoying having to quit and reload a save every time your guess is incorrect. Just because it's a one in four chance, doesn't mean that four chances will be enough.

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The second gate opens after a statistically improbably number of failures and Gus can finally check out the nearby village of Zarc.

I guess now's a good time to point out that I've already soft-locked the game. (Well, I thought I did anyway)

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Yeah. So as it turns out, if you head north there's a bridge troll that demands ten gems to pass.

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Refusal to pay or not having enough gems isn't an option resulting a swift death and game over.

The hints don't help here. The first says to go west. The second says to speak with somebody.

You can get ten gems from the fountain, and if you spend five to make it into the village you won't be able to get any more gems and be able to afford the toll. Instead you need to head north with your money and find some more gems that way to be able to afford to the player the "roulette" game.

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This was going to be one of my big complaints about how easy it is to do this. The idea that you actually need to turn around in the middle of a path rather than exploring it until its actual end point didn't sit well with me. As it turns out, this isn't actually the case, Right at the starting central area there's a fake wall hinted at by a break in the shading. This leads to a small area with nine gems.

With my five left over this would have been enough to get past the troll. Even so, any player that doesn't save scum the roulette game may still wind up having to restart. The only good thing about it is that this is still so early in the game that you're not losing much progress. (Cheating is of course an equally valid option, and the one I went with.)

Friendly man
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Man:

"Hello young man, welcome to
Zarc. What brings you here."

You:

"Er...if I tell you, you
won't believe me anyway."

Man:

"Oh...come on."

You tell the whole story to
the friendly man...

Man:

"It's a strange story, but I
believe you. You told me you
needed some keys. I think I
can help you with that.
Yesterday, I found this in the
wood."

You:

"Thanks pal."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Finally, a man who isn't wicked. Gus's first friend in this unsympathetic new world is eager to hear his story and happens to have one of the keys Gus needs! Of course, in my current playthrough, I had no idea I needed the keys, and neither should Gus. Hydra really wants the player to head north before they head east but the only thing in place to enforce that is the potential soft-lock scenario, and even that's not foolproof if the player is aware of the secret gem cache.

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Despite the huge size of Super ZZT's board, the town of Zarc is rather small. The town is comprised of a few private residences that can't be entered, a shop, and a bar. The main structure is a larger castle in the middle surrounded by a bright looking moat and garden and protected by large walls. The town isn't the end of the path though, with another split to the north leading to a dangerous cave full of ogres and a waterfall to the east which ends up being the goal room of Fantasy of Freedom.

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A sign for the bar immediately gets my full attention. So many of these early Interactive Fantasies titles have congregations of ZZTers like this that are always a treat to explore. They offer up an idea of who was around and what they were up to at the time. Of course, often the actual dialog needs to be taken lightly since it tends to be the authors speaking on behalf their cameos.

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The bar is absolutely packed. Clearly there isn't much to do in Zarc. A dozen ZZTer and MZXers are seated at the various tables while a bartender sells drinks.

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What caught my eye Oliver here discussing the then-upcoming MegaZeux RPG Brotherhood. It's a game I was enamored with the idea of as a child back when I couldn't figure out how to get MegaZeux to work on my computer: an RPG supporting four-player simultaneous co-op done by cramming four people on one keyboard. (One of the game's reviews goes into the numerous reasons this is terrible, though admittedly at the time there was no better option.) I eventually did get to play the game with two friends once and it was not a great experience, but ZZT really can't do much for multiplayer at all, so I still thought it was the coolest. Plus the name "Pally Pap" lives rent free inside my head to this day.

I had no clue it was this old though!

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Hydra here gives Gus an opportunity to break the fourth wall and complain about the game's difficulty directly to its creator, only to be laughed at. It's great. Hydra refers to this as not being the first time he's had a run-in with Gus, which isn't true in my playthrough, but very well could have been.

Other cameos include Hercules, HM, Mothingos, Myth (who plugs the sheer size of Fred! 2 , Luke Drelick, Spectrum12, Allen Pilgrim, Legendd, Tim Sweeney, and Alexis Janson. I think this may be the first game I've seen that gave Allen his fair due for creating Monster Zoo, and it's pretty appropriate to do so in a Super ZZT World, so good thinking Hydra. The rest mostly talk about their role in Interactive Fantasies, or what ZZT/MZX games they've made. If you recognize the names you can already guess what they're plugging. For those that don't, namedropping "Sivion" or "Spirit Revenge" doesn't tell you much of anything.

There must be a lot of sorcerers running around sending people off to this world. Gus seems to be the only one interested in getting back home while the rest enjoy MZXcon Zero.

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The bartender is your usual vendor to interact with. Ordering beer costs five gems and restores ten health. There's no restriction on how many you can buy as long as you can afford it. The other options though for larger quantities, both lead to getting chastised that one beer wasn't enough to "satisfy your thirst", something I'd say is pretty low on the reasons why people drink beer.

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The other store is for general supplies. George here sells health potions that more costly but a better value than beer, as well as expensive ammo. A third option allows the player to ask if George has heard any rumors lately which gives Gus info that the king's crown has gone missing, and one of the keys is being offered as a reward. It's a lead at least.

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Even with the enhanced graphics of this updated version, for the most part the visuals aren't all that noteworthy. I did however quite like the walk into the castle. Much of this world is just dark green everywhere. This place looks a lot more cheerful and pulls in the iconic ZZT water blend seen in a significant number of tool kits.

Compare this shiny castle to the far duller looking one in King's Quest ZZT . Both castles are using the same general design, but castle Zarc is a lot less dingy looking.

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Before Gus can enter, one of the guards stops him to ask what business he has with the king. I love how much of an asshole he is and how quick is to let somebody who claims to be from another world up close to royalty. This is by far the definitive scroll of the game.

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The cheery appearance outside doesn't quite hold up on the interior. The castle has a diamond shaped carpet and that's about it. Solid walls fade to on a background of boulders. There's a little bit more than the just throne off the sides, with two wings that lead to a treasury full of gems and armory full of ammo. Both of which are protected by guards that have no way to get past. It's all there just to tease the player with goodies they can't have.

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I was hoping to maybe get a lead on what might have happened with the crown, but the king refuses to speak with the 99%. The only way to get him to acknowledge the player is to return with the crown, so you're really stuck with George's rumor and nothing else. Already having that knowledge, going in here was a bust, but had I explored the castle before the shop, I'd have left curious and been satisfied hearing the rumor.

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Heading east to check out the waterfall, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find it made out of a water current. I had hoped for a bit more splendor here, perhaps even some animated water flows, but when Super ZZT provides the current, it makes sense to use it.

On the side is the series of doors that keep Gus from his goal. The old man provided the first key, so that leaves five more to go. This game is no Town in terms of key collecting, and is ultimately a pretty short game once you know what traps need to be avoided in order to be able to conquer it.

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Completely forgetting about the ogre cave up north, I thought I had exhausted my options over here and turned back around the starting area to try a new path. At least I finally found the person calling for help who was caught in a spider web populated by a few spiders.

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Fantasy of Freedom is one of these sort of games that gives the player an option to be a horrible person if they want. Unsurprisingly, doing so causes the game to become unwinnable. These acts of sudden blood-lust are okay in comedies where even if a save has to be loaded immediately there's some attempt at amusing the player for picking such an option. Hydra doesn't do anything of the sort, just displaying an "argh" sound and turning the dwarf into a red fake.

I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't bother providing the option if there's not going to be any payoff. This is just being cruel to the player for being cruel to the dwarf. There's no need to bother including the option in the first place if it's going to only give the bare minimum reaction for deciding to see it.

For no, opting to the save the dwarf also isn't an option. Gus lacks any tools to cut through the webbing so the dwarf will have to hang tight. At least they stopped screaming.

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Beyond the web the path splits with Hydra himself hanging out on the lower route. Despite the screenshot this path is a dead end here with nothing on it other than a conversation with Hydra that I could have had much earlier.

Niels Reyngoud
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
On this forest road you see
someone walking. You look
and you recognize him! It's
Niels Reyngoud!

Niels:
"Hello, I'm Niels Reyngoud,
the author of this game. But
you probably already know
that, since I was the one who
created you. I was the one
that put life in the smiley-
char of only a few bytes
long. I gave it character.
I.....blah...blah....blah...
.....and how are you doing?

You:
"Not so fine, why did you put
ME into this hard game?"

Niels:
"Because I didin't put
somebody else in it :D !"

You:
"Well, if you haven't got
something useful to say I'll
go."

Niels (angry):
"I got something useful to
say !!. You should play all
of the Interactive Fantasies
games.
I'm sure you'll like them.
There are already a few games
and there are even more
for ZZT, SuperZZT
and MegaZeux coming!
That's enough advertising for
today. I'll leave. Bye."

You:
"Bye."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

I really love Hydra's self-deification here, breathing life into the smiley face that is Gus Turnell before angrily demanding that you play more Interactive Fantasies games. The constant plugging in these worlds never fails to put a smile on my own face.

Gus gets to complain about the game's difficulty some more which is amusing given that you can start the game, grab some ammo, and immediately talk to Hydra after dealing with seven spiders.

The whole southern path beyond the dwarf seems pretty pointless. there's Hydra and then the other split leads to a circular path with a wise talking tree with some basic gameplay advice for the player.

"I am a wise talking tree.

I am wise, so listen to me,

If you don't wanna mess,

It's the H button, you should often press."

That's poetry baby.

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"These hints aren't exactly game changers", I think to myself, before immediately listening and heading west to the lair of the orcs.

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There's an unexpected mechanism here on this path. An invisible object blocks the path until touched, temporarily moving aside so the player can step inside. My guess was that this was to keep something inside from getting out. Once inside though, the green lion characters that are actually orcs activate, pacing in fixed patterns, not at all behaving like the lions they might be mistaken for otherwise.

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Things get a little annoying here until the player pieces together what's going on. I found myself randomly being killed for no apparent reason after just a few steps inside. The challenge here is that if the player and an orc are aligned when the orc gets to execute its code, they'll fire an arrow and instantly kill the player where they stand.

This is a crude stealth sequence made extra annoying as the orcs are very much able to see Gus when he can't see them back.

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After a handful of deaths, I finally find a safe row to cross from. The orc towards the top right is the one that's been responsible for all the arrows. Once they're on screen Gus's survival chances increase dramatically, although there is a chance that you can get caught when you inevitably have to cross their path.

To be fair to Hydra, there is an attempt at making the orc's a little more gentle towards the player. It depends on where in the pattern you line up with them whether they'll shoot an arrow or growl instead. This is meant to let the player know when they're standing in the path of an orc even if they are off screen, but the player won't be able to spend enough time activating growls to understand what the code is doing without looking at it. My assumption was that the first time you lined up with one that they growled and then began moving. Were this a ZZT game you'd be able to see all the orcs at once and better put all this information together, but when something off screen growls there's no reasonable way to make that connection.

You can also pay close attention when taking the southern path as you'll be able to get an idea of where the second and third orcs are from the safety of the other path. Although there's no reason to believe that every orc is going to move in the same up and down pattern.

Thankfully, the door is used to track whether or not the player is inside the orc lair or not, which prevents what would be some very frustrating deaths on other parts of the board that happen to share an axis with an orc.

At the end of the field is what looks to me like a button to press into a wall. It's in fact a knife which can then be used to finally rescue this poor dwarf who was has been proven to be quite patient.

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All that effort, and as soon as Gus frees the dwarf, he gets some bonus points and the dwarf runs away without so much as a thanks. It's a good deed for the day at least, but means that two more paths have just been explored with nothing concrete to show for it.

The only untraveled path from the starting area is to the north where my lack of gems means that's not an option. This was around the time when I started taking advantage of Fantasy of Freedom's full walkthrough that comes with the game which with a bit of skimming reminded me that I did have a cave that I hadn't explored to the north of Zarc.

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A sign warns that the cave is extremely dangerous and whoever wrote it was not kidding. The ogres are large static enemies that look to me as if they were leaping forward with their pose. Lining up with the arms results in an endless stream of bullets that will definitely catch you off guard at first.

Torches line the walls as well, being purely decorative as Super ZZT lacks ZZT's own torches and dark rooms. The character is recycled and extra objects are placed on top that flicker between red and yellow and parenthetical characters for a nice little animation.

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I am legally obligated to test all fire in (Super) ZZT worlds to report whether or not it actually reduces your health when touched. Not only is this the case, but this is quite possibly the most dangerous fire I've ever seen. Ten health! I usually expect this sort of decorative flame to just take a single point off if the author wants to be cheeky about "touching" fire.

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For a more creative way to harm yourself with a parenthesis, rounding the corner leads to another ogre just out of sight who throws a dagger in your direction once they spot you. Once the dagger hits the player or wall, it turns invisible and retreats back to its starting point where it can be thrown again.

This is the sort of thing that I always think won't work very well, but the relatively short distance allows for some quick rewinding. It felt quick enough to me that I had to stop and see exactly what it was doing, since I was more inclined to believe some complex trickery with multiple objects hidden in walls or something before I'd accept that the dagger is just moving west until it needs to move back east.

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Any hopes of making some progress via the ogre cave were dashed at this point. The ogres can't be harmed with your bullets making this one a roadblock. The camera hints that there's something beyond this point, though what's at the end of the cave remains unknown. There's no way for the player to know this yet, but the cave has an alternate entrance elsewhere which is necessary to reach the rest of the cave. This means that the main entrance is actually pointless, only serving to toss in a few more ways to reduce Gus's health.

I kind of like that though! The passage is pointless from the perspective of Gus and the player, but it helps make this world feel like more than a place for Gus to have a fantastic adventure. Not every cave leads to a treasure chest full of jewels and magical artifacts. Sometimes a cave is just a home to very jumpy ogres.

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For me though, the cave being a dead end was just another lead that went nowhere. I felt that while I had explored a large portion of Fantasy of Freedom's world, that I didn't have much to show for it. At this point I'm about halfway through the screenshots I took during my playthrough, and only managed to find a single key!

So it was definitely walkthrough time, which is how I learned that there's a fake wall here in the southern path. As far as I can tell, there's nothing to hint at this, so I suspect that without consulting the walkthrough, most people weren't finishing this. The best hint you can get is that if you take the northern path you can end up catching a glimpse of the destination here, but that still would mean checking basically every wall for a fake. I'm curious if the fake wall was better communicated to the player in the original version. Perhaps this was just a victim of shading giving everything a consistent look at the expense of something to highlight the wall as unusual.

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Getting outside the main part of the world reveals that the outermost layer of shading on these boards is made up of Super ZZT's floors (aka what ZZT's fake walls get used for more often than not). You can explore this seemingly out-of-bounds space, and even walk to the outer part of Zarc, though the only thing to find is the king's lost crown. Given the layout of the board, it would have been nice to just place down a few objects and close off the rest of the outer region if there's nothing to show for it.

It's also a bit of a letdown in that the outer region has a single misplaced empty that breaks up the floors near where Hydra can be found. I was hoping if not for a key or something helpful that it might at least be an object to dole out some bonus points to players that are committed to exploring every nook and cranny in the kingdom.

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With the crown in hand, the king of Zarc is suddenly interested in what Gus has to say. The player is given a choice of trading the crown for a key or keeping it, which shockingly results merely in the king wanting to know why you won't accept the offer and not an immediate game over as I expected it would. This king has been nothing but rude to Gus so the mercy is unexpected.

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He is at least true to his word when Gus accepts, and shows a little extra generosity by presenting him with a magic necklace. The nature of this necklace won't be apparent until it kicks in.

This would have been a fantastic opportunity to allow the player access to the armory and treasury which would make it a lot easier for players to avoid potential soft-lock scenarios, and let them actually take advantage of the shop a bit more. Oh well, at least Gus finally has another key.

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