Nature's Revenge

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Closer Look: Nature's Revenge

It's Man Vs. Nature, and despite the game's best efforts, it's hard not to root for nature in this confused game with some neat art

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jul 28, 2023
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Today's game comes from a case of mistaken first impressions. Not too long ago the Worlds of ZZT bot posted a board covering part of the game's main town. It had a curious look to it, a little dated for a game from 2001, but for me that was a plus. The 2000s are the time when I was most active in playing ZZT worlds, and while I've hardly played all of them, I tended to focus on the works by recognizable authors whose releases held some clout. Give me an author I've never heard of with just one release credited to their name, add an interesting title, and then show me a scene that looks like it could be from something worthwhile, and you've got my interest.

Nature's Revenge was far cry from the yet another fantasy adventure I was expecting (and craving, common as they may be). A cursory glance had me look at the starting board, and that was all it took to convince me that this would be something I just had to explore.



The very first thing players see upon pressing "P" is this amazing art of one of the game's villains. This style is really something else, coming off as simultaneously crude and detailed. It immediately sets a very distinct set of expectations for what's going to follow. There's going to be some effort put into this, as surely any art that goes as hard as this must indicate the author had fun creating their game. At the same time, the character being composed solely out of wall tiles hints that the author isn't quite ready to take full advantage of what ZZT offers. This looks like something out of a creepy-pasta written about a Chris Jong game.

Surely, all who gaze upon this image will be compelled to read the scroll, which does its best to go just as hard.


  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
   Brace your mortal soul for a
tale of vengeance and destruction. Prepare
yourself for natures revenge.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

A good amount of backstory is included, covering far more than informing players about the character they'll be playing as and what their goals are.

Players are treated to some very important revelations about the world the game takes place on. This adventure is set on another planet by the name of Orvin. Orvin is an Earth-like planet that has been until recently has been unspoiled by humanity, and features a breathable atmosphere that allows humanity to colonize the planet almost as quickly as it was discovered. Colonization means towns. Towns need land, and so man got to work doing what they do best, with plenty of forests being cleared away to make room.

Roads were needed to connect the towns, and that meant clearing paths through dense jungles. This is where humanity began to run into problems. The opening is unclear as to whether the planet was thought to only have harmless plant-life or if there was knowledge only of animals akin to the ones found on Earth. Regardless of what they knew they would find, what they didn't expect were the "weird and sometimes hostile" creatures known as Madiwarks.

The Madiwarks are similar to minotaurs, having a head like a bull and human-like body covered from top to bottom in dense gray fur. The opening art board gives players a frighteningly close look at the creatures. These Madiwarks were understandably upset at having their forests and jungles destroyed without a care, but couldn't really do much about it being much less technologically advanced than humanity, at least at first.

As time went on, the Madiwarks began running covert operations, capturing humans that went into the forests alone, taking their weaponry and learning how to use it. Eventually, they were ready to strike back against mankind. When the time was right, they descended upon the small town of Rithda and began to have their nature's revenge. Of these attackers, the most merciless and powerful of them all was a Madiwark known as Fury. Fury killed without remorse, and is even cited as having taken out a considerable number of the town's defenses with the help of a napalm grenade being thrown into the guard house.

When all was said and done with the attack, lives had been taken by the hundreds. In what could only be called a massacre, the entire population of the town was killed. There were no survivors except for one...

Played Using: SolidHUD v5 (not v6) via zeta v1.0.4

The sole survivor of this attack was a young man by the name of Kole. Kole is the game's protagonist, directly controlled by players on his quest to kill Fury and the others Madiwarks in order to get his own revenge. Kole was out of town while the destruction unfolded, not unlike poor Cyros of Voyage of Four. While practicing his sharpshooting, Kole was ambushed by Fury, who leapt from a tree and knocked him unconscious from a blow to the head. Assumed dead, Fury proceeded onward unaware that Kole's survival would prove his inevitable downfall.

Are We The Baddies?


I could never shake the feeling as I was playing Nature's Revenge that I wasn't exactly on the side of the "good guys". Humanity showed up on this planet, began clearing forests to colonize the world, and only later realized that it was already populated with sentient beings. This is no instance of the monsters being impossible to reason with. Humanity has little interest in trying, with the one poor soul that attempts to figure out why the attack occurred immediately being overruled so the others can sign off on killing without mercy. They're certainly not about to let the planet already having sentient creatures get in the way of making it a home away from home.

The way the author portrays the Madiwarks, or at least humanity's perception of them comes off as particularly dehumanizing. Again, this species is not some dangerous feral animal. Every encounter you have with one begins with them speaking to Kole. Instead, they seem to be victims of some heavy propaganda. Swap out "Madiwark" for the ethnicity of your choosing, and the conversations will feel uncomfortably familiar. The game thankfully isn't unpleasant to play despite this, as it doesn't seem like a metaphor for any actual group. It comes off more as a younger author not realizing the weight of their words, which when combined with the usual unbeatable hero role being assigned to the protagonist, leads to the hostility feeling all too familiar. Had its author put in a bit more thought into the story, and there could be a metaphor here for something. Instead it's all left unexamined, leaving players to fill in the blanks themselves. For an older audience, it's pretty darn easy to see this game as a depiction of humanity at its worst even if I doubt the author looked at it this way themselves.

The conversation presented above where Kole gets the go-ahead from the mayor to begin ridding the area of Madiwarks made me double check the game's date. This particular conversation does a great job recreating the tone of US politics post-9/11 and leading up to the war in Iraq, a very easy target to aim for with a metaphorical war story. Except it predates both, the latter by years, and the former by a few months. WolfBrother must have seen the writing on the wall as the jingoistic undertones and refusal to acknowledge those who are "others" is ahead of the curve here.

Similarly, you can see a hint of that common criticism of modern super hero movies, where the villain often fights for something a lot of folks could actually get behind, and so they have to commit some atrocity to alienate that support. Nature's Revenge tries to ensure players are on team human by having the Madiwarks be responsible for killing an entire town whose population is in the hundreds. So yeah, it's hard to throw support entirely behind the Madiwarks, but it's easily as difficult to pretend humanity is innocent here.

Plus, pretty much every character Kole meets is a jerk. Everybody in this game seems to hate everyone else. Even if the Madiwarks were just mindless beasts with no society of their own, I still wouldn't want to put my efforts into saving the town of Nimif.

Prelude To War

In order for Kole to avenge his town he's going to need some supplies. And also to stop being unconscious in the underbrush. The author takes care of that, opting to start the gameplay off with Kole standing outside the hospital of a nearby town he was taken to after he was found.

The way the game begins is pretty neat. It gives a good excuse for Kole not knowing anyone or where anything is without having to jump through any hoops. He's starting fresh here as if he had gotten wasted in a Grand Theft Auto game. The player and Kole get to learn simultaneously, eliminating the need for NPCs to come up with contrivances to explain things Kole should obviously know that players need to be filled in on.


It also gives the game a very open beginning. The town of Nimif is spread out across three board vertically with players starting in the center board and given a wide number of buildings to explore at their leisure. WolfBrother has a lot of fun with the town, to an overpowering degree. More than half of the screenshots I took while playing take place in the town and its buildings.

A soldier found outside the hospital serves as the connection from the backstory to the present, answering Kole's questions of who he is, where he is, and what happened last night. The soldier delivers the bad news that everyone else was killed. Those that fled were hunted down, and Kole's survival can be chalked to getting lucky.

Instantly, Kole finds his motivation, planning his vengeance now that he's fully recovered. The soldier has no issue with some kid setting out to get revenge on a group of Madiwarks that are clearly way too powerful for any one person to deal with as long as he's well-supplied. Kole is of course the hero so it only makes sense that he gets to take a crack at it.

But first, he's going to need to stock up. Having arrived in Nimif broke, unarmed, and lacking in those ever-important torches to see in the dark regions of the northern jungle, there's a lot of work to be done first.

Nimif Hospital


Turning right back around to see where Kole was being taken care of, we get to see that Nimif's hospital leaves a lot to be desired. Two nurses staff the first floor and are lacking in any equipment to properly treat most of their patients. Several are asking for help, and one of the beds is occupied by a dead man.

The hospital is our first example of how WolfBrother designs his interior spaces in Nature's Revenge. They're big, offer plenty of people to interact with, but contain pretty much nothing of importance every time. So despite the significant amount of time players will spend exploring Nimif, there's surprisingly little of note.

Jaster's House


To get an idea of just how much everyone is a jerk, look no further than how Kole and Jaster interact. Jaster has this nice house on the waterfront, and was important enough to not only be named, but have his home labeled as well, giving him a sense of importance when compared to most of the other NPCs. When these two assholes meet, the tone of the game is established and players will quickly decide that this is not a town they're going to want to save, but it is very much a town they're going to want to experience fully.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Jaster- Hey ass hole watch were your
        walking im trying to mow my lawn

Kole-   *mumbles* Call me ass hole one
         more time and ill rob your house,
         and break your lawn mower.

Jaster- Speak up ass hole i couldnt here
        you what did you say..?

(kole takes a bullet of ammo and drops it,
when Jaster isnt looking, right in the
path of the lawn mower. The lawn mower
mows over it with a crunch and a loud
KA-BANG as pieces of it fly everywhere.)

Jaster- Damn it my lawn mower broke

Kole-   HA HA! Now its time to rob your
        house ASS HOLE.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Just this entire conversation. Jaster immediately calling Kole an "ass hole" (splitting it up into two words makes it sound that much goofier to me). Kole retorting with two incredibly specific threats. Kole then acting on one of those threats before loudly announcing his intent to rob this dude and even more loudly calling him an ass hole once more.

The two talk to each other with a level of unwarranted hostility I haven't seen on display since high school. They speak almost exclusively in threats, but here in ZZT they aren't bluffing. They have known each other for eleven seconds and have already become enemies. Pretty sure the Madiwarks can just chill for a bit and let these folks destroy themselves.

Also I think I saw a speedrun of a Hitman game where they killed a target that was mowing a lawn with a setup like this...


Having broke Jaster's lawnmower, it's now time to rob him as well. I don't know how smart it was to tell Jaster that you're going to rob him, and then enter his house while he's watching, but Kole is very much a character that does whatever he wants whenever he wants. If he says he's going to break your lawnmower, he's going to break your lawnmower. If he says he's going to kill the Madiwarks to avenge his town, well...

Visually, Nature's Revenge has a very unusual mixture of STK and classic aesthetics. A few special colors are used here and there, though for the most part you'd hardly notice if they were replaced with standard colored fakes and objects. For a 2001 game, this looks much older while not coming across as if it was intended to be a throwback to ZZT games of old. Aside from its art boards, at its best the game looks like one of those early post-STK releases that love to make their ammo green and walls dark purple simply because they now can.

I don't have a hard date as to when the z2 archive began requiring games use STK other than it being sometime not too long after School ZZT, so while I played I found myself wondering if the game had gotten touched up either after being rejected or at the last moment to prevent rejection, but this hunch doesn't have much going for it. There are two toolkit boards included in the game, and they're pretty early in the file, so it's much safer to assume that the distinct look of the game was always there.


There's also the sense that WolfBrother had a sense of freedom when creating this game. There are a handful of items found in Jaster's home as well as a few other scenes later that ever-so-slightly dip their toes into the water of including sexual content in the game. It's the sort of thing that parents and teachers would shake their heads at, but free from a community of grownups deciding what is or isn't allowed, Nature's Revenge gets to include these titillating items which I can't be sure if I'm supposed to find them funny, sexy, or somehow both[1].

Most of what can be found inside is effectively bolted down. There is a very tempting locked up room loaded with colorful gems and ammo, though the key has to be acquired from somewhere else first. Until Kole manages that, the only things that can be taken are a few paltry torches and gems, and a bit of ammo on the side. There's a broken shotgun in the bedroom which is not something I ever would have guessed the arrangement of blue, white, and cyan objects next to each other were supposed to represent. I can kind of see the shape, but those colors look like a pricey reskin from a modern shooter.

There are two items that are a little more interesting to discover, the red key in the bathroom whose purpose is currently unknown, and of course Jaster's diary, which after the previous encounter with the character had me super psyched to learn more about this dude's psyche.


With a mere two entries to read, Jaster's diary still manages to deliver. You ever throw a shotgun so hard that it breaks?


The second entry gives players a chance to ponder when it was written. Jaster's been hanging around outside this entire time! Inconsistencies aside, Kole can at least be smug about getting under Jaster's skin. You did it man. You broke his lawn mower and stole some of his belongings. You are living that ass hole lifestyle.

Town Hall


This area really got covered when discussing the story, and how everybody is overwhelmingly on the side of destroyed the Madiwarks entirely. It's still worth stopping by for just a second to point out the large globe of Earth that takes up most of the board.


The plaque speaks volumes. Colonization is king for a humanity that cares little about those that may already be living where they intend to settle. For good measure, "IN GOD WE TRUST" adds some otherwise unmentioned religion to the mix. It's all guns, god, and glory for these people who can do no wrong.



ZZT shops are generally pretty standard. There are some little effects you can add, making staff walk around to items, placing things on counters, and such, but nine times out of ten all shops in ZZT are the same. You touch an object, get a list of items, and exchange your money (probably gems) for the specified item.

For any given game, what matters is how much currency players acquire, how much they get for their dollar, if any special item purchases are mandatory, and if multiple quantities of the same item are for sale if it's more cost efficient to buy specific amounts.

Not one of these things applies here. Even the board itself is very confusing to look at. The player seems to be outside with some dirt surrounding the building they thought they just entered, and trees either dying or losing their leaves in the autumn. At least I think that's what I'm looking at here.

Something about this board feels off. Everything was bright green just a moment ago, and suddenly we have entered the early HD-era of gaming, showing off as many browns as ZZT can muster.


It gets weirder though. One of the NPCs is here to warn players to not waste their money. Again, the game makes everyone hate everyone else. This guy is standing outside giving his Yelp review to anyone he sees. I've never seen a game that includes a shop, but tells players they should avoid it and just find items lying on the ground instead.


Then, it turns out that there isn't actually any shopping here. The guards already bought all the supplies for their own Madiwark hunt, leaving Kole with what he can find lying around, or steal from Jaster.

What I can't figure out is why this board was even included in the first place? This doesn't add anything to the story, nor is telling players they can find items elsewhere important. The town isn't exactly bustling with things for Kole to do, but the other boards at least try to crack a joke or talk about hot sexy ladies. This is pure nothing. You don't have to put a shop in your ZZT game if you don't want to my dude.



North Nimif is the proper way to go to actually leave town and begin Kole's revenge. Here a few more buildings provide some more distractions from the main objective.

Most distracting of all though is the tiny hole in the town's walls. There's no board that connects to this one. It seems to just be a genuine mistake, as it offers no secrets nor does a gap in Nimif's defenses become relevant to the plot at any point.

The guard house is also notable for being a location that can't actually be entered. Instead of a passage, there's just a sign on the door ordering all guards to head north for Madiwark hunting duty. Kole's reaction to the news of the hunt is that he should hurry up before somebody else gets to Fury first.


Of the buildings that can be entered, probably the most interesting sounding of these is the local lab. The technology used in Nature's Revenge is difficult to really pin down. Up to this point Nimif hasn't been particularly futuristic feeling, but the backstory did indicate that these people are, or at least were, capable of intergalactic travel.

Which makes the lab's interior a disappointment. If you want weird things to interact with, a lab in a world with superior technology with little in the way of established rules to narrow possibilities is ripe for creativity.

Instead you just get a few dead bodies and a captured Madiwark that can't be interacted with.


Unlike the store which truly offers nothing of interest, the lab does have one thing going for it. We finally get to see what it takes to be a little too extreme for Kole to handle, and that is to have people die in the name of scientific research. This is the most critical Kole will ever be of the society he lives in.

Self-Serve Pub

"Have a drink at the pub", a sign outside reads, commanding gamers to enter.


It's another space that doesn't contribute anything more than some idea of what the residents of this town are like. Confusion is once again the mood as there's a conspicuous lack of a bar tender working the counter. Despite this, several patrons are drinking, presumably having poured their own drinks.


Not everyone is ready for conversation. Two people are focused solely on their game of pool, non-speaking and un-moving, only winning/losing when interacted with. That it's a pool table to begin with didn't become clear to me until I talked to these two. It's no pool table from Stupid RPG, the pool table so famous it was put on the title screen.


A drunk just standing around jumps directly to insults. Careful friend, the last guy that called Kole an ass hole had his lawnmower broken.

You can actually talk to him again to get a fresher insult where Kole is told to go play in traffic. I was hoping to get a nice exposure to the kinds of insults WolfBrother liked having characters throw around, but alas afterwards the drunk passes out and the novelty vanishes.


The real excitement comes from the rich person sitting at the bar. There's finally somebody out there that can get Kole to back down! The rich! While Kole is once again quick to escalate the hostility, he just as quickly turns tail when asked to double down.

I hoped that there might be a check for gems here so that you could become rich and burn this man's house down or whatever if you talked to him after cleaning out the vault in Jaster's house, but no such luck. There's a lot of fucking around in Nature's Revenge, but disappointingly little finding out.


Tall Zoo

Downtown Nimif is just full of mysteries. The first of which I kind of just revealed with this subheading. The largest building is unlabeled! Another smaller building without a label is locked up, requiring the red key from Jaster's house to open, and finally providing players a chance to feel like progress is being made by opening it.


The first thing players will notice when they enter the zoo is the dead body in the bear cage. Out of the ten buildings that make up Nimif, 30% of them have a dead body inside!


Say the line!


Aside from the crowd over by the bear cage, there's once again little to reward players for their exploration. The NPCs keep the town from feeling abandoned, but that's pretty much it. Characters that only spout generic comments like these don't do much to keep interest up. The opening conversation with Jaster was really a highlight of the town, and nothing seems to come close to that level of absurdity.


Luckily there's a person that calls centipedes gay in a derogatory manner. I love this game actually. The use of "there" instead of "their" seals this screenshot as one I will cherish.


If declaring centipedes to be gay and suck ass isn't an unforgettable moment, you'll have to settle for this explanation of what happened in the bear cage. The bears ate so much of this dude's blood that they also died! I guess this is just to explain what happens if one of the bears wanders into a breakable wall used to create the hyper-detailed (for ZZT) blood on the ground.

Beyond some scroll-worthy dialog though, it's yet another case of a place in town that contributes nothing to the game. If you really want to you could argue this serves as an introduction to enemies to be fought later. It comes off as far more interested in providing another excuse to depict violence compared to the love put into say the zoo from Aceland.

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