i'm writing my own review of my own game, nearly 20 years later! you don't understand, i never let this idea go, and i've been quietly working on a book that's gotten as big as lord of the rings. the plot is a lot different, but the personality of the three main characters has remained completely unchanged. there's a love interest now, Luna, who escaped from the lunar colony, and kind of ties it all together. Luna and Zanno are outlaws fighting against the government. the premise is the same but all the details are different.
this literally is the first draft of my book, and i gotta really look at this closely and figure out how to merge it into the current plot. i'm pretty sure the opening situation between Zanno and Doom is going to be "a long time ago this happened" situation that's just a side story i drop in the middle of nowhere. Doom is the most powerful warrior on Earth, and Zanno wins somehow. i'll give you a spoiler before i go - while Zanno is on the moon, Luna finally decides that Doom is pure evil and must be killed for good. they pull it off, but he comes back to life immediately and kills everyone involved but Luna, and then Doom decides to reward her. he hacks into her power armor, takes full control of her body, and lets her know he knows exactly where Zanno is and why he never came back (play the game if you want that spoiler) and they're going to go rescue him.
I LOST THIS FILE! thank you so much for deciding to preserve it, whoever is running this site.
After a careful replaying of the game, I decided that the above reviews do not adequetly highlight the obvious strengths of Nothing Constructive.
Indeed the narrative element is overused, and it's more than once stated that "this was the worse decision of my life" or something along those lines. Dispite that the story of NC is rather enganging. The character of Zanno is an interesting hero, a post office employee who blows the crap out of a co-worker/shoots random thugs in the streets, and gets drunk quite frequently. His only real goal is to survive.
The writing is a bit on the sloppy side, with some poor and easily predicted jokes, but there are some golden moments in this game. The courtroom scene is the most dragged out scene in the game and could very well have been eliminated or shortened significantly. I will not comment on the Communist.
A lot of the gameplay is difficult and poorly concieved. The random shootouts with pirates/burglars/cops are frusterating. The game is sparce on health and ammo, you are only allowed to shoot one bullet at a time, and a lot of the action sequences are interupted by unneccesary spurts of plot or pointless narration. The gameplay is hit and miss. The shootouts can be fun, or tragically annoying. Being in a corridore with 8 guys shooting at you from behind a water barrier is not my idea of a fun shootout, and the programming that went into showing the other two characters dispatch their foes goes largely unnoticed by a player more interested in deducing how he's going to dodge the wall of incoming bullets. On the other hand the battle with one of the thugs is very difficult, but still is one of the more ingenious AIs I've seen in ZZT shooters, and the battle with the space pirate captain is equally well programmed.
The random RPG battle was, well, random. Usually I don't like it when a game thrusts an RPG battle onto me unexpectedly (unless it's a game that has used many different engines all throughout), and I was a bit skeptical of the quality when reading the TXT file warning me of the impending event. I am not a fan of real time battles (Time gauge like in later Final Fantasies) but this one was a good one, the enemies used life bars, but not the breakable sort, and the main characters' HP were actuall numbers, the action was fierce and quick paced.
There are some clever programming tricks used here, and the graphics (although composed of a lot of linewalls) are well done and abstract, much like the plot. The differences between the earth and neptune are great and add a very nice sense of atmosphere :)
Overall, Nothing Constuctive is not a game to be avoided. It's a diamond in the rough :P Okay, that might be a little over the top... but none the less, NC is a good game that was obviously a labour of love and one worthy of your time, unless you've got less than an hour...
the story is extremely boring (lots of text, and i can't say much of anything good about it), the graphics are ugly, and it's simply a chore to play... slooowwwness, galore. i think that the programmer tried to charm us with the characters... but he does a really lousy job of that. i have no problem with jokes or character development or whatever you want to call it, but it MUST. BE. BALANCED.
i played this game because it was hyped so much and because it was rewarded with something or other, but now i regret it. stay far away.
Or even some pots?
Nothing Constructive is not well written. It is not funny. The plot is not clever. Jesus, how low your standards must be to think that this is anyhting CLOSE to being a classic.
Okay, let's take this from the top. Nothing Constructive could potentially have been a great game. However, Zanno has fudged up everything horribly. We being with a classic framing device - our heroes are being held at gunpoint, and the lead character (Zanno. I hate it when people put themselves in their games) flashes back to the start of the chain of events that lead to his current situation. This can be particularly effective, as it provides dual narrative tension - how did he get into this position, and will he be able to get out again?
But Zanno over-eggs the mixture by having the voice-over constantly harp on about how X was the start of the last week of his life, or Y was the reason he was going to get killed blah blah blah. The framing device should be a tease; something to whet our appetites and fire out imaginations, not bore us to death with monologues of doom.
But this is made worse by having the narrator tell us not only what happens in the long-term, but in the short-term too. We're told that Zanno is going to be sentenced to death three screens before it occurs, leaving the player staring at a cinema which tells him nothing he doesn't already know. Even the other characters do it - Steve apparently has a limited perception of the future, and repeatedly tells the player that there are baddies in the next room. No surprises. No tension. No reason to keep playing, except the blody-minded drive to complete the game. Someone needs to tie up Zanno and make him watch "Fight Club" until he understands.
The voiceovers, as I mentioned before, take up a large part of this game. In a movie this can add to the atmoshpere, with the narrator providing an ironic accompaniment to the action, and allowing the viewer to see exactly what his opinions on the current situation are. However, in Nothing Constructive it's used ALL THE FREAKING TIME. This wouldn't be so bad but it's usually just to hammer in another "I'm going to die soon" anvil.
Now this crappy construction might not be so bad if the plot clever and original, but there's nothing new about a guy who has a package that everyone wants. Of course, all we've got here is the first part, but there's nothing here to warrant any praise. You get parcel. You get into loosely-connected episodic troubles, people chase you. There are hints that things may not be what they seem but frankly everyone's so boring it's hard to care.
Which brings me onto another problem: characterisation. Zanno begins the game by murdering a guy he doesn't particularly like. Playing a sociopath might be fun, but midway through the game he's taking down robbers and getting pissy when they kill a bunch of hostages. Huh? Jesus, either the guy's a nut or he's not. Make up your mind.
Aside from that, Zanno's character is paper-thin. He's not particularly funny, and seems to veer between being very dumb and very clever. But he's a fully rounded character compared to Steve, whose "character" is to stand around being smug. There's an attempt (or at least what I assume is an attempt) at rounding him out by having him bicker with a Communist man who joins your party, but their dialogue isn't sparky or funny enough to seem like anything more than a waste of your time. The rest of the characters are perfunctory and serve to rattle along the creaking plot.
Speaking of the Communist, what IS Zanno's problem here? We're constantly told that Communism is BAD BAD BAD, and from the start Mr. Doom the Communist is shown as an EVIL NASTY GUY who wants to shoot you in the face. Now I'm assuming that this is building up to an incredible revelation where it turns out that the Communists are the true goodies and help you out. If not, then Zanno's got some kind of redneck-style Communist hatred issues to work out.
Okay, I'm getting tired now so I'll list the rest of the stuff - the game uses dialogue at the bottom of the screen rather than in a text box, which is tooth-gnashingly slow. The bad guys are mostly boring to fight against. It features the world's worst RPG battle (and no, making a joke about how RPG battles suck does NOT excuse it). Ammo's usually in depserately short supply, and there's often not enough money to buy more. The game world makes no sense. The tertiary characters are stupid. The "humour" is tiresome and formulaic (and in places seemingly ripped off of other sources). The graphics are passable. The programming largely solid.
There's a style of comedy that I call the Comedy of Escalation. In this type of joke, the audience is meant laugh as a situation grows more and more bizarre. An example would be the famous stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera." At first, a few people occupy a small stateroom. Then cleaning staff come in. Then somebody comes to deliver a meal, and is caught inside with everybody else. Then somebody comes to fix a piece of furniture. And so on. The room, of course, becomes about as tightly packed as a sardine can, leading to an inevitable punchline.
Nothing Constructive Part One is a hard game to review, because it's missing the punchline. It's cleverly written, with comic tension building as the PC manages to anger one interplanetary power after another, but there's no ending - just a cliffhanger. The story is neatly done, and the action between the cutscenes is well-planned and carefully executed, but the punchline never comes.
This is to be expected, of course, as it was being saved for the sequel, but there is no sequel. NC Part Two was never released, and probably never will be, as Zanno left the community. What's left is a witty, fun game without an ending.
Whether or not you can still enjoy the game depends, I guess, on whether you could read, say, the first two books of the Lord of the Rings and be contented to leave it at that.
I, for one, will take what I can get. As long as it lasts, NC provides great fun.
Pros: Good graphics, good programming, good storytelling, good gameplay.
Cons: The cutscenes are told as infuriatingly sluggish little captions at the bottom of the screen, instead of quick-to-read text boxes. No NC Part Two.