ZZT DOS The title screen of the world's first ZZT game.


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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39516)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2014
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars
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Proves that even ASCII graphics can be great

The Good

ZZT was the brainchild of Tim Sweeney, the person behind Potomac Computer Systems (which later became known as Epic MegaGames). I remembered the first Epic game that I played was Jill of the Jungle, which was the result of ZZT's profits. Even though I loved that game so much that I played more Epic games, it was not until I read a Epic catalog that I became familiar with ZZT.

The shareware model allowed people to try out one part of the game for free, but the same people had to pay money for the other parts; and Sweeney was more than familiar with it. The shareware edition of ZZT consists of two parts - "Demo of ZZT" and "Tour of ZZT", and introduces players to the game's locations and enemies. The registered version had an additional four parts, as well as a level editor that allowed players to create their own worlds.

No matter which part you are playing, the object is to find a set of purple keys needed to unlock the exit. To do this, the player needs to guide their character across locations. To help them, the player can supply themselves with health, ammo, gems, torches, and other colored keys. The player has to defeat creatures that are usually found in zoos and solve a few tricky puzzles. (Or, to make it easy, "zap" your way through them.) These puzzles ranging from getting a purple key without getting shot at to moving a few blocks to make a passage.

The game uses ASCII graphics, which is very basic for a game released in 1991. However, all the characters are recognizable by the ASCII codes, and there are fantastic graphics that are made in ASCII, such as the demon seen at the end of "Dungeons of ZZT". I like how a single wall can move by itself if the player is near it, like those elevators in "City of ZZT".

Sound-wise, the game uses standard PC Speaker sound. However, Tim managed to create a few tunes that sound pretty neat. Such music occurs when you reach the exit. A funny thing about this exit is the one exit is not quite the finish of a part; you have to solve at least one more puzzle.

An aspect that makes ZZT shine is the built-in editor. Anyone who has a knowledge of GCS can create anything in the editor, including shoot-em-ups and RPGS. The editor was very popular that Sweeney urged users to create their own levels, with the best ones being included in the Best of ZZT compilation. The best user-created levels can be found on the Internet.

The Bad

The only problem with ZZT is that its graphics were obsolete before it was released. Apogee Software, its rival, made a similar game our years ago, and by the time ZZT was released, the graphics of its games were either in EGA or VGA.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, Epic's very first game proved popular among gamers due to its level editor, and any computer, no matter how fast or slow, is able to run the game. And if you have played other ASCII-based games like Apogee's own Kroz series, then I'm sure you'll like playing ZZT. A sequel known as Super ZZT was released, but it didn't prove popular with gamers. The major element, the built-in editor, was hidden from view, and the only way they could access it is via the /e parameter.