🐳 Featured Group: Gameplay feature: Auto-mapping


Moby ID: 393


A text-mode action/puzzle game, ZZT already comes with a variety of game worlds. However, the real appeal of this game is the level editor with its scripting capability, which allows the creation of an unlimited number of new scenarios, stories, characters, traps, machines, and anything else players can think of.

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Credits (DOS version)




Average score: 90% (based on 1 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 15 ratings with 6 reviews)

The best GCS ever.

The Good
ZZT is a GCS. A Game Creation System. It's not so much a game in itself. If it wasn't for the editor, ZZT would have died a long time ago, another tombstone in the graveyard of late eighties / early nineties ASCII games. The editor is its saving grace. Let's get one thing straight - judging ZZT by it's original package of Epic puzzle games is like judging the entire FPS genre on 'Daikatana'. There are so many other, better games out there written by other people. In fact, there are almost 2,000 available on the internet, and countless more that have been lost into the midsts of time.

Note, however, the use of the word 'Written' and not programmed. ZZT does have a programming language - called ZZT OOP - but if BASIC is the bike, ZZTOOP is the stablizer. You don't need amazing logic or a diploma in computer science to become proficient at OOP, just an hour of free time and a bit of common sense. Most of the commands involve setting a few flags, and testing to see what the player is doing.

The main challenge with ZZT is not the language itself, but the limitations, and finding new ways to work around them. ZZT is not a programming masterpiece. In some places it is very limited, to the point of making it impossible to create certain games. This may seem like a horrible thing, but its this constant reinvention that's kept ZZT alive. For example, the actual ZZT program gives you 7 colors. Seven colors is not enough to make good look graphics. Luckily, some clever git called Greg Janson made a utility using just ZZT that created ten times more colours 3 years after its original release. Progress? I think so.

With these workarounds and a bit of know how, ZZT can turn into whatever you want it to be. I would say, at a guess, about half of ZZT games can be described as RPGs. The others range from action shooters and dungeon crawls, to platformers and puzzlers. Excluding FPS, I believe most people would be able to create any genre of game given enough time. That's how versatile it can be.

As already mentioned, ZZT uses the ASCII graphical standard to make games. ASCII was never going to look 'great', but it does have a certain style to it. If you can draw in real life, you should be able to create some damn good looking art in ZZT. If, like me, you couldn't draw you save your life, theres still hope! There are no 'tiles' to create like in so many other GSCs around today, so you can simply place random blocks around, do a bit of shading and you'll be good to go.

So, why ARE there thousands more ZZT games than MZX or Verge? The only thing I can come up with is 'Simplicity'. It takes a LONG time (Sometimes up to a year) to create a good game in the newer GCS's. A quality ZZT game can be produced in a few months, sometimes even sooner. ZZTs learning curve is also virtually non-existant compared to the weeks of trial and error and tutorials that you need to become good at MZX.

The Bad
ZZT is not without flaws. As a stand alone game, ZZT probably isn't even worth bothering with. It was made 11 years ago, and even back then it looked pretty dire. It's never going to be able to compete with the effects of megazeux or the graphics of verge or other far superior systems. But remember, the N64 was 'superior' to the NES. A console is only as good as it games. The same stands for ZZT. There are at least 100 good ZZT games, compared to the 10/20 MZX classics.

ZZT's editor has bugs. Sometimes the bugs can be very annoying, deleting lines of code at random, and making jobs that should take 10 minutes last an hour. Again, the fix for this is to DOWNLOAD. New editors that do the same as the original editor but with more advanced tools are available for you to make ZZT games with.

Also, whatever happens, you will hit a limit in ZZT. As mentioned above, limits have been ZZTs saving grace, but that doesn't stop them being annoying. If you're making a big game, you have to keep notes on your flags, because you can only set 10 flags at once. This means if you were creating an adventure game, you could not have more than 10 objects in your inventory at the same time. Also, there's a limit to the size of games. Annoying? Hell yes. Major problems? Not at all.

The Bottom Line
ZZT is not for those who want pretty flashing graphics or a programming language that takes weeks to learn. ZZT is for creators. It's an outlet. You can pick it up and create a game in weeks. It has the balance of simplicity and versatility that simply is NOT mirrored in any of the later GCS. Don't believe me? There are 200 ZZTers that could prove you wrong. With 20 games being released a month and a huge archive of games already uploaded, you really have nothing to lose but to try it out.

The main ZZT site at the time of writing is http://zzt.the-underdogs.org (http://zzt2.com)

Check it out if you wanna become a part of one of weirdest communities ever.

DOS · by Craig Adams (3) · 2002

An extremely good game design utility for beginners.

The Good
Over the years since its release, ZZT has developed a large cult following. Its graphics are ASCII-based in the style of Kroz, and its sound comes from the PC speaker, but there is an incredible amount of stuff you can do with the program. Hundreds and hundreds of ZZT "worlds" (games) have been released on the internet. Some are great, and some are horrid. The four worlds that originally came with ZZT absolutely pale in comparison to later worlds created by fans. ZZT is easy to learn, but tough to master, as I found out myself. Dozens of tricks that game designer Tim Sweeney probably never even imagined possible have been discovered. World designers have been able to work wonders with the limited graphics, sound, and programming language capabilities of ZZT.

The Bad
As stated, ZZT is great for beginning game designers. After a time, however, you will probably want to move onto something more complex. This can't exactly be called a "problem" though. The main problems with ZZT lie in the interface, which has numerous quirks. Most users will quickly learn to work their way around these, though.

The Bottom Line
ZZT is a must-have for anyone interested in beginning game design. At first glance, it seems simple and easy to use, which it is, but as a game design utility, ZZT is more complex than it lets on to be. Many of the ZZT world available are not only fun, but can also teach users the tricks of the trade. Tim Sweeney is truly a god.

DOS · by Matt Dabrowski (218) · 1999

Tim Sweeny's finest work.

The Good
Though its simple, ASCII graphics were dated even when ZZT was released, it was such a robust tool for game creation, that it's still popular to this very day. While there were certainly limitations to what you could do with it, ZZT was a perfect starting off point for any would-be game developer. There were plenty of pre-packaged enemies and tools, but with ZZT OOP (ZZT Object Oriented Programming), a creative user could make anything from a custom baddie to a fairly complex RPG battle system.

The Bad
As I've said, ZZT doesn't look very good. It doesn't sound very good either. While that doesn't take away from it's overall appeal, it will most certainly provide a barrier to entry for folks accustomed to the prettier things in life.

The Bottom Line
ZZT was one of the first truely community driven games -- I remember downloading games from AOL's media library back when AOL WAS the internet. It's a fun game in and of itself, and there's a huge library of free, community-made games that add to an already impressive package.

DOS · by Nick Rycar (155) · 2007

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
fantasy-style language in earliest ZZT games james bowers Jun 5, 2019
User-made ZZT games DarkStar2018 (11) May 24, 2019



Apogee was offered to publish ZZT, but they rejected it before it was published by Epic MegaGames.

Full time

While it is not clear what the game’s title stands for, the title Zoo of Zero Tolerance has been popularized by fans.


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Related Sites +

  • Download ZZT
    Free, legal download of the shareware version of ZZT -- look for ZZT.ZIP
  • Epic MegaGames ZZT links
    Epic's links to other ZZT pages.
  • Interactive Fantasies
    The MAIN ZZT company
  • Interactive Fantasies
    The well-known, prolific ZZT/MZX company's webpage.
  • KevEdit
    The home of a popular ZZT editor, KevEdit. Information about the editor itself as well as downloads, news, and screenshots. KevEdit is the most popular external ZZT editor.
  • Land of ZZT
    Old site of famous ZZT creator cly5m's. Parts of it are outdated by about five years, but it's still informative, and it has cool interviews with community members.
  • MadTom's Pick - Award Archives
    This site documents the monthly ZZT game preferences of MadTom. It is a personal award very similar to the now discontinued GotM award. It was discontinued at the end of 2004.
  • Z2
    Archive of fan-created ZZT games and last remaining active discussion forum. At the absolute least, every one of the Featured Games is worth a try.
  • ZZT Under Windows
    ZZT Under Windows is an enormously helpful frontend for ZZT that makes working with ZZT in latter days much easier, including support for KevEdit. With a bit of elementary tweaking in Windows it can do some very useful things.
  • ZZT.Archive
    The main hot spot.
  • z2
    Currently the largest and most active site for ZZT games

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 393
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by emerging_lurker.

Additional contributors: Trixter, xroox, Frenkel, Pseudo_Intellectual, DarkStar2018, Skippy_Chipskunk.

Game added November 7, 1999. Last modified May 7, 2024.