May. 6th, 2017

kjorteo: Screenshot from Daedalian Opus, of a solved puzzle with the text "GOOD" displayed on underneath it. (GOOD)
Well, that wasn't supposed to happen. I mean, it wasn't on the list or anything, and I'm trying to be good about sticking to that now. But here we are, I suppose.

Basically, I have a few game ideas kicking around, from a Lolo clone to an RPG to that (probably) not serious Mega Man X fan game, but I've been stuck for ages on 1) ahahaha like I have time to make games on top of the novel and everything else in my life, and 2) what GCS/platform would I even use, anyway? 1 is still an issue so don't expect anything to be happening soon, if ever. For 2, I was curious about Megazeux, having spent my embarrassing teen phase in the ZZT community and never actually having gotten into what the "like ZZT only more powerful and can do sorcery" side of it was like. Admittedly Fusion is probably a better idea for flexibility and making something anyone would actually play, but I figured learning MZX could serve as an interim ZZT --> MZX --> ??? step between something I actually know and something modern devs actually use.

So obviously step one was to beat Caverns of Zeux, AKA The Game That Comes With MegaZeux. (Or it did until recently, anyway, and it's still a recommended first download even if it's technically decoupled now.) ZZT has Town, MZX has Caverns. I'm sure someone from the MZX community can explain why the first game ever made for MegaZeux was Zeux 2: Caverns of Zeux, and Zeux 1: Labyrinth of Zeux didn't come out until years later. I'm also sure they've probably addressed that so many times that I'm pointing out the equivalent of the "if it doesn't scan that must mean it's free" joke. Sorry, I'm new here.

Anyway, Caverns is fairly short and simple by actual game standards--any ZZT veteran would instantly recognize this as a standard "collect the 5 Things" quest game... except that it's not. Collecting all five rainbow gems is how you clear the first area. From there, there are six more bosses, seven pendants, six crystals... it feels like a hybrid of an N64-era Rare collectathon and Wonder Boy: Fail You Have Turned Into A Furry. (Really, any game where the clear moral of the story is "Be a dragon always" is okay with me.) It's long by ZZT standards, and by that I mean it took two days to beat rather than an hour, and it's... well, cavernous.

The biggest obstacle I experienced (other than that you can Sierra-softlock your game with no warning if you go into the wrong mouse hole first) is that there is a ton of backtracking and it is frequently unclear what area you just unlocked by accomplishing whatever goal you just accomplished. Once I was in a new area, I could find my way through and beat the boss easily enough, but if the boss didn't actually give me anything except a dead end and maybe turning me into a skeleton then the sense of "okay, now what?" necessitated a walkthrough on several occasions.

Still, as an MZX pack-in it's... well, to be honest, a little daunting. Coming from ZZT to MZX, Caverns already does some fairly complicated special effects and programming tricks that kind of make me afraid to try to break into it. I mean, this looks hard already, and this is coming from someone with ZZT experience looking at a language that reviews call easy to learn and is specifically designed to be a smooth ZZT-but-better transition. And that's for Caverns, which is, again, the Town of MegaZeux. If this is anything like ZZT, well, eventually the ZZT community hit a point where games that looked like Town weren't even allowed on Z2 anymore; the entire community had advanced so much that "your game must at least use STK I mean come on" was kind of a benchmark. If this is Baby's First MZX game, what do real MZX games look like nowadays?

(Answer: Like this or this, apparently. Holy fuck this was a bad idea.)
kjorteo: Screenshot from Jumpman, of the player character falling to his doom, with the caption "FAIL" on the bottom. (Fail)
Oops, I swear none of this Megazeux stuff was supposed to happen. I just got a couple of the top rated games on DigitalMZX along with Megazeux itself in case I ever wanted to learn/get into Megazeux someday and reverse-engineer anything at that point. Then I went through the ones I downloaded with the intention of peeking at them just long enough to establish what kind of games they even are, before filing them away somewhere for the far distant future. Somehow that led to me accidentally beating Caverns of Zeux and briefly being sucked into this one. It ultimately wasn't my thing and I'm not going to finish it, but technically I spent longer on it before reaching that decision than I did on MANOS, so I guess it deserves a write-up too.

So Thanatos Insignia is an overhead action game that plays kind of like someone made Operation Logic Bomb in Megazeux, paired with single-screen narrations between each level about someone in the hospital trying to use some fancy computing system to model human behavior and solve why violence exists, slowly becoming more obsessed with using the system and becoming more antisocial themselves in the process. Also the levels have random and really unfitting J-pop music, I guess in case you want to feel like you're shooting aliens while playing DDR.

I wasn't really feeling the gameplay, but the story segments interested me enough to keep going... right until I got stomped by the boss of level 12 (who fights to the tune of GIGA PUDDING for some reason.) I forgot to save and I really didn't want to go through the first twelve levels again, so I poked around the data files until I found where it was storing the story bits, read through those, and called it good.

I was wondering if this game was eventually heading toward some sort of point with juxtaposing the narrative of questioning the human nature toward violence in between levels of pure "gun down every bad guy that moves" but if it did, I didn't get that far and it wasn't in the story files.

Oh, well.

Still a technically and visually impressive, well-made game if this genre speaks to you.


kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (Default)
Celine Kalante Love

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