ZZT is dead. Long live ZZT.
After about 25 years of games and its slow death at the hands of deprecated operating systems, ZZT drew its last breath and died. It left behind a legacy of games by developers no longer dealing with the stresses of middle and high school, but now dealing with a new life in the workplace, teaching classes, developing web browsers, researching linguistics, or perhaps still creating yet more games for fun and/or profit. When the Museum started, it was expected that the new ZZT games would be a rare exception to a dead medium.
Benco's Ana, which I praise endlessly in these articles, was a surprise at the start of 2017. A former ZZTer going back and creating something brilliant, and bringing ZZT to modern times. It was fantastic, but it was somebody already intimately familiar with the engine taking a nostalgic journey to the past.
But 2017 brought us Atop The Witch's Tower, by John Thyer. Thyer, who already had made several games (available on his Itch.io page), had never played ZZT until it was dead and forgotten. Anna Anthropy's book on ZZT, aptly named ZZT, inspired a reader to check out this then 27-year old DOS game and create one more.
Built outside of the usual influences of the community, Thyer's game feels very un-ZZT. It focuses on story above all else, using simple mechanics to guide a player through it, and frankly it's another favorite of mine. The focus on telling a story and having the game's elements support it is the mark (to me) of what a modern ZZT game is all about. A ZZT world that doesn't want to be compared to Final Fantasy or Super Mario, but something that is confident in just being its own experience.
I first played the game live on stream back in 2017, and I'm terrified to link the video because it's so early into my creating content for the Museum that it's probably awful to listen to. But it's been two years now, and I think it's time to properly go through the game once more and really appreciate what an inexperienced and unfamiliar new face can contribute to ZZT's legacy.
Your name is MARY. You are a WITCH, and
today is a very important day for you.
Today, you're sacrificing your very first
Around these parts, every witch worth her
weight in bat guano has sacrificed at
-least- one princess. After all, the only
way to obtain DARK MAGIC POWER is to make
ritual sacrifices to the DARK EMPRESS.
And everyone knows princesses are the most
powerful sacrifice of all!
Everything is ready. PRINCESS LUCY is tied
up on the roof. You've already drawn the
MAGIC CIRCLE around her. You've even spent
a few hours in your MAGICAL EXTRA-
DIMENSIONAL SOUL PALACE relaxing and
psyching yourself up.
You feel ready to DO THIS THING. All
that's left is to check on the princess
and nab just a few more ingredients from
around the tower.
You are EXTREMELY NERVOUS.
• • • • • • • • •
You enter the FAMILIAR HABITAT.
You keep a handful of frightening, witch-y
creatures in here. You don't mind the
CENTIPEDE so much, but you're terrified of
ARACHNE THE SPIDER-QUEEN.
Arachne's an ancient goddess. She took up
residence here a year ago (without asking)
after an angry mob chased her out of her
You bring her a pig to eat about once a
month. She accepts them begrudgingly,
obviously preferring the villagers she
used to snack on.
You left the BAT GUANO in the centipede
pen. The centipede is aggressive, so
you'll want to AVOID IT.
• • • • • • • • •