This month's poll winner was Sid's Disaster by well-respected and at this point, well-documented, ZZTer Commodore. If you've been following these articles for awhile, or were yourself involved with the ZZT community in the mid 2000s, Commodore should be a very familiar name. His time spent ZZTing resulted in numerous worlds of very high quality. Previously I've praised him for going beyond the expected limits for ZZT in both the RPG genre with Psychic Solar War Adventure as well as in traditional action games with Angelis Finale.
Knowing that Sid's Disaster is a ZZT platformer that received a monthly reward back when it was new definitely got my hopes up. It goes without saying at this point that ZZT is certainly not a medium designed for the genre. Over the years there have been many attempts both in the traditional sense like Freak Da Cat as well as those that take a more puzzle based approach like the Zem! series (and countless other Lemmings clones). Even before dealing with ZZT's limitations in objects detecting other objects, there's the initial hurdle that all ZZT games are going to be
alligned aligned to a grid. Combine this with the low resolution of this grid and you're going to really struggle to create anything that feels fluid. Still, if I could put money on any ZZTer of the era to find a way to take such a challenging genre and make something special with it in ZZT, Commodore would certainly be the safe bet.
Sid's Disaster is Commodore's third release to the community and second full game, preceded by an incomplete demo for a Ghostbusters game and a fairly simple (but still enjoyable) The Living Dead adaptation for ZZT. The file's date is less than two weeks after The Living Dead, and between the two, the quality jumps significantly.
Despite this however, Sid's Disaster has a few severe flaws that make it tough for it to share a spotlight with PSWA and Angelis. This is very much an in-between game that bridges the gap between Commodore's humble beginnings, to his rise to a powerhouse of ZZT programming. There's quite a lot to be impressed by here, but still quite a few sticking points as well.
All that having been said, let's get into the depths of how Commodore was yet again setting a new standard of quality for another genre in ZZT, even if that raised bar still falls short of his later accomplishments.
Quick note before we actually start: This article contains several video recordings of my playthrough. Sid's Disaster is definitely a game where going from screenshot to screenshot won't always tell the whole story. I'm also an idiot who forgot to set the correct resolution when I recorded all my footage, so I wound up playing ZZT at 3x resolution (1920x1050) centered on a 1920x1080 canvas which then got down-scaled to 640x350, but means there's some little black bars and it's going to be a tad smooshed. It's nothing unreadable, but uh, oops.
Sid's DisasterBy: Commodore
Published Under: Mirror Image Games
Released: August 08, 2002
Download | Play Online | View Files
Its title screen is simple, but effective. Some lava is running down a volcano with smoke wafting out. It's a pretty nice volcano really. The text is straightforward, but legible. What's most distinct is the sky blend for the background which looks pretty different from most (eschewing the incredibly common "horizon" blend seen in dozens of tool kits).
In Sid's Disaster, you must use your
expert climbing ability to negotiate your
way up the volcano to freedom. Unlucky for
you, the magma is starting to churn. It's
only a matter of time before it erupts.
You start with a limited amount of
ropes. You can find more rope (@) in
different parts of the volcano. You start
with a pistol (⌐) and can find ammo (ä)
usually along with rope.
As you climb upwards you will need to
use a variety of climbing manouvres. To
bring up a menu of commands for Sid to
use, press the spacebar during play.
• • • • • • • • •
Sid can climb any normal wall or rope
so long as he has the energy to do so.
Depending on how much wall Sid is
climbing on, the energy drain will be
faster or slower. So long as you have the
energy, Sid can "walk" on any wall. If
Sid falls, he can get hurt. However, if
he has energy and quick reflexes, he can
use the "Grab" command to grab the
nearest wall. If Sid falls far enough,
his speed will be too great to grab onto a
▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓ ☻
☻ ☻▓ ▓☻▓ ▓▓▓
High Drain Low Slow Recovery
• • • • • • • • •
The "Swing up-right/Swing up-left"
commands allow Sid to grab hold of the
rock above him, and swing himself around
to the side. If he were not to swing he
would simply fall.
Swing Command: Not:
☻ ▓▓ ☻ ▓▓
↑ ▓▓ ↓ ▓▓
• • • • • • • • •
Shoot enemies to kill them or to
break away certain walls. Ammo is sparce
(after all you are in a volcano) so use it
" - Bat - Bat's drop rocks on you from
above and then retreat back to
☻ - Hermit - Crazy hermits protect their
homes with rifles and are
a good source of ammo.
, - Frog - Frogs spit poison and hop.
☺ - Bigfoot - Bigfoots throw rocks at
you. They lives in
☺ - Troll - Trolls protect their stash
by throwing rocks at you.
☺ - Volcano God - Don't worry, he only
goes after virgins.
• • • • • • • • •