Today's article was brought to you by Celine Kalante who nominated it for the Closer Look poll. It's a pretty solid pick. NextGame 33 an excellent example of the sort of games that these Closer Looks want to dig up: games that pretty much just fell by the wayside. In the case of MadGuy's NextGame, it's a sort of a fall from grace. With only four titles released to his name, NextGame 33 is the ignored final ZZT world MadGuy produced.
The reason it was ignored was because it was mediocre at best. This is hardly a crime for ZZT games, but with NextGame, we're looking at the followup to Burger Joint. Burger Joint has remained unexamined since starting this project, but without going too far out of the way, let's just say it's considered by a vast number of ZZTers to be the best ZZT game ever made. It's a title that plays unlike anything else in ZZT and frankly, unlike anything I've played outside of ZZT as well. Basically, if you were to compile a list of people's favorite ZZT worlds, you're going to have a lot of people answering with MadTom's Burglar!, Johnathan Wellington Wells's Evil Sorceror's Party, or MadGuy's Burger Joint.
When you're on the very top, the only place to go is down.
The world opens on an introduction board which explains the first issue with the game: It's incomplete. As often was the case, people grew tired of ZZT, its community, or its limitations. The good news is that it's not incomplete in a way where the game is going to just suddenly come to a stop. With NextGame, we're dealing with a game intended to have six possible stories that diverge from the first board. Only two were ever completed making the game a mere 33% complete, hence the 33 in the title.
If you think six unique stories sounds incredibly ambitious and destined to fail, you'd be right, but it manages to not be without precedent among ZZT worlds. Alexis Janson's massively influential game Code Red uses a similar branching story construct and has eight paths, all complete.
Since the game splits so cleanly and would get a tad long otherwise, I'm opting to split this into two articles to focus on each storyline. Let's start off on finding path #1.
The critical board full of critical choices is a prison cell and connecting hallway. The player takes on the role of Matt Ape, a teenager with multiple life sentences for stealing some food. It's your job as the player to help Matt escape from prison, which will take about 5 minutes and never be mentioned again.
Oh, and the music the game opens to is a rendition of Smashmouth's "Walkin on The Sun". MadGuy was an avid composer and a lot of his titles included both original work and ZZTified versions of famous songs.
Escaping from prison is an incredibly common trope in ZZT games so don't expect to stick around for very long.
The outside view isn't the best, and the bars prevent the most obvious escape route.
Our first joke! The incredibly obviously useful item can't actually be taken! A lot of NextGame 33's humor is going to fall flat, but it's not like Teen Priest's humor through edginess. MadGuy opts more for humor through randomness.
The cup can be used to rattle the bars and summon a guard which brings up a few options on how to proceed.
Hey, lemme outta here! The world needs me!
Hey, your shoe's untied!
Uh, I've gotta go to the bathroom. Yeah, that's it, the bathroom.
Fortunately this isn't one of those prison cells with a toilet included. The guard opens the door and waits patiently for the player to enter the nearby bathroom.
For a deep cut, this lamp of all things is a reference to MadGuy's canceled game War-Torn 2 whose demo is littered with lamps that look like this.
The other exits are locked, and there's no way into the other cell.
Well, sort of. There are enough scraps in the code here to piece together the actions to take one of the incomplete paths through the game. The cabinet with the steel cutter has unused code that allows it to move away and reveal a secret path into the next cell.
From there, a large boy named Oaf mentions how another fake wall can be used to escape, but he's never felt like bothering. Oaf got 35 years for using the wrong kind of pencil on a school aptitude test. Ouch.
But there is one exit leading to the bathroom at least!
There are lot of interactive art boards like this one throughout NextGame. Here we get our first look at Matt Ape, and MadGuy's very blocky art.
Get out of this grime magnet
Okay, so that solution was obviously incorrect.
Your business, of course!
Flush the toilet for no reason
Take some turlet paper- it's handy!
Reach into the toilet, you sick dude!
"examine" the air vent?
You decide to whack the air vent cover
with your baseball bat.
After about five minutes of constant
pounding, the cover finally comes off.
GUARD: What the hell is going on in
GUARD: It sure doesn't sound like nothing.
GUARD: Oh, well let me try...
GUARD: But I insist!
GUARD: I think you're up to something...
With that, you quickly climb into the air
vent and hurry off.
• • • • • • • • •
Having successfully escaped into the ventilation system, the scene fades to
black. Or at least tries to, since ZZT has no way to access text like this to
#change it to empty space. Fortunately MadGuy's got
it covered by deciding that the sign glows.
It doesn't take long for the guard to realize something is up and they climb into the vents and give chase. Matt has to follow the vents while keeping away from the guard.
It should be obvious that the mysterious brown box needs to be examined despite being out of the way of the exit.
Attempts to burn it prove futile.
Oh, what lies beyond the barriers of the
treasure chest lid? Gold? Emeralds?
Gold-plated emeralds with gems inside 'em?
A piping hot kettle full of tea.
Reluctantly, you decide to take the kettle
with you, even though it will probably
burn your hand beyond the point of
• • • • • • • • •
True to the narrator's word, taking the kettle does cause Matt's health to slowly drain away.
The obvious use for it is also incorrect. This game came out in 1999 by the way so it's an appropriate time to dance in such a way.
I should mention how the guard moves through the vents. Since they're only a single tile wide, it would be impossible to evade him if he moved through them like the player did. Instead, the guard has the very powerful ability to tunnel through the black walls that make up the empty space on the screen. He still tries to move directly towards Matt though tunneling takes him some time so the player is able to escape. Making it to the exit involves a bit of juking to position the guard somewhere where running by will be safe.
The lock opens by inserting the kettle. Upsidedown of course, so as to cause more harm to poor Matt.
Up ahead is a handle to pull which causes fan blades in the vent to begin to spin and takes out the guard for Matt.
And then Matt picks up the severed head.
But it's totally justified by the second lock, which requires a human head to open!
The now zombie guard continues his work of chasing the player down. There's another chest which has some food that can be eaten to give the player health, but the player's health will only ever come into play on something like two boards? Basically don't detour.
Up ahead is... a rather large and ugly looking spider.
The zombie guard is quickly killed again by the spider, and Matt looks to be the next meal.
Fortunately the guard had a gun he opted not to bother with. Matt can get some ammo and shoot the spider a few times to knock out its fangs and eyes.
It's not much of a boss battle, but it's not really supposed to be. With the spider now defeated Matt can finish his escape.
After another 48 hours of air vent-
delving, you finally reach the end of the
Fortunately, you see an open truck below
where the air vent ends. The perfect
getaway, this is!
Suddenly, you hear a saintly voice, most
likely myself, saying "Have confidence."
MATT: Niiice oxen.
Just be friendly, and maybe
I won't eat you for dinner.
Ooooh, shouldn't have said that!
• • • • • • • • •
Some cartoonish sound effects appear as Matt is attacked by the various oxen.
We then get this sort of transitional board. A really solid version of the Mega Man 3 stage select music plays here!
12 hours of darkness, brutality, and oxen
later, you finally decide that it would be
best to get out of the truck. Most
unfortunately, you couldn't have picked a
worse place to do so. You're in the
middle of nowhere! That, or you're in the
wrong game. Either way, you've got to get
out of this groovy groove trip, and fast!
Yes. Yes it is.
You decide to drop the subject.
Alright! Alright! It's true! But what
do you want, a NEW bar scene? You know,
I'm not a mean obscene bar scene machine!
A lot of this path is riffing on and referencing MadGuy's earlier works. Burger Joint was mentioned in the introduction to the article, and is the one people care about. Todd's Adventure was MadGuy's first and completely forgettable release. War-Torn was an RPG that's actually really badly written but I definitely thought it was the coolest game ever as a child. There's also War-Torn 2 which only ever got a demo, but other than the lamp from the jail will remain unmentioned.
The bar sits alone in this desert and none of the sides have an exit.
Yet for whatever reason trying to walk up into the desert generates this message, despite the fact that I only hit up one time too many, and anybody familiar with ZZT's visual vocabulary would see breakable walls and know they couldn't go that way already.
This path also has lots of arguing with the mysterious narrator who is very clearly the author. A lot of ZZT games had scenes where characters argued with the narrator and/or author, and it was definitely a tired cliché by the time this game landed.
Anyway, inside the bar is a disco dance floor, and just a few customers sitting around.
Matt's old rival who we never heard of until this moment just so happens to be here. He's clearly somebody to talk to.
TODD: No- I mean, yes. Who are you, dud,
I mean, dude?
TODD: Come on, buddy! Open up! If you
do, maybe I'll give you a cameo in my next
TODD: It's a character from a game/movie/
book/cereal box who is magically
transported to another... thing, so as the
author will not have to think up new
TODD: So what's your name?
TODD: Augh. Get away from me.
TODD: Ohhh, this is the last cameo I'm
• • • • • • • • •
Speaking of references to past games, here's Todd from Todd's Adventure! His theme from the game plays when you talk to him and he serves no purpose other than to be a cameo that I don't think anybody was excited to see.
The couple sitting at a table together don't really have much to say. Just a disco lover and his date who regrets going out with him. Disco Brett is more important.
After all these years, Brett's still got it. He heads out to the dance floor and a few notes worth of "Stayin' Alive" begins to play.
The last person left to speak to in the barkeep. He can be spoken from by the counter, but after talking to Brett I'm already right by the door to get behind the counter and speak directly.
This results in a game over. Obviously.
Approaching the barman from the counter works a bit better for Matt.
I want a beer. It's for my popsy
The barman sees right through Matt's lie, but falls apart when threatened with some blackmail. Beer acquired.
I want to suck your blood!
A recurring theme of this game is that you will think the game is supposed to be funny, but it won't be.
With a beer from the first option Matt can get revenge on Brett at least.
Feel free to read this in Strong Bad's voice because this sentence can be put into any Homestar Runner cartoon without anybody batting an eye.
With the stage all slippery, Matt can ask Brett to show his skills one more time.
BRETT: Oh no! I've lost it! Did you see
how I slipped and fell? I no longer have
the same incredible balance and
coordination that I once did in
yesteryear! Woe is me! Sob sob sob!
Pout pout pout!
Your guilty conscience tells you to say
something reassuring to (former) Disco
BRETT: Really? That's fly! Would you
like to join me on my quest to prove that
leisure suits are just as good as they
BRETT: Grooveriffic! Come on, my
motorcycle is waiting out back!
Careful, now. Remember, Brett needs your
It doesn't take much to ruin Brett's self-confidence for the rest of his life, but Matt shows some sympathy to his rival at least. They decide to travel together on the weird motorcycle outside the bar. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
So much for that. Brett will never be seen again, and Matt is once more traveling alone.