But now there's a world map! It may seem like things have opened up, but you can't do much of anything outside of a set linear order. Not that I knew any of that, as I just went top to bottom.
Well, this here's the local Moo-Horse
farm. With a name like "Skanky Sue's",
you know you're getting quality beasts.
No! You're on a mission, REMEMBER??
Listen, as long as I'm around, you're on
a mission, GOT IT?!
Good kid. You'll make deputy someday.
• • • • • • • • •
Matt brings up a good point. There isn't really a plot here. He has no reason to visit any of these places beyond that they're the places he's allowed to visit.
There's not much to see on Sue's farm. There's a very bright lamp that hurts Matt's eyes, a garden filled with spinach and onions, and... a joke that actually made me smile?
I will not try and pretend that this joke about the voice-protected door that can only be pushed open is actually a good joke, but it's as good as it gets in this game.
Standing before you is the most hideous
thing you've ever seen... Wait a minute,
that's a person, not a thing! This is
getting more hideous by the second! You
shudder for about five seconds.
You finally get up the nerve to explain to
Sue why the hell you're in her house.
SUE: Just a second, dearie! I hardly get
any visitors! Why don't you stay for
awhile, he he he!
SUE: Nonsense, dearie! YE HE HE!
SUE: Oh, and I can't let you go into my
shiny new barn unless you're the delivery
man. You see, I ordered an oxen carcass
for my moo-horses to gnaw on!
SUE: Come back anytime, sweetcakes!
• • • • • • • • •
Meet Sue. She's a creepy woman who has been waiting for a dead ox delivery so she can feed her moo-horses. This is something Matt will need to do for her, but until then it's back to the map to try somewhere else to make progress.
Well, Uncle Sam's Oxen Carcasses is probably a good a place as any to find some oxen carcasses for Sue.
The ranch consists of some pens with oxen, living, and carcassed. There's also Uncle Sam who is actually supposed to be that Uncle Sam.
I want to frame Matt's last line here on my wall.
And so the game ends with Matt being forced to join the army and then attend college. A tragic way to go.
With a little lie, Matt can take on the role of the delivery boy and get himself an ox carcass.
Carcass acquired. It doesn't seem to happy about all this.
There's still more to check out on the ranch. An easily accessible barn!
Aw yes, I love this Pee-Wee's Big Adventure bit.
Oh. That one was actually the correct chain of events.
The grue's eyes appear after throwing the snake and animate bugging out from being bit. It's actually pretty funny!
The reward for going into this barn that Matt had no reason to go inside is a single gem. Let's make sure to explore the other incorrect paths however.
Both of them lead to game overs immediately.
But now that we have that resolved, it's time to check in with Sue again seeing as Matt acquired a carcass.
Sue will accept the carcass provided that it's brought into the barn, which gives Matt one new place to properly check out.
This is what Moo-horses look like if you were wondering.
Much like the barn on the oxen carcass ranch, the player is again given a sort of puzzle of picking the correct choices to proceed.
Except this time, the wrong choices just don't do anything. There's no instant death here thankfully.
It's possible to trap yourself by shoving some of the moo-horses around (or not, as trying to leave causes a message about one blocking you in to appear as well).
Alright, so there's a game over here after all.
Examining the cows results in a lot of gems, which when combined with the one from earlier adds up to a nice 200.
Oh yeah, and Matt was carrying the carcass the whole time.
With the carcass dropped off, it's time to set off for somewhere else.
Next on the list, "Bloody Beatnik's Surgery".
There's no thunderbolts immediately. That doesn't kick in until after talking with the narrator once again.
Damn. Shots fired at Infocom.
Brett did not make a lasting enough impression from earlier for me to recognize him as being the one sitting in the waiting room.
Of course Matt doesn't recognize him either due to the disfiguring injuries from the rhinos.
He's also gone blind.
Aside from Brett. There are also some magazines to check out on the table.
Oh man I hope that last one isn't inspired by events from MadGuy's youth.
The doctor offers his services, but Matt has no need for them.
And we get a one off joke about a MAN who has something PINK, and how that's very weird and bad.
Only one place left. "The Compost Palace".
The last location is the home of the mysterious and powerful GamesMaster who is waiting on a visit from then president Bill Clinton.
Claiming to be Mr. Clinton doesn't work. Matt's next challenge is to find a way to get inside.
And he goes for the obvious one of getting plastic surgery to look like him. It costs a very convenient 200 gems, exactly as many as can be found earlier.
Matt's a jerk.
DOCTOR: Are you absolutely sure you want
to go through with this? One stupid
decision could ruin your life!
DOCTOR: GRRRRRR! I'm starting to lose my
DOCTOR: Alright, just let me give you
DOCTOR: If you insist...
• • • • • • • • •
Just like Bill!
DOCTOR: THERE! HAPPY?!
DOCTOR: Then would you mind getting out of
DOCTOR: Fine, if it doesn't involve
DOCTOR: See, this place used to be owned
by a mad scientist named Dr. Beatnik.
Apparently, he used to murder his patients
with any or every one of his sharp
instruments. One day, the police hauled
him off and gave him the chair. But some
say, you can still hear his evil laughter
echoing down the halls of this-
DOCTOR: Please go.
Oh, and the first few bars of Hail To The Chief plays during all this.
Through extreme surgery, Matt can finally entire the compost heap, his ultimate destination based on the fact that there are no other destinations to explore.
The compost heap splits off into a few different passages. This screenshot here was taken a little later. Normally, there are a few small yellow circles as well as a dark red one in this room as well. The red one begins to talk to Matt when he gets near:
MUNCHKIN: Greetings, Mr. Clinton! On
behalf of the munchkin association of the
Compost Palace, we wish to welcome you!
MUNCHKIN: No, please! I taste really
The remaining munchkins flee into each of the other exits as Matt eats their leader. Despite the three exits, only one can be used as Matt refuses to bother with the rest at first.
Only the last room is accessible and so that's where Matt will go.
The GamesMaster's corner opens with a bright hallway, and soon Matt will finally be able to confront him I suppose.
Finally, the big reveal that surprised nobody. The GamesMaster is none other than the game's author, MadGuy.
Uh, yeah. That's me alright. And I've
been watching over you for the entire
game, Mr. Ape.
That? It's just sort of a decoration.
Anyway, let's get down to business. I was
really hoping you wouldn't find me here.
No. In fact, I could kill you right now
if I wanted to.
See, I'M the one who's been controlling
what goes on around you. I created this
I'm not god! In fact, I'm just an average
high schooler who has nothing better to do
than create ZZT games like the one you're
starring in now.
As long as you're here, I might as well
offer you the opportunity to transport
to the real world.
Quiet, you. Listen! The real world is
a wonderful, marvelous place where dreams
Well, I'm sorta hungry. Could you round
up some of those munchkins and toss them
into the machine over there? I have a
hankering for a doughnut!
Probably. Now hop to it. And here's some
ammo for ya...
Three quarters of the way through this scenario, we finally have motivation for our main character. Matt's going to grab a few more munchkins to turn into a donut so he can leave this imaginary ZZT world and enter our own.
The first munchkin is cowering in the corner.
Touching the machine lets you discard any collected munchkins.
With the hunt for munchkins as motivation, Matt can now enter the other doors of the compost heap.
First off is the maze of death. It's a really simple transporter maze and takes almost no time at all to complete. This is welcome.
Next up is the Hall of Games Past. Here a conveniently placed guy has decided he's the guardian of the munchkin and that the only way to get to the munchkin is to get the three keys.
So next up then, is a few tiny scenes based on MadGuy's earlier ZZT games.
The first board is a shootout with some gangsters from Todd's Adventure. They don't move, just shoot in the general direction of the player endlessly. So there's no real challenge killing them here.
After killing all of them, the head honcho will arrive. He shoots even more rapidly, but has the added ability to move around so there's at least some danger.
Upon defeating him, the screen flashes (mostly) white, and the honcho pours out blood via the use of a slime. One cool detail here is the portion of the board that doesn't get turned to a solid wall during the flashing which is done by having part of the board made out of black on black fake walls. I didn't even notice something was amiss until looking at the screenshot now. You can probably create some nice shadows that way with some effort.
Next up is the War-Torn room, where the player has to fight in one of the game's RPGs battles.
It is almost certainly 1:1 copied from War-Torn with the character portrait and attack names changed.
War-Torn's battle system consists of a low-damage high-hit-rate staff, a medium-damage low-hit-rate charge, and a high-damage high-hit-rate shot that costs one ammo.
The attacks also now have commentary as well.
(Also: Wow I got a different color of text in each screenshot and it looks really nice to me.)
Upon defeating the Bomber, Matt gets some wacky zany dialog and his second key. Also a Citizen Kane reference.
The final room is the restaurant that Burger Joint takes place in.
Any hopes for something reminiscent of the much better made Burger Joint are quickly dashed as we get another basic shoot em' up.
It's definitely harder than the earlier one, and also demonstrates the dangers of using breakable walls for shading when bullets are around.
He really doesn't. Once the terrorists are defeated Matt can at least explore the restaurant, but there's very little to see or do.
The writing quality is about on this level for the rest of the objects to examine, if that.
Last munchkin acquired. It's time to make a donut.
After heading back to the GamesMaster's hall, and dropping off the last munchkins, it's time to end all this.
Welcome to Earth.
MATT: Hmm, so this is the real world.
Man, what a dump!
BUM: Hey buddy, can you spare a dollar?
MATT: Uhhh, what's a dollar?
BUM: Yeesh, you're even more
messed up than I am!
MATT: Oh well, I guess it could be worse.
Man, I could go for some olive loaf...
• • • • • • • • •
You have completed NextGame!
░▒▒▓▓███ CREDITS ███▓▓▒▒░
░▒▓█ Concept: Matt Dabrowski █▓▒░
░▒▓█ Game Design: Matt Dabrowski █▓▒░
░▒▓█ Music Dudes █▓▒░
Some famous guys
░▒▓█ MadGames Members █▓▒░
Thanks for playing!
• • • • • • • • •
And that is how it ends. Not good. Matt arrives on Earth and it sucks. What other ending could there have been though? There's just nothing here to work with other than poor attempts at humor.
The end credits music turns into a longer version of Walkin on the Sun compared to the version used at the start at least!
Not Yet Final Thoughts
As mentioned, this article is being split in half. We've really only seen just half of Nextgame's content. One problem with splitting this game's coverage up into two pieces like this is that you know exactly what to expect with the other half. I'd wish I could say that this scenario is the bad one and the other is a funny game with some purpose to Matt's alternate journey. Alas, the next one isn't really any better or worse than this.
MadGuy was trying to do something ambitious, probably inspired by his overly ambitious Burger Joint becoming a massive hit, but this half of this third of this game just doesn't feel like anything. The humor falls flat constantly, and I don't think a younger audience would get more out of the humor. Jokes are all the game really has and it does such a poor job of them that the game feels completely empty.
The art is nice at least. The portrait of Sue is well made and the scene of Matt with the moo-horse is probably the funniest thing to look at.
I think with most ZZT games that aren't that great, it's usually not too difficult to come up with some ideas to improve things a little, but in the case of this scenario of NextGame, I don't feel like there's a way to make these unfunny scenes funny. These scenes of arguing with the narrator or having people wanting carcasses delivered to them aren't unfunny because MadGuy wrote his jokes poorly, they're unfunny because these things aren't funny and no writing will be able to take a bad setup and turn it into a good punchline.
If you wanted to fix this game, the first thing you'd have to do is make a new game. Fortunately, MadGuy already did that with this next scenario...