Closer Look: The Search For The Magic Flamingo

Search for a flamingo and find mediocrity and cameos instead

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Aug 19, 2019

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Well what do you know, something other than the newest addition to the polls finally won. This time, it's Crazy Panda's The Search For The Magic Flamingo, his fourth, final, and most notable release for ZZT.

I haven't actually played this one prior to selecting it as a poll choice. It seemed like a good fit with its interesting title screen, an author who I at least remember as a regular of ZZTer IRC, and winning an MTP award. It seemed perfectly average, with a much better chance of being something memorable than something terrible.

It's... well, slightly below average. This isn't a terrible game, but that 2002 release date works against it. For a game of this vintage, the baseline was a little higher, and what Panda provides is a perfectly playable game that just doesn't stand out in any way. It's the sort of game that you can tell won its award in a dry month.


The title screen makes the odd decision of popping up the game's title right away despite it already being on the board itself.

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆlo bob! you have pie?โ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
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โ”‚Starring: Nadirโ”‚
โ”‚Co-starring: Nydark as The Evil Dudeโ”‚
โ””โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”and CyQ as himselfโ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜

The following lines, contains a crappy
ASCII owl with a VERY big hat.

(> <)
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As it turns out, The Search For The Magic Flamingo is one of those cameo-based games, that features various ZZTers of the era as the game's characters. These tend to go one of two ways: either the ZZTer has highly exaggerated traits that turns them into into pull-string dolls that say their "catchphrase", or "I know this person is a big name so I'll include them despite knowing nothing about them". Magic Flamingo mostly falls into the latter.

Nadir was extremely prolific, and a big name in the community from the late 90s on, known for both his well received games, and being a very active member in the community both on IRC and the forums.

Nydark and CyQ, significantly less so. CyQ was most notable for creating ZZT Advanced Editor, or ZZTAE, an external editor that had a cult following but was generally overshadowed by KevEdit. Nydark I remember almost exclusively as somebody I followed on LiveJournal. He never seemed too involved in the community directly, mostly responsible for magazines for the ZZT company "Flame Games".

Also there's an owl with a big hat. This game's got its share of 2000s random humor, but doesn't go overboard. Don't expect to laugh at any of it today, but its light sprinkling of this sort of thing is far more palatable than say, Algorithm's.


Things begin with a menu system styled after the board title entry prompt in ZZT's editor. It's pretty typical of the era to use menus in order to keep the game's story separate from the main content for those replaying the game (or for those who just don't care). In addition it offers some company information and the game's credits. Oddly the exit option doesn't do anything at all. There are a surprising number of games that have them despite how fast it is to quit a ZZT world without running to a button and getting a game over.


Most ZZTers' representations of themselves in ASCII didn't really stick in people's minds, but Nadir is supposed to be green. There was a whole thing of him saying "Green is evil!" to which somebody would helpfully point out that he himself was green. He's stuck being white here since he's the protagonist and thus the always white on blue ZZT player.

CyQ's character is unique enough that I definitely could have told you he was a "Q" and not a smiley face like the vast majority of ZZTers.

The Magic Flamingo is not a ZZTer, despite there being one named "Flaming_O" at the time. People definitely called him Flamingo sometimes though.

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Crazy Panda

Crazy Panda

Crazy Panda

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆBeta Testing

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆThanks to
Wong Chung Bang
and the other people I forgot!

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆMusic listened to
System of a Down
Drowning Pool
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The credits are the same as always. Panda. Panda. Panda. Interestingly, the game's cast did help beta test the game! So at the very least, it's a safe bet that nobody was upset at their portrayals. Admittedly, I'm surprised Nadir took the time to beta test something like this. I wouldn't have expected him to be open to helping out some un-notable ZZTer as late as 2002.

Speaking of 2002, we get some extremely 2002 ZZTer musical tastes. Tool and Rammstein were very popular with a lot of ZZTers. You don't typically see a list like this unless it's a 24 Hours of ZZT contest entry where somehow it became tradition to list music that was listened to and food that was ate over that 24 hour period.


The Aurorasoft info is just some unexpected words of thanks. Getting into a ZZT company was kind of all over the place. Some had strict requirements, wanting to make sure you could make something good, others just took on anybody who would sign up and agree to slap the company's name on the title/credits. Some welcomed newbies, while others scorned them. Aurorasoft would likely be a welcoming one taking on this ZZTer who hadn't released anything immediately recognizable.


...This is a pretty unique interpretation of Nadir.

We also get to see the kind of plot the game's going to have, which isn't exactly going to win any awards. (Although it won one anyway.) There's a magic flamingo and Nadir is going to get it for the sake of adventure and already having a girlfriend.


The flamingo is pretty great! This entire game might just be an excuse to draw a flamingo in ZZT, and if it can grant wishes, all the better.

Nadir's quest is interesting because we don't have any idea what his biggest wish is. It's the one thing the game's story can try and build some suspense towards. It won't, but it could.


If Nadir and Nydark both didn't have a hand in testing Flamingo, I'd be wondering if there was some feud between them. Instead, I think this is just a silly game with some ZZTers shoved into playing the necessary roles.


The game's setting is revealed, and much of the quest is already resolved. The location of the flamingo has been narrowed down to a pyramid, and Nadir is off to finish his worldwide search.

The introduction ends here and the player is returned to the main menu, where it's time to play the game itself.


Not gonna lie, the car and skid-marks outside the pyramid are excellent. I really didn't know what to expect going into this game, but the first impression from looking at this board has my attention.


The car is cool, but the bad news is that it's Nydark's car and not Nadir's.

The first thing Panda does is makes the player find out how to get inside the pyramid. This game is probably a puzzle solving game more than anything else, but it will be very underwhelming in that regard.


In this case, the solution is to just find the right part of the door to touch to get it opened. The other objects that make up the door have no code whatsoever.

Once opened, a player clone is spawned adjacent to a passage and you're told to head to the right to warp to the next screen.


I'm immediately reminded of Warlord's Temple with its torch-lit halls and piles of debris everywhere.


Here rather than collecting arrows, Nadir gets his supplies in bulk quantities from boxes. Health and ammo is plentiful, and there's no themeing of what exactly "50 health" in a box is.


One of the two paths is blocked by some debris that Nadir needs to clear out later. For now, the path to the left is the only one way to advance.


Things start off with some light action. It's a large open room with some snakes represented by centipedes.


25 Ammo would be plenty to get through them all, but Panda provides plenty more right away. There's also no real need to shoot at any of them since the room is so empty that the player will have no trouble just dodging the snakes.


Up ahead, the pack of lions is a bit too numerous to avoid. It's a gentle buildup of enemies I suppose, but it feels pretty amateurish for a game of this vintage. It's very much possible to make compelling boards based around fighting ZZT's default enemies, even in the early 21st century where programming foes tended to be seen as the superior choice.

Panda isn't really pulling anything off here, just a smattering of enemies around the empty room which leads to a pretty dull fight.


There's also some small issue with the inner walls of the pyramid being made of breakables. They wind up taking the hit when a bullet misses its target, leaving the room a bit messy when all is said and done.


This is the perfect example of somebody trying to copy a ZZTer's personality but not really having any idea what that personality is. Nadir's games have had plenty of these sudden all-caps outbursts, but what makes them different than just random nonsense is how they're relevant to the current conversation. It's why you get "FUCK YOU MR. BEAR YOU SPEAK LIES" or even just "YES" as ways of ending dialog that are used to purposely break tension and get a smile out of you rather than try to be random yelling about monkey cheese.


The match does its job and burns up the debris with a short animation of red flame.


Panda looks down the list of ZZT creatures he hasn't used and chooses the pile of ruffians for this room.

The ruffians are shot in the most boring manner possible, and Nadir moves on.


There's another room to let the player restock, plenty of ammo and more health.The sheer abundance of items makes this an easy game, but when the game itself isn't exactly all that fun to play, I'll gladly take this over having to micromanage resources.

It's also an actually split path. I had some hope that the opportunity to explore the pyramid in a non-linear fashion could make things more interesting.


A big empty room with a sign does not bode well for "interesting".




ZZT has three usual types of invisible wall mazes, and they're all terrible.

- Literally invisible maze, made of black on black walls and extremely cruel
- Touch wall. Reveal wall. Tedious and bad default ZZT mechanics.
- Touch wall. Reveal all walls temporarily. Tedious, but much less so.

Panda invents a fourth here, revealing the single wall and then hiding it again.

This is bad.


Fortunately, his plan to make me hate this game fails due to a common beginner's oversight: the wall's flashing animation includes turning the revealed wall into a breakable wall for a moment. This lets the player shoot and destroy the maze, making it much more bearable once you realize you can just tunnel your way through.

Strangely, there's a button in the corner that erases the maze entirely, but it can't be reached. The outer walls of the maze are blue and flash, but the inner areas are red and don't, so the button is surrounded.


Going up first leads to another forgettable board with snakes and ammo.


Then another empty board (devoid of invisibles at least) with an animated stream flowing through it. There's nothing on the other side to obtain, or need to collect some water, or anything other than its exit to the south.


Finally, some more lions. This is just what I wanted.


But hey! Payoff! Something new and interesting looking! A dead body! Sliders! Panda finally finds a way to make things appealing.


Just kidding! This board was made by Nadir himself for the game.

Nadir saw fit to make things more visually interesting on the outside as well with the addition of some line-work and shading on the outer walls compared to the rest of the pyramid being flatly shaded on the outside.


It's less of a puzzle and more of a maze, with very few sliders needing to be moved around. It's also susceptible to just shooting some breakables. Panda was new to this, but I'm surprised Nadir let this slip. In both mazes just setting the maximum shots to zero would fix the issue.


The skeleton can't be interacted with, but the treasure can be. I have no idea what the Golden Noodles are for, but they're Nadir's now.


Though of course it's a trap, as hinted at the bloody skeleton.


Except it's not actually a threat. The slime spawns in such a way that it's almost immediately blocked by the player, causing it to die off which is kind of a shame since having to either navigate the maze in a frantic rush out or maybe pre-emptively position things to block off the flow of slime would go a long way to making this a cool board to play.


The noodles are at the end of the path north of the maze, and this well is the first board west of it. Like the board with the stream, it's entirely visual flourish, with nothing to interact with, which is even more disappointing here since it looks like more than just a decorative set piece.

I thought I could maybe cook the noodles or something, but nothing.


Something new! It's our pal CyQ, camping out in the pyramid I guess. Once Nadir approaches he'll wake up and...


Trying to hide that this is CyQ is very silly since you see him on the main menu and the object is named CyQ.

Ironically "GET HIM MY BEAR FRIENDS!" is a much more Nadir line of dialog that anything Nadir's said. It also actually got a laugh out of me.

I don't know why CyQ is always sad.


He's not kidding, and a small number of bears appear dangerously close to Nadir. In order to get anything out of CyQ, the bears need to be defeated first.

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Man: WHO ARE YOU? :(

Nadir: IM NADIR.

Man: I am CyQ. :(

Nadir: 1337!

CyQ: Why are you here? :(


CyQ: This pyramid is full of people today!
:( You are not the only one searching for
it. :(


CyQ: Could you please stop talking in
capslock? :(

Nadir: Oh, ok.

CyQ: Thank you. :(
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I refuse to believe Nadir has ever said "1337". "Huffelpuff googlies" is another poor attempt at making Flamingo's Nadir sound like Nadir.

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CyQ: What do you want? :(

Nadir: Do you got any supplies?

CyQ: Uhhh, yeah. :(

Nadir: Care to give me some?

CyQ: No. :(

Nadir: Care to SELL me some then?

CyQ: Sure.

CyQ: What do you need? :(

MedKit (+50 health) - 20 score

Torches (10 torches) - 5 score

Ammo (25 ammo) - 10 score

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CyQ's purpose is to act as a store where the player can spend their points. The game's provided so much though that it doesn't feel really necessary at all. At least the pricing seems fair.

I pick up some torches because I don't have any yet.


The only path remaining is west of the well, which leads to some Sokoban.


It's rather easy to solve, which again, is good because if Magic Flamingo isn't going to be interesting, it can at least be quick.


This board is of course completely expected by this point. Now Nadir's fought all the ZZT baddies that can be shot.


Well, it's something.There's a grassy field in the middle of this pyramid I suppose, and some strange object inside.

If you haven't guessed, it's actually just another maze. Ugh. This time there's no exploit to make it easier, just blindly finding the path through (or better yet using the Museum's file viewer to highlight all the fake walls).


At the end the of maze is some iron bacon. This will go well with the golden noodles.


Picking up the bacon activates another slime trap that's just as ineffective as the last. Thank goodness because actually having to navigate the maze quickly would be a disaster.


Heading up north is another empty room, save for a few torches.


They're immediately put to use on what turns out to be the only dark room in the game, which is a linear hallway.


But it's not an empty hallway. Oh not at all. There's trivia to answer!


I never know what to expect what a game decides to force the player to take a quiz. Panda begins by making sure the player knows the rules in Monopoly. (You go to jail.)


Next, making sure the player knows how to speak Swedish, as Panda is a native. (Slagverk)


Then some zoology. (2!)


Usually these math problems tend to be the sort of thing where you have to keep in mind the order of operations, but this is just straight up left to right arithmetic made to be a pain by requiring decimals. (51.25)


Finally, ZZTer trivia. (Wong Chung Bang)

Afterwards Nadir is free to move to the next board.


It takes less than a single torch to cross, and leads to this big door with some symbols on it.

They're conveniently slots to insert bacon and noodles. There's no message after inserting them and then the door just vanishes. There's still no flair even for a fancy roadblock.

Okay! Finally Magic Flamingo does something to impress me. This cut-scene is great. The use of the torch as a light source and how the lions appear in it is very creative, and gets even better when the torch is dropped and Nadir runs off.

Plus the wall of lions that gets turned into actual lions so you can watch them start moving about.

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