Anthony Testa returns with a swift victory in the polls for his 1998 adventure Compound. While I'd love to say Testa won due to his reputation for for making good "dark" ZZT worlds I suspect the true reason it won was because of its hook in the text file of being "riddled with quotes from Billy Joel".
Maybe it won based on this strange premise, but you won't find me complaining about it getting such a quick selection. Testa's games have always been favorites of mine and over the years I've streamed >Blind Remix, Jami's Undercity Remix (video missing), as well as playing through Deep December. Testa tends to create dark settings that come off as fun places to explore in ZZT, well aware that creating horror in ZZT is probably asking a bit much of a game where the person you control is perpetually smiling. Despite the challenge he's capable of coming up with some interesting settings that make you want to learn their secrets.
Testa could pull off strange premises for games while still coming off as sincere. You won't find the player arguing with the author about how stupid the story is or pointing out every time a trope shows up and rolling their eyes. You're also not expected to go in and swallow a bunch of overwrought writing where to make something "scary" one just keeps adding more adjectives. (Well, Compound avoids this at least.)
Compound is an earlier release of Testa's, the earliest we've seen so far, and in some ways it shows. There's not a lot of story to tell, and the enemies are basically identical. There aren't even all that many Billy Joel quotes. Still, it hits that sweet spot of ZZT games where you're neither struggling to survive nor loaded with so much health and ammo as to be unstoppable. This is a game that has a story to tell and doesn't want to push anyone away before they can hear the whole thing.
So let's see what Testa and Billy Joel have in store for us!
It's the fairly distant future.
The third World War has ripped across the
world and decimated every organized
government and eradicated an entire
generation. The world was left to a
generation of young adults - peace-minded
young men and women representing every
culture and religion on the earth. They
have built a new world - a world dedicated
to peace and to learning, to science and
poetry, and to the arts. Their city,
Renessiance, lies deep within the South
American rainforests, built of man's
greatest technology in harmony with
nature. And, lo and behold, utopia was
born. But, can they rebuild it...again?
Your wife Lily sits in the grass, watching
life go by outside in the rainforest. She
is a Gaian, believing in "mother earth"
and how all life is connected. She
has jetblack hair, shoulder-length and
curly; she has accented her hair with
wisps of green dye, green being the color
associated with nature and Gaia. He eyes
are deep blue - when you've stared into
them, you could see your future together,
your first child, growing old together,
leading a new generation into a peaceful
society. She's wearing a sky-blue tank
top and cut-off jeans. As she sees you
approaching, she smiles warmly. The two
of you embrace, kiss, and chat for a few
minutes before you head onward, content
that after delivering these printouts, you
will have the rest of the day to spend
with your wife.
• • • • • • • • •
You recognize the man as David, a
scientist whose extremist theories have
not been taken seriously by neither the
scientific nor the spiritual community.
He's holding a sword above his head.
You: D-David, what - ?
David: Fools! All of you! You don't
You: Realize what?
David: You can't rebuild on the remains of
the old world! You must wipe the slate
clean, make a new world to shape into
David: Madness, insight - there is no
difference. They called Nikola Tesla a
madman. And now, my weapon - a sword of
pure diamond. Now, to the new world...
• • • • • • • • •
it (or not), is to repair the tube that
connects the lab to the atrium. To do
this, you must use the controls to
navigate. Press an arrowkey to move in
that direction, and shift plus an arrow
key to shoot in that direction.
To fix the tube, you must steer the
ship into a piece (those grey things on
the bottom. The piece indicator on the
bottom-left will show a grey square. Now
you must steer the ship up into the small
circle in the lab. Repeat thrice.
If you come into contact with a purple
jelly-mutant thing, you will lose a hull
point (see bottom-left). Seven hits will
destroy you. You may shoot them, but you
are only allowed five torpedoes (there's
an indicator for that, too).
• • • • • • • • •