A fine example of a ZZT shooter filled with atmosphere and depth, _Death_ combines the nonsensical and the grim with the grit of classic ZZT game play. The game puts you in the shoes of a soldier who has awoken in a strange land after being used for experimental drug testing in the enemy's prison camp. You quickly learn that the ruler of the realm, and the being that you are destined to battle, is called the Tatvatt. The game has you fight your way past demons and zombies through over thirty floors of the Tatvatt's castle before finally confronting the evil god himself.
A large game, clocking in at 320k, _Death_ keeps the action fresh throughout. Each floor is a well designed level loaded with traps and treasure. The dark boards are especially effective using a cramped layout so that no matter where you stand there is always a point of reference. The enemies are almost exclusively programed objects with distinct behavior and they often jump you after picking up an object or opening a door. Durable zombies will tax your ammo supply and force you into corners. Demons come in two flavors and are the main shooting enemy. Rats are surprisingly resilient and devious. One enemy throws "parts of its own body" that become creatures unto themselves. In ZZT terms this means that it shoots bears. The final boss may annoy those that can not stand stars, but he doesn't take too many shots to kill. Saving often is a must. The places where enemies end up doing the most damage usually surprise you. The game never ceases to keep you on your toes. The puzzles (what few there are) are a nice distraction but aren't particularly special and by no means the main attraction.
Aesthetically this game holds its own, though you may tire of the abundance of dark grey and red. A lot of what holds the graphics together is how well each floor is designed. Line walls are used heavily in certain areas, but creatively. Small details help aid the graphics such as decaying trees with poisonous fruit and murky pools. The opening boards sets the mood perfectly and the minimalist title screen adds mystery. The end consists of two quality art boards. Though a far cry from a dynamic score, the sounds do a great deal in helping promote the atmosphere and almost everyone you talk to has a theme that plays when you first talk to them.
Darren Hewer's previous full length game Dr. Zeebo's Mystical Quest is similar in many respects, especially in its layout, but _Death_ is far more refined and more devoted to the shooting concept where Dr Zeebo was more interested in mixing puzzles into the equation. The game serves as a solid example of quality game play and design, and the game has a good "finished" feel to it. It's virtually bug free save the exploding arrows. A must play for followers of shooting ZZT game play and those who wish to understand what good level and enemy design means.