Baloo Episode 1, The Thunder Road

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Closer Look: Baloo Episode 1, The Thunder Road

What should be a generic edgy TaleSpin parody turns out to be a well-written game you can't help but love

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jun 1, 2020
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Walla Walla. Home of the famous Walla Walla shit snake.


Everything about ZZT has conditioned me to avoid these red snakes that wriggle around.

They're actually harmless which might make them the first snakes in ZZT to not be an obstacle.


There's also this guy who shows up after a few moments to greet Baloo. What would be a quick delivery turns into an opportunity to grab some tea.


The home is pretty massive, surrounded by a fence, and protected by a guard. Telling him you were invited for a spot of tea is enough to be let inside.


The house is large, but borderline empty. Despite being explicitly invited in for some tea, talking to this different man only makes him ask if you're ready to leave, to which Baloo responds that he wants tea first.

The dining room has nothing but some chairs and a painting on the wall of the guy who owns the place.


To the west is a comparatively large closet used to store nothing more than a single pair of pants.


Baloo can search the pants and get some gems. One bank robbery and suddenly Baloo is willing to steal constantly.


There's a sign by the staircase saying not to go upstairs which Baloo gladly ignores to check out the storage room.


Kit's key unlocks the trunk and Baloo gets a dog bone. It is vitally important.


And this is where the routine delivery goes off the rails.


Again, Baloo is supposed to be here. He was invited in for tea.




This guy really amps up the hostility, threatening Baloo in various ways, though he commits to neither.


This final room is actually blocked off unless Baloo has stolen the gems stolen a dog bone. If he hasn't he'll talk about wanting to explore the rest of the house first.

Of course once inside he finds a gun to strip of its bullets.

And some more things to steal. This activates a scene where somebody comes looking for Baloo. While overhearing all his Baloo is unwilling to leave, wanting to look for more items to steal.


Now Baloo actually gets in trouble. The other person shoots down the door and if Baloo doesn't leave out the back fast enough he's immediately killed for his crimes.


Again we get to see Ellis using copies of existing boards that advance the story. Baloo makes a dash for the Sea Duck and now has to get past the hounds, which look like ruffians but are objects that simply chase him down.


The dog bone taken from the attic gets the dogs off of him and lets Baloo pull off his escape.

I was curious what would happen if you didn't get the bone as you can miss getting Kit's keys. The actual code for all this is... weird. The game doesn't check if you have the bone because you're not actually able to get here if you don't.

Instead back in the mansion taking the dog bone is what sets the flag indicating Baloo has stolen something and lets this whole sequence play out. The people there don't care if Baloo steals gems. They care if he steals a dog bone.

This does however mean that if you miss the key, you can't advance the story and the game is softlocked since you can't go back for it.


Baloo's flight back occurs in a more standard cinematic where some islands on the ground scroll across the board to create the illusion that the plane is moving. Baloo quickly learns he's not safe yet however...


One last attempt to kill Baloo is made and his only recourse is to jump out of the plane before it crashes.


Despite the fall, Baloo is fine, but has no idea where he is or how to get home.


Me too Baloo. Me too.


Evidence of civilization seem like a good sign until Baloo is discovered by the police and arrested for his crimes.


So this is the part of the game where Baloo the bear is in jail.


Amazingly, the charges only include his most recent theft. His earlier bank robbery and the killing of numerous people within it have been forgotten.


He's escorted to the front desk and apparently has been in trouble with the law many times before. Despite wanting to be taken to his cell already, and despite the person at the desk telling the other cops to throw him in, Baloo still gets to explore the cafeteria and rest of the jail at his leisure.


The cafeteria offers up a usual escape tool. Baloo has done this before. There's also another tacky conversation about non-consensual prison sex to avoid by not talking with one of the prisoners that's eating.


All of the cells are open, and each prison can be talked to. Most of them don't have a whole lot to say but there are a few of interest.


Firstly is this little party where everyone watches the 1983 "adult animated musical science fiction fantasy film" Rock & Rule.

I've never heard of this movie, and now I definitely want to see it. Thank you Baloo for the recommendation.


Then there's this guy who wants Baloo to kill him. Obliging him replaces part of the cell walls with blood which lets Baloo into the one locked cell.


It's pointless, but it offers something to do at least. You can shoot this guy and get a gem out of it I guess?


It's standard operating procedure for anybody who doesn't want to be in jail.


It's an extremely common cliché in ZZT games to have to break out of prison. Baloo may be no different, but I've never seen a prison in a ZZT game so laid back. It's one thing for the protagonist to be aware that they're in a game and going to break out, but this is just straight up how prison works here. It's an open secret that the prisoners can just break out as soon as they're done watching TV.


Although even if the prison is so chill, the cops outside take things more seriously. One moves ahead on patrol and after a set amount of time automatically notices Baloo, opening a small section of the building not so more cops can move out, but so Baloo can get in.


The cops are pretty aggressive. This is usually the kind of situation where they all just shoot each other until there's one survivor and a lot of red fakes, and that still kind of happens here, but whether intentionally planned or not Ellis's love of shrubs provides cover for bear and pig alike.


In order to get out, Baloo has to first go back inside where several more cops are completely oblivious to Baloo.

In the top left corner is a filing cabinet with the keys, and the object in the lower left is a flashing alarm that got sounded when the first cop noticed Baloo's escape.


The keys unlock the door and Baloo adds grand theft auto to his list of crimes.

This board is pretty nicely done, and reminds me of the driving cutscenes in the then-unreleased November Eve.

Ellis is using some objects that flicker between being visible or not for the lines in the road and bushes on the side to give the appearance of movement, but this isn't idle cinema.


After a few moments of driving (with the siren on no less) another cop car pulls up along side Baloo in the other lane. A high-speed shootout occurs where Baloo needs to operate the conveniently attached machine-gun and shoot up the other car before his foe breaks a hole in his.

For a machine-gun, it fires very slowly and the two cars basically exchange bullets one-by-one.


For Baloo's defenses, the side of the car will change to slowly crumble away as its shot. Once it's gone the bullets will attack the player directly. Actually using the player's health is probably a better choice than instantly killing Baloo or crashing the car like many other games would have done.

When the enemy car is destroyed Baloo will immediately reach his next destination:


The Walla Walla airport is the next location to explore. Unlike Louie's bar or the prison, there's a bit more to be done here rather than just talking to a bunch of people with no purpose. (Don't worry, there's still plenty of that too.)

To get back to Louie's island, Baloo needs to acquire 200 gems for a ticket which is obtained by interacting with the folks in the airport and of course, committing some crimes.


In the corner is this guy who makes a bet that Baloo can't pull the same card from a deck of cards twice.


This doesn't even have to be a con. The odds are extremely bad and even the minimum bet is nearly all the gems I currently had.

Strangely, picking the 100 gems option will just result in the asshole saying he doesn't have enough money on him which makes the wager fixed at 50 if you want to take it.


Except this is a ZZT game so it's not a one in fifty-two chance. It's not even an #if not blocked rndp rndne check which would make it a one in four chance. Instead, like Louie's slot machine, it's entirely hard-coded in Baloo's favor.


There are of course a few cops wandering around as well. None of them are confident enough to call out Baloo outright and instead they try to confirm his identity with him directly.


Obviously the correct thing to do is not be helpful.


If you do reveal yourself to a cop, they get aggressive and shoot a few bullets before causing an instant game over. I don't know why they shoot beforehand. There's no message about being arrested or killed or anything either, the game just abruptly stops.



This one is the best one by far.


Vigilant citizens may also recognize Baloo. This one actually does match the white-on-dark-blue char 2 appearance of the player element making them both stand out and letting Ellis joke about how they also look like Baloo.


Baloo's luck continues and the name he made up on the spot results in him obtaining a lost bank card.

Telling Billy that you're Baloo makes him laugh and assume you're just joking.


In the lower left corner is the lost and found department consisting solely of a crate to rummage around in.


All the clothes (somebody forgot their pants?) are devoid of anything useful except for the shirt which nets another 50 gems.


Thanks to the stolen card, Baloo can go on to commit identity theft and get some more gems courtesy of one "Carlos Schwartz". Again the game prompts you for how many gems to withdraw but only allows you to take the lower amount (in this case 100).

It's enough to get a ticket to Louie's with money to spare at least.


The ticket is purchased and Baloo is home free.


The door to the plane is two objects wide. One disappears when it's opened while the other door brings up this amazing line that conjures up such a good mystery in a single sentence.


I was impressed with the depiction of the Sea Duck, but the plane here is really great as well. Baloo flashes his ticket and is free to board.

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