Wanting to do something a little different than the regular "pick a world and go", and having really enjoyed the last time I did a multi-game article with Six Games With Six Boards, I decided to return to the idea of covering several small games. This time we'll be taking a look at a lot of demos for ZZT worlds whose full game was never released.
Unsurprisingly there are a massive number of demos out there. It was an easy way to get some attention towards a game in progress, and hopefully with a little positive feedback on the demo, a boost of motivation to see the game through to completion. This is of course ZZT we're talking about, so it's also no surprise that so many of these demos didn't get finished.
A common flaw of finished ZZT worlds is how long they often drag on for. Author after author both good and bad has had something enjoyable that just didn't know when to quit. Unsurprisingly, teenagers aren't aware of scope creep, and so their games are frequently intended to be massive grand adventures unlike anything seen before. It's a recipe for disaster, and these demos give us a chance to look at these failed endeavors.
My method of picking was mostly just looking at title screens and seeing what sounded interesting. Apparently I'm on a fantasy kick because that's what the vast majority of these games fall under. Admittedly, RPGs in ZZT are probably the genre most likely to succumb to existing only in demo form. A key-collecting action game could drop keys and levels as needed, but the story requirements expected of an RPG make trimming things down far more difficult without abruptly deciding to go for a sequel. Plenty of full games end on cliffhangers (Legend of Brandonia, Angelis Finale, etc.), and sometimes quite abruptly as well. It's not an easy genre to see to completion.
But in addition to seeing stories untold, there's also some value in seeing the methods used to create demos in the first place. Some will be introduction sequences, others will be hand-picked scenes, and others will mix-and-match. Production quality may be as little as writing "DEMO" on a title screen, to providing context and author commentary on boards.
First up is The Legend of Zelda: The Land of Gannon. Nintendo properties in particular show up quite a bit in ZZT, and the Zelda series is perhaps one of the best to try and adapt to ZZT. ZZT's overhead view broken up into discrete rectangular rooms matches the original Zelda exactly, and its later 2D sequels closely enough that it's a great fit. ZZT has bombs, gems as currency, dark rooms, and manages to be a nice fit for a fangame.
As far as the missing content due to the super lock goes, it's still not a whole lot. The board is another building with a sleeping guard outside who has a bag of money. If Link takes it the guard wakes up and then acts like every other one.
In the library is a librarian and if Link has an unattainable library card item he can go to a backroom to see a large map. This at least uses a clever technique where the map is hanging on the wall and the bottom row is made of passages so Link can approach for a closer view, but the full map board isn't there so the passage just jumps to some random outside board.
Not uh finding myself interested in this one. It doesn't feel very Zelda, and the demo itself has so little to show (and even less due to the corrupt board). A lot of what is here is perfectly bland Nintendo-flavored ZZT, but the demo doesn't do anything to entice me into wanting more. While it's possible there could have been some more ambitious content in dungeons, what the player is actually presented with here isn't memorable at all. This is the sort of game that if it had been finished would show up on a late 90s Geocities fan website listing a bunch of Zelda games made by the fanbase with a 50/50 chance of "ZZT" being mentioned as a requirement to play.