On The Fool's Quest side of things there isn't much to say. The April Fool's Day gag happened and the historical record of ZZT wasn't rewritten, which makes sense as anybody wanting to play all of Janson's games would realize pretty quickly that it's just a copy of The Three Trials. A more devious trick could have been to claim that this was an early revision of The Three Trials and the game was renamed in an update. With how many actual revisions of Alexis Janson games have been uncovered in recent years, this could have been a far more insidious plot, but I don't think Wells nor Kracken who wrote the Classic Game of the Month review were trying to do anything of the sort. There are are surprising number of instances of "fool" throughout the game, so this was definitely a great choice for a game to receive this treatment.
As for The Three Trials itself, it was overall a lot of fun, but definitely a flawed work. Its Best of ZZT influences make it pair quite well with Cannibal Island, making them feel like cousins with regards to their similarities to each other. Cannibal Isle definitely feels more polished, and while it's a challenging title that suffers from early ammo problems, it seems like it's more forgiving to the player overall. With The Three Trials, you're going to have to cheat. If you're really willing to push yourself you can put off that cheating until basically the end of the game, but the overall balance just isn't there.
But don't think the experience isn't an enjoyable one! In terms of amateur game development, it can't be understated how ZZT"s tools of cheats and an editor can make it very possible to turn a frustrating experience to a pleasant one. When Janson is putting in the effort there's a fair share of excitement here. The thief's fortress is a very impressive board for such a young author. The world transforming itself from winter to summer is a great effect. There's a good sense of scale here in how it feels like you're exploring a very large world that fits in these roughly 50 boards. The player always feels like they're making progress towards quest after quest, and while the end game gets a little bland, by that point it's well worth sticking around to finish it.
What The Three Trials really comes down to is whether or not you're willing to embrace cheating as necessary. A better designed game wouldn't require going to such lengths, but ZZT makes it simple to do so. I think by skipping out on this one due to its sub-par balance you're missing out on quite a lot of good. Don't hesitate to try this one for yourself, but don't go into it thinking it's a game that can be "mastered". Even the best players are going to have to deal with that final boss fight, and I really feel like there's nothing to be done there, regardless of how many gems you pour into health. Let yourself fast-forward through the weaker parts and focus on what works well to transform The Three Trials into a quite worthwhile classic adventure. You'd be a fool to let this one pass you by entirely.
But What About the Super Rube Board?
Not to worry, I figured it out eventually. Here's how to get the white Prosek gem:
Click to reveal spoilers!
Now now, don't be too disappointed! Is this an intended solution? I genuinely think so. This kind of alternate solution might not be the most moral one, but having it included shows a lot of foresight. It lets the player skip the most obvious stopping point in the game. It presents a different challenge. I also trust Janson's ability to handle the complexities of attacking guards, talking to the princess, and going through the dungeon properly. She absolutely could have prevented the princess from reaching the gem giving code without having pulled the lever after finishing the super rube board.
It's... still buggy though as you can tell by the guards that refuse to die and love running into walls. This is just a straightforward bug though and the un-killable guards are supposed to be killable. The guards of Gemrule are split into "guard1" and "guard2" objects with "guard2" being the ones that have a patrol to rush to the princess's aid. Since they all have different paths to take they all have to have unique code. The rest of the guards have identical behavior and just use
#bind to share code. The issue here is that the first guard to be shot will yell "Attack!" and then zap its
:shot label, but due to the shared code, this means every guard runs that line and so
#zap shot runs on the same set of code multiple times leading to the guards becoming immune to being shot as all their labels are zapped.
Luckily, they don't zap the
:touch label at all, so touching a guard pacifies it and they return to their initial stopped state. Except their attack loops mean that they also are
#walking already which means they just continue to walk in that direction even if they're no longer actively hostile to the player.
That all of this works the way it does is very fortunate and gives you a clean conscience to skip the Super Rube Board in your own playthrough. Assuming you don't mind killing half of Gemrule castle that is.
Of course if anybody happens to record a video of them being the Super Rube board legit...