Ah, what a poll winner. A patron nominated suggestion created by a different patron, and one with a cool backstory behind its creation!
Star Wench hails from 2014, one of those years where ZZT wasn't doing particularly well. The game was never put onto z2 which makes sense when the latest front page post on z2 at the time would have been four years old., It also wasn't actually put on the Museum either until just this year (despite me having a copy in a folder called IMPORTANT full of things that should be sorted through and uploaded...). In an era when the mainstream ZZT community over on z2 was calling it quits seemingly for good, Anna meanwhile had done some impressive work on giving ZZT some much needed acknowledgment. At the time she would've been working on her book about ZZT, simply titled... ZZT as part of the Kickstarter for the creation of the first books in the Boss Fight Books series.
Star Wench was created specifically as a Kickstarter stretch goal arguably giving it the largest known budget of any ZZT game. Clearly a triple-A title.
As you might expect, the game made is pretty short with writing a book being given a bit more time. Star Wench was far from an effortless obligation though and the game fits quite nicely into the story-focused single session adventure style that's only increased in popularity in the years since. Arguably games of this style were the predominant type of ZZT world created in 2014 with other works like Growing Up and International Jetpack Conference fitting a similar mold in a year with seven known titles. Though it's hard to call that a trend when the three games mentioned here never hit z2 when they would have been contemporary titles.
Where Star Wench particularly excels is in its visuals. The game uses the bright colors of ZZT quite nicely but doesn't abstain from using dark colors as needed. There are countless ZZT worlds out there that take place in a sci-fi outer space environment, but so many of them fall into the trap of everything having to be cold gray metal. Not to pick on Quantum P.'s excellent Operation: GAMMA VELORUM series, but it's a good example of a game that gets very dark very fast. Anna, having not been part of the ZZT community of the early 2000s has a much easier time embracing the brights ZZT generously makes available.
The following content contains material which may be offensive to some audiences. It was most likely originally created by a teenager who has since grown up. This material does not necessarily reflect its creator's current opinions nor behaviors.
Specifically, this page contains depictions of or references to:
Pg-13 Levels Of Sexual Content, Minor References To Kink
Star WenchBy: Anna Anthropy
Released: February 02, 2014
Played Using: ZZT v3.2 via Zeta v32
Download | Play Online | View Files
Final ThoughtsStar Wench is short and to the point. As an introduction to ZZT it's certainly an interesting choice, taking the time to teach the player a few things they'll be encountering in greater depth in further ZZT adventures more than within Star Wench. Yes, you'll light a torch, discover fakes and invisibles, and unlock a door as you go through the world. It's almost a backdoor tutorial honestly. Boulders are pushed. Tigers are fought. Sliders are slid, and all the while Anna is never really upfront about it. I do like that the game made for a Kickstarter feels so genuine. When making something and knowing that it's going to be a lot of people's first introduction to ZZT there's a struggle that's elegantly avoiding in not guiding the player every step of the way or over explaining concepts that they don't need to know about.
Anna doesn't do anything particularly advanced here which not only helps newcomers who are playing, but those who want to poke at the world in the editor and get an idea of how a ZZT game is made in the first place. Somebody with no experience ZZTing can figure things out like the hidden passages in the sauna to the Queen of Space portrait. They may even get a feel for the things ZZT can't do, as they realize that each room in the castle is a distinct board, intuiting that ZZT has no concept of rendering "inside" vs "outside". I think my one complaint in that regard would be that the toolkit boards used to create this game were all removed. (Anna was unaware of KevEdit at the time.) This could legit be (and this is wild to say about ZZT) a potential liability as unsurprisingly ZZT toolkits aren't exactly accompanied with well thought-out licenses and this is one of those rare ZZT games where money was involved in the game's creation?. But clearly as a baseline for new ZZTers the game worked quite well as anybody who played Atop the Witch's Tower can attest. There are questions about making ZZT worlds that take more than just this one game to answer, and luckily Anna's ZZT book goes into more detail about the graphical revolution and use of Alexis Janson's STK.
Treating Star Wench as if it should be some perfect tutorial isn't really being fair to it. It's a story driven adventure that's all about exploring the strange abstract worlds that ZZT provides the tools to create. On the play side of things you get a quick story to enjoy with strange symbols to decipher and plenty of jokes to reward inquisitive players for touching everything they come across. The world is also quite polished! The background scenery throughout the castle is fantastic and the portraits are genuinely some of the nicest looking ones I've seen in ZZT worlds made all the more impressive by their sheer minimalism. They wouldn't look as good without the few touch-ups of STK colors here and there, but the personality would be conveyed all the same.
Because of its unusual method of release and lack of easy availability for so many years, this is one game that I suspect most readers may be unfamiliar with. Definitely take a few minutes to have a go at it yourself. I promise there are some more goofy items that I didn't show off. And while you're at, I can't recommend ZZT, the book that led to this world being made in the first place enough.
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