Town of ZZT Remix

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Closer Look: Town of ZZT Remix (Part 2)

Looking at the work of the heavy hitters of the Town Remix project

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Apr 20, 2022
Revisions (as of April 30, 2022, 5:40 p.m.):
Added some commentary from Agent Orange and Snorb discussing trivia and thoughts on their boards.
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Also Snorb's Board

Endut! Hoch Hech!

Original: Game Over

And Snorb receives the honor of truly closing the game out. Town has a very weird ending board in the sense that the player walks onto it and instantly gets a game over despite there being a long hallway that they never get to walk down. There's time to read congratulatory text on the board when you're dead I suppose.

The player isn't ushered to the afterlife immediately here though. There's more text needed here as we're no longer dealing with a one man affair, but a significant group project with lots of names that deserve their due credit.

The End is a New Beginning
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Special Thanks to

Alexis Janson
          For the Super Tool Kit

          For the Zeta emulator
       and the Zima image importer

Dr. Dos
          For the Museum of ZZT

Kev Vance
               For KevEdit

                For ZEdit2

   all ZZTers, past, present, and future
  For all that you've done, do, and ever
                  will do
The True Heroes Here
The Mixer           |         The Re-Mixer

Agent Orange
Dragon's Lair     | AZZTN P. Dragon's Lair
Guard Station       |        Gaurd Station
Inside castle       |     Inside Castle IV
Outside of castle   |           BoZ Castle
Path to castle      |      ZZTech Star Lab
Prison              |            Jailbreak
Throne Room         |         (A mouthful)

House of Blues      |House of Blue Dragons

Bomb Area           |            Starmine!
Cave                |        Centipede Pit
End Game II         |  Mayortorial Estates
Good Ole Micl       |        Good Ole Micl
Introduction Screen |  Introduction Screen
Rube Board          |         Rube Machine
Think Fast          |       Gates of Peril
House of Blues      |House of Blue Dragons
Path by cave        | Path By Cave SUPER +

galarian slowpoke
End Game           | INT. Pal. of ZZT- Day

Forest 1            |             Forest 1
Lab 3               |Mutant Bear Labyrinth

Lab 2               |                Lab 2

Bank Vault          |          Crank Fault
Secret Passage      |       Shifty Passage
Waterboard          |           Four Lakes

Mahou Shoujo ☼ Magical Moestar
Sliding Puzzle      |       Sliding Puzzle

Lab 4               |                Lab 4

Forest 2            |           For Mariko
Game Over           |    Endut! Hoch Hech!
Path by cave        | Path By Cave SUPER +

Bug Maze          | Don't Squash the Bugs!
Labrynth 1          |           Labrynth 1

Armory              |               Armory
Lab 5 - InvisoMaze  |   Lab 5 - InvisoMaze

Room (Twenty-Twenty-)One
The Armory          |         Agent Orange
The Bank of ZZT     |                Snorb
The Café of ZZT     |            Quantum P
The Palace Road     |    galarian slowpoke

-unusued            |              #unused
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The credits roll and all the authors are revealed without needing to crack open an editor, though you'd probably still need one to differentiate boards with names like "Lab 4".


I guess we really are on a Metal Gear Solid kick at the end here.


The sequel is immediately announced as the empty board reforms into the opening board from Caves of ZZT before your very eyes! Well, if one world got a successful remix, why not go for two? As of writing, Caves Remix still has a few boards that remain unfinished, with more than a year having passed since its predecessor's release. Fingers crossed!

Oh! You Rube!

So, there's one other thing about this game that I'm sorry to say never sat well with me, and that's rube mode.


Remember when the Rube Machine offered the player an option to face an easier obstacle if the current one was too much? And it mentioned these "unintended side-effects"? Well, let's see what happens if you opt to press the button.


The title screen updates to call you a rube.


The café unlocks a new item, which is actually a light-hearted pun at least.


A new sign on the corkboard in the bank.


The final easy trivia question remains the same, but the answers have changed.


The vendor gets annoyed with you if you ask about the high prices a second time.


Dr. Bob's lab adds a new form of interaction where you can indeed knock on the window after being requested not to. He is not amused by your actions.


The skeleton in the forest will call you a rube.


The cats of the castle are turned into gems after reading the sign.


Shooting the sign for the purple key display in the castle results in a new message.


The druid of the forest lets you skip the quest entirely before calling you a rube.


One of the signs in the castle storage transforms into the word RUBE.


The Room of XTREME Annoyance uses its smaller footprint for the maze to flash RUBE every time you bump a wall.


The lion in the Re-Mixer replaces his regular conversation with surprise that you're not as dumb as they thought.


The ZZT Bandit is equally surprised to be rescued by you.


The instructions for the House of Blue Dragons allows you to just be given the answer, calling you a rube in the process.


A third energizer is added to the fight with the six dragons. Touching a dragon when not energized normally costs ten health, rubes don't lose any. Lastly, no points are given for defeating them for rubes.


Investigating the moving wall while a rube lets you actually open it, causing the player to instantly be crushed and killed. Kudos for actually extending the wall when this happens though.


The Sieur of the castle calls you "simple". The spinning guns in the bottom left chamber are erased, and the entire invisible wall maze is revealed in advance.

A few smaller instances:


The game even ends with an insult.

While always an option, rube or otherwise, the street vendor outside the police station can be asked about "something extra" once you've rescued the lion from the Re-Mixer. For 100 gems you can buy a illegal Mystical Winds toolkit (company members only you see). Purchasing this when you've been marked a rube, it silently removes the mark, bringing all of this to an end.

So basically, you get a handful of cute jokes like the RUBEn, a whole lot of poking fun at the player's expense by slipping the word into text, a few boards restrict the player from playing them normally, and in a few instances the "joke" goes well beyond calling the player a rube.

If this was all activated by some secret esoteric method it'd be fine. If the the results of being marked a rube were made obvious or if the status was acquired based on the player's behavior towards others, I'd be down. If there was just a ZZT game out there where the NPCs were purposefully hostile towards the player rather than friendly that would be amusing. Unfortunately, that's not how it works here. I feel like the team forgot that the way to become a rube in this game is to make use of an accessibility option. Oh, the authors surely had their fun engineering these situations and running through the game themselves in rube mode to see everybody's changes I'm sure, but this isn't a fun little Easter egg. This is telling players that if they can't beat your puzzle they will be reminded of it for the rest of the game. There will be assumptions they can't handle other puzzles. They will be denied the opportunity to participate in certain boards. They have to forego bonus points, not for the puzzle they requested be toned down, but several other moments throughout the game. Why is this tied to an accessibility feature?

It would all be completely fine if there was any other way of activating the mode. Have the player get scammed outside the police station and make a useless purchase that makes everybody think you're a fool or something, I don't know. Caves Remix is still under development and will also have a rube flag. I can only hope that the plan there isn't to sour the experience of anybody who asks for things to be a little easier and that the mode is activated through something other than a player being in need of help.

In practice, how much a player will see of this can vary wildly, as once again this game is non-linear. You may start with the cave to get the key and immediately solve the easier version of the puzzle and get the full brunt of the assault, or you might save the tough puzzle for last (intentionally or by happenstance) and see almost none of it as you then head into the palace. It comes off as excessively mean-spirited to me, and even in the instances where the rube is clearly meant to be the player element and not the person at the keyboard, it all stems from the player at the keyboard wanting to take advantage of an offer extended to them to make thing a little easier. I would not want to play this game another time to try the Rube Machine at its designated difficulty if I saw all this during my first experience with with Remix.

Snorb's Commentary

"Yeah, I think in hindsight it did get a little out of hand. ("For Mariko's" use of it kinda flies in the face of how I write Mariko in La Vie Moderne de FRANCHISE, where she's a bit more polite unless you threaten her talking pine tree plushie.) Caves Remix does have a +RUBE flag; as far as I've been able to tell, it is indeed Easy Mode (plus a teasing reference to "Machinations" on one board, and a reference in "Yomotsu Hirasaka" that I'm going to remove.)"

Final Thoughts

When not getting weirdly angry at the player, Remix is a strong re-imagining of the most classic of classic ZZT worlds. So many of the original's less memorable boards are given overhauls that lift the quality of them significantly. It's refreshing to enter the castle and not slowly sink into your chair in boredom until you reach the throne room. Many of Town's already fondly remembered boards successfully up the ante as well. The Rube Machine and Sliding Puzzle are worth it alone, and even when the changes are minor, they're still quite appreciated such as the Starmine no longer being a run-killer.

One thing I was pleased to see in this game is the care put into keeping the vibrant colors of Town even when permitted to use the full palette available. The second forest, castle exterior, and police station exterior all make some extensive visual overhauls without losing the playfulness inherent to the silly world they're painting over. Not only does the game look nice, it looks different. It's hardly what you expect ZZT worlds of modern times to look like, nor is it a faux-retro experience. It's almost Super ZZT-like, with its blending of classic design and the full range of colors.

Perhaps best of all, is that it never feels like it has any delusions of grandeur. Remix presents itself as a modern spin on Town intended to exist alongside it, not replace it. Not one board made me suspect its author was trying to show Tim how it's meant to be done. There's plenty of reason for somebody to play both versions to this day. Ironically, despite the inclusion of conveniences like some resetting puzzles, purchasable healing, and even more generous resources, the original is still likely preferable for newcomers to ZZT. Even disregarding the difficulty increase to certain puzzles, some techniques like the complex transporter behavior of the new bug maze can make for a rough introduction. Fortunately, this isn't a competition, and Remix can wait for new ZZTers to be good and ready before they enjoy their journey for those purple keys once more. For those that have been making a return to ZZT after not having touched in fifteen or twenty-five years that have visceral reactions to yellow borders, know what STK stands for, and once aspired to be the president of a ZZT company, Town of ZZT Remix is a wonderful (though challenging!) way to get a glimpse at what's new with ZZT after all these years.

...just cheat for the Rube Machine's key if it's proving too difficult, is all.

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