Baloo Episode 1, The Thunder Road
This world, a dark crime drama, contains acts of violence and strong profanity as one would expect. However, this world also contains optional scenes of casual homophobia from the player character. To avoid these scenes, do not do the following:
- Talk to the purple character in Loey's Bar.
- Talk to either of the people in the west side of the jailhouse cafeteria.
- Ask the airline attendant where the bathroom is.
Baloo Episode 1 is based on a Disney TV show, but a rather unusual one for a ZZT world: TaleSpin, a kind of Jungle Book spin-off in a G-rated 'Thirties-men's-adventure' setting. If you haven't seen it, you wouldn't really be tempted to give this ZZT game a second look in the Museum, let alone play it.
You play as Baloo, and the game essentially has you pull off in a series of heists while finding time to break out of jail in-between. The game is a straightforward action-adventure with no obvious bugs, and the graphics are adequate and use STK colouring quite effectively. It's the writing and pacing of the action that raise it above many other fangames.
In general, ZZT fangames are of wildly uneven quality (exceptions do exist). What charm they have relies on the author and player's imagination and shared passion for their subjects (tempered with the player's experience of ZZT games as a whole) to will an experience that resembles the show or game they love.
Baloo Episode 1 is such an exception, but not in the way you'd expect. Its writing and characterization raise a merely average ZZT game to an enjoyable experience that recreates the experience of a TaleSpin episode if it was more representative of the two-fisted pulp adventure setting that served as its inspiration.
The creator of this game, Jerry Ellis, did not try to recreate what episode of the show would be like on ZZT, but rather wrote a ZZT episode for the show. He was able to genuinely give the characters voices that mesh with what you'd see on the show, except more sweary and antiheroic. Baloo is a salty badass, but it works (besides some avoidable gay jokes) because Ellis did not try too hard to make him cool. His coolness is a result of his terse, devil-may-care dialogue and what you make him do, rather than Ellis beating us over the head with it.
While there never was an Episode 2, we can still enjoy this one, and imagine it's a tall tale of a caper Baloo tells regulars at Louie's Place when he's in his cups.