David: Beast Wrestler is the second ZZT world based on the Biblical story of David after its 1997 inspiration Only a Boy Named David, and is based on 1 Samuel 17:34-36, where David, talking to King Saul, claims to have killed a bear and a lion with his bare hands to protect his flock as a humble shepherd. The resulting world embellishes this into a super-short fighting game that adds a wolf as your first opponent. The gameplay is effectively the simplest form of sumo, where you must push your opponent out of the arena and not let them do the same to you (or else you will die). Oddly, the bear seems to be harder than your final opponent, the lion, as your ability to wrestle the bear to its doom seems dependent on what cycle you do it on. The other opponents can be defeated simply by holding the left arrow key, meaning this world will not be a challenge.
What makes this more than just a basic minigame is that it's created to feel like an early-1990s world. In this sense, it's fitting that the game is so simplistic, and in fact, this sort of gameplay would have been considered innovative in its time. The text is also filled with the sort of enthusiasm would expect from this era, complete with a breathless promo at the end for an over-ambitious sequel which will never be made. It feels just like the work of an earnest author of the time who's starting out with ZZT but is already making headway in making games, even with just the seven default colors available to them. Heck, it might even look a little too good for that, if one were less charitable, given the status of Only a Boy Named David as a pure "yellow borders" newbie world as well as the many such worlds in the Museum of ZZT's "AOL Compilation" from which David: Beast Wrestler also takes inspiration. The little joke in the ending art is the icing on the cake.
The final piece of the puzzle, and its most metafictional one, is that this world is designed specifically to violate the submission rules on the old ZZT website z2, which forbade any worlds that did not have the colors provided by the Super Tool Kit and/or were under 10 kilobytes in file size compressed. This was just one of the many short-sighted decisions that plagued the site, among them the fact that each of its games could only have ten reviews ever, but it was certainly the most damaging: it led numerous creators to bloat their shorter games with inaccessible boards (some of them with... um, regrettable subject matter) just to be accepted, and to the rejection of countless games without "STK colors" (or with, god forbid, yellow borders) that are now lost to the mists of time. That this world breaks the rules and remains enjoyable is a damning critique of said rules, even if the site is now dead, replaced by the (now ironically-named) Museum of ZZT as the central hub of the ZZT community today.
Beyond the meta elements, this is a short but charming game that, apart from the second opponent being a little tougher than expected or possibly intended, is an enjoyable retro-styled affair. Try it out at least once.
Reviewed: Feb 1, 2023
Rating: out of 5.0 This user has opted out of providing a numeric rating