You know, this used to be my favourite ZZT game, even after playing the requisite Zenith Nadir and drac0 classics that comprised my earlier obsessions. Of course, back then I was trying to stake some sort of claim as a ZZT musician, and I suppose I must have thought that, much like some indie rock kiddie, a good way to get one's name in the open was to idolise something almost nobody else seemed to really like.
Translating anything symphonic - or beyond two instruments, really - in ZZT is not an easy task. I've been there. For half of the projects the wise musician will realise about halfway through that this simply isn't working, that even alternating notes just doesn't make it sound right. I've dumped plenty of tracks that way. kev takes on the (in my opinion) insurmountable task of doing this with ONE track of sound. Bluntly, I wouldn't even entertain the idea of doing this, and given kev's ambitions I think it's been done very well.
While I am not surprised to learn from the previous review that kev-san was or is regarded as a musical prodigy in the vein of Mooseka, Freedom just doesn't work. Grainy Testa graphics with no playability, a remarkably brief story with vague utopian connotations, a hollow love-interest, topped off with the wails, squeals and buzzes of a minor-key track - no matter how good music and the story behind it is, you cannot convey it in its full glory through a beeping PC speaker. kev himself acknowledges this in the editor notes.
This is why I now firmly believe that the idea of a ZZT musical just isn't going to work. It really didn't even work with The Rose, and that's WiL, for crying out loud. ZZT music has and always will take an unfortunate backseat to the actual action, the characters battling it out onscreen, the puzzles, the shooting ruffians while running through endless ammo fields.
If you're as talented an artist as kev-san evidently is, and you have the disposal of musical instruments, paintbrushes, some kind of canvas, everything you need, the world is your oyster. But when you're working with the monotrack ear-piercing squeal of an outmoded form of PC sound, some things are really better left unsaid.
Well, here's some context boys - Freedom, for a ZZT game, had some massive hype behind it. It featured music by Kevin Carter, aka Kev-san, who was a 13 year-old musical prodigy. It was also announced during a brief high in "Classy, deep, meaningful" ZZT games spearheaded by Anthony Testa, aka Shigesato, who would later provide the kick-ass graphics to Freedom. The main selling point was the fact that it was a Rock Opera done on ZZT with music by Kev-san. On paper, it looked like a hit.
But... let me give some history here I was good friends with Kev, so I could tell you that Freedom was mulling over in his head for a very long time. However, Kev is, IMHO, a better composer than writer, and it shows. Many ideas were basically lifted straight from the classic novel The Giver along with little drops of the darker 1984 - Small community, protagonist with some sort of undefined specialness, evil government and an overall sense of oppression with a tender love story attached. Okay, sure. Not very creative, but I'm sure that part of Kev's reasoning to make Freedom a musical was because you can get away with unoriginality in a musical so long as your music is good.
Now, despite some of these other reviews, some of the music is pretty kickass. There used to be a CD Kev had which contained all the music using synthesized instruments and I can tell you from what little I heard, the music kicked ass before being butchered into this.
In detail -
1) Overture - YES! YES! This is great...the intro with our protagonist falling and this wonderful music going at insanely fast speeds. It's fast-paced and epic, yet dark. This is Kev at his finest, where the PC speaker sounds like an actual instrument.
War - Uhh..no. Total 180 from the beginning. Seems to be going for a jazzy feel at first, but then it just devolves into some tuneless mess with some drum work that doesn't sound half as good as it should. The lyrics are also kinda bleh.
Decision - The evilll elders are meeting. Great, simple yet stylish graphics are present here with a pretty decent sound. The lyrics aren't too bad either and there is a fuckin' awesome 'solo' in the middle which again shows why Kev was so sought after for projects. Fairly good.
(I forget the rest of the titles here so..)
Birth - Yeah, our hero is born to some mediocre writing and composition which, while adequate, didn't translate into ZZT very well. I'm sure Kev meant this to have lots of symbolism with stuff like "wrapped in fleece," but it all falls flat. The art is not that great either.
Micah's Angsting - Okay, so our hero was put into a home for the retarded to stop his powers from taking over the Elders. Right... Kev really seems to want to make this be a Pink Floyd The Wall esque moment...but. No. Tune is forgettable and the lyrics are, again, flat. Shigesato did some nice graphics for this one though.
So he goes outside FOR THE FIRST TIME EVAR.
Love Song - Right, you met this chick. She's all cool and into you. You're both rebels and she's a REVOLUTIONARY VIVA ZAPATA. Sorry, but this story is going nowhere. Okay, they kiss and run off into the forests. Lyrics here are simply wretched (sorry Kev) and the graphics make Rina look retarded herself. Tune is rather catchy though.
Ending music - beautiful. Expands on the tune of the overture and takes it into an almost apocalyptic direction. It's wonderful and causes one to think of What Could've Been if the story had been expaned upon the lyrics refined to exude the class that Shigesato so desperately wanted ZZT to have.
And then it just drops us, DO THEY REALLY live Happily Ever After or DID THEY JUST SCREW THEMSELVES OVER!?!
Sadly, it could've been interesting to see Rina's revolutionary personality taken deeper - why is she fighting? What is Jorosh the elder really up to? What's so damn special about Micah?
Sadly, none of this will ever be found out. Kev intentionally made his ending ambiguous out of keeping things "open to interpretation." The only problem is that he should've made a story that was interpretable in the first place. As it stands, we're left some pretty incomprehensible symbolism, athmospheric graphics with no athmosphere, music that's up and down and then some. Yeah. Admittedly Kev had alot of frustration over this one, but he should've kept at it in some spots. Oh well.
A 4 for nostalgia from talking with Kev at 1am about preteen angst when I was 14. 2.5 for actual quality.
Ahhhh, Mech Trainer is prettey cool! Though those tanks weren't dyin' so i had to edit them. (Sorry blizz!) It's got good grafix and all that, but there wasn't any real need for the mech character. It moved like the player. And it didn't start on the training missions either. I wanna give this a 4.5 outta five, but i can only give a 5!
Good news: "Freedom" is innovative, unique, and creative.
Bad news: So is my latest idea for a children's TV series: Dizzy the Duck Teaches Linear Algebra!
Good news: "Freedom" is an attempt to do an opera in ZZT. This is ambitious.
Bad news: As is trying to perform War and Peace with hand puppets, a la Snoopy. __ Bad news: "Freedom" has lousy lyrics.
Worse news: But then, so do quite a few songs that linger on the top of the charts for weeks. No big problem, right?
Bad news: "Freedom" has an awful plotline.
Worse news: So do the majority of ZZT games.
"Freedom" is, as ZZT games go, pretty average. It tries to do a lot, and doesn't quite manage it.
Depressing news: For ZZT games, "pretty average" is 1-2 out of 5. Many of the worst games never made it to z2, and are presumably floating around on the hard drive of somebody who downloaded them years ago.
And I guess that title pretty much sums it up. What? You want more? Okay...
The plot - such as it is - revolves around a totalitarian society in the near future (kind of like nineteen eighty-four, but with more digits). A young lad is born and because he is somehow different in some unspecified way, (lazy plotting, there) he realises that he is living in a puppet society.
So our kid grows up, runs away with the personality-free love interest and lives happily ever after. Great. I guess kev was at the writing board for literally seconds with that one.
So the plot sucks and the characterisation is nonexistant. What about the songs? Err...
Actually one or two aren't bad, but the majority are awful; just bleeps and bloops with some general rhythm. Kev is no WiL. The lyrics, too, aren't much cop - and in some places are out-and-out wince inducing.
Because the entire thing is basically a huge cinema, there's not a lot for the player to do but walk from screen to screen. This would be perfectly fine if the plot were as gripping as, say, "Thomas and the Magic Railroad", or even "Problem Child 3: Junior in Love". Sadly this isn't the case, and the wafer-thin plot is made even more lame by its numerous holes. Why is our "hero" special? How do the elders keep control? If all it takes is to run off why did nobody try it before? Won't the city try to take him back? Or, seeing as all he did was fuck off, why were they worried in the first place? Why didn't he try to cause a revolution? Why, why, why, why, why?