"Welcome to JEREMIAD! This is a never-before-seen mature ZZT adventure, steeped with both big-picture ideas and heavy metaphor. This is a journey into the human condition, its highs and lows, set against a postmodern, surreal backdrop."
"This is the first game from MBGS, a company made up of several close friends who wanted to do something a bit outside the mold. JEREMIAD was the end result. We sincerely hope you enjoy it."
Thus begins Jeremiad, a narrative world that kicked off 2020-in-ZZT. It attracted some interest since the authors appeared to be first-time ZZTers and did not surface on the z2 forums or the Discord at the time (and haven't appeared to since). They clearly were ambitious and wanted to make an impact, as the above text suggests.
The game's art is its biggest strength, with the environments you navigate and the art/story boards drawn well. MBGS's artist made graphical choices which differ from standard ZZT conventions, giving the game a very 'fresh' look. This includes a liberal use of objects as background environments and some interesting perspectives.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world (no spoiler here, this is spelt out on the first playable board), with the protagonist exploring the prison-like building he (it's made quite clear you play as a man) finds himself waking up in. Things are revealed in flashbacks and expository cutscenes as you progress and try to get answers from them that run the show, and eventually the hero comes to a decision on his place in this world. Besides the exploratory gameplay, most of the narration and exposition is done by text, which includes some porn-y bits (but believe me, it is meant to tie in with the plot). Sadly, you can be locked out of the game at one point based on which objects you interact with - so avoid examining too many things before you reach a certain lab.
But what of its message? As a jeremiad should, Jeremiad tries to show us how wrong the world as we know it is and paint a grim picture of the future if we persist in our ways. Tries.
If we take the authors' manifesto at face value, this game doesn't succeed as something new and shocking. Earnest games about the human condition, warnings about the future, surreal backdrops and heavy metaphor are not new to ZZT, so how does it stand up on its merits as a morality tale? While a jeremiad could in principle be made in ZZT, a lot rests on whether the bad things that will lead the world to ruin are convincing to its audience.
The ones in Jeremiad are not. It gives off a vibe of "yeah, something something recession of 2008, something something climate change, the strip malls don't have the shops I like anymore, DRUGS, and the youngsters these days are degenerates".
On that last point, it is a bit too eager to paint the young people of this generation (or the near-future) as having unhealthy cultural tastes and habits. The authors go out of their way to label furries, Wumpscut fans and stoners as signs of the coming apocalypse. Bolt on a graphic death-by-drug-overdose (in text!), hints of cultural bankruptcy and a need to recreate it from scratch, and some vaguely Biblical guff about a BEAST picking off degenerates living in the game's post-apocalyptic world, and it comes off more as a rant against them youngins than anything else. If the authors were trying to shock or shame, they have failed.
Honestly, just look at the game in the editor to see what there is to it. There is some music (transcribed from Billie Eilish and Crowded House) but it's nothing special. MBGS have since released a second game in 2021 which isn't a real improvement on this except for one good joke.
Content warnings: A graphic description of a drug overdose and some sexually explicit text, implied animal cruelty, and undue hostility to furries and stoners.