There is a disease of ZZT designers that I like to call... Terminal Introsis. The most common symptom is the placement of a huge knot of exposition in the introduction of a game. When this happens, it is extremely likely that the writing in the remainder of the game will be minimal. The general effect of this is that it becomes clear that the author wanted to get the plotline out of the way early.
Rogue Three not only dodges this problem, but completely reverses it. Rather than give the player central information at the beginning of the game, Bitman does something unprecedented.
He creates suspense, and gives out the answers at the END of the game! At last, a ZZT writer has figured out why mystery and suspense novels sell so well.
The discovery of the nature of the gameworld is left up to the player. Clues are dropped left and right, but complete explanation is saved for the game's ending, which ties up the plot threads and neatly explains the setting of the game for those who missed the clues.
The ending itself is a mixed bag. To those who don't see it coming, it should seem an extremely clever plot twist. To those who DO see it coming, it will probably seem anticlimactic. It's still neatly done, though.
A mixed bag. But I don't really care.
Although Bitman flirts with nonlinearity and multiple scenarios, and has some very clever timer effects, there are several areas of weakness in the gameplay.
The most noteworthy puzzle of the game is a clever slider puzzle that requires considerable forethought. It is surprisingly good, and brings a bit of life to the tired formula, but it's still a slider puzzle. Some might object, I suppose.
The other sticking point in the gameplay is an "underground cavern" sequence of darkened rooms, monsters, and, if you are unlucky enough to be thrown onto one particular plot thread, insufficient ammo. The sequence isn't long, but it's completely unnecessary.
The third, and greatest, weakness of the gameplay is the large ratio of walking to actual playing. There are some very nice landscapes, but they are often essentially empty of noteworthy objects.
On the bright side, the cutscenes and dialogues are in text box form, and can thus be read quickly, without the ridiculous "one line every ten seconds" format that results when an author decides to use the bottom-of-the-screen marquee text approach.
A very nice game, with a creative plotline. It has its weak spots but, at its best, it reminds me vaguely of Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall."