Closer Look: Turmoil

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Closer Look: Turmoil

Dec. 10, 2016, 6:34 p.m.

With Masher is serious need of help and no way to communicate with Boris, the player and Frog take their chances and venture through the portal onto another ship. The only information given is that the captain wants to speak with us, with no indication of whether or not this ship's crew is to be trusted.

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The captain explains his bargain and requests the player follows him, with no other options available, they're forced to oblige.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
you fell through a trap door!

you hear the captain's voice from above:

"what I want you to do is rot in there
for a while until we need some oil
in the engine. I think once we melt
you down, you'll work fine."

"if you're wondering why I'm being so
cruel, let's just say that I'm an old
friend of masher's.

"and any friend of his... well, you know."

"I'm now in the process of converting
him into a cyborg to do the menial
chores around here. great revenge plan,
don't you think?"

"have a nice life. I'll let you know when
it's over."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Instant betrayal! The player and Sam are left to die on board the ship. Poor Masher is going to be roboticized, and there's no telling what happened to the rest of your crew.

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Fortunately a helpful alien is also in the containment area with you. They blast a hole through the wall setting the player free.


From there the player needs to activate a switch opening the doors and use the provided boulders to block off the ship's lasers.


Up ahead the player and Sam will run into Frog and Masher. The situation is grim.

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While everybody else (including your new alien friend) is able to return to the Plecostamus, nothing can be done for Masher. The player has to abandon him knowing he'll be made into a cyborg slave.

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Back on your own ship, the situation looks even worse. The right half of the ship has been destroyed, the autopilot is dead, and it looks like Boris is as well. The cracked screen effect looks great here, as does the ruined motif of the ship.


The crew quarters are no better, with a collapsed ceiling and sparks flying everywhere which hurt the player when they come into contact. They only do 1 damage, but the cramped room and sheer number of them mean the player will likely lose a lot of health getting through.


It does mean seeing what's in the back room at least. The escape pods. One of which is missing, so it looks like the last unaccounted for crewmember may be alright after all.


Sure enough, by tracking the other escape pod Felix is found on this forested planet. She promptly collapses and Frog sends you and the robot to look for help while they put Felix to bed.

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Up ahead is this strangely designed cave entrance. It's made of boulders that need to be pushed away to access. Visually I can see it as a cave, but the aesthetic is kind of ruined once you begin pushing parts of it around.


This cave is part of a larger cavernous system, filled with green bats which flap towards the player until they're shot, just like all the other enemies. Investigating the small white dot reveals a yellow key, but that's all that can be done for the time being.

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The other path leads to an area full of water and enemies which haphazardly shoot at the player. The poor alien is afraid, leaving the player on their own to make the crossing.


It becomes more treacherous up ahead with bullets flying everywhere and evidence that this board will have to be traversed multiple times.


The waterway funnels into this canal and we get our first signs that there may be intelligent left on this world with these structures. I do like how something as simple as having the purple walls run vertically down the entire screen gives the board more depth, as it looks like the canal must be passing through some gate.


Inside the building is more of the caverns seen earlier. The caverns here are a large maze which connect from room to room in sometimes odd ways which prevent the player from ever hitting a dead end.


The caves look pretty cool stitched together. The way they wrap makes them a bit non-euclidean. For example, the top left two exits connect to the bottom right ones. There's little for the player to really do while inside them however, just a few bats to shoot and gag items to collect like dead batteries and pennies.

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Eventually though, the player will find the exit and come out south of the river crossing screen. This takes them across the canal from earlier and lets them explore the rest of the ruined city which is just this one building.

(I managed to forget to go west here and pick up the hidden white key on the shore, but it won't make a difference as it's just for bonus points on the last screen.)


Inside the house is a cyborg.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
"hi. haven't seen you in a while.

"it's me, boris.


"I built this place a long time ago before
I came out of retirement and had my mind
transferred into the plecostamus.

"I never thought I'd have a reason to
come back here."

"when the pirates attacked, felix barely
made it to the shuttles. I guided her
here. I transferred my intelligence into
this cyborg body. it used to belong to a
servant of mine."

"we can live here for as long as we like.
for now, we don't really have a choice.
those shuttles wouldn't make the trip
back to any civilized planet I know of,
and my radio here is broken, so we can't
call for help."

"just tell me where the others are, and
I'll transmit them in here."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Boris is ok! Thanks to brain transfers and cyborg bodies he now has a physical form.

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The crew is brought back together (except for Masher, who is never spoken of again). They're unfortunately still stranded on this planet and have no way to call for help, but they're all safe at least.

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Plus there's air hockey.

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And so Turmoil draws to a somewhat abrupt close with this nice view of a sunset.

Final Thoughts

I really like Turmoil, and I think it's a lot of fun to play through yourself. The game is pretty easy, and the combat involved is fairly barebones, but there's definitely plenty of charm to it. Despite the simplicity of the game's graphics, Clysm does an excellent job creating worlds which are both varied and memorable with little more than some small exposition by Boris.

The game's cast is very samey. None of the crew really seems to have much personality, to the point where I completely forgot that though the game seems to end on a positive note, Masher is just gone. Boris is the only character who ever really has a chance to show any personality.

Turmoil is a game that fuels the player's imagination. When you look at what's actually there, it's not much, but it's just enough to get your brain to start filling in the blanks on its own. The missions are just an excuse to send the player on a journey across the galaxy, fighting strange creatures, helping those in need, and moving on to the next planet when the situation's been resolved.

It has its memorable moments, like the surprise hut ambush, a feat that would be difficult to pull in a medium that isn't ZZT. (Then again, there's always Baba Yaga.) The missions play out very similarly, but always feel fresh.

The ending is rather strange, and I wonder if there was ever an intent on making a sequel. It happens rather abruptly in what feels like the height of the story's tension only to just come to a sudden stop. There's a lot left unanswered in the ending. Masher is just gone and the crew is stranded. It's a pretty grim situation, but this new life on an alien world is one that the Plecostatmus crew looks forward to with a boundless optimism. This world is just their latest mission.

The Closer Looks series is a part of the Worlds of ZZT project, committed to the preservation of ZZT and its history.
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