Closer Look: ZIG

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Closer Look: ZIG

April 10, 2017, 11:25 p.m.

Oh, but of course ZIG Arena actually has a sequel. A single digit number of titles released (and I'm being generous since they're almost all just demos) and we managed to get a sequel.

I feel like there should be something in the top half of this title screen rather than just a gradient.


Some more introduction logos that feel like they had more time put into them than anything in ZIG Arena did...


The sequel is an improvement though.


Well, mostly. The objects highlighting the selected option immediately desynced on me like this. The credits are mostly the same, but I can't wait to hear about Clan-ZA.


Again the broken color formatting strikes, ruining the ASCII art. Sign up for the clan and get to beta more arenas for the series.


The story rehashes the previous game pretty quickly.


On starting the game, a cutscene of the previous game's final fight replays, with the player shooting a rocket at this red lion guy.


Not gonna lie, I do like the depth effect here as the illusion of being drawn into the screen plays out.


The player is taken to this hideous looking world map where two more arenas need to be conquered.


Inside the arena the player needs to challenge each opponent to move onto the next. It's pointless structure that keeps the player out of the action.


On challenging the first enemy the player is warped to another menu with the new store interface and some interesting new features.


There's a system called ZIGpot which can let the player essentially add mods to the game, unlocked by defeating foes. A password system is also implemented to let the player save their progress.

I guess it hasn't come up yet, but ZIG doesn't have the ability to save games implemented. A password system is the only way to track progress, and this is honestly probably the biggest issue against its adoption.


There are a whole lot of options to unlock, but only crate mode is available at the start. This is a shame because I feel like being able to play fast and rocket mode would do a lot to mitigate the issues with the large board sizes and difficulty hitting targets the original ZIG Arena had.


The first arena is a fiery one with volcanoes the erupt regularly, spewing damaging lava.


There's also indication that you're hitting the enemy successfully. A little feedback goes a long way.


I actually win a fight! It's still not fun though. I'm warped back to the arena and have to walk across the room to the next opponent.


I really wanted to buy a rocket launcher, but wouldn't have had any money for rockets. Instead I buy a shotgun, some health, and ammo to prepare for the 2nd fight.


I don't notice any difference with my shotgun, but I did just realize the grenade mode says to hit 8 to select grenades so I most likely had to press a key to switch weapons. Whoops.


I win a second fight!


And then I realize this game still isn't any fun, and just because I can make progress in it unlike the first game doesn't mean I should.

It's definitely an improvement over the original, but it's still very tedious and repetitive combat.


But it's still not over. There's also this pack of multiplayer levels meant to be played online! This pack isn't as complex as the Arena games, with just a single weapon available, and no campaign mode.


This is adorable! You're supposed to name your "server", and once the players are ready, they pick a map and star up a game.

I immediately jump into 2fort.


Compared to the ZIG Arena series, the multiplayer pack is a lot more simplistic. It plays no differently than you'd expect a 2-player ZZT to work.


All of these netplay focused deathmatch games are clearly inspired by major players in the FPS market at the time like Unreal, Quake, and Team Fortress. Yet despite this inspiration, the gameplay doesn't even attempt to crib anything more than weapons and maps. This one life with a lot of health fighting is very ZZT when ZIG would've been easily able to implement a point based scoring system with respawns.

Instead, once a player is defeated here the game comes to a stop. There's no victory screen, no way to replay the map, and no way to return to the main menu. From the start these games are trying to bite off more than ZIG can chew, but there's a lot of expected functionality that ZIG could easily do that just goes ignored making what's already no more than a novelty at best even less appealing.

Most of the other maps are similar, though some at least take advantage of board layers to create hiding spaces or add a bit more tension as bullets temporarily vanish from view.


But the game does aspire to something a bit more with its conversion of Team Fortress's Hunted game mode. Here an AI president follows a player controlled body guard who must escort them to the exit without the assassin killing them.

There are interesting character choices here. I feel like a secret service agent would be the one in sunglasses rather than the president, but I guess it keeps things consistent with the other maps' players.


The president unfortunately immediately sabotages everything by moving me into a corner, trapping the bodyguard and making them unable to leave! This sort of pushing around happens in ZZT as well, but can be prevented by checking if the object is next to the player before moving towards them again. This really simple technique isn't used here making it unplayable, and even more so if the player controlling the bodyguard is the one with a 200ms ping over dialup being shoved around constantly.

It does make me wonder if these maps were tested online or if the creators lived nearby and just played on a single keyboard locally.


The president also shoves their bodyguard into a solid wall.


The main menu also includes information on how to play the game online.


There's also some information about the purpose of making this, and a vain hope to find a program to prevent lag. I love it.


Lastly is this incredibly crude way of communicating with another player by highlighting messages from this list on the menu to let the other player read them.


These messages are REALLY GOOD. If I were the type to use textbinds I'd definitely be adding "I've got mail, but you've got owned".

There's just one game remaining, and it's the reason I wanted to feature ZIG this month.

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