Where can I get Forrester?
Forrester is available on DigitalMZX along with versions of MegaZeux for major OSes at the top of the front page.
Released: Jun. 09, 2009
This time we're going to play some MegaZeux. MegaZeux being ZZT's one successful clone and a quite impressive one! Its development is still continuing to this day. It has ports for Windows, OSX, Linux like you'd expect, but is also available (albeit not necessarily in its latest version) on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Sony PSP via homebrew.
MegaZeux, as mentioned in the previous Closer Look at ZIG, had its issues in its MS-DOS exclusive days which limited its audience to a more technical one, but these days it's easier to begin using than ZZT. It's not a subject I'm as familiar with as I'd like to be. My years of playing hundreds of ZZT games dwarf the small handful of titles for MegaZeux I've bothered with, so I'm far from the best to discuss its own vast array of games from 1994 onward, but Forrester definitely fits the criteria here as we'll see.
Forrester is a MegaZeux game yes, but it's a MegaZeux game that is deliberately styled to look and play like a Super ZZT game! Its title screen is reminiscent of the baked in menu for Super ZZT with Monster Zoo, with its rainbow background and 80 column width without a visible HUD.
At the same time, Forrester takes an unusual change in tone compared to its Super ZZT aesthetics. It feels like a Silent Hill game in a way. There's no supernatural horror, but there are strong themes of memory, forgetting, and what it means to be forgotten. All of these would all be right at home in a Silent Hill release. So, let's dive into this adventure into unforgotten.
Like Super ZZT, the game opens with the player riding across water to create a scrolling introduction to its world. The game takes place in the land of Wayward, where everything is forgotten. The introduction also covers the enemies that the player will fight against, again in parallel to Monster Zoo's intro, and also brings up the game's cast of characters. The cast is elaborated a bit more in an HTML file included with the game, but these characters and their personalities will be covered plenty within the game itself.
The intro ends with a warning that if the player themselves becomes forgotten that they'll never be able to leave Wayward.
Forrester begins and its Monster Zoo influences instantly become apparent. The central hub, the graphical style, the layout itself, and of course the game's HUD which mimics Super ZZT's quite well. MegaZeux boards can be resized, but default to taking up the entire 80x25 character screen. Here an overlay is used to create the limited visibility window mimicking a viewport you'd see in Super ZZT games instead.
MegaZeux lacks an automatic display of the player's stats, resulting in MZXers having to either code their own as seen previously, or having the player press enter where the player can look at this information. MegaZeux offers more counters than ZZT, as well as custom counters like the "Level" value seen above.
Much like how ZZT incorrectly guessed what kind of games people would make a decade later, remnants of classic MegaZeux show up here. MegaZeux has two types of explosives the player can collect, and then some strange choices of Insert and Delete being used to select each type of bomb and drop one.
Unlike ZZT however, where torches get adapted to magic or healing items out of necessity, MZX supports custom counters making stats like bombs often completely vestigial.
Forrester begins exactly like Monster Zoo before it with this same layout save for the addition of the old man.
MegaZeux has a similar scroll set up to ZZT, but much wider and using white on dark gray text. It also allows for custom text colors though the scroll itself will always be dark gray. Many more contemporary MZX games go so far as to code their own message systems rather than use the built in capabilities, but Forrester has a style it needs to mimic, and big gray scrolls fit the aesthetic much better.
The old man introduces Forrester to Wayward, and the importance of remembering that he's looking for his daughter. He leads Forrester up towards some ammo before speaking once more about the dangers of Wayward and letting the player go about their quest.
Collecting the ammo gives 5 bullets, matching ZZT's ammo rather than Super ZZT's which bumps it up to 10. The HUD shows the ammo literally, with the digit being a number from 0-4 for the remainder. It's an interesting way of presenting the information, but just like Super ZZT's health bars it makes the specifics hard to tell at a glance.
The first enemies Forrester faces are ruffians, which are MegaZeux robots (what MZX calls its objects) that move a few spaces before idling in place. The ruffians all have matching periods of movement and rest, which means everything is moving or standing still simultaneously. It's clearly meant to be a (Super) ZZT ruffian, but feels off enough that somebody with experience in ZZT will immediately see their flaws compared to the real thing.
Up ahead is a river which carries the player using the same mechanics as Super ZZT which MegaZeux conveniently also implements. If they're fast enough they can escape the river momentarily for a gem before being carried to the end of the line. There are a few more ruffians ahead, but also another one of the residents of Wayward, the Jester.
The Jester has embraced being forgotten and espouses its benefits. Forrester however can't comprehend wanting to be forgotten.
Following the jester is a small aquatic room with fish and some rapids. These enemies are native to MegaZeux and not found elsewhere. ZZT has sharks for an aquatic enemy, but they are invincible and the player can't move into water. Fish move very erratically though they're easy to snipe with the setup here as they can't leave the water.
There's a locked door here which resists the stray bullets intended for the fish that wound up hitting it. To proceed Forrester will need to find a way to open it.
Some small chambers with a single ruffian in each obstruct the player but are easily overcome. The reward is a lever to pull and open the door below.
Behind the door is the cyan key to the next level, and a river ride to the start of level one.
Before making it to the entrance to level two, another character shows up to speak with Forrester.
While the old man is friendly to a new face, and the jester wants Forrester to embrace a new life in Wayward, the insomniac is more hostile. He warns Forrester that he'll ruin things, but doesn't impede him, letting the player move on to the second level.
The second level opens up with a room leading to a cavern filled with various colored tigers which also contains a large sign for ammo. Although somewhat reminiscent of the dragon caves of Monster Zoo, the direct influences become much more muddled as the game strives to have its own voice and not just repeat what came before it.
The cavern is sealed, but after throwing a power switch it's possible to activate a drill to burrow through the walls.
The driller tunnels its way across, making clean matching walls that wouldn't be directly possible in ZZT or Super ZZT (though you could place ammo and then turn that ammo into a wall to obtain dark cyan).
More ruffians lie ahead along with the exit from the cavern.
A large ladder leads the player upward, placing them back on the surface of Wayward.
The game shifts perspective momentarily, changing from an overhead view to a side, constraining the player from moving up, which would now be moving into the air.
There's a short walk through the grass before another run in with the jester.
The jester once again brings up the idea that maybe Forrester is the one that has been forgotten, but the insomniac shows up and won't hear of it. He quickly admits that he doesn't want Forrester to end up like any of them. The jester takes off into the sky and vanishes, and the insomniac also walks off into the distance to disappear and let the player continue their search for Forrester's daughter.
Another ladder leads upwards into the clouds and across a rope into a UFO! There's no alien inside however, it's just the jester once more.
The jester once more tries to convince Forrester that it's a good thing to be forgotten for the freedom it gives you. He them walks off the ship and floats into the sky once more. Forrester has no place to go but to follow.
Up even further is the third level. The player is pushed upwards automatically here, floating just as the jester did moments before.
It's time to play some games with the jester.
To convince Forrester, the jester decides to play a few games with him to get him to understand how nice it is to be forgotten. There are several locked doors the player needs to solve puzzles and challenges to get the keys for.
The first puzzle is a combination puzzle like Town of ZZT's bank. To input the combination, the player needs to line up the red boulders so that a pusher can move everything aside.
This just involves scrolling the screen and remembering how many spaces to push each row of sliders the proper amount. It's not much of a puzzle, but it's not really trying to be one.
After entering the combination, I managed to accidentally step on one of the letters. MegaZeux allows for custom floors of any character, and in my own ZZT-centric mindset, I didn't once think I'd be able to stand on top of the letters.
The player gets two keys for finishing this puzzle, and hears from the Jester once more before being able to collect them.
According to the jester, the past is a distraction getting in the way of living one's life.
The two keys can be used to try two different puzzles next. Let's take a look at the one on the right first.
The right path is another simple puzzle involving ricocheting a bullet into a breakable way to let the player collect the key. The buttons each rotate some of the walls to change how the bullet deflects, and the gun causes the gun in the puzzle to fire.
Oddly, only the first button changes characters as you toggle its state. The rest all alter the puzzle, but always remain closed circles. Again, like the combination lock, it doesn't take very long to clear the puzzle and collect its key.
On the left path is a transporter maze. The player warps from room to room trying to work their way to the exit. It's not a hard puzzle either, but is a bit more confusing as the maze only has three visible rows, but four rows total. When you transport up and down, the camera stays focused on the player so it looks as if the player isn't moving, but transporters are. Once you get your bearings however, it's straightforward.
The puzzle leads to the last key to collect, letting the player escape from the jester's games and resume their own quest.
Or perhaps not! After a short river ride, the player is dumped into an invisible maze. Fortunately it's the "improved" kind where hitting any wall in the maze causes the entire thing to flash momentarily.
The maze requires obtaining a key before being able to exit, but like all the other puzzles so far has been very simple to grasp.
Finally Forrester is actually free and obtains the key to the fourth level.
Those not very exciting puzzles weren't exciting for a reason! Everybody has something they'd prefer to forget about.
The passage out leads back to the hub, but some lions need to be dealt with first.
One nice built-in element MegaZeux offers creators is a gate. Touching them makes them open for a brief period, allowing the player to move on through before it closes once more. This is a nicer alternative to ZZT's transporters which need multiple tiles to become two-way or swinging door objects which have to push things around and can potentially get blocked.
After getting past the lions, there's a pusher train which will carry the player forwards without any interaction from them. These are essential for automatic Mario levels.
The train has a lot of bends along the track.
Eventually the player has to take control once more, moving towards another river that leads right back to the very start of the game with the purple door to level four right there.
Of course, as always the player is interrupted before they can proceed. This time by the insomniac.
Again the idea that its Forrester who has been forgotten is brought up. This is also the first mentioning of the demon, a character yet to be met.
A passage leads to level four and the text on the overlay changes from just "Wayward" to "Wayward, where all things are..."