Z*Bert by My Liver Hurtz

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My, my; hey, hey; Mirror Image Games is here to stay! Once more, MIG has managed to muster a MadTom's Pick thanks to the marvellously methodical My Liver Hurtz, for his game Z*Bert. This game was considerably better than most others uploaded this month; though noteworthy new games include triphEd's interesting backtrax engine, and Zagooky's first game Gunfire. The remaining few games ranged from mediocre to fairly dismal in quality.

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It's always a good omen for a ZZT game's enduring popularity if it introduces a whole new engine, idea, or concept to the mix. My Liver Hurtz has taken the "fakes no longer exist when covered" concept of the classic Boulder Xod and developed it into a full-fledged new game where you, Z*Bert, ambitious youngest brother of the far-famed Q*Bert, attempt to earn fame by doing what you do best ... "board hopping"!

The general idea is that you are presented with a level comprised chiefly of cyan fakes, which by walking over, you must turn into green fakes. In the first few levels that's easy enough ... but then you have to step on each tile twice ... and then, ooohh no, an odd number of times ...

Despite what appears to be cumbersome, complicated, yet very clever programming, Z*Bert is quite responsive. He needs to be, what with all these enemies running around draining his health, and the everpresent threat of missing a step and tumbling into the abyss ... maybe I can get to that island of boards if I teleport using that square ... no wait, it's blocked off by that ... uh ... red enemy-type thing ...

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The levels are cleverly designed and increase in difficulty very evenly, with a nice ZZT-theme motif being introduced in grouping them under "Caves, City, Town, and Dungeon of ZZT". There's even a font for the game, designed by that loveable li'l imp, Snika. At later stages, it becomes very difficult and is a real challenge to complete. I'd be interested to know how long it took the author himself to complete the game. There's even a kind of level editor made available to the player.

For all the effort Hurtz has put into his programming, however, the graphics are overall reasonably mediocre. Some more creative backgrounds to the level boards, and some introductory (or even in-game) cutscenes depicting Z*Bert's character more thoroughly would have worked wonders. Fortunately, he has taken the time to make the game presentable graphically, which is more than can be said for some other programmers of his calibre. I think Quantum_P might be able to show him a thing or two, or perhaps Commodore or triphEd.

The game also contains sound effects and a little music, always an underrated bonus! It saddens me to see the number of newbies who simply shy away completely from sound and music in ZZT games. Good effort, Hurtz.


The novelty of this concept, in addition to the technical proficiency and flexibility that Hurtz has demonstrated in his programming, is what makes this game a clear winner. With a little more aesthetic work, this may easily have been an eight or a nine.

But, overall, if you're looking for something new in the Puzzle/action genre, Z*Bert is definitely a game to download and try! I look forward to seeing more of Hurtz's ideas come into being in the near future. He is certainly well on his way.

7 / 10