Monday, 28 November 2011

Contraption Zack (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

Ontraption Zack!

Not to be confused with Contract J.A.C.K.

It's Zack's first day at Gadget Co. Plant #4.

And he's beginning to realise he might be in over his head.

Worse, his new colleagues waste no time plotting to make his first day miserable.

His name is ZACK©™?

It starts with a simple request...

And one by one, they've taken all poor ZACK©™'s stuff!


Hi, boss. What seems to be the...


Fix the entire plant on my first day? Well, if anyone can do it, ZACK©™ can. First, he needs his tools back.

The Scotsman stares into your soul. Your hammer is lost forever.

Sinister ZACK©™ face.

So what kind of game is this, anyway? It's...

An isometric flick screen puzzle game! A Goddamn pain in the arse isometric flick screen puzzle game.

This room's simple enough, each button controls the set of spikes of the same colour. Pressing the same colour twice puts the spikes back. Can't tell what colour the spikes that are already down are? That's because the colour is one pixel big!

When you mess up, you don't restart the room you're in, you're put a room back. Did I mention ZACK©™ stomps as slow as hell?

In this room the doors open and close automatically. The buttons still control the spikes, except the colours don't match up any more! There isn't enough time to run to the end of a corridor and press the button before the door closes. Buttons you've already pressed wear off after a set time. Don't forget ZACK©™'s massive screwdriver up there in the top right! You can't come back and get it later and you might need it for a later puzzle.

And get this: You press the orange button on this screen...

Go onto this screen to press the blue button, head back up to the previous screen to go around the ropes and press the purple button then go back to the previous screen again, use the bounce platform to get pack to this screen to hit the yellow switch.

And when you get there, you have a one way barrier over a set of purple spikes. Any idea what you're supposed to be doing here, or what you need to have done previously in order to make this room solveable? Hell no!

Contraption Zack is a great example of why flick-screen puzzle games are almost all awful. You have no idea what the overall goal is, the things you do on one screen can have any effect on anything on any other screen, and it's possible to get trapped in an impossible room. That would all be forgiveable, but only if it were easy to move from screen to screen and easy to undo things you've done wrong. It's not.

Now we know what not do to when making a game.


  1. Never heard of a flick-screen game before. Still don't completely get it, but it sounds incredibly annoying.

  2. Flick-screen games are exactly what they sound like. Stuff like the original Zelda and Dizzy games where you can't see beyond the screen you're on and you have to remember how all the screens connect together. Sometimes it's not entirely clear how the screens connect together.

    Spindizzy is one of the worst for this, as it has a HUGE world but you can only see eight by eight sections of it at once. There's multiple sections where you have to take a run up and do lots of complicated jumps at speed to get to other places. If you're not prepared for what's on the next two, three, four screens, then you'll either fall off, die and reappear (this is the best case scenario) or you'll fall onto some safe land stuck in a maze of pillars (which you were trying to jump across) miles away from where you want to be.

    Imagine trying to play Super Mario Bros. if the screen only moved in full-screen increments when you got to the edge. It would look like this! That's an officially licensed flick-screen Super Mario Bros. game.


Semi-Random Game Box