Monday, 5 December 2011

Zorro: A Cinematic Action Adventure (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

It's Zorro!

From the makers of TekWar and Corridor 7 and... oh God what am I doing?

Like TekWar, it opens with rendered animations of the Capstone Software logo and those magical 'Compact Discs' flying around. There's a spinning rendered disc behind the credits as well.

This stuff was embarrassing at the time and it's never gotten any less embarrassing. We should thank the gods that our children won't have to live in a world where everything is called e-something.

Our adventure beings with our Mexican narrator describing how Diego Vega became Zorro, set atop a soundtrack of decidedly un-heroic and quite frankly disgusting lift music.

When I first saw these pictures, I wondered if the video compression had murdered them, covering them with doubled pictures and odd artifacts. Then I wised up and figured out that they're supposed to look like oil paintings, and whatever they did during digitisation and compression made it look even MORE like an oil painting.

Could it be that somebody at Capstone actually knew what they were doing?

Probably not.

It's Zorro... on Mars!

This is not what I was expecting. Not that he's on Mars, nobody could have expected that, but the whole reason I'm playing yet another bloody Capstone game is to immerse myself in the most crucial ingredient in any Cinematic Action Adventure...


Poor Zorro's gonna waste away in that tiny box. Let's crank this thing up to max!

The helpless call out... a youthful and rather less square-jawed Zorro appears.

The padre tells of a time he took in a mysterious traveller named Cortez and his wife who was sick.

Cortez revealed that he had found a treasure map to long forgotten gold.

The padre figured out that Cortez, being a smart cookie, was only using him to translate the map, which was in Latin. He's concerned that Cortez might be evil.


The big clue though was when Cortez cut off his fingers.

Zorro gallantly heads off to the Ultor mining colony to track down Cortez, free the miners, turn on the air reactor and save the universe.

It's a Prince of Persia 'em up! (Another one! I totally played this before Ray played any of his. Honest!)

Does Zorro look like he's out of Monkey Island or what?

Just like in Prince of Persia, I have no idea which way to go or what the controls are. Let's jump across these platforms and head right.


That was NOT jump!

I want to try this again. That doesn't count.

Okay, I've jumped across to the middle platform. (Return is jump.)

And... ARGH! The cross shaped platform span around with me on it!


Two lives down already and I haven't safely left the first screen.

Gotta be smarter. Smart, like Zorro!

I'm dangling from the right edge of the first platform on the screen above. I don't know if I can survive the fall onto the cross shaped platform, and if I do survive it, I don't know if it'll fling me off somewhere down the pit again. Only one way to find out!

Phew. There we go. The gold is mine! All mine! give back to the Church.

There's nothing on the screen below me, so I have to take a blind leap to the right.

That was lucky! Every time I do a screen-long fall, I lose a Z. There must be a safer route you can take that doesn't involve losing all your health.



No sweat. Nothing ZORRO can't handle!

That guy down there's got a sword. I'm going to head right again and hopefully avoid him.

He makes the first gap! He... doesn't make the second.

Zorro's supposed to grab onto the ledge when you make a jump like this, but you have to be standing on the exact right position to begin with otherwise Zorro bounces off the ledge or doesn't reach it.

Back to the start room again. Do I have infinite lives?

It would seem that I do. I'm going to try and make my way down to the lower-right part of the map. I have to jump on the exact centre of these rotating platforms or I'll fall right through them.

These controls are all over the place. Shift, Return, Control, Alt... don't ever try doing a running jump. Conrad in Flashback was sort of cannonball-like and predictable in his running jump, Zorro flickers and lurches haphazardly across the screen. I've never gotten it to work.

I fumble around all the keys trying to find a weapon and find my sword, just in time.


Just in time for him to kill me.

The next Zorro comes along, bolstered by my having had a look at the controls!

In addition to his sword, Zorro's got a whip!

Well that was easy. He couldn't even touch me. All I had to do was press Control a few times and he died.

I'm going up and to the left now. Here's a little trick I like to call


These rotating platforms are a damned menace! It took quite a few tries to get through this screen. Rotating this platform means you can't get back on top of the long, flat surface very easily. You may as well restart.

Twenty or thirty screens of desperate jumping later and Zorro's started sleep swashbuckling.


Step on the wrong piece of floor and you're instantly killed and sent back to the very start of the level. There's no way whatsoever to tell in advance which specific piece of the floor kills you.

What's worse is that Zorro doesn't walk on a grid like Conrad from Flashback or Abe from the Oddworld series. He's more like Lester from Another World, in that he can walk any distance, which is why climbing ledges and jumping from platform to platform is so difficult.

One step wrong at this point and the platforms toss you off to your death. Did I say that already? That might be because every single damn screen is a death-trap. Finding the correct route is like cracking a safe.

Who builds these places?

After reaching the bottom right platform, you have to make an exact, blind jump off to the right...

To grab onto this platform on the next screen. Get it wrong, the platform spins or you miss the ledge.

And you end up falling down four screens into a big pit. And you go back to the start.

I'm being dishonest here, you can actually save and load at any time and there are six save slots. That's how I've managed to get this far. Hell, I'm actually enjoying how unusual and strange this whole experience is.

That there's the exit! There! THERE! Right THERE!

Hmmm? All you can see is a slightly darker part of the level which you could easy miss and end up jumping up three screens of ridiculous rotating platforms BACKWARDS to try and find the real exit? How about that.

Level two! Looks like level one! No FMV intermission, but I suppose there's nobody here to talk to.

I had another go at swordfighting now that I've got full health.

Swordplay in Prince of Persia is a slow paced, very exact thing. You take a step forward, you take a step back, you PLOK your enemy and try not to get PLOKed yourself. Zorro just waves it about. You can defend but it doesn't work.

I got pushed off the left of the screen and fell down and died.

How big are these levels?

HUGE. Bloody HUGE. They must be at least a dozen screens across by six or seven screens tall. Level two's full of vertical columns of jumping challenges that you have to execute exactly to advance. Eventually, I just started leaping blindly off screen to see if I could safely land and skip parts of the level.

When I was playing level one, I was wondering if I was having so much trouble because I'd fallen from the correct path and was haphazardly making my own route. I now think that the game designers created these levels in an ad-hoc fashion and played each screen once to see if it was possible. They never thought to check if the screens were reasonable or even possible if played consecutively.

Zorro comes very close to being an impossible game. Somebody came along at the last minute and told Capstone that the game wasn't even remotely playable by human beings and Capstone listened and put in the save game feature and Zorro's health bar and saved the day.

Now the game is more like N. Every time I reload, the game switches to another stupid selection of heroic, sappy and cheesy SoundBlaster music. Dying is fun!

It's a paper thing!

Little do I know that it's the end of level two!

Saving the day! Zorro heads back to the padre to return the game. He said something about a desert, but I wasn't paying attention.

Level three, and we're finally out of the mine!

He slimed me!

This level's rather straightforward. One screen tall, a straight line, easy jumps and no enemies. It's quite a shock after being stuck in that mine for over two hours.

I guess having huge square scaffolds and rotating platforms in the sky wouldn't have made much sense.

I've spent way too much time playing this now, so I'm going to stop.

But what's in the boat?!

And did Zorro murder the governor?! Who else would leave such a distinctive marking?!

Why, you're going to have to play for yourself and find out!

(Don't actually do that! You'll not get off the first screen alive.)

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