most of my zzt-inspired work so far has been low-pressure and about exploring and having weird encounters. that’s the part of zzt i find most compelling: its grid-based shootouts often feel frustratingly chancy, which is exacerbated by the resource scarcity that plagues most zzt games. there’s this one approach to combat in zzt that emerged over time that i find kind of compelling, though. i’d be hard-pressed to name an individual author, but eli’s house (which i mention in my book) features a good example of it.
that style of combat is a kind of hand-to-hand combat where the player’s trying to bump into enemies (to stab or punch them, ostensibly) but only when they’re vulnerable, and to avoid them when they’re not. (in eli’s house, enemies change appearance when they go into defensive mode – don’t go near a rat when it’s mouth is open!) so combat becomes this kind of dance where you’re staying away from enemies until you see an opening, then rushing quickly in, then rushing back out. it’s kind of compelling.
frog assassin is a take on that. combat is super super simple: move onto an opponent to squish it, let an opponent move onto you and you’re dead. the enemies in the game all move to a regular beat – one group to the beat, one group to the half-beat, so that fighting mixed groups of them is especially dangerous. and then there are the third kind of guy, watch out for them. you’re often fighting large groups, so looking for openings and not leaving yourself in a vulnerable position is important.
it also takes a little from superfly, a 1990 dos shareware game that i like a lot. in that game you’re using the arrow keys to squish flies, who individually pose no threat to you. squishing them is effortless. they come at you in hordes, though, and their bodies take up space after being squished, so that the threat to you is being trapped in a ring of dead bugs. you’re maneuvering constantly to try and mitigate that. i like that. not about killing things, but being careful how you kill them.
you can download frog assassin (and its gamemaker 8 source file) right here. it’s a free game and so was funded by my generous patreon patrons, who got to see several work-in-progress screens of the game and an early explanation of how it all worked.