behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
Anyone else been playing this since it came out last week?
It almost didn't occur to me when I first saw an announcement of the release that this would be Zachtronics' final "new game", but apparently "Last Call" isn't just a cute name. After 10 hours or so I think this might be my favorite thing they've ever put out though, which is saying a lot for a team that's impressed me over and over through the years. The retro computer interface is something I'm always into, even if it's pretty modernized compared to something like Digital: A Love Story, and it's used as the backdrop for an anthology of "minigames", a couple of which appeared previously in smaller roles in Eliza and Exapunks.
Of the six brand new parts, one is the new solitaire for this time around, a game close pretty close to the classic Windows Solitaire with a couple twists on the free cells mechanics that you can make huge mistakes with, one is a dungeon-themed nonogram where a big part of the solution process involves engaging with a second layer of rules specific to the game's theme and design (it sort of reminds me of a "Cracking the Cryptic" twist on picross-type games), and one is a chill simulator of...building Gunpla, basically. I think that one feels like the most "Early Access" at the moment out of all the pieces, since I feel like some of the features are a bit lacking or hard to use, but hopefully those aspects will see some improvements and it'll really shine, since it's already pretty fun as it is now.
The other three are the ones that are more recognizably Zachtronics games, albeit their size and the context of this game nominally being some old computer you're downloading pirated software is used to justify the fact that the games don't fully explain everything even as they ramp up in difficulty pretty quickly. I already cleared The Forbidden Path and thought it was fantastic, although the fact that its processes involve cellular automata makes it pretty cryptic to people who aren't very familiar with some of those concepts, and I'm slowly working my way through 20th Century Food Court, the object of which is to hook up PLCs connected to various appliances and robots and sequence them along conveyor belts to manufacture servings of food in an extremely simplistic way. It's kind of like Spacechem in terms of difficulty and the obvious absurdity of the abstraction, but instead of just deciding not to acknowledge that things don't work this way in real life the way Spacechem did, the game uses a convoluted and anachronistic metafictional framing to justify its bizarre concepts and satirical jokes about food service and American culture. It's hilarious.
I actually think Chipwizard Professional is also hilarious, but in that case it's because it goes so far in the opposite direction that it hits like an anti-joke. After a decade of prettied up puzzles which feel like they get closer and closer to setting up and operating a computer, here's a cad program with an absolutely minimalist aesthetic where the goal is to draft integrated circuits with various transformations, one of the lowest possible levels of a computer. I got to the third puzzle pretty quickly but then started having problems with signals backflowing to the wrong terminals because I do not understand how electronics function at this level, but someday I'll learn something. Or trick myself into thinking I've learned something.
Obviously, it's Zachtronics, and in some ways this one, more than any of their previous titles, is "for fans of the series" or whatever they say to that effect these days. On the other hand...I feel like the non-"core" stuff here is arguably good enough to be worth checking out if at least a few of them catch one's fancy, and then if someone who decides to check out Dungeons and Diagrams and Steed Force Hobby Studio also picks up Food Court and gets hooked on that, then it's all the better.