After over a decade of recreation development, Last Call BBS is the curtain name for prolific indie studio Zachtronics. Released solely a month after the studio casually introduced it could be disbanding, Last Call BBS would be the final recreation the studio releases. It’s a bittersweet feeling for followers, however this closing recreation is not simply a goodbye, it is a retrospective dive into the studio’s ten-year-plus run making video games. It additionally acts as a reminder of how flipping good Zachtronics is at making puzzle video games, even when they do soften my mind into a puddle.
Last Call BBS is a assortment of eight small puzzle video games tucked away contained in the desktop of a ‘90s PC. To entry the gathering, it’s worthwhile to navigate an previous bulletin board system, named Last Call BBS, the place you’ll be able to obtain every one straight from the wibbly-wobbly on-line aether. As you may think from Zachtronics, the eight video games are all centered on automation, programming, assembling, constructing circuits, and, of course, not one however two variations of solitaire. From mind teasers to mind bafflers, every recreation has a distinctive method to logic puzzles, however all handle to nonetheless really feel distinctly Zach-like.
The first, Dungeons and Diagrams, is a picross-style tile placement recreation the place you map out monster-crawling dungeons by following a set of guidelines. It’s extremely charming, and on the will-it-melt-your-brain-o’graph, it’s two skulls out of 5. The second is twentieth Century Food Court, a puzzle recreation within the vein of Zachtronic’s first launch SpaceChem the place you’re tasked with constructing a community of conveyor belts and machines to serve quick meals orders. It’s a nice head-scratcher at three out of 5 skulls.
On the alternative finish of the size there’s ChipWizard Professional, a programming recreation so dense that I took one have a look at the puzzle’s interface, clicked round a bit then instantly noped out. It appears extra like an precise coding programe than a recreation, and harkens again to TIS-100 and SHENZHEN I/O. I feel I’ll persist with the lovable dungeon puzzle recreation, thanks
The assortment is not simply a bunch of throwbacks to the studio’s stellar puzzle design although. They additionally evoke what it feels prefer to play a Zach-like. No different puzzlers can provide the identical immediate whiplash of feeling like the neatest, most good, most exceptionally gifted individual within the universe, after which as thick as two quick planks fairly like a Zachtronics recreation.
The vessel for these downloaded video games is the in-game pc (dubbed the Z5 Powerlance), which is itself a PC relic. The edges of the pc’s display screen are barely curved like a CRT monitor and the machine emits crunchy clicks and chirps because it carries out your instructions. There’s additionally the acquainted digital grinding of the dial-up modem which is like a blast of pure nostalgic dopamine. Each recreation obtain can take up anyplace between 5 to fifteen minutes so you’ll be able to discover the remaining of the desktop or sit back with a recreation of solitaire as you wait.
It’s a candy journey down reminiscence lane and guiding you through this wayback machine is the Barkeep, the proprietor of the Z5 Powerlance and creator of Last Call BBS. Leaving messages through the HandyMate observe app, they supply commentary and background historical past about every of the video games.
It’s a story that ties in completely with the Last Call’s throwback. Many of the video games you play characteristic copyright safety notes, which means that you just’re illegally downloading pirated video games. It’s very in step with the perspective again within the ‘90s of simply importing extremely obscure stuff on-line with the hope that somebody, someplace within the far reaches of the web would take pleasure in it too. It wasn’t about lifting video games without spending a dime however relatively folks eager to share the cool stuff they discovered, and you’ll really feel that through the fervour and pleasure the Barkeep has about every of the video games. It feels extremely intimate, like discovering somebody’s personally curated treasure trove of video games, cracked and able to take pleasure in.
In this manner, Last Call BBS is a fairly introspective recreation. We’ve seen throwbacks to bygones of web tradition in video games like Hypnospace Outlaw, Emily is Away, and Cibele, however this feels extra private. It’s a second suspended in time, each for Zachtronics and PC historical past. As one of the memo notes sums up: “The story of these things is additionally the story about folks”.
Last Call BBS is obtainable through the PC Game Pass subscription or on Steam Early Access for £15 / $20 / €17, and whereas will probably be the group’s final recreation, we will additionally look ahead to the upcoming bundle of all of the solitaire minigames the group has featured of their video games all through the years. The studio might have cut up up, however founder Zach Barth and the opposite Zachtronic folks will nonetheless be kicking round in recreation development and I’m eager to see what they stand up to subsequent.