A few days ago there was both good and bad news for fans of the Zachtronics games, because in the same breath that the indie studio around Zach Barth announced an upcoming release after a long break, it was also said that it would be the last would. With Last Call BBS, a chapter comes to an end that is unparalleled in the field of puzzle games.
Because Zachtronics does not stand for ordinary puzzles in which one looks for the solutions given by the developer. Rather, you get a task and, depending on the game, very different tools and then have a free hand to create the most effective solution possible. A highlight of this was Shenzhen I|O, which required learning a fictitious programming language in order to program microcontrollers so that electronic devices equipped with them would perform desired functions.
And that problem-solving will also be present in Last Call BBS, which interestingly incorporates several concepts that have been used in other releases from the studio. To be more precise, you are once again using a fictitious old-fashioned computer, in which there are six other programs in addition to two Solitaire variants. Among other things, you use them to design the most profitable production systems for the production of food, to solve shifting puzzles and to create circuits from transistors, capacitors and wires. A very colorful mix.
But how did this mix come about? Is it intended as the studio’s best of his farewell? We sent Zach Barth that and a few other questions and in his answer he explains, among other things, that Last Call BBS was originally only supposed to revolve around a single principle, namely the aforementioned production of food production facilities.
Yet “a mixture of a) the fact that the game mechanics didn’t have enough depth and b) the strange working from home office thanks to Corona” led to the fact that one big idea turned into several small ones. In this way, various things could also become part of the game, which had already been floating in the room in previous years, but also never materialized as independent concepts. This includes a remake of Zach’s early Flash title KOHCTPYKTOP, which reads as “Constructor” in English.
Some of these games will be mini-game sized, while others will be full-blown Zachtronics titles. And if you don’t know Zachtronics: The solitaire variants alone, which have always been included as a bonus in recent years, can keep you busy for dozens of hours!
The question remains why the studio is now closing its doors, which Zach explains with the fear of stagnation: “It might sound funny, but while we’ve gotten really good at making ‘Zachtronics games’ over the past twelve years, it’s been hard for us to do anything else. We occupy a special niche and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to survive in it, but […] none of us wanted to stay there forever.”
What will become of the team is still up in the air. Zach himself has been working as a computer science teacher since the current school year, but will probably not continue. What the future will bring, he is just as open to himself as his employees are still in the process of reorienting themselves.
Interestingly enough, one of the things he wanted to do with his career change was to find out which games and programs were needed in schools. After all, Zachtronics had made games available to educational institutions in the past. But now he says: “Within the first few weeks of starting the job, I realized that new computer software is the last thing I need teachers. The problems we encounter in schools […] cannot simply be solved by introducing new technology.” When asked, he briefly mentions that he includes, for example, the lack of a say on the part of the students. All in all, however, this is an “incredibly large topic”probably for another place and another time.
And fear not: Zachtronics will continue to support its existing games where necessary. Of course there will be no new content, but Zach Barth himself says: “Keeping the games running is an active process and something I want to do for as long as possible.”
So once again he’s releasing a brand new game and we can’t wait to see what’s in the final headbutt. It will be on July 5th. Then Last Call BBS will be available on Steam.