Last Call BBS from Zachtronics

Boot up your Z5 Powerlance and dial into Last Call BBS, the last game from Zachtronics! The Barkeep’s loaded up his retro computer with a full set of puzzle games for you to download and play. No need to worry about copy protection, they’re all fully cracked and ready to enjoy!

If you’re a fan of Zachtronics games and want a chance to get a deluxe edition, this is your final chance, since this is the final game from the studio.


My feelies arrived today.

They all came in a large white cardboard envelope, but it’s relatively nondescript, and I wasn’t sure what all I would need to obscure to avoid doxxing myself, so I won’t include a picture of that.
Here’s the invoice. There is in fact a yellow copy of the three-part(?) form. Maybe they kept the pink one…

The address appears to point to an empty lot in downtown KC. I haven’t a clue if there’s any significance there. It’s an odd coincidence, because it’s surprisingly close to the office building of my actual employer. I can’t imagine that the invoice is in any way tailored to the customer in this case, and I don’t see how they could know that detail anyway. I’m not sure if there’s any way to find out what was at that location in 1989, but that could be interesting.
The telephone and fax numbers are oddly formatted, but appear to be legitimate. I tried calling the first one and got what appeared to be a personal voice mail. The 908 area code is for northern New Jersey, and the voice on the outgoing message certainly fit that profile. I haven’t tried calling the fax number since I don’t want to bother anyone, and don’t have a fax machine anyway. The rest of the invoice is relatively unremarkable. It would be hard to determine if the prices on components for a fictional computer are accurate for the time, but they feel correct for me. If you’d like to feel the weight of inflation, the total ($2866.40) would be $6756.75 today. I like the detail of the Friends and Family discount, and also the multi-part tractor-fed dot-matrix printout with the guides still attached, and also ripped slightly. I don’t imagine that last detail is intentional, but it feels authentic nonetheless.

Next up is a sticker sheet:

These are mostly logos for the fictional PC and the BBS in the game, with most of the sheet dedicated to decals to decorate a 3D printable miniature replica of the fictional PC featured in the game.

Similar to the deluxe version of Exa Punks, there’s an envelope that you’re supposed to open after a certain point is reached in the game. I assume Zachmatics is a play on Zachtronics.

Given my history with Zachtronics games, this will likely stay closed forever.

Next is a set of two pair of coasters like the kind you’d find at a quick casual restaurant, somewhere between cardboard and a sponge. One pair is for the BBS in the game, and features a phone number that I’m afraid to check if it’s real or not, and the fictional PC. I didn’t mention this earlier, but I was initially thinking of the Z5 Power Lance as being somewhat like an Amiga or an Atari ST, but I think it may be more influenced by one or more of the Japan exclusive(?) MSX PCs.
Here are the back sides of them:

These are pretty simple, and obviously inexpensive tchotchkes, but I really like the art design and personality of these. I would love to see some Elsewhere Cafe coasters in a similar style.

There’s this business card. Maybe it’s for one of the software companies that made one of the eight fictional(?) games within the game?

Here’s the back:

That sure looks like some kind of secret code to me.

Finally, there’s what appear to be instructions or character sheets for the in-game Gunpla simulator. These seem exactly like the kind of thing that would be included with a subject like that. There are three different mechs mobile suits that are featured, but I don’t know whether that is the extent of the game or not. What I do know is that I already have a favorite among the three.

I ran the Japanese through Google translate, but there weren’t any surprises. The assembly instructions are pretty straightforward part names, and the full-color sections are just listing the color names. One nice detail I didn’t immediately notice is that each of the two variants are using the same palette. I’m sure if I were more artistically oriented, I would’ve noticed sooner.

I apologize if any of the above came off as a bit ad-like. The reality is that only 900 of these packages were made, and they’re already sold out. I also apologize if this had an air of conspicuous consumption. I just think that Zachtronics is a really cool game developer that has made many of my favorite games over the years, and I wanted to highlight how much care and thought went into this package. I’m genuinely sad that this is going to be the last game they create, with the founder, Zach Barth, seemingly leaving game development entirely. I hope that he is remembered more for creating weird and esoteric gems like this, rather than being the guy who created the game that inspired Minecraft.

I’ll try to follow up when I finally get to play the game on July 5th.


They no doubt kept the pink copy. How cool that it was in daisy-wheel!

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That’s awesome! I miss when games came with cool stuff like that.

I think the last I got was Uplink (2001) which had some easter eggs in game but also something hidden in the print on the CD manual.

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I went ahead and sprung for one as well - I’ve generally liked their games in the past, and figured I might as well get one special edition. It arrived a few days ago, and since the envelope was too large to fit in the mailbox the mail carrier was kind enough to avoid crumpling it and drop it and leave it in the gutter in front of the mailbox instead. :rage:

Can confirm, mine has the same address (and other details, I think).

Uplink remains awesome. I still occasionally daydream about ways to design a multiplayer game based on it…


I haven’t played it, but isn’t hackmud basically that?

Also worth mentioning, but not multiplayer:

This is a lot like Uplink, the very little I played of it.

This is a bit more like if the Matrix was an incremental game, but has some similar trappings. Don’t sweat the programming aspect too much, there are totally scripts you can download from github that automate most of the things, so you can focus on the other aspects of the game.

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I know Kotaku isn’t necessarily the most popular around these parts, but there are still some good writers there:

Hacknet of course if pretty directly inspired by Uplink, but those others do look like they have a little of the flavor. It’s odd that so many games in the genre went the route of being heavily commandline based… one of the best bits of Uplink was that it abstracted most of the hacking behind that movie-style interface. A lot less realistic, but very easy to get into.


It is kinda odd that so many went with command line style, but I suspect that was a natural reaction to the fictional cyberpunk VR description of cyberspace. VR-style interfaces mostly suck and people wanted to be more realistic. Since the beginning there’s been a sort of clash between the fiction and Hollywood hacking vs. how do we depict this in a more realistic way and still make an actually usable interface.

While I really loved Uplink, I felt the UI was half-baked. It kinda had the right idea, but didn’t actually behave the way a GUI does in Windows, Linux, or Mac. No tab-focus, you had to hover the mousepointer over a text box to type into it, etc. Good-looking, but oddly clunkier to use than even a native UI.

One that I think got that part really well was Decker (the 2002 one, not the 2019 one). That uses a standard GUI for out-of-matrix stuff, but when you’re in the matrix each of your programs is bound to a key. No remembering and typing out command lines and switches, no clicking through a clunky menu UI. You just hit a single key to run a program. Or click to target something and then hit a key.

It’s lightning-fast and quickly becomes reflex. If I were a decker with only a few seconds before a trace-and-burn caught me, that’s the UI I’d want.

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The game became available to install and play last night. I’ve now played all of the games in the collection, so I wanted to briefly share my thoughts.

Sawayama Solitaire

This is a pretty straightforward variant of Klondike, with the following modifications:

  • When (3) cards are drawn, they are added to a horizontal pile face up, so you can see every card that has been drawn. The draw pile cannot be recycled.
  • Once you’ve drawn the last card from the draw pile, the empty spot can be used to store one card.
    It took me probably 5 or 6 games before I finally won:

Kabufuda Solitaire

This isn’t really like any solitaire I’ve played before, and is maybe inspired by Hanafuda cards. You try to make sets of four cards stacked vertically, but if you place them in a slot by themselves, that slot becomes locked and unavailable to use any longer. I’ve beaten it once in easy mode, but the harder difficulties should prove to be a challenge.

Dungeons & Diagrams

I would describe this as a kind of like Picross, but with a slightly more complex and specific ruleset. I am extremely bad at this game. I’ve only completed two puzzles so far.

Chipwizard Professional

This feels a lot like their earlier game, Shenzen I/O, but with a more 90s-style user interface. I managed the first puzzle fairly easily, but cannot seem to get my solution to the second puzzle to work, and I have no clue as to why. I’m either missing something in the documentation, or it’s a bug.

Steed Force Hobby Studio

This isn’t really a game, but more of a toy/simulator. You have get to meticulously cut parts out of a plastic frame, and then assemble them. I didn’t paint my pieces before assembly, and I’m not patient enough to use the masking tape effectively, so my model ended up being fairly monocrhome.
Steed Force Hobby Studio - (LOCKE, 2022-07-06-00-23-58)

20th Century Food Court

This is another game that is similar to earlier releases of theirs like Infinifactory. I’ve only played the first puzzle so far. It took me quite a bit to figure out how the mechanics work, which was a little frustrating. I think that’s intentional, though.

JUICEbox Arcade

So this is actually an Emulator for arcade games from the fictional JUICE game studio. The menu lists 6 ROMs, but I only have access to one so far.


This is a fast arcade puzzle game, similar to Klax or Magical Drop. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, and the instructions are in Japanese. I haven’t won a match yet, and I lose very quickly.

X’BPGH: The Forbidden Path

I have no idea what’s going on in this game. There are no instructions, and the user interface is aggressively obtuse. Again, I’m sure that’s intentional, but I’ve gotten nowhere with this one so far.

So far the collection is a bit of a mixed bag. I’ll follow up later with my thoughts on the other aspects like the general UI, aesthetics, story, etc.


I’ve only looked at three of the games so far…

Kabufuda Solitaire was a timewaster from the visual novel Eliza… I ended up almost spending more time playing that it than I did going through the storyline of the game. It definitely requires a lot of thinking ahead and managing scarce resources, if you accidentally lock a slot before you’re ready it can really make things difficult.

HACK*MATCH… I kind of see what you’re supposed to do, but I’ve never been great at that kind of matching game, so I haven’t done so well in it.

Dungeons & Diagrams is right up my alley, I’ve gone through the first 15 16 17 levels so far. :smiley:

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This is a solid article at Waypoint, but I’m not sure if the author keeps referring to BBSs as websites because they are young and unfamiliar with the terminology, or if it is intentional as part of their meditation on imperfect representations of the past for a future audience.


Heh… “oh, sure, I know this game, and I’ve got the achievement to prove it… should be easy…”

I’ve apparently completely forgotten the tactic I’d figured out for victory in the hard mode on this one. I remember it being rather counterintuitive in how you approached the goal, but so far I haven’t recalled the specifics. Anything short of expert mode is fairly easy, but that last one is being illusive.

…Apparently a recent patch allowed the creation of “door games” for the BBS written in javascript. I am so tempted to try to port some old favorites over to it just for the heck of it. Bonus points if there’s any way to make them store state in a remote database to actually make them act multiplayer… (though, I suppose, in the worst case passing around a “state” file might be a solution?)


Good lord, this makes me feel behind the times.


Ok, it’s not worth trying, this wins. :stuck_out_tongue:
Though, it’s closer to Wolfenstein than doom…

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It’s a neat technical achievement, but it’s not a great representation of what was reasonable with the technology of the time. The refresh rate is pretty awful even when it’s being artificially simulated by the game. but it would be absolutely abysmal over an actual 2400bps or even 14.4kbps connection.

I’d much rather see something like a Trade Wars, Legend of the Red Dragon, or Barren Realms Elite.

It would also be cool to just recreate some of the BBSs referenced in the game itself, or even some historical ones.


That’s what I’d expect to see too. Another one I used to like was Netrunner, which back in the day kinda felt like being in a William Gibson cyberpunk book.

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Here’s an initial LORD implementation, as it happens:


One of my first thoughts had been to look at porting LORD (or the open-source PHP remake Legend of the Green Dragon) over to it, so when I saw that one the other day it was another idea out the window :smiley:

That was probably my favorite BBS door game back in the day. More fun when there’s multiple people playing it, though.

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It took a little bit of digging since Wikipedia doesn’t seem to acknowledge its existence, but I found another that I was thinking of: Exitilus

The solution, in my mind, for implementing the multiplayer aspect of any of these door games into Last Call BBS would be to simulate them. You wouldn’t even have to pretend that they’re not simulated in the game’s fiction since it takes place many years later, and all of the BBSes that you’re dialing into are simulated anyway. Why not simulate the users as well?