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7 January 2007

Zork 1: The Great Underground Empire

 in 1982,Adventure,Zork — Marrsy

Text Only

It’s very hard to review a text only game over 20 years after it’s creation. With todays uber-mammy-jammy 3D graphics and superduper interactive digital surround sound doodahs (no, I have no clue what I’m on about) giving an opinion on such a game with an open mind is hard to say the least, so to begin I want to quote a short review from 1983:

The Zork trilogy, which chronicles happenings in a vast realm known as the Underground Empire, is the most famous of the all-text adventure games. Fantastic creatures, magic spells, and diabolical traps abound at every turn, and each room or area is described in long paragraphs of rich detail, helping the player visualize the setting.

In the first saga, titled The Great Underground Empire, the player begins outside a strange house that holds the hidden portal to the underground. Once below, the adventurer will rarely see daylight again until he finishes Zork III. Inside the house may be found a lamp and an ancient elfin sword. Whenever the computer tells you the sword is emitting a blue light, watch out: Dangerous creatures are around.

The intermediate level Zork II: The Wizard of Frozzbozz [sic] goes ever deeper into the underground realm, and the adventurer must now deal with dragons, unicorns, and a carousel of spinning death. Randomly appearing throughout the dungeon is the Wizard of Frozzbozz himself, who casts spells that all begin with the letter F (freeze, float, fluoresce, etc.). In the third game, The Dungeon Master, which is geared for the expert level, the player is faced with very complicated riddles to solve and finally must duel with the dungeon master of the title.

Though interconnected, each part of the trilogy is solvable separately. Zork I, the simplest, is a great game for first-time adventurers. The second and third installments become progressively more difficult.

Created by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling, the Zork trilogy has set a national standard for excellence in puzzle design. It will delight the game player with many months of adventures.

Right, read that have you?
Mind sufficiently opened?
Then I shall begin.

A little bit of the games story to begin with I think. In Zork you play an adventurer/treasure hunter in the ruins of a great empire (and underground empire no less), equip yourself, find treasure (and bring it back to your trophy case), kill monsters, solve puzzles – all standard stuff nowadays really (damnit! didn’t want to say anything like that).

Ok, what you need to keep in mind is that Zork was released in 1982 – 20 years ago as I write this review. At the time the text parser was considered something of a revolution, and it does still hold up well compared to more recent IF (interactive fiction) games. The parser can handle complex strings of commands and prepositions (get the apple and the sword of pointy death). Visually the game is nothing to look at, just a scrolling screen of text – HOWEVER, this can be considered a bonus as it allows us to concentrate on the task at hand and allow your mind to form the visuals itself (hey it’s just like reading a book! … you know… book… one of those leafy paper things you retarded child).

Gameplay is mostly comprised of “use the correct object in the correct place” type puzzles, with a few needing to be solved in a certain order or at the correct time. There are one or two annoying mazes in the game and because there is no automapping feature this spoiled things a little for me, the game also has a tendency to kill you almost randomly – another of my pet hates.

Guess I should wrap this up eh? (watch and see how trite I can make this)

Well what can I say; it’s a classic, the first game of its type. PLUS, it has been released as freeware so you really have no excuse for not owning the game.

Thumbs up, highly recommended and all that jazz.

Just download it, ok?

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Zork 1: The Great Underground Empire

  • Designed by: Infocom
  • Published by: Infocom

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Size: 103kb (1 mins on 56k dial-up)

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