Return to Zork


Developer:    Infocom

Publisher:    Activision

Released:   1993

PC Requirements:    386 25+ MHz required, VGA and Sound Card Required, 4 MB RAM required, DOS 5.0 or higher and 600K free RAM, Supports Sound Blaster, Pro Audio Spectrum, Disney Sound Source, Roland MT32, and AdLib. CD disc caching software recommended.




by Rick36

The System Requirements
I am not really sure! There is no mention of these in the manual I have, nor on the CDROM. Originally an Infocom game, I acquired it many years ago as a re-release through Activision as one of their Essential Collection. Again I do not know exactly how old the game is, however, judging by the grainy graphic quality I would have to say it must be at least a good 7 – 8 years old now. I played the game on a P4, 750 Mhz with Windows ME and experienced no problems installing or playing.

The Effects
The age of the game is realized in the graphic quality, which by today’s standards are found wanting. The graphics are grainy and jittery, but not all that bad, especially considering the age. The environment is rich and imaginative and this is not lost through the low-level graphics. The low quality of the graphics certainly did not put me off, as it was the spirit and inventiveness of the game which captured my imagination.

The sound is of a reasonably high quality and there is a lot of music throughout the game which sets the mood for the various locations.

The Game Story
You are an adventurer and, typically, where do you start your Zorkian adventures ? Standing by a white house of course. You open a mailbox to find a small Tele-orb and a letter explaining that you have won a trip to Zork. You are given a very brief explanation of the letter by Rooper and from this point you are transported to the legendary world (topside).

You arrive in The Valley of Vultures, formerly The Valley of Sparrows, but it does not take you long to discover that an evil presence has the land in its malevolent grip. The Road to the South is impassable, simply impossible to pass, East Shanbar has disappeared, West Shanbar is practically a ghost town, hellhounds are roaming the countryside and vultures are patrolling the skies picking on innocent travelers. So what is your remit? Simple, find out what is going on, track down the source of the evil, defeat it and liberate Zork!

The Adventure
You achieve the above objective by puzzling your way around a richly described world of enchantment, danger and wonder. And when I say “puzzling” I mean with a capital “P”. The puzzling is almost non stop and the puzzles come in all shapes, sizes and forms, ranging in difficulty and complexity from the simple and mundane through to the downright illogical and “need to consult a walk through before my brain explodes and I put my size 10 boot through the computer screen” variety.

I found the game to be long and difficult, requiring me to take copious notes for reference and really getting bamboozled in a few instances. However, the experience was great, I loved this game. The developers gave you oodles of information and constructed an immersive and imaginative world, story and history of the game environment. Also, contained within this abundance of information where lots of clues to help with most puzzles, though noticeably, I did not find any hints for some of the more illogical puzzles. There were lots of ways in which to accumulate information and solve puzzles, through the use of a Dictaphone, which recorded conversations with the many characters of the game, a camera to take photos, an automatically updating notebook and through the collection of a myriad of weird and wonderful inventory items.

As with most Zork offerings (with the notable exception of Nemesis), and indeed with most games of this era, there is an underlying silliness and tongue-in-cheek humour. This is not a game that takes itself too seriously, though it does deliver a rich, wonderful adventure that will entertain you for many a long night (also frustrate in many instances, but this adds to an enhanced sense of achievement when you eventually crack the problem that is holding you up).

Most of the puzzling is practical and hands-on requiring inventory management and manipulation to achieve a physical result, though there are a few exceptions where word power comes in handy too, logical and lateral thinking faculties will certainly get a good work-out as well. There are also quite a few mazes, but before the groaning starts, these mazes are not too difficult to navigate as long as you construct meticulous maps. I also found them quite fun as there was plenty to see, do, discover and solve within the mazes (and some pretty natty and unusual ways of navigating them too).

There are a lot of places to visit and characters to meet and the game rattles on from your actions, opening up new locations and characters and rarely getting bogged down without there being something to do or see.

I can imagine that this game would be tremendous fun for a cooperative assault where two or more gaming partners take on the challenge. I am pretty sure that a lot of Boomers have played this game, and probably a long time ago now. However, if you have not played Return to Zork and either have a copy gathering dust on the shelf, or can get a copy, then I heartily recommend this offering.

copyright © 2003 GameBoomers

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