I first discovered Zork around 1995. Now, I am a diehard fan.
What is Zork? Zork is a text adventure game created in 1979, by MIT students. Since then the game has become something of a legend. This is the game that first introduced us to the grue, the "boarded up white house," and the idea of being stuck in "a maze of twisty passages, all alike." What many people love about the game is that in spite of, (or perhaps because of) the fact that it was created at MIT, it has a very twisted sense of humor. The Zork series is now quite large, and has even spawned parodies.
All the official games here are copyright of Activision, which bought out Infocom. The latter was the company founded by the creators of Zork to sell the series, as well as the many other text games they created. The unofficial games are copyright of their individual writers. Games NOT found online: Return to Zork, Zork Nemesis, and Zork Grand Inquisitor. To find these games, check you local video game store, Activision's website, or eBay.
Note: To play these games, you will need an interpreter, and possibly other materials (maps, "feelies", and the like) that came with the original games. Please check the links below to find these items.
The Zork Games I own are Zorks I, II, and II, Nemesis, Beyond Zork, Return to Zork, the Undiscovered Underground, Zork Grand Inquisitor, and Zork 0, as well as the two parodies (Porks I and II), both ZorkQuests, and all the unofficial games. Below are descriptions for each of the games in the series, where they can be found, and some links to various site around the net with information on Zork. The reviews for the unofficial games will be up eventually.
One last note before the game descriptions: If you love Zork (or are at least interested, go onto The Zork Library page, and SIGN THE PETITION!
Zork Zero: The Revenge of Megaboz
While this game came out after the original trilogy, it is the prequel to the entire series. This was one of the first Zork games to utilize graphics and a mouse, which didn't exist when the first three came out. However, it is still a text adventure game. It also includes an in-game mapping feature, which comes in handy, as well as a compass on the top of the screen, in case you forget which directions you can go at any given spot. Also included are in-games hints.
The game starts 94 years in the past. You witness the Curse that will cause the downfall of the empire being cast, as well as the death of King Dimwit Flathead. If you survive this section, the game goes to the title screen... and you wake up in the present, on the day the empire collapses. Your goal now is to try to break the curse by fetching 24 treasures that belonged to the 12 Flatheads. (Dimwit and his 11 sibs.) When you are done, you become the first Dungeon Master, guardian of the land of Quendor. Along the way, you must deal with the Jester. Check out the game's version of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica, especially the illustrated entries. Look in the hints section to find out which they are.
This game was included in the Zork Anthology CD, and originally came with a blueprint, a note snatched from Megaboz, and a calendar with information about each of the 12 Flatheads.
The Original Zork Trilogy
Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
This is the first game in the trilogy that started it all. Originally called Dungeon, it was too large for most computers at the time, and was broken into 3 sections, which became the original Zork Trilogy.
In Zork I, you are introduced to the Land of Quendor, also known as the Great Underground Empire. Your only starting equipment is an Elven sword, and an old brass lantern. You must battle the Thief, and the Troll, and outwit the Cyclops, as well as sail the mighty Aragain River, and go Over The Rainbow. You must fetch each of the 20 treasures of Zork, return them to the Trophy Case, and then find the entrance to Zork 2.
This game is found on the Lost Treasures of Infocom: Volume I, and Zork Anthology CDs. Also, Activision has released all three original games on the web, and they can be downloaded for free. The link is below.
Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz
Here you meet the Wizard of Frobozz, a senile mage who can only cast spells beginning with the letter "F." These include "Freeze", "Fatigue", and "Fudge." (The last one turns things into fudge. :9) Sorry, Shad, "Fireball" isn't one of them. ;) Also found here is the infamous Carousel Room, the unicorn, and the dragon. Your mission is to get all three orbs and free the demon, so you can get the wand from the wizard and move on to Zork III. Zork II is available for download on the web, and also appears on the Lost Treasures of Infocom: Volume I, and Zork Anthology CDs.
Zork III: The Dungeon Master
Zork III ties up the loose ends left by the first two Zorks. Here, you find out your purpose for being in Quendor, and ultimately become the second Dungeon Master. Also, you finally find the spot where you must utter the words "Hello Sailor." This phrase has become a running gag in the series. As with the other two original Zorks, this game can be found on both the Internet, and the Zork Anthology CD.
The Enchanter Trilogy
This was the first game of the Enchanter Trilogy, which some people argue isn't true Zork. However, it helps fill in a few gaps, and is set in the GUE.
I recently aquired Enchanter, and loved it. You are an apprentice enchanter, who is sent to defeat the evil wizard Krill. Why you? Because you're so insignificant Krill would never suspect you. You have a spellbook with a few spells you can learn, and there are scrolls with additional spells scattered throughout the game. If you win the game, you become a full fledged Enchanter. I found this game online, and it is also available on several of the Infocom collections.
After defeating Krill, you move on to the second game in the Enchanter trilogy. Now your task is to defeat the demon Jeear, who has possessed the Head of the Circle of Enchanters, Belboz. You start with a few more spells than in Enchanter, including the famous Fweep spell. (Turns the caster into a bat.) Also in this game is the infamous Glass Maze. If you win, you become the Head of the Circle. This game is also available online, and in various Infocom collections.
The final game in the Enchater trilogy. Spellbreaker provides a bit of a prequel to Beyond Zork. The Circle of Enchanters, except for yourself, has been turned into newts. You must track down the perpretrator, and find the Cubes of Foundation. Again, Spellbreaker can be found on the web, and in many Infocom collections.
Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor
This is my favorite game on the Zork Anthology CD. Unlike the rest of the games, you do not start out with a set character. Instead, you are given the option of using the default character, one with preset attributes, or creating your own. The 6 attributes you can play with are Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Compassion, and Luck. All come in handy during the game, and your actions can add or subtract percentage points from them. Also, you can level during this game, gaining experience points by fighting monsters. Use the magical objects you find, as well... they definitely come in handy.
Meet the Implementors, who "created this world as a plaything" (yes, the game's creators wrote themselves in), and the Old Woman who runs the three shops found around the area. You even acquire a couple pets along the way! Beyond Zork was the very first Zork game to use graphics, in the form of an onscreen map, and a box set aside for room descriptions and status updates. You need to retrieve the Coconut of Quendor, (lost through your own stupidity to an Ur-Grue), which will bring about the end of the Age of Magic in Quendor.
Beyond Zork originally came with "The Lore and Legends of Quendor," which is interesting to read even without playing the game. This is the last Zork game found on the Zork Anthology CD. The sixth game on the CD, Planetfall, is not part of the Zork series. However, there is a description of it at the bottom of the page.
Return to Zork
This was the very first fully graphic Zork game. When it came out, some people refused to accept it as a "true" Zork game, because it wasn't a text adventure. However, it keeps the original spirit of the original games. This was also the first Zork to use sound. In fact, the game is impossible to finish *without* sound. (Literally. Trust me, I tried.) RTZ is set 700 years after Beyond Zork.
In Return to Zork, you arrive at the former Valley of the Sparrows, after winning a sweepstakes. You start out with a camera (go on, be a shutterbug!), a knife, scrapbook, tape recorder, and a Teleorb with a dying battery. Along the way, you meet some of the inhabitants of Zork. You can talk to them, change your reaction to their statements, and ask them about your inventory. The interface is purely point and click, and you no longer have the option of leaving for an hour between turns. (In the earlier games, time didn't pass unless you typed in an action.) The game comes with a copy of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica, which you will need to finish. Trivia questions are asked at several points in the game, as copyright protection.
Zork: The Undiscovered Underground
Released with Zork Grand Inquisitor, this is the newest text only Zork. The prequel to ZGI, you get to explore parts of the Empire that were inaccessible before. It reminded me of a parody, but was still fun to play. The only problem I found was that although the sword is supposed to be used to open the cage, it kept breaking on me. This game is currently available only on the Internet.
While Zork Nemesis is set in Quendor, and has a lot of references to previous games, it is not considered true Zork. Gone is the humor that marked the earlier games, replaced by scenes that range from normal to macabre at times. Also, it is not recommended for younger players. (See below) The earlier games were more family friendly, which is another reason Nemesis isn't always considered true Zork. However, the game's designers apparently wanted to transport the player right into Quendor, and they succeeded. The game is available as a three CD set.
You arrive at the Temple of Agrippa, and soon find yourself in the middle of a complex plot. Throughout the game, your opinions of all the characters change dramatically. Your goal is to defeat the Nemesis... or is it? The ending had a good twist to it. The soundtrack is wonderful, and the graphics are very realistic... beautifuly most of the time, gruesomely at a few points. There are 5 worlds: the Temple of Agrippa (where you begin), the Conservatory, Everdune, the Asylum, and the Monastary. Each is beautiful, and there are movies and easter eggs all over the place. The exception is the Asylum, which I found gruesome.
At one point, you must chop off a corpse's head down in the morgue with a guillotine. Then, you bring it upstairs, place it on a spike, and press buttons to hear the dead speak... just so you can get the combination to a safe containing the stomach of an inmate who swallowed a key. If you decide to play this game, and want to get the combo without doing that, contact me, and I'll give it to you. This game is not recommended for younger players, due to some of the language, one scene of partial nudity, and scenes with realistic looking blood.
Other than that one section of the game, I found it to be very absorbing. I loved the full color picture of Dimwit Flathead in Everdune, and all the other easter eggs. The ending was wonderful, with a twist I definately didn't expect when I started playing.
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Zork Grand Inquisitor, now mostly only available in the DVD version, perfectly marries the whimsical nature of the previous titles, and gorgeous graphics. You are an adventurer stranded in Quendor during the Magic Inquisition. You goal is to find the three lost artifacts of Quendor, and stop the Inquisition. References to earlier games abound, as the world is more fully explained. Cast spells, teleport, talk to your lantern, and get totemized. Now, if only Activision would release even more titles in this wonderful series. :(
Zork: The Hidden Evil
For more information about this game, please check out The Zork Library. The link is below. (And yes, someday I will sort these links in some semblence of order. Though not even half of them have been pasted in yet.)
The Home of the Underdogs: A wonderful archive of hundreds of classic underdog game titles. A game collector's Nirvana.
Latz.org: Great place to get the Infocom games Underdogs doesn't have. Be careful to turn off any download accellerators you may have before downloading, or set them to only have one connection at a time. Due to their bandwidth constraints, Underdogs has their server set to temporarily *ban* users who try to have more than one download connection at a time.
Infocom.elsewhere.org: Check this page out to get instructions on how to login to a telnet server with 40 different text games on it. If you can't find or buy them, check here to see if you can at least play them. Careful, the users limit was only 10, last I checked.
The Unoffical Official Infocom Homepage: An excellent site, with maps, game downloads, bug lists, Invisiclues, and many other goodies. Games Available: Zorks I, II, III, and Undiscovered Underground, all for either Windows or Macintosh. Available with or without an interpreter.
The Activision Website: I found this site slightly disappointing, as they seem to have forgotten about Zork almost completely. Still, this is the company that bought Infocom, and that came out with RTZ, Nemesis, ZtUU and ZGI.
Zork Grand Inquisitor Homepage: One good page on the Activision site. Click on the link just below the picture of the lantern. This will bring up a pop-up window that will let you explore parts of the Hotel New Zork, from ZGI.
Frotz Homepage: Frotz is one of the most widely available .z3 and .z5 interpretors. Most Interactive Fiction games are in one of these two formats. This program is compatible with most major systems, including Windows and Unix/Linux.
The WinFrotz Homepage: The Windows version of the Frotz interpreter.
Lou's Infocom/Linux Page: Instructions for Linux users
Instructions for Linux users from About.com: Exactly what the name implies.
Ye Old Infocom Shoppe: Buy used Infocom games online.
The Infocom Walkthrough Archives: PDF Walkthroughs for all the games, as well as a Zork related chat room.
The Infocom Gallery: full-color scans of original package contents. Includes almost all of Infocom's games.
The Zork Library: Game timeline, downloads of all the text games except for Pork 2, and Zork related desktop themes.
The Chronology of Quendor Homepage: Homepage of the Chronology of Quendor, a complete, color coded time line that includes all the games. NS is not recommended for viewing this site, as it is formatted with style sheets.
The Chronology of Quendor: The Chronology itself.
The Wonderful World of Zork: A collection of Zork links. Includes a series of comics based off of Infocom, and a complete list of games, including all of the unofficial ones.
The Interactive Fiction Archive Philadelphia Mirror: A mirror of the famous Interactive Fiction archive. Download games, authoring programs, hint files, see the entries in the annual IF writing contest, and more.
The Interactive Fiction Archive Search Tool: A much easier way of browsing the archive, expecially if you're searching for something specific.
Google's Interactive Fiction Web Directory: A very good set of links for Interactive Fiction in general.
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