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About the StoryMany strange tales have been told of the fabulous treasure, exotic creatures, and diabolical puzzles in the Great Underground Empire. As an aspiring adventurer, you will undoubtedly want to locate these treasures and deposit them in your trophy case.
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]
Language: English (en)
Current Version: Release 1
License: Former commercial
Development System: Hugo
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Baf's Guide ID: 987
Adapted from Zork, by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling
Pork 1: The Great Underground Sewer System, by AnonymousFollowed by sequel Zork II, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
Zork: A Troll's-Eye View, by Dylan O'Donnell
Followed by prequel Zork Zero, by Steve Meretzky
Remade as Mini-Zork, by Anonymous
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
Adventure Classic Gaming
I have replayed this game several times over in order to write this article, and I have found the gameplay to be as absorbing as it is the first time I have played many years ago. While on the whole it is very much a game of "find object and use object in the right place", it does not necessarily mean that it is a doodle. It is not at all! There are some quite tricky puzzles to be solved, and I have been stuck a few times even though that I am playing the game the second time around. Although the treasures in the game are easy to find, getting them back safely to the trophy case can be an entirely different matter. Certain puzzles must be be solved in order, but there is no clue as to what that order is—it is up to you to work it out. In some cases, timing is also important. The text descriptions can either be in "verbose" or "brief" mode. Even in the brief mode, there is still enough to keep pulling you further into the game. For me, the game defines the whole addictive syndrome of "must solve just one more piece of the puzzle" which other imitators never manage to capture.
-- Karen Tyers
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Mr. Bill's Adventureland
Zork creates a wondrous, magical realm that is a veritable feast for the imagination. You find that you have stumbled upon the ancient ruins of a vast empire lying far underground. Yes, you will find many more treasures for your trophy case. But to do so you will have to search far and wide, solve diabolical puzzles, and defend your treasures (and yourself!) from a few very nasty characters... and one monster, a vicious GRUE that lurks in the dark!
-- Mr. Bill & Lela
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Zork I does work, in the end, though it's hard to pinpoint just why. Collect-the-treasures as a plot is a weary old device, and it doesn't only seem that way to IF players -- it had, after all, been the subject of innumerable fantasy novels and games before IF hit the scene. But its recurring presence points to some appeal that Zork I managed to tap into -- the allure of getting rich, and of obtaining things as diverse as the coffin of Ramses II, a songbird's bauble, and a dead adventurer's bag of coins, keeps the intrigue of finding the next treasure alive, somehow. Vital to the enterprise is, of course, the humor, even if the barrage of self-reference becomes wearying; responses like "Only Santa Claus climbs down chimneys" make the game feel more intelligent than a "You can't do that" response would have, and moments like the description of the vampire bat and the behavior of the thief break up the traipsing-from-room-to-room feel that sometimes plagued Colossal Cave.
-- Duncan Stevens
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 11
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
The thing that makes Zork I look dated isn't the technology; it's the genre. Zork is a story-less treasure hunt in a big cave full of wacky incongruities and anachronisms; it's an unapologetic puzzle-fest; it's a slightly unfair, one-sided contest between a smirking author and a frustrated player. This sort of game went of out style years ago (among IF enthusiasts, I mean - the whole of IF went out of style even earlier among the broader gaming population). Some IFers look at it and say, good riddance: this sort of thing went out of style because it was inferior to what IF has evolved into. I tend to disagree; I think this sort of game actually went out of style because it was done to death, in large part by imitators of this very game. Zork I isn't inferior to modern IF; it's just different from modern IF.
The appeal of Zork I is that of a crossword, or of one of those evil little entangled-wire-loop puzzles. And the thing is, Zork has a ton of that kind of appeal. Once you get into the game, it's really good at doling out just enough positive feedback to keep you going, while keeping the challenges numerous and difficult. Maybe you have to have the right personality type, but if you do, it can become an obsession to beat the thing, to get that last lousy point. The game is unfair, but just a little; its designers had a good feel for just how far they could push their luck before players would feel cheated. It's the kind of game you really want to solve on your own, without looking at hints or walkthroughs, because it always feels like the answers are just within reach.
If you're still convinced that modern IF is just objectively superior to the likes of Zork I, here's something to consider. Modern IF dogma ranks immersiveness as one of the great virtues a work can have. Some look at Zork I's sparse room descriptions and irrational map and scoff. But Zork suggests that there's more to immersion than pretty descriptions. For many IFers, Zork I and its ilk have created some of the most intense subjective feelings of immersion they've had from any sort of game, just because they spent so much time walking back and forth and back and forth across the map. The obsessive play, I think, makes up for the thin text, and then some.
I won't bother thinking about the game in terms of when it came out, because my whole point is that it can still be enjoyed today. Maybe it takes a conoisseur, but it can still be done. There's still a chance to have fun.
The game hinges on cave-exploration and treasure-collecting. Yes, that's all there is to this game. But unlike other games since, the exploration doesn't just mean mapping rooms. The amazing thing about Zork, the thing that gets me back again and again, is how vivid the GUE is, by virtue of the map's layout and the rooms' descriptions. Time and again I've tried to understand *why* this game is so much better at it than other games (and I felt this difference the very first time I played it, back when I was nine or so).
Arguably, this would be because of the famous limits issue that arises in all forms of art or entertainment eventually. Back then, they had severe limits. There could only be so many rooms, so many objects, so much text (which, incidently, is why so much scenery of the game is unimplemented to the point where if you "x canyon" at the Great Canyon you get "I don't know the word 'canyon'"). So it had to be juggled a bit, and descriptions had to be kept effective but still vivid.
You know, effective. Like, not *verbose* like my reviews tend to get. I cry foul at my own inaptness, and wish I had the art of brevity and sucintess these guys showed in their games.
The funny thing is, I could quote room descriptions here until I was blue in the face and it still wouldn't show how great Zork is in that department, because taken by themselves, out of context, they look like nothing much. It's by virtue of actually exploring the Great Underground Empire, and keeping track of the geography of the place, that you'll create those images.
The puzzles range from medium to hard, and not all have aged well - it is recommended to play the Solid Gold version of this game, which has built-in hints. Do persevere, but if it gets too tough don't worry about getting the hints. There's stuff there which is simply too underclued. The scepter puzzle, for instance (aha!, didn't even know there WAS a scepter puzzle, did you? That's kinda my point), requires a bit of a leap of logic, and experimentation-just-for-the-sake-of-doing-something just to find the clue. And of course the granite wall puzzle is just plain impossible to figure out - but that one's an optional puzzle, so no trouble.
But most puzzles are still fun, and will have you thinking in concrete, world-altering ways. Fiddle with the dam - what happens as a result? How do you use the mining equipment all around you to get past a combination of mine gas (no naked flames or BOOM!) and a tiqht squeeze no lightsource can go through?
The maze, the lamp's limited life and the thief are the biggest pains of the game, but there's a way to bypass them, which I shall shortly post in this page. It includes solving quite a few puzzles, so there's definite spoilers, but I hope it will make the game a more pleasant experience for the newer generation of IFers. Because, newer generation, this game is what it is for a reason, and the reason is still there.
This game is FUN, and it will reward your efforts.
Then again, if you really do prefer other type of IF entirely, if you just can't get your head around a relatively minimalist (but still complex) cave crawl, feel free to give it a miss. It's silly to say "You HAVE to play this game because it STARTED IT ALL!". I encourage you to take a look, sure, but if you don't like it, you can turn away - there are other games you'll enjoy, no use in sticking to an oldie.
But you look like a brave explorer at heart, and I do believe that once you get down that trapdoor and survive your fight with the troll, you'll want to see the Great Underground Empire with your very own eyes...
The game has no real story to speak of. You are an AFGNCAAP wandering around the cave complex in the basement of someone's house collecting valuable items and putting them in his treasure box.
The game had some well thought out puzzles, and plenty of amusing things to do when you were bored. It also had cute little extras, like mirrors you could teleport with or walls you could teleport through, or various solutions to puzzles (proving you used the hints- because why would you think about that otherwise?).
The game created the inventory management and light puzzle (Damn you!), though you do find a permanent light source eventually. It included ramdomized battles as well, which I don't see much in IF anymore (and it was well implemented). It also includes the dreaded maze puzzle, difficult to map because some guy is stealing and moving your stuff. And then there's that infamous egg puzzle, which had me endlessly confused!
It's a great testament to the game that even some 20 years later I'm still marvelling at the ideas and puzzles they used. The Dam puzzle, the coal basket puzzle, performing the ritual to enter hades, they still amaze me at how well thought out they were. It's easy to think of them and see them in games now, but these guys came up with it from scratch, no one had done this before, and that's why this game may be the most influential game in IF ever.
Please, play it through. Give it a chance. Ignore it's annoyances (they're due to it's age) and learn where it all started.
See All 11 Member Reviews
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This is version 17 of this page, edited by Edward Lacey on 23 September 2013 at 4:13am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item