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Zork I

by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling

Episode 1 of Zork
Zorkian/Cave crawl

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Number of Reviews: 12
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Heaven in text form, April 24, 2017
One of the finest IF games I've ever played. I remember sitting at my old computer for hours just mapping out this game. If you like massive adventures, then this one's for you.

A nice commercial clean-up of the MIT version, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: Infocom, 10+ hours
Until last week, I had no idea that Infocom games were still available on current platforms. After downloading an iPad app, I had the pleasure of trying my first commercial game after 5 years of free interactive fiction.

The manual and feelies were great, and the parser was very smooth, with great runtime. I missed several of Inform's features, especially when killing enemies. Overall, the game felt thoroughly tested, and a large number of the annoying features of MIT Zork were removed. Examples include a better coal maze, some of the smug writing, and better correlation between exits and etrances of nearby rooms.

I thought at first it was silly to split up the game into three, but having started Zork II, I am really enjoying the expanded versions. Very few of the free games I have played rival this kind of polished game, with Curses! and Anchorhead as my main examples of great gameplay.

0 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Great Game, October 4, 2013
by Bron (Florida)
This is one of the best ones out there

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
What We Talk About When We Talk About Zork, January 21, 2013
by ifailedit (arkansas)
Looking at the back of the 1984 "grey box" release of Infocom's "Zork I," you, a prospective player, are promised that "during your amazing journey, you'íll come face to face with creatures so outlandish, they defy description. And youíll wander through an underground domain so vast, it can offer you new surprises no matter how many times you explore it." What a thing, all those years ago, to be told. We are also, helpfully, told what Interactive Fiction is: "You can talk to the story, typing in full English sentences. And the story talks right back, communicating entirely in vividly descriptive prose." Earlier (1983) promotional packing for the Commodore 64 focuses more on the technical possibilities of "Zork I," and provides a short matrix of what were most certainly impressive possibilities at the time--a vocabulary of "600+ words," "35-40 hrs." of play time, and a "multiple save feature." Players of available "hi-res" adventures like "The Wizard and the Princess," would find the promised vocabulary an incredible offering. The 1983 packing, in itself, is far more communicative than the 1981 "Barbarian Package" released by Personal Software, which came in a plastic bag and featured a heavily-muscled, bare-legged gentleman swinging a sword at a cowering, tan-skinned humanoid creature. This misleading illustration is accompanied by hardly any text at all save the requirements for operating the software: "For Model III BASIC TRS-80 with 32K and One Disk Drive." What one finds, considering the early history of Infocom's promotional material, is a company learning to explain what it is and what its products are. What on earth was this thing? The term "IF" itself had yet to be coined in 1981.

Enter the contemporary reviewer, who most likely has no such difficulties. Instead, many writers understandably take for granted that a reader will know just what IF is, and focus on whether "Zork 1" is a good game and attempt to answer the question of whether or not, as a piece of IF, it "holds up" in comparison to the works of today. "Holding up" is a problematic thing to measure. Certainly, were one able to visit the Globe Theater of Elizabethian times, one could complain that the actor portraying Ophelia is a man, but complaining thus would reveal a lack of understanding. "Zork 1" lacks the "AGAIN" command and many other modern conveniences, but pointing out said absences, while a helpful heads-up to the prospective player, is a misdirection, unless additionally explaining that "Zork's" publisher later invented these conveniences. One would hardly fault Intel for producing the Pentium II before producing the Pentium III.

Whether the modern player can ENJOY "Zork 1," then, is really a question about the player as opposed to one about "Zork." Can one adequately bring to to the GUE an understanding of IF's history? Can one know and marvel at the difference between, as an example, "Zork 1" and Sierra's "The Wizard and the Princess?" Can one, quite simply, accept "Zork 1" on "Zork 1's" terms? If not, players will probably find more rewarding entertainment elsewhere. If so, then there is much to do and enjoy in "Zork 1." The game world is vast, and many puzzles are quite challenging, affording a real sense of satisfaction when solved. Most of them do, that is. Some seemed, even at the time, unfair, especially when considering the fact that the most-readily available hints were, pre-InvisiClues, available via postal mail. Even guessing at the objective of "Zork 1" is difficult at first. The playfulness of the narrator will either amuse or grate, depending on the player's perspective--at times the narrator seems the primary antagonist.

Easily rendering the game unwinnable? Check. Save and restore combat? O mai oui. Guess the verb? Yes indeed. Inventory management? Certainly. One-dimensional NPC's? Present. "Zork" does not speak contemporary IF, in the same way that John Donne did not write in contemporary English. Donne is not for everyone, and neither is "Zork." Recommending "Zork," again, is a question of what interests a reader of IF. It ultimately has nothing to do with "Zork," which is and always will be "Zork"--the first but not best large example of z-code and all that it promises.

Perhaps a compelling piece of meta-IF could be crafted to simulate the experience of an early-eighties player confronting a game that troubles itself to provide responses to commands that do not advance the story, or includes objects as complex as the jewel-encrusted egg. Barring that, the player will have to bring his or her own sense of history to the piece, which may or may not be sufficient motivation to see beyond its now-dated technical and narrative techniques. Not every fan of "Black Ops" likes "Space Invaders," no matter how great an improvement it is, technically, over "Pong." Those who wish to know the giant upon whose shoulders "Anchorhead" stands will enjoy seeing firstand, or at least appreciate, how far IF has come, though one hardly need love "Zork" to love "Anchorhead." Which type of IF reader are you?

I myself still like "Pong," and occasionally see, depicted in hideous, pale blue text, a brief description of that silly white house and its boarded door. I see it in my dreams, all these years later. Five stars.

Again, from the 1984 packaging: "For the first time, youíre more than a passive reader." Does what it says on the tin.

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Zork, October 22, 2011
by Riceman
Related reviews: Zork
In this game you explore a very intricate world full of confusing paths and underground tunnels looking for treasure to add to your collection.The list of treasures you are searching for is 20 items long and can only be found through exploring.
Enemies are easy and far in between so after a good 20 minutes of game play It becomes more of a exploring game; But your one light source is not eternal so saving often and then going back to get items using less moves is a must. You'll also find that many of the puzzles in the game are quite challenging.
the downsides are that the movement in certain areas are off, no real story line and most the game is spent trying to find out how to get around quickly.

0 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
AMAZING!!!, September 27, 2011
by Inventorman101
Related reviews: zork, zork 1, 2011
I am thrilled with this game. It is amazing. This is one of my many favorite text-adventures. FIVE STARS!
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

0 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
:), May 31, 2011
This is one of the greatest games in history!

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
addicting and fun, even for the young generation of IF players., June 26, 2010
by lagran-G-an (Tel-Aviv, Israel)
Related reviews: Zork,
I enjoyed Zork very much, I thought it was brilliant. It is important to me to emphasize that Zork isn't only good for the sense of nostalgia.

When Zork was at its glory commercial days I was still in diapers, so I cannot be blamed for having special feelings for the game. I have played it on a modern laptop using gargoyle, and have never seen it on flickering green commodore screen. Still, I enjoyed it very much.

after I got the point, the game-play was addicting. Zork has no story, but none is needed. The game has a huge world full of puzzles, that are very interesting and lots of fun. Thats all there is to it. The game can be played for a long time. I still haven't gotten all the points available. ((Spoiler - click to show) weird egg that keeps on breaking.)

Of course, it took me awhile to get used to some strange things that I had not encountered in more "modern IF" such as a limit in inventory, a limited light source, mazes and a thief. The vocabulary was not as good as I had usually seen in polished games, and the descriptions were minimal. But, after I got used to the thief and the limits these seemed strong points to me, that added to the depth of the game-play.Also, I didn't feel like anything was missing from the descriptions.

I must also say some parts of the game can be frustrating since it is easy to make the game un-winnable, and you'll probably have to play it a few times through ( (Spoiler - click to show) once for example, the thief stole my matches and i couldn't find them in any room, so I couldn't banish the demons or complete the puzzle with the gas room ).

Even though it has flaws, and needs getting used to (to players of more modern IF). After a short while it's flaws are barely noticeable, and the game flows. It has addicting gameplay and fun puzzles. A definite must-play In my humble opinion... even if you are from the younger generation of If players, like me.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Without Which, this page would not be here, March 17, 2010
by tggdan3 (Michigan)
I played Zork I back in the 80's when it was the new thing. I missed out on the original dungeon and cave adventure until much later when the internet made every game available, but I still go back to Zork time and again for a refreshing review.

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.

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful:
A canonical puzzle-fest, January 9, 2008
by Michael Roberts (Seattle, Washington)
Some modern reviewers have said Zork I is dated, and to some extent it is, although not in the usual way that computer games become dated, which is to say technologically. The technology of IF has improved over the years, certainly, but only incrementally; Zork I is, after all, written on basically the same Z-Machine that a lot of authors are still using today. Sure, parsers have gained a few niceties over the years, but the fact is that even the most sophisticated current parser is still an unnatural computer interface that you have to learn to use; Zork's parser is maybe 10% harder to learn than the current standards. Try digging out a video game from last year, let alone one from Zork's era, and see if they hold up as well.

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.

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