Zork I

by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling

Episode 1 of Zork
Zorkian, Cave crawl

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The canonical IF dungeon crawl, February 12, 2022
by dvs

It was the original mainframe Zork from the 1980's which showed me that text adventures could do more than just the two word commands of the Scott Adams adventures. The breadth of the dungeon was astounding and I loved the variety of puzzles. My eighth grade self loved the experience.

Zork I reduced the original Zork into bitesized puzzles. I helped my nephews through this dungeon crawl over the past few months, only giving advice when the puzzle just wasn't well clued and I wanted to save them from trying everything. There is a nice feeling of exploring caves but there is so much that just doesn't make sense. The puzzles surrounding the (Spoiler - click to show)egg were particularly well-made.

Although this is a classic game that deserves all of the praise for inspiring so many to write IF, it just isn't that much fun as a game in 2022. Enchanter & Planetfall do a much better job of giving motivation beyond just gathering treasures.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Too big to judge?, August 14, 2021
by Drew Cook (Acadiana, USA)

I'm trying to work my way through the Infocom catalog, posting my thoughts on a gaming forum all the while.

I started with Zork I, and I suppose it's easy to give it a hard time. The plot is more than thin--a monofilament of a story. The protagonist, an indeterminate blank slate, reaches a small white house in the midst of a forest. Reading the manual(s) accompanying Zork I, the player is told that the Adventurer wants treasure for themselves. The game will award points for collecting it and placing it in a trophy case.

Why does the Adventurer leave the treasure behind, if they want it so much? What is the significance of the case, unremarkably sitting in an unremarkably abandoned house?

In the course of their treasure hunt, the player-protagonist wanders a rather inorganic funhouse of a map, looking for things to do, solving puzzles until all rooms and treasures are discovered.

One of the means of fast travel, while convenient, has no apparent clues as to its use.

Zork has an expiring light source, though sooner or later an alternative may or may not be found.

There are a whopping three mazes, none of them fun or interesting. The largest and most tedious, called only "Maze," features 12 possible exits from each of its rooms as well as an NPC that picks up and moves dropped items--the Hansel and Gretel approach will not work here. Wise players will swallow their pride and retrieve a map from somewhere. Mapping this monstrosity is in no way worth the trouble.

It's easy to forget that the design of Zork was initially undertaken in order to improve upon ADVENT, which was then the only widely-known game of its kind. I suppose this may be a controversial statement: Zork does, in fact, improve upon ADVENT in almost every meaningful way. It is more technologically sophisticated, running on an engine that eventually evolved into one that is widely used today in contemporary IF. It has a sense of humor. It is, compared with its only competitor at the time, more interactive and more descriptive. The puzzles--the fair ones, at least--are more interesting than those in ADVENT. I have seen essays indicating that ADVENT makes fewer mistakes, but then again there is far less of it to begin with.

The parser at the time was a revelation. In ADVENT, the player DROPs treasures on the floor. In Zork, the player PUTs them in a CONTAINER.

We are lucky that Zork made so many mistakes, thus sparing future efforts the indignity of making them. It was not yet clear what made adventure games fun, but Zork was the first step in figuring that out.

This is not to say that parts of it are not fun. I particularly enjoyed the "bell, book, and candle" and coal mine puzzles.

Zork is worth playing for the sense of context it provides. If its outdated nature annoys, then the invisiclues z-code is legally available at The Infocom Documentation Project, free of charge. I found it satisfying to solve, but I think just looking around is worthwhile for the curious.

I give no rating for Zork. I'm not sure that measuring it against contemporary standards is relevant.

In my effort to get through all of Infocom's games, I have determined that Zork I-III and Deadline are too big to judge. I'll give a rating for Starcross if/when I get there.

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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
sucked, March 10, 2021

I would rather read read the Catcher in the Rye a thousand times than be forced to play this again. Sucked

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
One more star for the hystorical importance, March 1, 2021

This text adventure is essential and it is a must-to-play for every IF fanatics due to its hystorical importance.

But from an technical/artistic point of view, it's very difficult, unfair, sometimes illogical and frustrating (maze, inventory).

In spite of its fame it's not the pinnacle of the genre, but it keeps its legendary charm despite its 50 years of age.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A classic!, October 5, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 10+ hours

I really enjoyed playing through this game again this year (after having played, but not beaten it back in the 1980s). Yes, I understand how the phrase "Zork hates its player" came about, but at least because the tasks are compartmentalized and getting back to where you last were doesn't take more than a few minutes that it doesn't feel like a major setback to blow yourself up when you weren't expecting it. I had fun puzzling through everything (or at least most things, I had to cheat to figure out (Spoiler - click to show)the secrets of the egg) and even making the maps on my own, though I can see how those can become tedious as well.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to picking up Zork 2 and 3 for the first time ever, soon.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
One of the first Adventures I've played., August 20, 2019
by Tim Delag (Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan )

This Adventure is something that you have to play. I remember being a young child on my parent's 386. Spending my summer days trying to solve the puzzles. It makes me yearn to be young again. But now I'm a father and my two kids are just discovering Infocom.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Look. I have yet to find a game as satisfying as 'Zork 1.', May 6, 2019

If you've never played 'Zork 1' before, give it a spin. As for myself, 'Zork 1' is the first interactive fiction game I've ever played. Maybe it isn't the friendliest game for beginners of IF, but I'm personally glad that I began with this clasic masterpiece.

What 'Zork 1' did well, in my opinion, is that it hooked me right away. The opening scene - and this is not a spoiler, it's the start of the game - where the player is placed in front of a mysterious white house is purely brilliant. My brother and I, who I first played this with, would brag to each other via text who made it furthest into the game. It was thrilling to text to him that 'Hey! I made it past the house!' or 'I did it - I killed (Spoiler - click to show)that horrible thief!'

So maybe it was the rivalry I had ongoing with my brother in playing this game that made it so exciting and gratifying to me on my first play, but 'Zork 1' really is clever when it comes to its presentation of exploration and surprise.

Don't miss this one.

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
I'm grateful for Zork and never want to play it again, May 3, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

Yes, Zork was the most important computer game of the early 1980ís. Perhaps even more important than Kingís Quest. "You are standing in an open field, west of a white house," is quite possibly the most well-known line in adventure game history. It laid the foundation for many wonderful things to come. And it was an incredibly impressive, engaging adventure when it was released. But other than nostalgia, it has little going for it after all these years.

A simple treasure hunting expedition can actually be a welcome relief from more story-based games, but Zork breaks so many conventional rules of modern game play that most fans of current interactive fiction would rip it to shreds were it released today. First, thereís the pointless maze (of twisty little passages, all alike). Then thereís the random enemy encounters and random battle elements. There are several ways to lock oneís self from victory without even realizing it, and a few puzzles are so poorly clued (or not clued at all) that it doesnít matter anyway. And all that onto a time limit (due to a finite light source, at least early on), and you have one maddening game.

To be fair, the atmosphere still holds up well after all these years. The parser is impressively strong. And a few of the puzzles are rather ingenious. But I donít have patience any longer for the aforementioned annoyances. Zork used to be a giant, but so many others have piled on top of its shoulders that it has weakened considerably. Still, I would recommend this to those who do have an interest in seeing how computer gaming first exploded in the market.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Play it, but don't play it first., December 31, 2017
by lastplaneout (Boone, NC)

It almost goes without saying that the original Zork trilogy is a must-play for most interactive fictions enthusiasts. As someone who is relatively new to the medium/genre, it was gratifying to play through the first part of the trilogy (and then the sequels) after I had experienced some more recent works first. This set me up to have a whole bunch of "Oh, this is where that came from" moments as I played through Zork's underground that would have been lost on me otherwise. The narrative style of the game works really well for me when paired with a sense of vague familiarity.

The modular structure and dubious geometry of the underground may not earn the game points for realism, but I enjoyed mapping the maze-y areas with Trizbort while playing. There was also never a sense of "What do I do next?" at any point, I think due to the clear association of specific rooms with specific puzzles and functions. The puzzles themselves were hard as hell, but gratifying to complete.

While the game is obviously littered with ideas that become genre tropes and conventions later on, there are also some things that I am glad didn't stick. For instance, I never would have completed the meta-parser puzzles (e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)the cyclops and echo puzzles) without using a walkthrough. The (Spoiler - click to show)sceptre puzzle was also maddening, seemingly requiring knowledge of previous games and/or a willingness to brute-force every possible command into the parser.

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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Heaven in text form, April 24, 2017
by H. W. Wiliams (Sweden)

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.

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