Zork Zero

by Steve Meretzky

Episode 5 of Zork

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There isn't (...) enough payoff

There are entertaining moments in Zork Zero, to be sure. It's questionable whether there are enough to keep the average player interested throughout, though, and to whatever extent it succeeds, it does so in a very different way from any of the other Zork entries. Though it has its moments, I found Zork Zero the weakest of all Infocom's text Zork games.
-- Duncan Stevens

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Adventure Classic Gaming

Zork Zero: The Revenge of Megaboz is very well designed from a gameplay standpoint, improving again upon all of the enhancements the previous games have innovated. Though you can use the keyboard to type in directions as normal, you can also move around by using the compass rose at the top of the screen or by clicking on locations on the online maps. The maps are very useful to have. The geography of Zork Zero is extensive, so keeping track of yourself as your travel between regions of the game can often be quite a chore. The parser, as is expected from Infocom, is extremely intuitive and mostly forgiving. There are practically no situations in the game when you are stuck because you cannot think of the word to move on. Being the pinnacle of Infocom's creative achievement, this game incorporates everything the designers have learned about parsers and game interaction to spectacular effect. Communicating with an Infocom game is never easier than it is here.
-- Matthew Murray

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Has its ups and downs, March 29, 2022
by mjhayes (Somewhere east of Garinham)

I played this as the last story of the Zork Anthology. Computer games were getting more sophsticated, so if another Zork game were to be made, Infocom would want to utilize the latest technology. Beyond Zork was wonderful and would be a tough act to follow, so rather than continue the storyline from there, the idea was to have another Zork game retroactive to the original trilogy.

That was the first mistake, in my opinion. Movies or games that take place prior to the originals usually try too hard to tie loose ends together. We see that not only in the prologue, but in the endgame as well. I also didn't like the character Dimwit, or the various room descriptions that smacked of Dimwit's orders of magnitude.

The game is big in terms of number of rooms, which I normally would enjoy. There are over 200 rooms, not counting all the duplicate rooms that comprise the 400-story tower. But a number of rooms have no significance and seem to only have been added to pad out the game size. I also wish there had been more balance. The castle takes up a large percentage of the world map, and there is precious little time spent in places like Antharia and The Gray Mountains. I do like the little icons with mini graphical representations of each room though.

Given that the story takes place prior to Zork I, it does make sense that the object would be similar to the original - find all the items of interest and bring them to the proper place. Additional reliance on feelies is kind of a nice touch. You'll be reading through the calendar multiple times to learn a few clues vital to completion.

What adds to the challenge is the jester, who appears at random points, and quite a few non-random points as well. You'll depend on him for help and several items, a few of which he gives you randomly. This makes walkthroughs difficult to create as well as follow, because you then have to hold off exploring certain places as long as possible. I do like a couple of his appearances though, like in the Inquisition.

My biggest gripe is the presence of various puzzles which are simply tacked on to the quest. On the one hand, I can appreciate the graphical representations of such things as the Towers Of Hanoi and the "peg-jump" puzzle, but what are they doing in a Zork game? Further, the way some of them are presented is just ridiculous, like the parody of "The fox, the goose, and the grain". Others, like the Room Of Three Doors, I'm guessing people more likely "solved" through save-scumming, rather than figuring them out normally.

Finally, there's the ending. (Spoiler - click to show)All throughout the game, I expected to stop the curse of Megaboz. It took a long time to realize I was meant to fulfill the curse instead. The fact the castle shrinks into the white house from Zork I was just lame, not to mention that the jester turns out to be Megaboz himself, and dubs thee Dungeon Master, who would later torment adventurers in Zork III.

I'm glad I came across the Zork games in the mid-90s, rather than when they were first released. It must have been a disappointment for fans in the last days of Infocom to see the Zork series end the way it did, until Return To Zork came along.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
It's heartbreaking that THIS was the last real Zork., February 13, 2022
by cgasquid (west of house)

Zork Zero, i hate you.

i hate your massively overblown size, mostly full of empty rooms with no purpose. i hate the excessive copy protection, with many promising puzzles (including the game's central puzzle) turning out to be "do you have the documentation" checks.

but the reason why Zork Zero feels like such a cop-out, such a zero-effort mess?

Towers of Hanoi!
fox, chicken, and grain!
measuring liquid using two vessels!
true and false statements written on doors!
the executioner's paradox!
a freaking rebus!

what in the heck are all of these ancient bewhiskered cliches -- many of them extremely belabored and move-intensive -- doing in a game produced in the twentieth century? let alone in a Zork game, a series known for the cleverness and wry sense of humor in its puzzles?

the worst part is that these old chestnuts make up the game's better puzzles. the original ones, like catching the flies, breaking the couple's curse, and the fungus puzzle, are utterly half-hearted. there's no depth to them; frequently they're mostly just hauling the right objects across the bloated map.

about the only puzzle in this game that felt truly satisfying and Zorkian was breaking the hunger curse. i had to use a variety of objects in weird ways to achieve a completely loopy goal.

but everything else ... this is just a miserable slog of busywork and cliche. i understand making a game this huge is difficult, so there's a temptation to just fill it up with junk so you can boast about the number of puzzles ... but you know, you could just have made the game smaller and actually good.

- archcorenth, January 20, 2022

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