Review by KeyBlade999
""Oh, no! A lurking grue slithered into the room and devoured you!""
~ Review in Short ~
Gameplay: A text-based adventure where you basically just get to type commands, but it is very expansive and very challenging.
Story: More or less, you got too curious for your own good and now begin a journey to make the Underground Empire reach its end.
Graphics: Literally none, unless you're particular about text fonts. Mostly imagination, and, thusly, amazing or horrible.
Sound and Music: As could be expected with the above, none. Imagine as you will.
Play Time: It can be played through in a single sitting (about thirty minutes), but first-timers will likely need around fifteen hours.
Replayability: Moderately low. Once you've played it, you basically know the solution to every puzzle, and the game is somewhat linear.
Recommendation: The splitting factor here is the fact that is a text-based adventure, a class of games that are very rare, if not nonexistent, in today's gaming plans. Thusly, you'll have to do a lot of reading and imagining - consider it like an interactive book. If you don't like such games, this game is not meant for you, but, otherwise, it is at least worth a try. Since this game is now "abandonware", you can download for free on the Internet, so, at the very least, anyone reading this should Google it and try it out.
~ Review in Long ~
The Zork series is but one set of many text-based adventure games. Back in the 1980s, when the majority of them were made, video game graphics were relatively low-quality compared to today. Game designers were challenged with a problem - how to make a game that is both engaging and entertaining while still leaving enough data on the game for semi-decent graphics? PC games became the main target for the text-based adventures, which left the graphics stored in a very important place - your brain! Without all of the data being used for produce graphics, the games could be set in absolutely immense, and also challenging worlds - for, after all, is not the most important aspect of a puzzle being able to see it?
Of course, text-based adventure games are by far the exception, and often exceedingly difficult to play without a strategy guide, because your imagination can only do so much. They are unusual, but is that equivalent to a bad game?
There is not much to say about the Zork series. Infocom made the first of the series, Zork I, in 1981 and made some updates to it through 1983. Zork II, the sequel, was also released in 1981 and updated through 1983, though only about half as many times. Zork III, the end of the main series, was released and updated several times in 1982.
As far as the main series is concerned, that's all that really exists. There are number other games in the series, such as Zork Zero, but they are, to a point, detached from the storyline of the aforementioned three games.
The general concept of most text-based adventures is that you input your commands by typing them into the command prompt on the computer after you start the game. This game is able to interpret some sentences rather well (such as "jump", "leap", and "hop" all meaning the same), and, then again, some sentences are not interpreted well. For example, let's say you are fighting a troll. Input "Fight" and you'll fight with your hands, which is rather pointless - the game fills in certain bits, and is not always right. You'd have to say "Fight troll with sword" for it to work.
This can get annoying because, let's say face, certain bits should be implied. Which is more sensible to fight with against a troll wielding an axe - your hands or your sword? Exactly my point.
The game also removes (useful) graphics completely. You will only be able to see what is up in that head of yours, and who's to say whether it is right? You'll have to be very good with your mental visions of this game, or you'll get confused really quick. You also need to have memory, for the most part, or a piece of paper. You need to know what you have in your inventory and what you should do next, and you may even need to make a map of where you've been or not been. Text-based adventures rely very strongly on your mental faculties.
It is an absolutely difficult experience the first time you play. Most modern gamers are not really accustomed to this type of gameplay, and even then, the majority of the exception know of this because of a certain easter egg in Call of Duty: Black Ops in which you are literally allowed to play Zork I.
I have said it before, and will probably say it repeatedly - this game is very, very hard to play. You need to have good memory, and a good ability to visualize. Otherwise, this game will chew you up and spit you out with zero warning. Most of you will be thoroughly tempted to look at some kind of strategy guide. That's all well in the concept of doing so...
But that absolutely ruins the feeling of accomplishment you'll get from doing this all by yourself. Trust me, it feels amazing to triumph over one of the hardest video games of all time.
How the Game Plays:
Basically, the game begins in a certain area. From literally right then, you are presented with your first challenge because, in Zork I, you start in the middle of a forest, near a house. Where to go? What to do? The game provides no help, and almost certainly, you'll miss the first thing that is really needed for game progression.
This game is absolutely filled to the brim of such puzzles - no other genre of video games is capable of reproducing the number or difficulty you'll find. During the course of this game, you will find that you need certain items or not, and you can only hold so many items at once. Which to drop? Which to keep? You'll probably never know for a long time...
Then there's the fact that you'll deal with several battles in this game. Basically, there is a health system in place where you can only really take two damaging hits before you die. You know what happens when you die? You lose ten points (which is a lot in this game) and end up reappearing somewhere else with no items. In short, this can basically mean, "Hey, I just ended your game and made you think I did not!" It is annoying to figure out that needed items are no longer to be had easily.
What do points do, though? Not much - they're really just used for obtaining a certain rank at the end of the game that compares you with everyone else.
It is quite hard to describe this category of the game, because you're never truly given an answer as to your purpose in doing this journey until the end of the series. This game pretty much runs into Zork II, then Zork III.
Zork I, the start of your journey, is used to describe basically how you began your journey into the Great Underground Empire, started almost solely out of sheer over-curiosity. But what ensues is absolutely baffling.
There's not a lot of content given to the story; most of the game, in fact, is mostly focused on actually playing the game.
There are no graphics. That's all there really is to say on the subject. This game can be said to run on the most powerful graphics chip known to man - your imagination. The game will give you a bunch of text and you have to read it, then mentally visualize it. That's the concept given to a text-based adventure, and is one of the main reasons they are so difficult. You're effectively playing blindly.
SOUND EFFECTS AND MUSIC: --/10.
Another typical aspect with the text-based adventure genre is a lack of music and sound. That's perhaps more of a disappointment than anything - while, yes, there is no need, it just feels odd to play in silence without graphics, almost like you're blind and deaf.
The most you'll be able to get out of this game as far as sound goes would be whatever your imagination can achieve, and whatever you can play on some sort of media player.
PLAY TIME: 10/10.
Frankly, the way the game is designed, if you know exactly what you're going to do and how, you can get the game finished in about twenty minutes or so. That's enough to be one sitting, and definitely not enough to enjoy much of any game.
Thankfully, since you're reading this, I doubt you've ever played this.
In that situation, playing without any type of help, you'll be there for hours and hours. You'll be in an open world, pretty much, with no real idea of where to go or how. You could easily be stuck playing this for ten hours, fifteen hours, twenty hours, or even more. It will take you quite a while to actually get everything right, and it will be challenging... But it will also feel very rewarding at the end, doing it by yourself.
This is pretty much where the game fails. This game is practically designed around the idea of playing through just once. Once you've solved a certain puzzle, especially if it was challenging to do, you're more likely to not have nearly the same amount of difficulty the next time you go around to play through the game. As you play more and more, the game slowly gets less challenging, and, therefore, less entertaining.
Now, if you greatly enjoy this game, that won't be much of an issue. If you don't have great memory, the same is true. But the general populous will not be able to play this more than three or four times.
THE END. Overall score: 8.25/10.
So, what do you pick? This game is immensely challenging, yet fun. It lacks graphics and sound, but makes up for it by making the world expansive and amazing. You cannot easily replay it, but what you do play will likely be a long, rewarding journey.
In my opinion, the game has its flaws. It is immensely difficult to play alone, and any type of aid makes the game mind-numbingly easy. But it makes up for this by making it feel very rewarding at the end, and you eventually enjoy doing it. Zork is a decent game; like many, it is by no means perfect, though.
My recommendation is this. Since this game is abandonware now, you can find it on the Internet and download it for free. I would recommend doing so just to try it out - you have nothing to lose, after all. If you don't enjoy it, that's fine; you don't have to keep it, and you didn't lose any money. If you enjoy it, then you have downloaded an amazing game and will likely enjoy it for many years to come. I leave it to you.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/05/12
Game Release: Zork I (US, 12/31/80)
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.