Review by Tenshi No Shi

"You won't live to tell of the Grues..."

Once upon a time, a game called Zork was created on a large, mainframe computer. In a time when the sort of graphics one would find on an Atari 2600 was the most you could expect from a game, Zork offered us something different, something new. Zork was to be the template for hundreds of similar games, and even years later, it would be the father of games such as Myst and Riven. The concept of Zork was simple: become an adventurer, collect treasure, solve puzzles, battle nasty monsters; all the things that have become the hallmark of the games we play today. There was, however, a catch: you had to do it all in the confines of a simple, text-based program. Read the story, tell the story what you want to do, and then read some more. Simple yet addicting.

Part one of a three part series, The Great Underground Empire starts you off at what is now probably the most familiar landmark ever created for a game: the white house. You begin your adventure with nothing, but you quickly obtain the items you need for survival: a sword of elven design and a lantern. Light is very important in a Zork game, for he who dwelleth for long in darkness is likely to be eaten by a grue. To say any more of the story would ruin the whole adventure, since the story is the adventure.

As I mentioned above, Zork, as of yet, has no graphics. None. Just text on a screen. But...uh...the font is really cool looking. Yeah. And so is the contrast between the text and the background. Sharp and crisp. Marvel at the wonder of the computer age...

Wow, you gotta hear the music in this game. They got all kinds of bands to do the soundtrack. The best damn sound I've ever heard in a game. Imagine totally immersive three-dimensional multi-ambient silence. :-) If you can't tell by now, I'm being sarcastic. There is no sound in Zork I. But it's got a really cool font. Oh yeah, I mentioned that already.

The only downside to Zork is the lack on controller support. I mean, you'd think in a game of this magnitude they'd have you using something besides an archaic keyboard. I can't help myself, I apologize. In Zork, you type in simple commands like: 'pick up sword' or 'kill reviewer with sword'. That sort of thing. The commands are extremely responsive though.

The entire premise behind the Zork series is ingenious. I have rarely been so immersed in a story. Though it is simple by design, playing Zork is anything but easy. The puzzles are wonderful, provoking you with many hours of intense thought. Despite the fact that it is a text game, you still feel immersed in the Great Underground Empire.

No bonuses to be found here. The only thing you can do is curse at the game (type in certain explicatives) and see how it responds. On most Infocom games, you'll receive some sort of reprimand or smart-assed comment in return.

I personally love the Zork games. You can usually find the Zork games bundled together in an anthology or as part of an Infocom collection. I highly recommend Zork to anyone who loves to play games for the mental exercise and great story, nto for the flashy graphics. Give it a try, the Underground Empire awaits...


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 07/05/02


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