Zork Zero
By Infocom
Amiga 500

Published in Zzap #52

Zork Zero

For about ten years after being formed by some MIT boffins Infocom produced only business software. Then they saw the Colossal Cave Adventure. The Zork trilogy was the result and the company hasn't looked back since. Not until now, that is. Currently making some radical changes to its previously text-only format, Infocom have decided to produce a Zork prequel in the new style.

Over ninety years ago, the great wizard Megaboz cast a curse which destroyed the ruling family: Lord Dimwit the Excessive and his eleven brothers and sisters. No-one cried any tears over this at the time - Dimwit behaved like a spoilt child, having a birthday every week and expecting a present from each of his subjects! And he didn't earn his nickname for nothing: his coronation took thirteen years to plan and lasted eighteen months! The problem was that the curse was to cause the destruction of the entire empire of Quendor in 94 years time. That apocalyptic time is drawing painfully close, so the current king, Wurb Flathead, has offered half the riches of the kingdom to the person who can allay the curse.

Included in the packaging is a scrap of parchment which one of your ancestors picked up after it fell out of Megaboz's pocket while he was casting the infamous curse (you actually play out this short scene before starting the adventure proper). The scrap of paper tells how to stop the curse - put two items belonging to each of the twelve Flatheads in the bubbling cauldron in the Great Hall of the castle. So you know what items to look for, useful (and very humorous) information about the Flatheads is to be found in the 'Flathead Calendar' which accompanies the game.

Zork Zero: The Revenge Of Megaboz

The members of the family range from the artistic Leonardo Flathead to Thomas Alva Flathead, inventor of such useful items as the magic room spinner and a potion which allowed humans to talk to plants (I wonder if Prince Charles is descended from the Flatheads?!).

Living up to Dimwit's excessive reputation, the castle is huge, containing many secret passages and rooms. It's also full of weird and wonderful items including a lobster, a bag of flamingo food and (of course?!) a flamingo. To aid you (or sometimes hinder you) a jolly jester makes the occasional appearance, but he will only help if you're able to answer his riddles. Once you find a way out of the castle, there's a whole kingdom to explore. For this, the on-screen mapping facility is a welcome feature, as are the in-built hints.

Graphics are few and far between, but when they do appear, they're of a high quality - much better than having mediocre pictures for every location. Plain 80 column text (difficult to read on most TVs!) is the norm however, although the detailed screen surrounds add a touch of polish.

Location and item descriptions are of a highly humorous type - author Steve Meretzky's previous work includes The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Leather Goddesses Of Phobos. Combine the brilliant text with the typically friendly Infocom parser plus fiendishly perplexing puzzles and you have one great adventure game, easily living up to the superb Zorkian reputation. Hilariously funny and a considerable challenge.