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Return to Zork (DOS)

74
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.4
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  WildKard (12149)
Written on  :  Jul 25, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars

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Summary

The Encyclopedia Frobozzica manual is more entertaining than the game.

The Good

I had high hopes for this game when I bought it. Finally, after years since I had first played it on my ATARI 800XL, someone had come to remake Zork. I was excited.

The Introduction video blew me away... it references the original game nicely and features a great fly-by over terrain. And I'd have to say that some of the characters are quite memorable and humorous, every one of them a bit odd. The puzzles are challenging (though not always logical) and there's lots of different places to explore.

And the Encyclopedia Frobozzica that comes with the game contains everything you ever wanted to know about Zork and plenty you didn't. It also references various other Infocom games, such as Wishbringer.

The Bad

First of all, it just doesn't feel like Zork. For some reason, many of the goofy characters just don't seem like the madmen of the Underground Empire. Instead they seem like.. very confused individuals who have wandered into the game by accident. Maybe it's just me, but the dialog with a lot of the characters just seemed unrewarding and left me wondering why they didn't provide useful information. Sure sure, this adds challenge to the game, but it also added to the next point I'm about to make:

The world feels uncomfortably empty. There's a reason for this. The great Underground Empire has fallen, and there's not much living above it. But there just seems to be an absence of life overall in the world. The characters you do meet are few and far between... perhaps that's one of the reasons I was expecting them to be helpful. And Return to Zork's not that large a game, so there should be enough characters with what we have here to populate it... but it's always felt cold to me... with many ways to die. My god it was easy to die! Of course come to think of it, it was easy to die in the original Zork's anyway. And many of Infocom's other adventures. Still, I never liked it back then either...

It also felt that for the amount of information included in the Encyclopedia Frobozzica (which it turns out wasn't written by Activision), there would have been a lot more substance to Return to Zork. Instead, only a couple of tiny things are ever seen, and even the video display of Flood Control Dam #3 felt anticlimatic somehow. (I also remember complaining about the quality of the video... and remember, this was a new game at the time!)

The Bottom Line

I haven't experienced any of the other Zork games since this one, and the main reason is probably because I left here with a bad taste in my mouth. In the end.... I just got a whole lot more fun reading the Encyclopedia included with the game and felt that it alone promised more than the game portion actually delivered.

I should point out that when I bought Return to Zork, I hadn't experienced Myst (still haven't actually) or any other first-person game.... or at least any other cdrom/video first person game. This was breaking ground for me, and in the end... I just never quite got into it. Since then I've only played a couple more, including Sierra's Rama and it felt a lot more vibrant and rich than Return to Zork did.