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Return to Zork

aka: Return to Zork: An Epic Adventure in the Great Underground Empire, Return to Zork: Ein episches Abenteuer im großen Reich der Unterwell, Return to Zork: Une aventure héroïque dans le Grand Empire Souterrain
Moby ID: 1219
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

You are standing behind the white house. There is something in the mailbox. A video message from a wizard informing you that you are the sweepstakes winner to the Valley of the Sparrows... right now, by magic flight. Upon arriving at this mysterious place however, not everything is as it should be. There's nobody to meet you and those who you do come across don't seem to have any knowledge about a sweepstakes. It looks like this is a private vacation and you'll need to find your own way through this land.

Return to Zork is a first-person adventure game using live actors and video sequences. The game is similar to Myst in interface; the player is also able to rotate the viewpoint to discover new areas and uncover items that can be used or picked up. Various characters will be met along the way and spoken to via a system of dialog choices. The game allows the player to experiment with items in various ways, including discharging them; however, this often leads to "dead ends", rendering it impossible to complete the game.


  • リターン・トゥ・ゾーク - Japanese spelling
  • 决战大魔域 - Traditional Chinese spelling
  • 죠크행성 - Korean spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

99 People (90 developers, 9 thanks) · View all

Art Direction
Technical Direction
Lead Programmer
Audio Engineer
[ full credits ]



Average score: 74% (based on 21 ratings)


Average score: 3.2 out of 5 (based on 92 ratings with 6 reviews)

An adequate adventure, but not very Zorkish.

The Good
There's a lot to like about Return to Zork. It has good graphics (for the time) and a pretty solid design that for the most part eliminates actions that render the game unsolvable, while still maintaining a feel of complexity. In this way it combines the best of both the worlds of graphical and text-based adventuring. It's large, with a wide variety of places to travel too, and sort of a slapdash feel to the whole thing (which is a compliment considering the original text games were put together in much the same way). A few of the puzzles have multiple solutions, and there are plenty of "fun things to try", very much in the spirit of Infocom.

The interface for RTZ is particularly good, with different icons offering different, specific ways to employ an item rather than just "click this on that". For example, you can use your knife by cutting with it, throwing it at something, or even digging. And the ability to take photos and recordings of people and places, and then ask the other characters about them, was brilliant.

And, of course, the best thing about this game: A.J. Langer is in it! (Yes, I'm a fan.)

The Bad
While RTZ is a decent adventure, it's not all that Zorkish. Most of the names and places were newly invented, and only Flood Control Dam #3 stands out as being distinctively from the original Zork universe. It's almost like the designers took an existing adventure game and just stuck some Zork stuff onto it for brand-name familiarity.

There were a couple of pure (i.e. non-plot related, 7th Guest-ish) puzzles, one really horrible puzzle at the very end requiring you to collect EVERY item in the game and throw them over a bridge, and quite a few things that didn't make a whole lot of sense because of poor clues or muddled design. For instance: You learn that carrots are good for your eyes. But eating the carrots yourself doesn't work, you have to feed the carrots to the cow and then milk the cow and drink the milk... huh?! And while there aren't many, a few design problems make it possible to get permanently stuck.

The voice acting is about par for the time, which is to say, not very good... Jason Hervey gave a horrid performance as the cowardly troll, and the singing tree was hideous. Trembyle the wizard and the lighthouse keeper are amusing, though, and Morpheus has a great evil laugh. Most of the characters just reinforce the non-Zorkish feel: It's hard to feel like you're in a different world when you run into people with English, Canadian, and Scottish accents.

The Bottom Line
It took Activision three tries to really get the feel of the Zork universe across graphically. Grand Inquisitor got it right. Nemesis was too dark and humorless. RTZ is middle-of-the-road, lighthearted enough to make the atmosphere work, but fundamentally different enough to detract from it.

DOS · by Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe (1673) · 2001

Zork -- Now with Pictures!

The Good
The first thing I remember about this game is the music. How fantastic are live recordings as background music? I only wish more games had decided to jump aboard this great development.

The Bad
Adventure games can sometimes be plagued by the 'used item' problem -- that is, if you use an item incorrectly, you're stuck. There is nothing more frustrating than realizing you need to restart a game because 2 hours ago, while trying to figure out a problem, you misused part of your inventory. Zork, unfortunately, exhibits this problem on numerous occasions.

Also, the game has 3 distinct maze areas which do nothing put aggravate the player in an attempt to make a longer game.

The Bottom Line
Quite a masterful working of the original Zork world with... well.. graphics. Some players may be upset to see another's vision of what only existed in their heads for so long.

DOS · by Game22 (35) · 2004

Creativity at its finest!

The Good
This is one the most creative games I've ever played:

  • The acting and characters were realistic.
  • The plot is unique.
  • Original redbook audio on the CD.
  • Nice ending well worth the time.

    **The Bad**
    -There is a bug in the game, when you whipe the cloth on the metal piece to shine it, sometimes the cloth will dissappear. And you need it at the end of the game. -This game is IMPOSSIBLE to finish without some sort of hint book or walk through.

    **The Bottom Line**
    I havne't played the other Zork games but when I find the time I will. I encourage you to read the manual and pre-story therein. Some parts of the game are just plain hilarious! The graphics and engine is pretty good considering its a 1993 game. Well worth the play if you have a walk through.
  • DOS · by Deen F (2) · 2000

    [ View all 6 player reviews ]


    1001 Video Games

    Return to Zork appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


    The endgame has one of the most frustrating bugs ever in the history of adventure gaming. In order to reach the final confrontation with the main villain, you have to throw every single item in the game that isn't nailed down into a pit to raise a bridge. The problem is, due to various bugs, you'll sometimes end up not raising the bridge even after throwing everything into the pit, making it impossible to progress to the ending and resulting in you having to restart the game from the very beginning.

    Because this game was made before the WorldWide Web allowed for the widespread distribution of patches to correct post-production bugs, this error was never addressed and anyone playing the game will just have to hope they're lucky and don't run into it.

    Cut Content

    The singing tree mentions some "friends" who have brought you to her. This is a reference to the Mushroom People, who were in the game's original screenplay and design but ultimately cut out of the final version. The tree's reference to them was accidentally left in.


    The creators of Return to Zork weren't familiar with the rest of the series, never having actually played any of the original text games.

    Encyclopedia Frobozicca

    Nino Ruffini, compiler of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica, merged the encyclopedia entries from Sorcerer and Zork Zero with text from some of the other Infocom games' box contents and a few of his own entries. The original version of the Encyclopedia was circulated around Delphi and the rest of the Internet until Activision came across it and asked Ruffini for permission to use it in RTZ so they wouldn't have to recompile everything themselves.

    Floppy Version

    The floppy version of this game came on an incredible 12 floppies! In order to play the game, you had to spend a fair amount of time installing it first by floppy swapping. It proved to be one more reason to get a CD-Rom drive for your computer.

    Macintosh Version

    In the Macintosh version of Return To Zork, many things that were not required for completing the game were eliminated. For example, in the original DOS version, showing the matches to the Lighthouse Keeper would trigger a response "Thank you, I never smoke cough". In the Macintosh version however, he simply has nothing to say about it.

    MPEG Version

    A special version of the game was released with re-encoded MPEG video for both DOS and the Macintosh in 1995. It was exclusively sold as OEM version. The Macintosh version came with the Apple MPEG Media System card and the DOS version came with the ReelMagic card.

    Japanese PC Version

    This version is fully dubbed and all game text are translated. The disc contains installers for DOS/V, PC-98 and FM Towns.

    Korean and Chinese Versions PC Version

    This version is fully dubbed but NO text is translated, not even in the menus. Chinese dialogue was recorded in Taiwan. This version was sold in both Taiwan and Mainland China (and possibly Hong Kong).

    Planetfall Trailer

    Return to Zork came with a trailer for Planetfall. Infocom/Activision was developing a graphic update of the the verenable favorite. Unfortunately, the game never saw the light of day.


    The game's intro video begins with the text on a black screen "You are standing behind the white house. In one corner is a small window which is slightly ajar.". This text is copied from the first thing shown on the screen of the first Zork game. The video then shows you the house and rotates around it before finding the sweepstakes invitation in the mailbox (which is not what happens in the first Zork game).

    Boos Myller's toast is an English translation of a Scots language toast dating from the 19th century. The traditional text is as follows, although there are some common variations:

    Here's tae us!
    Wha's like us?
    Gey few,
    an' they're a' deid!
    (Mair's the pity!)

    Information also provided by Alan Chan, molokaicreeper, Scott Monster, Techademus, Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe, WildKard and trembyle


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    Related Sites +

    • Design documents
      Resources collected for The Zork Compendium. Includes design documents, letters, storyboards, scripts, maps and sketches used during the development of the game.
    • Game Nostalgia
      Provides extensive background info for Return to Zork, pictures of the cast and examples of voice-overs, full credits with shots and info about the design team, a demo of the game, specific details about the game, various goodies, all musical themes, shots of every location in the game, saved games, a list of reviews, including a "nostalgic "review and tech specs.
    • Museum of Computer Adventure Game History
      Contains scans of the manual and official BradyGames guide by Peter Spear.
    • Playing Return to Zork Windows XP
      Instructions by Inferno will tell you how
    • ScummVM
      supports Return to Zork under Windows, Linux, Macintosh and other platforms.
    • The Infocom Bugs List
      Consolidated list of bugs by Graeme Cree, originally appearing in XYZZY newsletters.

    Identifiers +

    • MobyGames ID: 1219
    • [ Please login / register to view all identifiers ]


    Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

    Contributors to this Entry

    Game added by Derrick 'Knight' Steele.

    PC-FX, SEGA Saturn added by Corn Popper. Windows added by Dragom. PlayStation added by Kabushi. FM Towns, PC-98 added by Terok Nor. Macintosh added by Cyborg.

    Additional contributors: Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe, Jeanne, Shoddyan, martin jurgens, ケヴィン, Macs Black, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, trembyle, Colette Lambert.

    Game added March 28, 2000. Last modified May 26, 2024.