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

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 74% (based on 21 ratings)

Player Reviews

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

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

    Graphics and sound, but no "Zorkness"

    The Good
    Well there are plenty of nice photographic backgrounds and fine background music. The script is quite good, has good humour just like the original Zork Trilogy and is well acted. I also like the idea of detective work by photography and speech recording.

    The Bad
    Normally I complete a game before reviewing it, but Return to Zork was too much a test of my patience. So at the beginning we get to the see the white house from the very first Zork game(text-adventure, 1980). Then we're moved to the game's main setting, the Valley of the Vultures, from which we find another trapdoor entrance the "Great Underground Empire"(Zork). There appears only a loose connection to original Zork Trilogy. I felt the very first Zork text adventure had a lot of charm to it. The game was a simple treasure hunt really, but I think, done really well. Return to Zork has a plot in which a villain called Morphius is controlling the people of Shanbar through their dreams, causing them to move underground and rebuild their town. Or something like that anyway. I found the storytelling very vague and I didn't enjoy having to piece it all together from the little bits of knowledge scattered around. Not far into the adventure I got a bit stuck so I decided to check a walkthrough rather than spend my precious time scrutinizing everything to try and find the way forward. When I found out what the way forward actually was, I realized that I was not going to have the time and patience get through the game without reliance of a walkthrough. Even if I could work out some sort of objective, the game is full of strange problems and solutions that seem to require the player's utter commitment. I tried my best to enjoy the game by piecing together the plot and determining what my purpose is and I carefully checked the walkthrough to make sure I didn't misstep and screw up the whole game(there's an item at the start of the game that you have to "take correctly", otherwise I don't think you can't win the game i.e you're screwed from the start and don't even know it). But I decided that I'd given all I could when a bug messed up the game. I was in a forest, one of the game's mazes, and I'd just saved the game, only to realized that something had gone wrong and I couldn't make the mouse pointer change into an arrow and allow me move forward or change my facing. The game's puzzles are bad enough, but combined with bugs, it's unbearable. I wanted to play it, because of it's connection to the Zork Trilogy, which I'm still very fond of, but I don't think this game particularly does a service to those games. There are references to things of the Zork Trilogy of course e.g grues, the Flatheads, the GUE calendar, Frobozz Corp., but I'm still much happier replaying Zork I than this, text-only and all. The good script, sound, graphics and acting arn't good enough to sustain me through all the game's troubles.

    The Bottom Line
    If you loved one or all of the Zork Trilogy you'll not necessarily enjoy Return to Zork. The Zork Trilogy is very challenging just as Return to Zork is, but you could say that the games challenge and reward differently. You may like the idea of finally getting Zork with graphics, but the game doesn't really feel like an expansion of the Zork Trilogy or either Beyond Zork(1987) or Zork Zero(1989). I don't think fans of the earlier Zork games would necessarily feel as though Zork was genuinely being kept current by this game.

    DOS · by Andrew Fisher (697) · 2017

    One of the best adventure games

    The Good
    The graphics were very good for its time (1993.) I also liked the use of the FMV videos. Basically an all round good game.

    The Bad
    I didn't like the fact that it was too hard. You cannot finish this game without some kind of walkthrough or hint system, but thats all thats wrong with it.

    The Bottom Line
    I would get it if you like adventure games, and play the original zork text adventures. It helps if you do.

    DOS · by James1 (240) · 2001

    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.

    DOS · by Shoddyan (15000) · 2005

    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 (1674) · 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

    Contributors to this Entry

    Critic reviews added by Patrick Bregger, Crawly, Jeanne, Alsy, Bozzly, Sun King, Scaryfun, Havoc Crow, Parf, Xoleras, Tim Janssen, mo , RhYnoECfnW, Mr Creosote, trembyle.