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RETURN TO ZORK

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill & Lela


WITCH ITAH Way back in 1980, when personal home computers were a brand new thing which everyone said wouldn't catch on, and graphics for them were only an impossible daydream, a small company called Infocom published the first commercially available computer game.  It was called Zork.  It was an interactive fantasy story, text only, and it took the world by storm, becoming an unprecedented phenomenal success that jumpstarted the whole computer gaming industry.

Zork was the story of a hidden underground magical realm, the Great Underground Empire.  It was a feast for the imagination:  a place of unicorns and trolls and grues and spells, and a humorous place where anything could happen, and usually did.  And it was so popular that 8 more text games about Zork were produced, with Zork fans numbering in the millions worldwide.

Valley of the VulturesBut eventually computer graphics made text adventures obsolete, although they still have many fans today. Activision bought Infocom, including the rights to Zork.  The Wonderful World of Zork was apparently gone forever, never to rise again... and fans everywhere mourned.  Then, lo and behold, fully five years after the last Zork text adventure, Activision published 'Return to Zork'!  And Zork fans could see, for the very first time, what they had never been able to see before:  a story about Zork with full live-action videos, graphics, and real Hollywood actors.

You see, according to Zork history (yes, it had its own history!), the Great Underground Empire was destroyed over 400 years ago, and all evil magic was dispersed in 'The Great Diffusion'.  But now the Illumynite Mining Company claims to have discovered the Empire's ruins beneath the Valley of the Sparrows and, knowing a money-making opportunity when they see one, they are planning to build a Resort there and sell Timeshares.  And so they have created a 'Vacation Sweepstakes' to get potential buyers.

WIZARD TREMBYLE: Can you hear me?  I need a new battery!The game begins in the same way that the old Zork text adventure did:  you are at a white house, see a mailbox, and open it. You find an announcement which says that you're the winner of a 4 days and 3 nights all-expense-paid vacation at their Resort, which is located in West Shanbar on the Road to the South in the Valley of the Sparrows.  Included with your tickets are a free camera, tape recorder, and a 'Tele-Orb' so that you can have onscreen helpful commentary on your trip. You decide to go.

But as soon as you approach the pass leading down into the Valley of the Sparrows, you begin to suspect that something is wrong. Because it seems to have been renamed the Valley of the Vultures!  And when you make inquiries, you are told that the Road to the South is impassable!

BOOS: Want some Rye? Course ya do!So how do you get to West Shanbar? And once there, how do you explain all the nightmares of Morpheus that people have been having, and the complete disappearance of people and whole buildings?  Where has East Shanbar gone?  What's going on here?

This is a 1st person, point & click adventure, with inventory and a choice of conversational tones (from threatening to friendly) to use when talking to others.  A map feature is gradually added to as you visit places, eventually becoming two pages long and indispensable to fly with in the last half of the game. The Zorkian names for the days and months that you will need are included in your manual.  And yes, you can die in this game, so make sure that you save often and under different names.  But once you do save, go ahead and try dying... all of the different death screens are hysterical, and should not be missed.

The original soundtrack is absolutely superb, and the CD can be played on your audio equipment (start from Track 2).  We particularly like the Forest of the Spirits theme... turn on your speakers and refresh to hear a smidgen of a midi version of that theme now.

Did you have to try to cross the bridge?It is a very long game, a mixture of computer graphics and video, with extremely good, difficult puzzles that are part of the story, and many fascinating places to visit.

But best of all are the inspired, funny, and unforgettable characters, acted beautifully (for the most part) by both old-time actors and undiscovered ones.  We will never forget (and found ourselves imitating) the hotel clerk who kept telling us in her southern accent how much we stank, the lighthouse keeper with his touch of Alzheimer's, the Guardian who takes away your possessions if you do something unbecoming to an adventurer, or Witch Itah.  And who can ever forget Boos, with his "Want some Rye?  Course ya do"!

It's a wonderful game, one of the all time great classics, and one of our personal favorites... a game that you will never forget!

Show me one token please!
Full View Screenshot

For some fun things to try after you finish playing the game, click HERE.

There is a Version 1.2 PATCH available for both the PC CD-ROM Version and the 3.5 Inch Disks Version that fixes some sound problems and a possible related lock-up as you enter the Forest of the Spirits. Possibly some other things as well.

Developed (1993) and published by Activision.

Rated:   NR   for Not Rated

Minimum System Requirements:  DOS   MAC

Where To Buy This Game:

Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Walkthrough" available here!

"Walkthrough" available here!


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Copyright  1998, Revised 2001
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