Is Zork Zero a good game?

Is Zork Zero a good game or is it not worth it? Thanks.

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Worth what? (reviews) (development history)

Such a binary choice! I’ve been of two minds about Zork Zero since I first played it in 1997, from Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom. It was a huge, complete, fully-implemented, technological tour de force from the dying Infocom. It was also a blatant last grasp at those sweet Zork revenues.

Released in 1988, Zork Zero was the first game to use Infocom’s YZIP, aka version 6 of the Z-machine. The MS-DOS release (what I played) used the MCGA mode (320x200x256) of the VGA to do something we hadn’t seen from them before: illustrations. Now there was no way they were going to cram a picture per location onto the distribution media, so there’s a compass rose showing open and blocked exits, decorative borders that change based on the map area, and a few graphics for special puzzles.

Oh, the puzzles! Not going to spoil, but name a small classic puzzle/riddle/combinatorial game-thingy, and it’s in there. If you play, you may likely end up cursing the name of Bozbar. It can be pretty frustrating to arrive at a new area, spot a few objects, and recognize with a sinking feeling what tedious manipulations you have to go through there.

This game is really old school for its late date. It’s an undisguised treasure hunt. There’s an early light puzzle that makes it unplayable without the feelies (you have to refer to the feelies again and again, you dirty pirate). The randomly-appearing jester is far more of an obstacle than the thief from Zork I. There’s a vast array of takeable objects, an inventory limit, and no carryall. At least there’s no hunger daemon.

Remember all those throwaway bits of Zorkian lore and GUE history that gave flavor and humor to the feelies of the Zork games? Steve Meretzky sure did! Zork III is arguably the only other game where any of those details really matter, but they’re everywhere woven into the plot of Zork Zero. Plot? Well, it’s a treasure hunt, but its mission is to be a prequel.

Built-in Invisiclues had been a thing at least since Nord and Bert, but this game used them best. The hints tell you everything you need that’s not in the feelies, down to move-by-move solutions of puzzly games.

It can be a technical challenge to play a graphical YZIP game on a modern system. Few interpreters are up to it. Besides playing in an emulator, I’ve successfully used xfrotz, grotz, and Zoom. The first two I had to compile myself. So it’s legitimate to ask whether Zork Zero is worth the trouble. I say yes, but I’m a hardcore Infocom fanboy. I’ve been known to play Cutthroats!

Zork Zero is possibly below Infocom’s average, but still a good game. I love Meretzky’s comic delivery, even when he’s telling moldy oldies (which is not all the time). There’s some authentic joy to the map exploration, and he didn’t use graphics as an excuse to skimp on the quality prose. I’m glad they got this one out the door before shutting down.


^That’s what I enjoyed most about Zork Zero. There’s a lot of work done to fit together all the various bits and pieces of the Great Underground Empire in a context that offers — well, it’s not a logical context, but I had fun exploring it.

@Nathan thanks for the info. I recently got an apple ii computer and was looking for a good first game. Zork Zero sounded good because Zork is acclaimed and it was apparently the prequel to the series. Are there any standalone InfoCom games that are great for introducing someone to the series? I was looking at A Mind Forever Voyaging. I know everyone says Trinity is the best but it doesn’t appeal to me.


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Double Fanucci

Double Fanucci


Legend has it that Double Fanucci (or Fanucci) was invented by the deposed Zilbo III in the late seventh century. A game of tremendous complexity and almost infinite rules, King Mumberthrax proclaimed it the national sport in 757 GUE. This proclamation merely gave official approval to those who had been holding annual Fanucci tournaments since 691 GUE. These Championships, held in Borphee during the first week of autumn, frequently leave thousands homeless.

Despite years of research, our team from the Frobozz Magic Appendix Compilers Company has been unable to get a complete grasp of this game. Fanucci is in fact so complicated that some who do not wish to waste the time required to learn the rules simply play a corrupted version of the game, known as Gabber Tumper, or opt for Solitaire Fanucci, in which the rules against cheating are much less stringent. Those who do elect to brave the dangers of Fanucci are immediately faced with an immense deck of 174 cards.

This deck is divided into face cards and suits. The 15 suits (Mazes, Books, Rain, Bugs, Fromps, Inkblots, Scythes, Plungers, Faces, Time, Lamps, Hives, Ears, Zurfs, and Tops) each have eleven cards, valued at 0-9 and Infinity. The face cards are as follows: Granola, Death, Light, Snail, Beauty, Time, Grue, Lobster, and Jester.

At the start of the game a player is dealt four of these cards, and at any point during the game when the player has less than four cards, he can take another card from the top of the discard pile. Play progresses with players taking one turn after the other, either drawing or discarding a card or using one of their current cards to execute a special play. These possible plays are as follows: Combine , Single-Play , Double-Play , Pass , Overpass , Trump , Undertrump , Reverse , Muttonate , Divide , and Ionize

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Wishbringer is supposedly a Beginner level game, and seems to be set in the Zork (perhaps “Zork-adjacent”?) universe.

I’m a big fan of Beyond Zork which has some light RPG elements with stats, a map (onscreen!) and puzzles that reconfigure slightly on each play - specific spells and wands and potions will be randomly distributed for each play-through in rogue-like fashion, forcing you to experiment and often altering how puzzles must be approached.

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I personally really enjoyed Plundered Hearts. It’s billed as a romance but it’s more of a pirate story, and a gripping one at that.


I just played through Plundered Hearts based on this recommendation, and what a treat it was! I had kind of shunned this title in the past (you know, romance…) but it was such an engaging story!