Zork I: The Great Underground Empire

1981 Infocom
Designed by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
Reviewed 1995 November 1

Rating +0 Linearity open
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance weak
Interface text parser Real-time none

Zork I sets the standard for adventure games. You are free to explore the Great Underground Empire in your own fashion, making it truly feel like exploring. One of the strengths of Zork is its sense of fun. It plays with allusions, but without getting too silly.

Your mission in Zork is to explore the modern remains of what was once a great, underground, magic empire; i.e., the ruins of what was once a typical fantasy setting. You must collect treasures and survive.

The weakness of Zork I is its story and background. There is little more than greed to propel you through the dungeon: collect treasures for fun and profit. The characters you encounter have no depth, and the settings are just there to challenge you. These were small considerations when Zork was first released, but they date the game from the perspective of "interactive fiction".

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Solution by me.

Related reviews:

  • The Zork Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.