beginning was ZORK I. Then there came ZORK II, followed finally by
ZORK III. Finally? But when, in the Scenic Vista room of ZORK III,
the indicator on the wall said IV and you were magically transported
to a strange altar, surely that was a preview of ZORK IV? Well, yes
and no. The next fantasy game from Infocom was called Enchanter. But
sure enough, deep in the middle of the Castle was that very altar
(where you died yet again!), and if you check the diskette you will
find the code Z4 on the corner of it.
Apparently the good people at Infocom discussed it long and hard
before eventually deciding to move away from the name ZORK. They
wanted to stress the fact that this was indeed a new series of
adventures, with the protagonist cast as a Magic User rather than a
Fighter. But the adventures continued to take place in the same
mystic realm, indeed the young magician in Enchanter meets the
adventurer from Zork I in his travels. Grues, Flatheads, and Frobozz
Magic Items are everywhere. In Sorceror (Zork V) you even find an
encyclopaedia and can read all about the history of this strange
land, and you also reach the Western shore of the Great Underground
Ocean. You wandered on the Eastern shores of it in Zork III. At the
end of Sorceror the game promised that the trilogy would be
completed in the not too distant future.
year, that Infocom were releasing a new fantasy game entitled
Wishbringer caused a great deal of speculation. But this turned out
to be a Beginner Level game - hardly a worthy successor to the
previous five? All becomes clear when you check the code on the
diskette label - ZO! And, as an introduction to the series, an
Finally, this year (last year if you have an ST or a friend in
America), Spellbreaker appeared. It was well worth the wait.
Enchanter is classed as Standard, Sorceror as Advanced, and
Spellbreaker as Expert. Unless you are a real masochist it is
probably worth playing some of the earlier adventures first, but if
you wish to you can start with Spellbreaker. You don't need to have
played the others first, but you will get more fun out of the
references to people like your old mentor, Belboz, if you have. That
said, Spellbreaker does tend to have less references to the rest of
the series than most of the other games.
As far as the implementation is concerned, need I say more than that
it is by Infocom? It understands English. It has as much text inside
it as the average novel. It is extremely enjoyable to play. As the
adventure starts you are at a meeting to discuss what is going wrong
with magic. The fact that everyone in the room except you is
suddenly turned into a reptile tends to confirm your fears that
things are not quite right! Chasing a shadowy figure out of the
Council Chamber you find yourself in the middle of your first
problem - you are stuck in a thick and acrid cloud of orange smoke.
Once you solve this you will find your first small white cube. Until
you discover the secret of the cube you are stuck in a very small
area. Unlocking the secret of the cube will take you to a strange
place which leads to even stranger place - a cave inhabited by a
sneezing ogre, an avalanche prone cliff side, an ancient ruin, and a
giant snake, blocking three passages due to the fact that it is
swallowing it's own tail! You will also start finding new spells.
As in the previous two parts of the trilogy, you own a spell book
containing numerous spells, including old familiar ones like FROTZ
for making light and YOMIN for mindprobing, as well as new ones such
as JINDAK to detect magic and LESOCH to create a wind. You will need
to supplement these with spells found on scrolls which, apart from
the most powerful spells, can be GNUSTOed into your spell book and
used over and over again.
If you succeed in making progress against any of the numerous
problems which beset you, the one thing you are guaranteed about is
that you will find more cubes! And they are all identical in
appearance! The first couple you find you can keep track of, but as
you get more and more you will find it impossible. Never fear! There
is not just one, but two, ways of distinguishing between the cubes.
And you will need to do so since there are no less than seventeen of
them! (You don't, indeed can't, actually acquire all of them, but
you don't really think I'm going to tell you how many YOU have to
find do you ?)
Each cube opens up new locations for you to explore. At first it all
seems very disjointed, but you should eventually discover that
things do actually join together a bit better than at first appears.
The spells, artifacts, locations, denizens, and puzzles are many and
varied. Definitely not for the fainthearted and perhaps a little
less humorous than some of the previous episodes, but solving all
the puzzles and finally defeating the shadowy figure will be without
doubt a joy for Zork-addicts and puzzle-fiends everywhere.
The author, Dave Lebling (make sure you read the glyphs on the
pillar in the Grues' cave!), co-authored the original mainframe Zork
(a strange and primitive mixture of what we now know as Zork I and
Zork II), as well as Zork I, II, III and Enchanter. He also wrote
Starcross and Suspect.
Spellbreaker was well worth the wait. Now that Infocom has finished
their second Fantasy Trilogy - what next? Surely this can't be the
end of the Grues?