about ten years after being formed by some MlT boffins,
Infocom produced only business software. Then they saw
the Colossal Cave Adventure. The Zork
trilogy was the result and the company hasn't looked
back since. Not until now that is. Currently making
some radical changes to its previously text-only format,
Infocom have decided to produce a Zork prequel
in the new style.
90 years ago the great wizard Megaboz cast a curse which
destroyed the ruling family: Lord Dimwit the Excessive
and his eleven brothers and sisters. No-one cried any
tears over this at the time -- Dimwit behaved like a
spoilt child, having a birthday every week and expecting
a present from each of his subjects! And he didn't earn
his nickname for nothing: his coronation took thirteen
years to plan and lasted eighteen months! The problem
was that the curse was to cause the destruction of the
entire empire of Quendor in 94 years time. That apocalyptic
time is drawing painfully close, so the current king,
Wurb Flathead, has offered half the riches of the kingdom
to the person who can allay the curse.
Dimwit's massive castle.
in the packaging is a scrap of parchment which one of
your ancestors picked up after it fell out of Megaboz's
pocket while he was casting the infamous curse (you
actually play out this short scene before starting the
adventure proper). The scrap of paper tells how to stop
the curse -- put two items belonging to each of the
twelve Flatheads in the bubbling cauldron in the Great
Hall of the castle. So you know what items to look for;
useful (and very humorous) information about the Flatheads
is to be found in the 'Flathead Calendar' which accompanies
the game. The members of the family range from the artistic
Leonardo Flathead to Thomas Alva Flathead, inventor
of such useful items as the magic room spinner and a
potion which allowed humans to talk to plants (I wonder
if Prince Charles is descended from the Flatheads?!).
rebus obscured by animal shapes.
up to Dimwit's excessive reputation, the castle is huge,
containing many secret passages and rooms. It's also
full of weird and wonderful items, including a lobster,
a bag of flamingo food and (of course?!) a flamingo.
To aid you (or sometimes hinder you) a jolly jester
makes the occasional appearance, but he will only help
if you're able to answer his riddles. Once you find
a way out of the castle, there's a whole kingdom to
explore. For this, the onscreen mapping facility is
a welcome feature, as are the in-built hints.
are few and far between, but when they do appear they're
of a high quality -- much better than having mediocre
pictures for every location. Plain 80 column text (difficult
to read on most TVs) is the norm however, although the
detailed screen surrounds add a touch of polish. Location
and item descriptions are of a highly humorous type
-- author Steve Meretzky's previous work includes The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Leather
Goddesses of Phobos. Combine the brilliant text
with the typically friendly Infocom parser plus fiendishly
perplexing puzzles and you have one great adventure
game, easily living up to the superb Zorkian reputation.
Hilariously funny and a considerable challenge.