Zork 1: The Great Underground Empire logo

Take the road to adventure with Dave Eriksson

THE original Adventure game appeared in the mid-seventies and was to be found on many mainframe computers. For all its success, there were some who wanted to see an improved operating system, as Adventure only accepted simple commands showing each character's status.

In 1977 a group of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a new parser that would understand commands like: KILL TROLL WITH SWORD, OPEN GREY BOX and GET ALL BOOKS EXCEPT THE RED ONE.
The first game to use this was Zork. Originally developed on a Dec 10, it was later converted for other computers but in each case required a memory of megabytes rather than kilobytes. With the rise of the micro the operating system for Zork was rewritten in ZIL, Zork Implementation Language. The saving in memory was fantastic.

Presently Infocom has games for more tastes but recently discontinued production of over half of the Amiga titles. Some are real classics and should be in everyone's collection. If you act quickly, at least one mail order house has many for only £12. Buy now, I'm sure you'll not regret it.

APART from its parser, the main feature of an Infocom game is the highly descriptive text. Although complex commands are possible they require the first six letters of a word to be typed in, rather than the more usual four. Infocom games are as good as anything else on the market, but I feel that we should not be blinded by hype. I wonder how many players actually type in TAKE EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE BLUE BLOOK, rather than TAKE ALL, followed by DROP BLUE BOOK.

Underground Zork 1 is a great adventure. Of all the early Infocom offerings, this is one for the beginner. It is not easy, but is fun and brings a great sense of achievement when you win through each puzzle.
Also known as The Great Underground Adventure, Zork 1 starts outside an apparently deserted house in the middle of wooded country. The entrance to the underground domain is in the house, but the countryside around also has hidden treasures. Your prime aim is to gather treasures and put them in a trophy case.

Drawing a map as you go is vital but complications arise when exploring the two mazes. The standard method to map a maze is to drop objects so you can identify a location when you go back to it. However there is a thief roaming around, so objects dropped may not be there when you return. You will meet other characters, some of whom you will have to fight. This was a first for the original Zork.

DIAGNOSE will display your state of health and, if wounded, the number of turns to full recovery. The location descriptions are very colourful and you may choose their length with VERBOSE, BRIEF or SUPERBRIEF.

There is the unusual option of being able to ask questions with commands such as WHAT IS XXX? Or WHERE IS XXX? You may not always get a useful answer.
Try asking WHAT IS A GRUE? Grues are Infocom's own special nasties that will grab you if you stay too long in the dark. A battery operated lantern is found in the house. Use it with care, as batteries will not last forever. There are matches, candles and a torch so, keep your eyes open for sources of light.

The underground system is not a natural cave system as in the original Adventure, but is created by a mixture of magic and really high technology. You will come across a hi-tech dam, a coal mine and the entrance to Hades. His game is devious: watch your score closely to see how well you are doing.

Do not take too much underground to start with: you will not be able to carry many treasures back to that trophy case. You can find several weapons, some of which are more effective than others. Read books very carefully. Remember that they may have more than one page, and SAVE your game position before pressing any buttons.