"Sadly, Zork lost its humor and spontaneity somewhere between II and III. The final game, in which you must seek to take over the Dungeon Master's mantle, was a disappointment for me even discounting that the packaging wasn't as cheery as before. Most of its jokes are homages to the first two games, and there are two frighteningly hard puzzles required to win. And the worst part is that, unlike the previous installments, the score is not terribly complex. In Zork I and II you got points for f..."
Sadly, Zork lost its humor and spontaneity somewhere between II and III. The final game, in which you must seek to take over the Dungeon Master's mantle, was a disappointment for me even discounting that the packaging wasn't as cheery as before. Most of its jokes are homages to the first two games, and there are two frighteningly hard puzzles required to win. And the worst part is that, unlike the previous installments, the score is not terribly complex. In Zork I and II you got points for finding items, up to 350 and 400. Zork III gave Potential Points where you could have all seven and still be nowhere close to solving the game or even perhaps stuck, unable to solve it. There's also much less fun treasure to find, and being able to fake out a grue, visit other games briefly, or see a surprisingly funny take on time travel doesn't change my overall bland impression of this game. When it's not bland, it's artificial, which seems underscored when your sword, which lies in a stone, leaps into your hand with combat pending--a cheap rip-off of the Arthurian legend. It's your first time exploring the ruins of the GUE, officially, and unfortunately there's a slight crumbling of the Zork series to go with it.
Zork III also has its problems with roadblocks, i.e. actions that preclude you from winning the game. Early on there is an earthquake that puts one area off limits and opens another one. There's also a problem with the text parser, shocking for an Infocom game. If you type 'Climb rope' instead of 'Grab rope' at one point, you miss out on an important item without any explanation. Another one may allow you to say a catch-phrase the other two games allude to, but you've only got a turn to do so, or a later puzzle will be excruciating. There's even a combat where the correct option isn't terribly clear, and you can kill someone you don't intend to(there's some luck required to wound him critically.)
The locations themselves are not as sharp as they could be. There's a scenic vista in one direction from the pool that forms the centerpiece of the game, which leads to scenes from Zork I and II as well as another Infocom game. You have a vague shadowy area off to the left of the entrance as well, and in general the game is too compartmentalized. There's a small puzzle where you push stone blocks around on a grid which, in a way, has far more locations than any other area.
But the game's most painful part is that there are two frightening puzzles. One would probably be more appropriate in a science fiction environment, basically involving rotation and thrust. The vehicle is nowhere near as whimsical and romantic as the raft and hot air balloon you've seen before. The other puzzle is in the same area as the best part of the game--a time travel escapade where you must bring back a treasure from a museum(it's tough to hide something for almost two centuries.) It's the stone block puzzle, and it seems physically impossible given the descriptions; the way I see it, you wind up crushing a ladder needed to climb out of the pit against a wall. The game gives you a text map which is less palatable than the usual descriptions. Even though the puzzle is not too arcane once you know the rules, it's also a focal point of conversations I've had about Zork III, and not a flattering one.
One of the reasons I disliked this game so much on the old Apple is because I found it too hard to play through without a save disk. That's a less valid complaint now, but I have always found Zork at its best when it's slightly irreverent. The only time Zork III really achieves this is in the time travel part, where you have multiple changed messages on a bronze plaque if you fail to bring treasure back. However, this, along with the ability to take alternate paths to your goal(there are two ways beyond the dreaded Guardians of Zork,) can't save an otherwise dull text adventure that seems shorter than its forefathers. When I finally solved the Windows version, which requires ordering the wizard around a bit(just like the robot in Zork II, only he verifies your request) the emotional impact was rather more like getting through an overdue load of laundry or remembering to buy new washcloths than what the writers intended.
--appropriate ending and admirable try at more than treasure-grabbing
--the time machine episode is good
--puzzles are original(if incomprehensible)
--ties up some loose ends from Zork I and II
Zude, Zis Zame's Zor Zorks!
--what happened to the cool scoring/ranking system?
--alarmingly serious turn out of place in Zork
--the references to Zork I and II are the best part
--regaining your 'friend' the sword is cheesy, and you ditch the brass lantern too quickly as well
--a little too randomized
Community review by aschultz (April 15, 2009)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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