Monday, 25 September 2017

Zork Marathon: 1983 Books & Yearly Wrap-Up

Written by Joe Pranevich



It’s been twelve months since we started this increasingly misnamed “Zork Marathon” and I thought it was worth a few minutes to pause and look back on the games we played and look forward on the games ahead. This year, we’ve more or less taken the story of Infocom from the exploration phase at MIT with Dungeon/mainframe Zork, through the formation of the company, up through the first ten games-- five years worth of history. Behind the scenes, the cancer that would eventually destroy Infocom was already growing: Cornerstone, the business product that some hoped would bring them respectability was well underway. We have plenty of time and a few more games before we get to that grim milestone.

Before we can look back, we have one more detail in 1983 to close out on: the first three Zork books. Since almost the beginning, Infocom had been creative with its marketing and its packaging. Most of the games had “feelies” and custom boxes-- Starcross literally rolled off the shelves due to its flying saucer-shaped boxes. But as Enchanter was launching, someone on the team thought that doing a gamebook tie-in would be a good idea. This would allow them to market the new game while also indirectly promoting the still-hot previous Zork titles. They could have gone to an established writer (as they would later), but instead they reached out to jack-of-all-traces Steve Meretzky, fresh from launching Planetfall. The results are somewhat surprising...

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Missed Classic: Infidel - Won! (Lost!?) and Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich



A few days ago, I took my first deep dive into Infidel’s hidden pyramid. Powered by a flaming torch and a sense of narcissistic optimism, I discovered a long-buried burial barge, a hidden underground temple containing two chalices, a cube maze with a hidden door, and an Indiana Jones-style weight puzzle to recover four gem clusters. Thus far, after a disappointing start, I am coming to enjoy the game. Mike Berlyn has a good handle on puzzles and has managed to keep the game grounded in a sense of realism. The hieroglyphics have been fun to puzzle through, though a bit inscrutable. More importantly, they have been just understandable enough, with effort, that I could advance through a puzzle or two.

I am reluctant to admit this, but the solution to my “plaster wall” problem was embarrassingly simple: I just had to destroy the wall with my axe. I had avoided this solution in large part because no real archeologist would deliberately destroy priceless artifacts like that, but it appears to be the only way to advance. At least in my mind, I could imagine myself cataloging each of the rooms as I came to them, carefully labeling where I found this treasure or that. But take an ace to a wall? Not really how I’d approach it. It was bad enough that we broke the statue last time, but at least that was an accident...

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Missed Classic: Infidel - Walk Like an Egyptian

Written by Joe Pranevich



It’s our special Zork Marathon Anniversary Week! We’re giving the regular reviewers the week off so that we can quickly sprint to the end of Infocom’s 1983. I had a dim hope that I might be able to start Sorcerer too, but that will likely be a bit much. With luck, we’ll get Infidel defeated before doing a special 1983 wrap-up and then a bonus post. It should be fun and I’ll just hope there are no unexpected distractions that blow-up the schedule.

Last week, I started Infidel and crossed the first major hurdle by discovering the location of a long lost pyramid. This was after my character pissed off his work crew so much that they left him for dead in the desert heat, but let’s put that in the past. Immediately after entering the pyramid, I fell to my death down a set of particularly steep stairs. We’re just getting started and I am looking forward to seeing how the game progresses. Since I died last time going north, I start this week by igniting my torch and heading east.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Dagger of Amon Ra - Night at the Museum

By Deimar

Laura’s Journal Entry #2: "So my boss has asked me to investigate the burglary of the dagger of Amon Ra from the Leyendecker museum by attending to a fundraising party there tonight, masquerading as a social events reporter. To be honest, I think I would have gotten a really good article about the upper class shenanigans with plenty of shady deals, femme fatales, impersonators and more. However, this whole thing about a murder has focused me again in the problem at hand, discovering where is the dagger of Amon Ra.”

Act 2 begins with Laura at night in front of the museum, which is now open and guarded by a German who is one svastika away of ending this walkthrough by means of Godwin’s law. He is apparently the chief of security but right now there is not much that can be extracted from him. We just have to give him our press pass (which he keeps for some strange reason) and he lets us in. This makes a clock appear in the upper left corner of the screen signaling that it is 7PM. Oh my god, I just got shivers from thinking about Colonel’s Bequest. I really hope I won’t miss key information due to simply walking into a room and making the clock advance.

I am going to be very sad if after so many stereotypes there is not a bullfighter somewhere in the game...

The real party starts inside the museum. As we enter we can see a big bust of Rameses II and several tables with refreshments. There is a group of men surrounding a blonde woman which seem interesting. Specially because our friend Ziggy is there. What is a crook doing in an upper class party? And who is all these people? Time to socialize!! The woman introduces herself as Yvette Delacroix.