Return to Zork

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

In 1993, Activision released Return to Zork under the Infocom name - its first release in quite some time. It was one of the earlier "Siliwood" games, intended to bring the universe first set down in Zork into the modern age. In my opinion, it failed miserably. The digitized graphics didn't give the game any more realism than the room descriptions of the text adventure (apparently not every picture is worth a thousand words), the videotaped actors delivered their lines without much conviction, and the storyline was so obscure it was only to be found in a file cabinet in a deserted office.

Where exactly did Return to Zork go so horribly wrong? Its faults seem comparable to those that often occur when a book is adapted into a movie (or a computer game): either it fails to adapt to the new media, or it tries so hard to adapt that it loses the "feel" of the original. Return to Zork was a case of the latter; the wit of the original's text was not conveyed well by video clips or ray-traced images.

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