Wednesday, February 1, 2012


A few months ago I was playing D&D with some friends of mine when the reference "You are likely to be eaten by a grue" popped up in conversation. I'd heard it before, but never had a clue what it meant - so I asked.

Don't do that in the company of more learned nerds. You get mocked. (Mocked by nerds. How embarrassing.)

I learned that the grue was a creature from Zork, an old text-only dungeon crawling game wherein you could be eaten by said shadow-dwelling monsters. I filed that away in the back of my mind and carried on playing, as there are no grues in D&D that I've ever seen. (Which makes sense, since you never see the grue.)

Now, on this very day, I have come across Zork in a browser-based game. And I have played. And I both enjoyed, and regretted, the experience.


The, uh, screenshot above more or less details everything you need to know about Zork. To sum up, for the lazy: it's an adventure game. You stroll into a dungeon looking for treasures. Survive. (There's EVENTUALLY a story, but find it on your own.)

Beyond that, Zork is a throwback to adventuring days of old. It is an entirely text-based journey, wherein you need to use text commands and your imagination to navigate the dungeon. I bet a lot of kids don't even know these games exist today. Hell, I was only dimly aware of them when I was a child, and I'm almost thirty. Closest I got to this was King's Quest.

And, yes, Zork is as difficult as it sounds. There is very little hand-leading here, no tutorials to make your life easier. You have only your wits (and saving) to lead you through the dungeon in one piece. Have fun!


Zork doesn't rely on 'traditional' controls. Instead, it forces players to enter instructions for their character to carry out. So long as you have a functioning keyboard, you can play Zork.

Whether you can DEFEAT Zork is another thing altogether. Like I said, this game doesn't hold your hand, and you need to experiment to find the proper navigational words. There's a ton of trial-and-error in Zork, enough that a lot of players trying to figure out how to simply enter a house may give up and play something else.

That said, Zork IS fairly liberal when it comes to commands. There are often numerous ways to do the same thing: for example, you can 'travel' east, 'walk' east, 'go' east, or even simply type 'east' if you want to see what's in the east. These commands can often prove sources of humour, so long as you're willing to experiment:


I don't know graphics. This game is made of words.


Whatcha got playing on your radio?

Challenge Rating

Zork is a tough game without direction, and not just because the interface is quite a challenge for modern gamers. It requires some hefty logical leaps at times, and the nature of the game's corridors makes getting lost very, very easy. Either find a map for the game or, if you're feeling especially bold, make your own as you go along. Also be sure to save often, as you're not alone in the dark depths of the earth.

I must admit that I couldn't beat Zork. I played for a solid two hours, and by the end I was hopelessly lost and fed up with the lack of visualization. You'll learn, quickly, how easy it is to get turned around relying only on your memory and some text directions. That said I imagine Zork is very satisfying to beat, and therefore worthy of sticking on your gaming resume.


Zork. Zork is hard. Zork is frustrating. Zork is... Zork. It ain't gonna change, no matter what I recommend, so if you intend to try it out, expect a rough go of things - though at the same time, you can also expect a fun, interesting experience that's VERY different from what you'll from most modern browser games.


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