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There is a Small Mailbox Here, Zork Beckons You In – Today in Retro Gaming – December 26th, 1980

Zork The Great Underground Empire

Zork is an iconic title in the realm of computer gaming. No one really knows the date it was released but that is not stopping us from discussing it a bit. If you have never played Zork I: The Great Underground Empire, then you are seriously missing out. Just don’t be surprised when there are no graphics and it is only text. Some of the best, longest lasting games in history had no graphics. Zork being the biggest of the bunch.

“There is a small mailbox here.” That one sentence should bring back fond memories for many reading this and is the single most iconic sentence in text adventures like Zork. It gives you one last hint of where you are in the game world and it marks the start of a grand adventure many did not complete.

Infocom kept the spirit of Zork alive and well in many of their following releases. One was of those releases was Sorcerer, which offered a spell to turn the player into a bat. This spell was called Fweep, which incidentally is the sound a bat makes in Zork. Nice little nod and something only hardcore players would catch. There are even commands that bring back memories for players of Colossal Cave Adventure, a title that was released prior to Zork.

Text adventures are usually thought of as archaic games, especially when compared to modern entertainment. These types of allegations are usually levied at this genre by people that did not grow up during this period. These people have probably never played any of the Zork games, Sorcerer, or any of the many iconic titles in this genre.

There was an interesting port to the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation consoles in Japan. This version features graphics and on screen text and helper screens to convert commands to the controller. What is most interesting about this port is that it features a sound track by Yuzo Koshiro, of Streets of Rage music fame.

It would be nearly impossible to list all of the platforms that Zork has been officially, and unofficially, ported to over the years. It’s safe to say that eBay probably has a copy for your chosen platform (boxed PC versions came with lots of extras). Infocom has made the first three Zork games available as free downloads to enjoy on PC and Macintosh computers. Below are two online methods to play the first game if you prefer. Zork has made appearances in many modern games, but which ones have you found this interactive fiction title contained in? Remember, there may be more to that computer terminal than just opening a door in the level . . .

Carl Williams

It is time gaming journalism takes its rightful place as proper sources and not fanboys giving free advertising. If you wish to support writers like Carl please use the links below.

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