IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-06-25 10:24
Long and unexceptional.
The writing comes tantalizingly close to being so bad it's amusing. And yet, it never quites reaches that magical "Eye of Argon" level. It's just... bad.
(I'm sorry, but: "It's here where the desert region starts." This wins a very special place in my heart as The Wrong Way To Write Descriptions. The first three words, you notice, are noise. You could delete them entirely and convey the same information. Do that.)
I can tell the scenery in the author's head is pretty good. Once I forced my way through the words, it felt like a place. But not a very distinctive one overall (although there were nice bits). Not distinctively Zork, either. Somewhere in the environs of Zork, and Adventure, and Adventureland, and all the other early games... mushy.
I never played Return to Zork. I suppose this game might be more true to RTZ than to Zork as I know it. On the other hand, for heavens' sake, that would make this a re-interpretation of Activision's re-interpretation of Infocom's Zork universe. And that's just too much. Third-hand-me-downs is enough and time, time to go, time to get on with your life. Spiritwrak was recognizable; this isn't.
The game design was also pretty bad. Instant-death rooms. Almost no puzzles, in the usual sense -- the standard game mechanic is to outright tell you to do something, and then you go and do it. Repeat until game over.
However, the few puzzles there did generally have several solutions -- genuinely different solutions. The top-level plot had two main variations, in fact. I hesitate to call it a branching plot, since one variation is a subset of the other -- the game just ends earlier. (According to the walkthrough. I didn't try it.) Nonetheless, points for effort.
Inconsistent coding. (The lamp seemed to work even when turned off, except for when it didn't and the grues came.)
And the author seems to have gone to great lengths to replace all the standard library messages, which (considering the prose) may not have been lengths well gone-to. And changing parser errors is tricky, regardless of how gracefully you do it. The standard Inform "You can't see any such thing." was changed to "Where did you see it ?" [sic, the space before the question mark] and that's outright confusing. (Hint: by using the word "it", the game is referring to an object that by definition doesn't exist in the game. All sorts of wrong.)
Right, right, end on a positive note... actually, the game did. The conceit of the final scene ("ending #2", I mean) is pretty nifty. As I said, there is something trying to come out of the author's head. Practice, practice, practice.