Friday, November 12, 2010

Beyond Zork: Won!

Think if I tried again, I could do it in fewer moves?

Well, with your help (particularly that of Jason Dyer, who--ahem--knows what he's talking about before he tells me puzzles are "easy"), I won Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor. Damn, that was a tough one.

When I last checked in, I was struggling to figure out what to do at an iridescent dome, how to permanently defeat the Chistmas Tree Monsters, and how to get past the corbies in the Fields of Frotzen. The dome I figured out mostly through brute force: I tried every object at it, before I finally destroyed it with the wand of dispel. The dome turned out to be holding back a volcano, and the result was memorable:

A vortex of energy forms at the tip of the Dispel wand, reaches outward and envelops the iridescent dome in a swirling haze. You watch as it spreads across the perimeter, patiently undoing the mystic forces that define its structure.
Kerblam! The mountain roars with volcanic triumph as a thousand years of pent-up fury breaches the bonds of Time. A plume of white-hot lava swells up from the heart of the mountain, only seconds away from where you stand!

After outrunning the lava, which filled the valley, I waited for it to cool a bit and then inscribed the Christmas Tree Monster-repelling glyph in it with the burin. That permanently saved the day. The mayor of Thriff, Cardinal Toolbox, gave me his reliquary as a reward. This turned out to contain a white hemisphere that, when joined with the black hemisphere I picked up in the cabin, created a gray sphere called the Scrystone of Prosser.

Now, at this point I was all excited because I thought the corbies feared the color gray. You see, in the Fields of Frotzen there are three scarecrows, two guarding devastated fields and one guarding a thriving one where the corbies were terrified rather than enraged. I noted that the scarecrow guarding the thriving field was wearing gray clothing, so I figured with my gray sphere I could scare the corbies off.

Nothing doing. It turns out all of the scarecrows were wearing gray. However, my idea wasn't so far from the truth. Again, I just hung around the working scarecrow, trying all of my items, until I realized that the hurdy-gurdy, when set on the "eye" setting, renders colors more vivid. I was able to tell that the scarecrow was actually wearing mauve. Shortly thereafter, a farm house came spinning out of a tornado, and when I entered it, I found myself swept up to the Land of Froon.

It's not a copyright violation if it's in the public domain.

My arrival crushed a tyrant called the Heeled One, which was basically a giant boot. In reward, the Mayor of Froon let me choose from a selection of colored keys. I picked the mauve one. When I returned to the real world, I used it to get by the corbies and pick the Compass Rose, a magical flower that not only tells which way the wind is blowing but actually changes it.

With the Compass Rose, I was finally able to reach the castle on the back of the pterodactyl. (This entire posting is starting to sound like I'm describing a bad acid trip.) The castle is the home of a platypus princess (yeah, it's getting worse) who had a magic jar with a wand that blows bubbles, but the bubbles take the form of a mirror. I managed to snatch that.

Then came a time in which I didn't have any more puzzles to solve, but I couldn't figure out what to do. Finally, I thought to look inside the Scrystone of Prosser, which showed me a man using a magic word to open a concealed door in a wall. I knew the locations of two walls and both had concealed doors which led to the same network of caves. Unfortunately, something kept breaking my lantern. Navigating through the caves involved blowing a series of mirror-bubbles to angle sunlight from the outside.

I was attacked by a "lucksucker" who killed me a few times before I realized I had to defeat him by throwing my various good luck charms--a horseshoe, a four-leaf clover, and a rabbit's foot--at him. Ultimately, I reached the cave of the ur-grue, who I exposed by angling the sunlight at his corner of the cave.

The ur-grue took the form of an old man. Actually, I got the impression that the ur-grue was just a wizard possessing a grue or something:

In the corner lies a feeble old man, bent with grief. His robes are tattered, his white hair scorched by flame. You slowly rise and draw closer, bending low to touch his shoulder.
Snap! Ten bony fingers clamp around your throat!
"I can always count on fools like you for sympathy," chuckles the not-so-feeble old man as he holds your windpipe shut. "Still, though your mind is weak, your body is young and strong. It will make a suitable vessel until I can find another grue." He grabs your hair, pulls your head back and directs your eyes into his own. "Relax. This won't hurt a bit."

His method of attack involved sucking away my compassion, but it turns out I had too much of it (so that's what it does) so he gave up and took off. From his treasure pile, I retrieved the Coconut of Quendor, and members of the Enchanter's Guild retrieved me for the end game.

It turns out that the various "NPCs" in the game--the old woman running the shops, the sailor painting the canvas, the cook in the tavern, and Cardinal Toolbox--are all enchanters subtly helping me to solve the quest, although this is odd as the main quest didn't even begin until I visited the Implementors. Nonetheless, the game ended by promoting me to a "Level 0 novice" (I had been a "peasant" before that) and promising me more adventures to come.

Alas, none of the later Zorks seem to continue this storyline, so it appears we've left Quendor for good. We've also left the Zork series for good, as none of the later games even pretend to have RPG elements. I can't pretend I won't sneak in a trip to Zork Zero anyway, though.

Taking a video of a text game seemed silly, so what I did--for some reason--is replay the entire game. Knowing the puzzle solutions made it go pretty fast. During the replay, I turned scripting on, so if you want an account of the entire game, click here to read it. I think it's worth sampling just for the quality of the language. I didn't just blow through it on the replay, either; I tried to get as many of the descriptions and jokes into the script as possible.

Final ranking to come later, perhaps with an intervening Dungeon Master posting.


  1. Congratulations.

    I have a theory on why your recount of this Zork game gathered some 'meh' and 'bad' reactions (though not from me).

    It's because this is effectively one long spoiler. There's not much more to the game in terms of gameplay than the puzzles and people feel subconsciously unsettled being told how the game is won.

    Now, RPGS have puzzles too, but for some of us winning a whole oldschool RPG is a huge commitment on time and resources so we vicariously play them through you, with all the grinding cut out. We wouldn't be able to find the time to play most of these games ourselves, unlike IF which is easy to bash your head against 5-10 minutes at the time and still make a dent.

    That said, you have inspired me to try out Pool of Radiance again after more than ten years and I'm cautiously enjoying the opening. I don't think I'll finish it, though, too much sorting through menus to memorize spells, gather mundane objects and sell them for little profit... 16 kobold random fights for 10 xp each... AD&D really doesn't translate well into a solid computer gameplay system.

    My favorite of the Ultima-inspired open world rpgs of yore is a curious choice: Rings of Power for the Mega Drive/Genesis. Don't ask me what a computer rpg though and though is doing on a sega console, but that is my own Ultima IV. That is the only game from the era I have nostalgic ties to and therefore whose world feels alive. You'd enjoy it, shame you're only doing IBM stuff.

  2. Congrats! Looks like the Ur-Grue was no match for you (that puzzle took me a while).

    One reason you know something sneaky is going on with the characters is the same old woman shows up in all the shops (and there's at least one hint it really is the same person and not just a joke).

  3. Helm, I guess what you're saying makes sense. It'd be something to think about if I had more adventure games in this blog, but since I don't... As for "only IBM stuff," I agree. I'm missing out on some good games. Most of the "Final Fantasy" series. The "Zelda" series. But my list is already utterly unmanageable, and there's just no way I'm adding console games to it.

    Jason, I actually found the end to be rather simple once I figured out the mirror-rotating trick, and that didn't take so long. What took me a lot longer was figuring out how to get to the endgame. After I had solved every puzzle I knew about, I just wandered all over the map, double-checking everything, before I realized that the gray sphere had an image inside it. I feel pretty good about the speed at which I solved "Beyond Zork," but there were times that I felt like a bit of an idiot, too.

  4. If you'd like to see me write about Zork, which I will be blogging experientially (that is, like the games here) head to:

  5. I read your posts on Zork, Jason, and bookmarked your blog for later full reading. I like the way you offer a detailed description of your puzzle-solving process. It sounds a lot more systematic than what I usually do.

  6. I wonder why the designers seem so keen on the word 'prosser'? Mr Prosser was the guy who demolished Arthur Dent's house at the start of Hitchhiker's Guide, but that doesn't seen very apposite.

    1. The reference to the Ur-Grue turning sideways and vanishing from existence is a homage to Adams, I believe. Infocom and he were collaborators on a couple of games.

      I really enjoyed reading about these posts about Beyond Zork. I might just spend the rest of the evening perusing that transcript..

  7. I bought this way back when I had an Amiga, as part of the Lost Treasures of Infocom megabundle. I basically had to spoil myself rotten with the hints book and still managed to miss the part where you kiss a unicorn's horn. I was so disgruntled I never picked it up again.

  8. We've also left the Zork series for good, as none of the later games even pretend to have RPG elements.

    Well, the recent browser-game Legends of Zork did (pretend to, at least), but a) not MS-DOS, and b) not really Zork (rather, shambling corpse of reanimated franchise).

    1. Oh yes, and c) you can't try it anymore (though you could have, back in 2010), as it has been taken down forever.


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