Return to Zork
DOS - 1993
Also released on: Mac - FM Towns
Download extras files
Manual and misc available
Description of Return to Zork
Infocom's first return to the famous Zork universe after a long hiatus is a funny adventure that retains much of the campy atmosphere that makes the original Zork trilogy a classic, but unfortunately falls victim to its own innovative adventure interface, unforgiving and illogical puzzles, and some very cheesy acting.
Okay, let's start with the good stuff. The plot is a typical treasure-hunting quest in the spirit of the original Zork trilogy, with a dash of some magic and evil woozle thrown in for good measure. While Infocom fans will mourn the passing of Infocom's legendary parser, RtZ tries to ease the pain by introducing an innovative point-and-click interface that allows a much wider of actions than other graphical adventures. Clicking on an object brings up a menu of possible actions you can perform with that object, and clicking the object on another usually brings up even more actions.
The conversation interface is also innovative: every time you talk to a character, you can select the mood you want in order to set the tone and direction of your speech. Feel like some weenie is hiding something from you? Change to "angry" mode, and you'll intimidate him to submission. You can also ask people about any object in your inventory, or any photo you have taken. Sometimes doing so is the only way to obtain the much-needed clues for puzzles.
Acting is downright horrible, canned, and cheesy, but at least you won't find too much of that in this floppy version, and all the characters and the overall atmosphere are in keeping with Zork's wacky, easy-going fantasy mythos. Although longtime fans will be disappointed at the absence of creative spells in the game, the sight of that famous white house is sure to elicit a chuckle or two and a warm feeling of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, for all its designers' efforts to make RtZ a game worthy of the Zork name, all its good points crumble under the weight of the game's worst weakness: ruthlessly unforgiving puzzles. They are not just bad-- they are so illogical and obscure that sometimes you'll be solving a puzzle correctly without knowing why that particular solution works... even with a walkthrough in hand.
One example of the game's puzzles will help illustrate my point: at the beginning of the game, you come across a curious plant ("it's a bonding plant," is all the game will tell you). Using the delightfully versatile interface, you can either dig it up, cut it with a knife, or pull it up. If you don't use the "right" way, the plant will die, but you can still carry it around. Now, woe be the time when you finally realize after progressing through half the game, that you actually need a live plant to solve one puzzle. There is no way to revive your plant, although there is a way to get a new one... the clue to which is hidden quite well. That's the problem with the game in general: clues are scattered in the most unlikely places, including minute references in the Encyclopedia Frobozzica, a thick fan-made book about Zorkian mythos included free with the game. Suffice it to say that anyone who's been spoiled by LucasArts' excellent cannot-get-stuck-or-die game design (and that's most of us) will likely get very frustrated playing RtZ.
I must admit, however, that I had a lot of fun with RtZ even while I grumbled at its idiosyncracies... and that's probably a sign of how much I truly care about the game (and Zork in general). Despite all my nitpicking and grumbling, Return to Zork is a definite must-play for all adventurers, although they should brace themselves for some ruthlessly illogical and impossible puzzles. While not the best in the series, the game definitely succeeds in bringing the Zork universe to life, with the appropriate sense of silly humor that we all know and love. The game's many innovations and wacky plotline are enough to glue everyone to the screen until the very end. Just think of it this way: you know you're really going to miss Boo's incessant "Want some rye? 'Course you do" after your adventure is over [EG]. Remember: save often-- save VERY often. *
Note: To get the full breadth of how horrible the acting is in RtZ, try to find the CD-ROM version which features laughable digitized actors :) The game has two superior sequels, Zork: Nemesis and Zork: The Grand Inquisitor, the latter of which is one of the best and most faithful Zorkian games.
Review By HOTUD
Comments and reviews
Robotas 2022-05-06 1 point
There is a better version of this game, the ReelMagic Version: the video has better quality and animations are smother and less jerky. To run Return to Zork ReelMagic version you'll need Dosbox ReelMagic Fork (a very promising dosbox edition).
dj 2017-10-16 0 point
I can't install it. Says this version is not compatible. Any help? I love this game.
Steve E 2016-12-15 1 point Mac version
I've enjoyed playing the GOG version of RTZ on my Windows 10 PC, and the floppy version online at "Play DOS games online". But if I want to play the Mac version downloaded from here, it looks like I'm doomed. I have an El Capitan Mac. Scumm doesn't recognize this Mac download at all. Then I tried Sheepshaver. RTZ will start, but then Sheepshaver asks for the Return to Zork CD, which Sheepshaver can't read. Then Sheepshaver asks for MPGS, which are there, but also unrecognizable. After a few moves, RTZ freezes up and I must force-quit Sheepshaver. Then I tried Basilisk II. RTZ is even less compatible with Basilisk. I get all kinds of fatal errors. There must be some way to play this Mac download, otherwise, would it be posted here? The Mac version has some nuances that are absent in both DOS versions. I don't need Boxer, since I have a PC. Is the only way to play the Mac version to find some vintage Mac computer from 1994?
Brian 2015-11-14 1 point DOS version
I got to the end of this and was one items short for the ending challenge (you know what I'm referring to. And I never finished. Time to get my kids playing it to beat it for me.
Phoenix 2015-08-30 2 points
Pure brilliance !! I have been hanging on playing this since I played it when it was first released, I forgot the name so I hunted down clues until I found the title & then to be able to find it & play it through dosbox is a dream come true......Nothing beats nostalgia I salute thee :)
york 2015-07-01 2 points DOS version
my brothers and i used to play this when we were young.fucking awesome. so happy to play this again.
Dwardartex 2014-11-16 0 point DOS version
You know it's a great old dos game when the manual is larger than the actual game.
Thkaal 2014-08-27 1 point DOS version
Here's ta us.
Who's like us?
And they're aaaaaaaaaaall dead.
CDM 2014-02-19 1 point DOS version
I wrote a walkthrough for this game way back...I published it on the Compuserve thing that was pre-WWW...loved this game. :)
Blondie 2013-09-14 0 point DOS version
Thank you for the free download. I have the old floppy disks but am missing disk 5 & 9. Thought I was lost, but now the game is found. I even have the original ZORK ANTHOLOGY THE 5 ORIGINAL TEXT ADVENTURES book.
Tails 2013-05-30 0 point DOS version
So happy to have found this game again, I loved loved loved it!
"Want some rye? Course ya do!"
Jack 2013-04-12 0 point DOS version
me and my brother used to love this game. I can't wait until the 3 minute download completes and i can play it again!
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Share your gamer memories, give useful links or comment anything you'd like. This game is no longer abandonware, we won't put it back online.
Buy Return to Zork
Return to Zork is available for a small price on the following websites, and is no longer abandonware. GOG.com provides the best release and does not include DRM, please buy from them! You can read our online store guide .
Game Extras and Resources
Some of these file may not be included in the game stores. For Return to Zork, we have the following files:
Return to Zork was also released on the following systems:
- Year: 1993
- Publisher: Activision, Inc., Emotion Digital Software
- Developer: Activision, Inc.
- Year: 1994
- Publisher: Data West
- Developer: Activision, Inc.
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