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The \__/ociety for the |_|reservation of ||  ||dventure \___/ames

                          ISSUE # 2

    Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard@uclink.berkeley.edu)
      HTML Version Edited by Scott Reilly (wsr@cs.cmu.edu)

                      September 27, 1994

Well, perhaps text adventures aren't as dead as everyone thought. They certainly have a small audience, but at least the audience is there. SPAG, at last count, has 105 subscribers. This came from my trolls in the int-fiction newsgroups, as well as the game newsgroups for classic video games. I have attempted to post to the game groups for Archimedes Acorn, Amiga, Macintosh, and IBM. At this point, I'm not sure if my posts made it out. If not, then we can expect a whole lot more readers when I do post on those groups. This is encouraging to me. It helps me believe more firmly in the books vs. television argument usually expressed by text adventure lovers. Maybe there is still room for us, after all.

Let me just comment on my own introduction to text adventures, and my experiences since then. I don't remember what my first text adventure was, but I seem to remember Wishbringer as being one of the first. It made a very profound impact on me, whatever the case may be. I have fond memories of slowly working my way through it, and gradually working out both the 'wish' and 'non-wish' solution to every puzzle in the game. I even still have my glow-in-the-dark rock somewhere. I remember thinking how great it was to have a sort of novel that I could control on the computer. I'm an avid reader, having swallowed up thousands of science fiction, fantasy, and classical literary works. Wishbringer seemed to tie my love of reading to my love of computers quite neatly. Well, as the years passed, I got into Sierra games as well, until they removed the text parser from their games and put in an idiotic point n' click interface. I've since learned to despise that form of interface. Anyways, back to text adventures. I slowly played a large collection of them. I played The Golden Wombat of Destiny, Pork 1, all of the Infocom text adventures, Shades of Grey, and many, many others. In fact, I've played nearly every game on ftp.gmd.de to some extent or another. Many I just played up to the point where I saw how poorly the game was done, and then erased it. I started work on my much hyped game, Avalon. And later, tired of playing all those poorly done text adventures, I started SPAG. Hopefully, SPAG will help you to seperate the good games from the bad, and believe me, there are some terrible ones out there. My favorite game to date is Trinity, although I really haven't gotten to play A Mind Forever Voyaging yet. In addition, my favorite non-Infocom games are Shades of Grey and Multi-Dimensional Thief. Shades of Grey is quite likely one of the most vivid text adventures I've ever played.

Anyways, aside from attending school here at Berkeley, trying to major in Computer Science, and other non-text adventure stuff, that's me in a nutshell.

				G. Kevin Wilson
P.S. - Things might be a little jumbled this month. There was a last minute rush of reviews. Please try to get reviews to me at least 1 day before the deadline, especially if you are sending a ton of 'em. (You too, Molley! :P )

From: "Collin Pieper" (clp5@cornell.edu)

At the end of this issue [SPAG1] you commented about Infocom, I'd just like to comment on that. First of all, you said you weren't sure what computers the LTOI packages were availiable for. They're availiable on floppy disk for the PC, Macintosh, and Amiga and on CD (with the bonus games) on a dual media CD supporting both the Macintosh and the PC. You also claimed there is no difference in price between the two volumes, this is not true. I puchased, from the same company, Vol I on CD for $39 and vol II on CD for only $25. I've also seen the disk versions (for the Mac) for $29 and $17 respectively.

I also have a couple notes on missing items. In some versions of LTOI I the map for Zork Zero is missing (in some it's in the manual). Also, Ballyhoo is missing a radio station advertisment. The station and frequency are supposedly WPDL 1170KHz AM. Zork Zero for the PC is missing the MCGA graphics file, while the Mac version contains the equivalent.

And a final note. To put the graphic series games into MCGA/VGA add /dm to the command line. Arthur looks particularly terrible if you don't do this. This might be useful for people who just ignored that big batch file on the LTOI II CD.

Finally, I think people are a little too hard on Activision's repackaging. You've got to remember that we are dealing with some ancient games, some are nearly 15 years old. Activision didn't have to re-release them at all. For well under $2 a game what do you want? I have to agree that Activisions carelessness and lack of maps/hints in vol II is annoying, but complaints about the lack of trinkets are totally unrealistic. How could we afford to pay for Activision to recreate all that junk.

[ He also later added.... ]

It seems that the information I gave you in my letter is now outdated. The missing PC file for Zork Zero is in the IF Archive under...


You should be able to stick that in the directory with Zork Zero and add the /dm switch I was talking about.


From: "David Baggett" (dmb@case.ai.mit.edu)
(The Net-rep and much more for Adventions.)

[The >> is "Audrey A. DeLisle" (rad@crl.com).]
[The > is David Baggett.]
[The brackets are me.]

>Congrats on tthe first issue!  I think it would be nice if you could post
>it here regularly (unless people object).
[ Again, I want to keep track of who's reading SPAG. If everybody just pulls it off a newsgroup, then how will I know who to bug for game reviews? ]

>>Unnkulian Unventure #2 S10 I GMD 7.3 [PA 2 WR 1.9 PL 1.4 CH 1 * 2] *=humor
>>I would rate it higher, but the plot is a bit jerky and there is one
>>'fatal' error.  There is a computer and you must know the password before
>>the game tells you.
>This is not an error -- it's a puzzle.  You have to guess the login (it's
>easy) and *find* the password.  It's not a bug that you can't get the
>password early on -- you just have to get past the dragon before you
>can get into the computer.
>Though I recently argued *for* walkthroughs with Michael Kinyon (in email),
>I'm starting to see the problems they cause.  Remember the "put the axe in
>the bucket puzzle" from UU1?  For those who don't, you had to get an
>axe across a chasm so you could use it on the other side.  There was a
>bug that allowed you to "hide" it in the bucket.  The *real* solution
>was to throw it across from the right place.
>Unfortunately, the walkthrough was wrong -- it said to stuff the axe in the
>bucket!  Not only did this give walkthrough users the impression that the
>puzzle was ridiculous and unfair ("how would I ever think of *that*?"), but
>it also stopped working once Leary fixed the bug, leading people to think
>that version 2 and 3 of the game were buggy!
>An aside: A lot of UU2's problems (and difficulty) stem from its
>pseudo-nonlinearity.  Once you get into the underworld, you have many
>puzzles you can work on at once.  They have to be solved in a particular
>order, however, and this is why people get confused.
>I won't say what the object is because that is part of the plot.
>You didn't mention that there's a killer cliffhanger ending!  :) This is
>resolved in "The Legend Lives!", which is now in beta-testing.
>>Adventions by D. A. Leary using TADS. 
>Leary writes a lot of stuff, but not all of it.  I wrote UU2.
>Overall, I liked your reviews but I thought they were way too generous.
>I'd say that most shareware games I've seen rate between 0 and 5, while old
>Infocoms should hover around the 7 mark.  (Including Trinity, which is a
>good, but far from perfect game.)  You have to leave us some headroom, you
[ Thanks for your comments, Dave. Hopefully the new rating system will help make things a little better. Several letters came in suggesting this, that, or the other, and I used the best ideas from each, as you'll soon see. ]

Consider the following review header:
 NAME: Cutthroats                PARSER: Infocom Standard
 AUTHOR: Infocom                 PLOT: Two Seperate Paths
 EMAIL: ???                      ATMOSPHERE: Well Done
 PUZZLES: Good                   SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
 CHARACTERS: Not Bad             DIFFICULTY: Medium
First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced by one or two word ratings. These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow more freedom to the reviewers. The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address of the game author, not the reviewer. AVAILABILITY will usually have either Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware. If the commercial price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial. If it has been released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so. Lastly, if it is available on ftp.gmd.de, the line should add GMD. (Demo) if it's a demo version. The body of the review hasn't changed.

When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along. The scores will be used in the ratings section. Authors may not rate or review their own games.

SPAG accepts reviews of any length, letters to the editor, the occasional interesting article on text adventures (no reprints please), and even just ratings for your favorite game, if you don't have the time to do a full review. Please though, at least send me info for each game you have rated equivalent to the review header for Cutthroats, above. All accepted materials will be headed by the submitter's name and e-mail address, unless you request that they be withheld, in which case the header will read as "Anonymous."

Things are still a bit dry. Hopefully they'll pick up soon.

From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: Curses                     PARSER: Similar to Infocom
AUTHOR: Graham Nelson            PLOT: [Blank]
WRITING: [Blank]                 PUZZLES: [Blank]
SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports          CHARACTERS: [Blank]
EMAIL: nelson@uk.ac.ox.vax
This is the finest work of IF which I have played since Trinity, bar none. Curses is perhaps the most "literate" work of IF to come along in years. I really cannot say enough good things about this game, so you have no choice but to go out right now and get a copy for yourself. You can't really make any excuses about it, either, since Curses is completely free and is written using the old Infocom story file format, which means that it's playable on just about any computer in existence with one of the existing Infocom interpreter programs (I recommend Mark Howell's Zip but InfoTaskForce's will also work, as will any of several others).

You are an aristocrat who is preparing to go on vacation in Paris. All you want to do is find one lousy tourist map which you KNOW is in the attic somewhere, and then you're off. Sounds easy, right? Right...

I can't even begin to describe this game without spoiling the plot, so I'll simply ask: How would you react when a seemingly simple situation in your attic transformed into ancient magic, past and present places and times, a mental tour of your own history, a "chance" to control the fundamental basis upon which the universe is founded, the discovery of ancient powers utilized by Merlin himself, Heaven, Hell, robot mice, and of course curses?

I don't know about you, but I reacted by becoming glued to my terminal for about 50 hours straight. Graham Nelson, the author of Curses, deserves the highest kudos for his accomplshment. I can't wait to see what he's going to do next -- if you are going to play one IF game this year, make it Curses. Be warned that some of the puzzles are fiendishly difficult, and one or two are a bit non-intuitive, but there are legions of loyal Curses fans just dying for the chance to help you out anyway just so they will have someone else to talk to about this wonderful game. Go get it NOW.


From: "Lars Joedal" (joedal@dfi.aau.dk)

NAME: Ditch Day Drifter               PARSER: TADS standard
AUTHOR: Michael J. Roberts            PLOT: A bit loose, some non-linearity
EMAIL: mroberts@hinrg.starconn.com    ATMOSPHERE: (Very) good
PUZZLES: Good                         SUPPORTS: TADS ports
CHARACTERS: Few but charming          DIFFICULTY: Easy
You are a student at the CalTech University. Today is "Ditch Day" where the senior students set up "stacks" (problems) for the under- graduates to break. Your stack will send you all over the university, from the book store over the Explosive Lab to the excavations under the campus. Be prepared to meet vigilant guards and failed biological experiments!

The game takes you into a realistic university atmosphere with just a small bit of overstatement to make you smile. Most of the NPCs are cardboard characters, but the insurance robot Lloyd is well-developed. I also like the book store clerk. None of the NPCs are very conversational though. The puzzles are fairly easy, but all logical and well-thought- out. This makes the game an excellent introduction to IF. The veteran gamer will complete the game very quickly, but should still play the game for its story. The puzzles are rather independent, which on the other hand makes the plot a bit loose (solving one of the independent puzzles doesn't make the overall story advance much).

The source code to "Ditch Day Drifter" is distributed together with introductory documentation to TADS. Since this is meant to be read by people who have not (yet) registrered TADS I guess it can be called free.


From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: The Enchanter Trilogy             PARSER: Early Infocom
AUTHOR: Infocom                         PLOT: [Blank]
ATMOSPHERE: [Blank]                     AVAILABILITY: C_INF_LTOI1
WRITING: [Blank]                        PUZZLES: [Blank]
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports                 CHARACTERS: [Blank]
EMAIL: ???
The "Enchanter Trilogy" was Infocom's second big line of more or less "connected" games. All three featured a better parser and more levels of interaction than the Zork games did, and a *much* greater emphasis on plot and storyline. No longer collections of disparate puzzles surrounding the gathering of treasures, these games in my opinion really brought Infocom into their own as far as writing goes.

Enchanter, the first of the series, features you as a novice magician who is sent to do battle with an incredibly powerful evil sorceror who is destroying the world. The reason you, a near novice, are sent instead of the more powerful mages in charge of you is because Krill (the evil warlock) could easily detect a mage of great power, while you won't even register as a blip on his mental radar screen. This will supposedly allow you to slip in and defeat him while he's not looking. The game is set in and around Krill's castle, where there are various traps, tricks, and treasures, not to mention a group of nasty henchmen who carry you off to your death whenever they find you. The game basically centers around the collection of more and more magical spells to add to your arsenal. These spells are what enable you to defeat the aforementioned tricks and traps, along with some well-timed help from a few NPC's (including the Adventurer from Zork I, a classic moment if ever there was one!). Eventually you arrive at the requisite showdown with Krill, who goes down rather easily (somewhat anticlimactic for a world-conquering sorcerer, eh?) Nevertheless, Enchanter is a fun game that will provide you with some hours of enjoyment.

Sorcerer is the sequel to Enchanter (obviously) and once again you are called upon to do battle with great evil. In this case, your mentor Belboz (head of the Circle of Enchanters to which you were admitted after your amazing defeat of Krill) has been captured, imprisoned, and possessed by a malevolent demon, Jeaarr. Using Belboz's sorcerous powers, the demon will of course be able to ... you guessed it ... take over the world, so off you to the rescue again. Your quest this time takes you back into the Great Underground Empire, where you will visit an ancient castle, an amusement park, and other locales en route to a showdown with the demon. Two scenes bear particular mention: the glass maze, which you must navigate in a unique way, shows that not all mazes have to be annoying and boring. There is another puzzle involving time travel and meeting your "younger" and "older" selves which is worth playing the entire game for, as I found it one of the most imaginative and challenging IF puzzles ever. As a whole, the game is rather easy, but I enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommended.

Spellbreaker, the conclusion of the trilogy, is truly an epic game. It was Infocom's largest and most ambitious project when it came out, featuring about three times the puzzles (1000 points) of any other Infocom game. For me, it was love at first sight. This is one of my all-time absolute favorite games. It seems that after you rescued Belboz in Sorcerer, you took his place as the Head of the Circle of Enchanters. Now magic has begun to fail everywhere in the world, and all of your fellow mages have been turned into small amphibians by malevolent sorcery. You, however, are strangely unaffected, and must pursue the source of this evil. What you will discover is a game which deals with metaphysics and magic with equal facility, along with challenging puzzles and wonderful writing. In short, Spellbreaker is a game with almost no equal. Be warned, however, that it is HARD -- much more so than either of the previous two games in the trilogy. However, the puzzles are all quite logical, and most involve the intelligent applications of the various spells which you will again find, along with the collection of strange white cubes which when invoked in the proper manner transport you to alternate places and times. The only thing I didn't like about this game was the inclusion of the ancient "three weighings on a scale" problem (although it was presented in a novel manner). The ending was both surprising (to me) and satisfying. This is a game not to be missed!

As a whole, the Enchanter Trilogy is my favorite set of Infocom games, far and away. Again, I recommend getting them in the original packaging if possible, but they are also in the LTOI package, so they are again accessible to a new generation of interactive fiction lovers. If you play no other Infocom games in your life, play these three together -- they are classics.


From: "Roger N. Dominick" (dominirn@ucunix.san.uc.EDU)

 NAME: Enhanced                                  AUTHOR: SophistiChaos
 AVAILABILITY: Shareware $10 GMD                 PUZZLES: Logical, interesting
 CHARACTERS:   1-D, but fun.                     PARSER: small vocabulary
 PLOT: Well-planned, linear.                     ATMOSPHERE: Dark and corny
 WRITING: Good, little "purple" prose.           SUPPORTS: Any TADS run-time.
 DIFFICULTY: Medium, a few parser problems
 EMAIL: Hans Persson: unicorn@lysator.liu.se
        Dominik Zemmler: dz@lysator.liu.se
I recently played the (unregistered, ftp'd) shareware version of _Enhanced_, the first (only?) chapter in the "Cyberventure Trilogy". Possibly the first truly cyberpunk adventure game I've played (unless _A Mind Forever Voyaging_ counts), and certainly entertaining as an example of that genre. However, some of the actions that must be taken in the game depend upon the player's familiarity with certain cyberpunk terminology ("ice", etc.), and a lot of the in-jokes are *really* in. There are also one spot where you have to do a very repititous task again and again, and more than one place where plurals either cause problems by being too much ("connector"s being a good case in point) or not enough (I dearly wished to be able to refer to "plastics", in the plural). I had a few word-hunt fights with the parser, especially in one puzzle -- took me 30+ turns to figure out the expected wording to do something required to finish the game alive!

The screens-long opening serves as a fast-if-not-especially-believable way to get the character into the main thick of the action. Once there, the plot moves briskly through a storyline filled with in-jokes and almost-caricature NPCs... but it somehow remains fun and engaging. I got stuck twice, and ended up using a step-through from the if-archive for one bit. Enhanced and the solution file are ftp'able from the if-archive, ftp.gmd.de.

I enjoyed the game, for a while; when I began to have parsing problems, my enjoyment was diminished. I'm looking forwards to seeing what else comes out of this trilogy, and with a little polish, SGD's games should be excellent. I am going to mail a check off to the authors this weekend; for $10, including source code, it's a very good value.


From: "Toni Cortes" (toni@ac.upc.es)

NAME: Multidimesional Thief.		PARSER: Standard
AUTHOR: ?				PLOT: There is no real plot
AVAILABILITY: ftp.gmd.de		WRITING: Well Done
The game plot is as simple as finding your way out of a dungeon in order to become a member of the thieves guild. The dungeon you move in is made of many different places with no relation between them. You can find a farm, a railway station, the city of OZ, and many other with no relation between them. This mix of environments makes the game very attractive.

The NPCs could be improved as they do nearly nothing. They are treated as any other lifeless object. Another thing I didn't like is that some puzzles are very difficult if you have not seen that movie or read that other book (no names as I don't want to spoil the game).

Something I really liked is that you can see the objcts you are dealing with. Although it keeps the standard scheme of text adventure (no graphics), when you inspect an object it is diplayed on the screen.


From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: Shades of Grey                    PARSER: AGT
AUTHOR: ???                             PLOT: [Blank]
ATMOSPHERE: [Blank]                     AVAILABILITY: F_GMD
WRITING: [Blank]                        PUZZLES: [Blank]
SUPPORTS: AGT ports (IBM/Mac/Atari ST)  CHARACTERS: [Blank]
EMAIL: ???
This is an excellent piece of IF and certainly the best game I've ever seen writting using AGT. One of the most interesting factoids about this game is that the authors have never actually met face-to-face; the entire game was designed and written on Compuserve gamers' forums and via E-mail. Despite the geographic disparity, the product is a wonderful game, once you get past the very first single stupid non-intuitive puzzle, which is all that keeps this game from being an 8.0 (and thus in my ultra-elite).

Basically, you have amnesia. You are wandering the streets of an unknown city during an unknown year wondering who you are and how you got here. Eventually you will discover a clairvoyante who will help you to discover your true self and your past through the power of Tarot. What you learn is that this is a somewhat political, occasionally difficult, *extremely* well-written game which deals with the past, present, and future of Haiti. Beyond that I can say no more without spoiling the excellent plot, but take my word for it -- Shades of Grey is a game not to be missed. You might find occasional frustration with the parser, but overall this is only a minor annoyance and is quickly forgotten in the stream of evocative images which will begin pouring forth from your computer as soon as you play...


From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: Trinity                           PARSER: Late Infocom
AUTHOR: Infocom                         PLOT: [Blank]
ATMOSPHERE: [Blank]                     AVAILABILITY: C_INF_LTOI2
WRITING: [Blank]                        PUZZLES: [Blank]
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports                 CHARACTERS: [Blank]
EMAIL: ???
And now, the cream of the crop, my ALL-TIME-NUMBER-ONE IF game...

Trinity is, without a doubt, the best IF game I've ever played. I've been through it again and again just to read the text, which is something I cannot say about any other game except for AMFV and Curses. (Which right away lets you know that this game is in elite company!)

I can't really describe the plot without writing a vast essay, but suffice to say that you're an American on vacation in London when World War III interrupts the daily routine -- specifically, the city gets nuked. You, however, survive the devastation, with the help of a magical portal and a strange voice inside your head. Through the portal you will discover a world of wonder unlike anything you've ever seen in interactive fiction.

The plot revolves around the stages of development and construction of the atomic weapons used to destroy you in the game's opening. Eventually, if you are clever and utilize all of your brain cells to their utmost, you might get the chance to go back in time and change history for the better. The ending of this game is in my opinion truly spectacular, a fitting reward for the amount of work you'll have to put in. I was truly satisfied with myself after completing this game. There is one non-intuitive puzzle, which I solved by pure luck, but by and large the puzzles are very well constructed and quite logical. They are also not so difficult as to seriously impede your progress through the story, which is the real emphasis of the game, but not so easy as to make you feel as though you are wasting your time. A perfectly balanced challenge.

If you can at all get this game in the original packaging, do so. There are no game-critical items to be found therein, but the sundial is one of the neatest props Infocom ever put out. (Mine still adorns my windowsill.) In short, if you play one IF game in your life, you would not go wrong if you make it this one. Highest recommendation.


From: "Toni Cortes" (toni@ac.upc.es)

NAME: Unnkulian Unventure I.            PARSER: Standard
AUTHOR: D.A.Leary (Adventions)          PLOT: [Left blank]
ATMOSPHERE: Good                        AVAILABILITY: S10_GMD
WRITING: Well Done                      PUZZLES: Good (most of them)
SUPPORTS: TADS ports                    CHARACTERS: Poor
EMAIL: "Dave Baggett" dmb@case.ai.mit.edu
Unnkulian Unventure starts you on the path to being a hero. The Orb has been stolen and you must return it. You journey through caverns, up mountains and into a chasm. A monk is waiting to help you at one place. (Copied from SPAG1 rad@crl.com)

I enjoyed the game, especially the first 200 points (out of 400). In this first part the puzzles are very logical and well designed. In the second part there are some puzzles in which I didn't find any logic at all. The writing is quite well done and gives the reader a good description of what is going on. The plot gives the player a lot of freedom and lots of things can be done in parallel. The characters that appear are simple and don't allow much interaction with them, I wish they were a bit more active. Lastly, there is lots of humour in this game. It may get a bit repetitive, but humour is an important part of the game.


[ Also this month, Toni sent me a review of TADS, one of the text adventure design systems out there for would-be text adventure authors. It seemed like a reasonable idea, and here it is. I have no doubt that the entire spectrum of them will soon follow. I have no set format for them, but Toni seems to have the right idea. Just follow his lead. ]

From: "Toni Cortes" (toni@ac.upc.es)

NAME: TADS                                       AUTHOR:  Michael J. Roberts
AVAILABILITY: Shareware $40 GMD                  PARSER: Very Good
DOCUMENTATION: Excellent                         EASE OF USE: Quite easy
EMAIL: mroberts@hinrg.starconn.com
TADS is an adventure compiler. It is an object oriented language especially designed to implement text adventures. As these kind of games are based on objects that a character can manipulate, the object oriented aproach is very well suited.

Writing an adventure with TADS consists of defining the objects and the way they respond to certain actions. This is done in a C-like language which is very well explained in the manual. The rest of the game, like parsing, displaying, etc. is done automatically by TADS.

Although it is very simple to use it would take a long time to develop a complete game from scratch. In order to solve this problem an object library comes with the program. In this library the most common actions and objects are defined. This simplifies the task of starting to use the compiler. After one gets used to the language, it is very easy to modify this library in order to fit it to the programmer's needs.

The registered version comes with a simple, but useful, debugger. This eases the task of writing games.

Although it is a good compiler, there are some things which could be improved. One of them is the small freedom the programmer has on how to display things on the screen. I'd love to be able to use colors and so.

As an example of what can be done with TADS we can take look to the Unnkulian series which has been developed with this software.

There is more information about TADS and what this language looks like on GMD. There is a shareware version with a simplified manual and some examples.


From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: The Zork Trilogy                  PARSER: Early Infocom
AUTHOR: Infocom                         PLOT: [Blank]
ATMOSPHERE: [Blank]                     AVAILABILITY: C_INF_LTOI1
WRITING: [Blank]                        PUZZLES: [Blank]
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports                 CHARACTERS: [Blank]
EMAIL: ???
Ah, the Zork Trilogy. Basically chopped-up components of the Dungeon game which was so popular at MIT, these were the games that launched Infocom to its evenutal fame and fortune. Based more or less on the concepts put forth by the original Adventure game, the Zork trilogy games are mostly an exercise in collection of "treasure" items and solving more or less unrelated puzzles. Zork I is a particularly good example of this, where the player is apparently looting for looting's own sake, while Zork II sets the collection of treasures up as part of the plot (although you must discover this for yourself; at first, you are merely collecting them because you get points for having each one). Zork III changes from collection of "treasures" to collection of related items which taken together serve as a complete set of "Dungeon Mastering" equipment. But in all three of the games, the puzzles surrounding these items (while for the most part well-written, logical, and fun to solve) are basically unrelated to one another or to the story as a whole. The disparate elements are loosely glued together by the concept of the "Great Underground Empire" wherein all three games are set, but beyond that there is no real connection (and thus the games become rather non-linear in places, which is a good thing in this reviewer's opinion, but for the wrong reasons!)

In Zork I, you play an adventurer who seemingly stumbles upon the ruins of the Great Underground Empire in the basement of an abandoned white house. You immediately set about gathering the Twenty Treasures of Zork, and put them in your trophy case for safekeeping. Along the way, you'll deal with a nasty troll, a particularly nasty thief, and a maze (blech).

Zork II casts you as this same adventurer, continuing his explorations into the GUE (as detailed at the end of Zork I). This time, however, you find yourself in the realm of the crafty and capricious Wizard of Frobozz, whose magic seldom works exactly as he intends it to but always causes you a hassle or two. Freeing yourself from his domain and taking his power for your own is the goal of this one, though it's really just another "collect the treasures" exercise with the worst puzzle in Infocom history thrown in for good measure (the baseball diamond one, for those who know).

Zork III ends the tale of your exploits, as you find yourself confronted by the mysterious being known as the Dungeon Master. This game is the worst of the lot, and should be played more for the sake of completeness than anything else. The ending will be apparent long before you get there, and it's not particuarly fun getting their either because of some very stupid random elements to the puzzles which require proper timing (but give no warning to the player that this is the case). This game experiments with a strange scoring system unlike any other Infocom game -- 7 points, one for each of the "major" actions you must complete (which does not include actually winning, I might add). Much shorter than the other two, this game seems more like an afterthought than a conclusion.

At any rate, in comparison with Infocom's later works, the Zork Trilogy are on a much lower level. However, they are enjoyable games each in their own right, (though Zork III stretches it right to the limit!) and should be played by any fan of interactive fiction. Don't expect detailed plot, however; it simply isn't there. These games, however, form an important part of the base upon which today's IF is built, and therefore are entitled to a bit of easy treatment. As the first truly "commercial" IF played by any significant number of people, the Zork games are a major milestone in the history of IF -- and they are fun, taken at face value. If you can get them in the original packaging, do so -- the GUE materials are worth the price of admission alone. If not, however, they are part of the Lost Treasures of Infocom pacakge. Highly recommended for play by everyone who wants to know where IF in general and Infocom in particular got going.


[ Editor's Closing Notes: I hope that everyone enjoys the new review format more than the old one. Let me know if you like it or not. Also any suggestions are still welcome, but the system needs to be sorted out by issue #3. I can't keep asking for revised scores from reviewers. It's not fair to them. ]

There is a new standard for game ratings now. Here's the scoop:

Overall scoring and these specific categories work the same.

Two new categories have been added:

Benchmarks for:

          0 - Little or no attempt at atmosphere.
         .5 - A few nice touches.
          1 - Good Atmosphere.
        1.5 - Feels like you're there.
          2 - Edge of your seat the whole way.

          0 - Frustrating to play, poor parser, few synonyms.
         .5 - A little better.  Still pretty unbearable.
          1 - Good parser.  Not too hard to figure out.
        1.5 - Good parser.  Most 'ease of use' commands implemented.
          2 - Excellent gameplay.  Understands almost everything you try.
The CHARACTER category will still be around, but it will be averaged only with itself, to produce a CHARACTER rating. It will not affect the total score of the game.

There will be a PUZZLE category that is treated the same as the CHARACTER category.

The PARSER category has been absorbed into GAMEPLAY.

Everything else in the rating section is the same.

Here's a revised ratings line for Trinity:

Name       Avg Sco  Chr  Puz    #Votes    Issues     Notes
=======    =======  ===  ===    ======    ======     ======
Trinity      8.9    1.7  1.5      21    1-5, 8, 11    C_INF
A complete and revised version of this rating system will appear in the SPAG FAQ, which should be up on ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/SPAG/SPAG.FAQ. From now on, only changes to the system and the notes will appear in each issue. For the basics, look at the FAQ.


A   - Runs on Amigas.
AP  - Runs on Apple IIs.
GS  - Runs on Apple IIGS.
AR  - Runs on Archimedes Acorns.
C   - Commercial, no fixed price.
C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30.
F   - Freeware.
GMD - Available on ftp.gmd.de
I   - Runs on IBM compatibles.
M   - Runs on Macs.
S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20.
64  - Runs on Commodore 64s.
TAD - Written with TADS.  This means it can run on:
      AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECstation
      (MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple
      Macintosh, SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc)
      running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, and even a 386+
      protected mode version.
AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST.  This does not
      include games made with the Master's edition.
INF - Infocom or Inform game.  These games will run on:
      Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, VMS, Apple II,
      and Apple IIGS.  I believe that it is also possible to play
      these on the C64, TSR-80, Acorn Archimedes, and others, but
      I am not positive, as I saw no public domain interpreters for
      any systems other than the first group on ftp.gmd.de.  I
      will update this as people confirm or deny the feasibility
      of running these games on these computers.
NOTES: If there was no rating for Character or Puzzle, it was left blank. Please remember that I do not yet have a large enough sample of scores to accurately compare them. The grading system has changed and that may further damage the accuracy until I get about 20 more scores for each game.

 Name		       Avg Sc  Chr  Puz  # Sc  Rlvt Ish Notes:
 ====                  ======  ===  ===  ====  ======== ======
Ballyhoo		7.2		   1	 x	C_INF
Beyond Zork		7.4		   1	 x	C_INF
Border Zone		5.6		   1	 x	C_INF
Bureaucracy		7.8		   1	 x	C_INF
Curses			8.6    1.5  1.7    1     2	F_INF
Cutthroats		6.4	           2     1	C_INF
Deadline		6.8		   1	 x	C_INF
Enchanter		6.8    0.8  1.3	   2     x	C_INF
Hitchhiker's Guide	8.0     	   1     x	C_INF
Hollywood Hijinx	6.0		   1	 x	C_INF
Horror of Rylvania	7.7		   1     1	C20_TAD_GMD (Demo)
Humbug			7.4		   1	 x	S10_GMD (Uncertain)
Infidel 		6.9		   3     1-2	C_INF
Jacaranda Jim		7.0		   1	 x	S?_GMD
Klaustrophobia		9.5		   1     1	S15_AGT_GMD
Leather Goddesses	7.7		   1	 x	C_INF
Lurking Horror, The	7.2		   1     1	C_INF
Mind Forever Voyaging	8.1		   1	 x	C_INF
Moonmist		6.4	           1     1	C_INF
Multidimen. Thief	6.0    0.5  1.0    1     2      S?_AGT?_GMD
Nord and Bert		6.8		   1	 x	C_INF
Planetfall		7.3		   1	 x	C_INF
Sanity Claus		9.0	           1     1	S10_AGT_GMD
Seastalker		5.0		   1	 x	C_INF
Shades of Grey		7.9		   1	 1-2	F_AGT_GMD
Sorceror		6.6    0.6  1.5	   2	 2	C_INF
Spellbreaker		7.9    1.2  1.8	   2	 2	C_INF
Starcross		7.4	           2     1	C_INF
Stationfall		6.7		   1	 x	C_INF
Suspect			5.9		   1	 x	C_INF
Suspended		7.0		   1	 x	C_INF
Trinity			9.2    1.4  1.7    3     1	C_INF
Unnkulian One-Half	8.1                2     1	F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 1	8.1 	           2     1	S10_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 2	7.1	           2     1	S10_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Zero  	9.0 	           1     1	C25_TAD_GMD (Demo)
Wishbringer		6.3		   1	 x	C_INF
Witness, The		6.3	           2     1	C_INF
Zork 0			6.5    1.1  2.0	   1	 x	C_INF
Zork 1			5.4    0.6  1.6	   2	 1-2	C_INF
Zork 2			6.4    0.8  1.6	   2	 1-2	C_INF
Zork 3			5.7    0.6  1.4	   2	 1-2	C_INF

The Top Three:

 1. Klaustrophobia	9.5
 2. Trinity		9.2
 3. Unkuulian Zero	9.0
    Sanity Claus	9.0

Editor's Picks:

 1. Trinity
 2. Shades of Grey
 3. A Mind Forever Voyaging
These are my personal top three. They may not have scored the highest, but check them out anyways.

Save Princeton (Last Month)

Have you ever wanted to kill somebody by feeding them school food? To hobnob with F. Scott Fitzgerald? To be single-handedly responsible for the salvation or destruction of one of the oldest universities in the United States? Save Princeton offers you the chance to do all this and more. In the role of a visitor to the campus, you must save Princeton from a mysterious invasionary force. Saving Princeton doesn't require any familiarity with the place. In fact, all it requires is an off-beat sense of humor and a little bit of brains.

Save Princeton was created with TADS, the Text Adventure Development System. The game has fifty-two locations, and a vocabulary of about 980 words, which makes it about as complex as a middle-period Infocom game. It's shareware, with a fee of $10.

Save Princeton is available for the IBM-compatible and Mactintosh computers, as well as any other systems that support TADS. Mac version: FTP to ftp.gmd.de and retrieve /if-archive/games/mac/saveprinceton199.hqx

IBM version: FTP to ftp.gmd.de and retrieve: /if-archive/games/pc/savepton18.zip

Other systems: Assuming you already have the TADS run-time for your system, FTP to ftp.gmd.de and retrieve: /if-archive/games/tads/savepton18.gam.Z

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me.

-Jacob Weinstein

In the future, I would like to do a special European issue. This would be a one time thing, concentrating on text adventures made in Europe, and describing how to go about getting these games. Text adventures still have a good following in England and other places throughout the world, and I would like to present a more international magazine. So, if you have any info on European game sources or games, I would appreciate it if you would send it my way. Thanks.

Also, I'd like to thank you all for the enthusiastic response I've gotten for SPAG. I never realized there were so many people out there who cared so deeply for text adventures. Whether it's just a love of reading and puzzle solving, or nostalgia for golden days a decade past, you've all had some very warm and reassuring things to say about text adventures, and SPAG for that matter. I'm glad to be able to provide a forum in which we can all share opinions and thoughts on my favorite gaming form. I hope that I can continue to support and improve SPAG for a long time. Keep those reviews rolling in!

Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!