Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Game 91: Zork II

Download a story file of the earliest release here:

Read the manual here:

Get Frotz (if native Windows execution is your wish) here:

Zork II was the first and only game that Infocom developed for their Z-Machine version 2, and this early version was only available for a limited time. The very next year, Infocom developed Deadline and Zork III for their longer-lived Z-Machine 3, and soon retrofitted Zork I & II to run on it as well.

Initial releases of Zork II, designated “release 7,” were for TRS-80 and Apple II computers, as Zork I had been. I had hoped to locate disk images for the original TRS-80 release, but the earliest I could find were of release 23. I did find release 7 for the Apple II, but as it only supports uppercase output in 40-column text mode, this wasn’t acceptable. So I extracted the storyfile, and would just have to put up with Frotz and all of its Windows-friendly anachronisms. The horror.

Zork II picks up exactly where Zork I left off, inside the barrow, with the iconic lamp and equally iconic but less useful Elvish sword at our feet, and are otherwise empty-handed.

Step 1: Mapping!

By a linear southbound passage, through a narrow tunnel lit by phosphorescent moss and across a bridge over a ravine is a great cavern that tapers off into dark tunnel, splitting into two directions. One leads to an impossibly lush subterranean garden, complete with a topiary, gazebo and unicorn. The other leads to the disorienting Carousel Room, one of the many areas left out of Zork I.

It wasn’t long before the Wizard showed up, and started to mess with me. He incanted “fence,” temporarily sealing off egress from the garden.

Inside the gazebo were a number of items, including two from MDL Zork; the newspaper and placemat.

Reading the newspaper:
** U.S. News and Dungeon Report **


Our correspondents report that a world-famous and battle-hardened adventurer has been seen in the vicinity of the Great Underground Empire. Local grues have been reported sharpening their (slavering) fangs....

"Zork: The Wizard of Frobozz" was written by Dave Lebling and Marc Blank, and is (c) Copyright 1981 by Infocom, Inc.

The topiary led back to the Carousel Room, which, as in MDL Zork, sends you off in random directions.

One direction led to a marble hall, which had a clay-like brick, which I know to be C4 from playing MDL Zork. Passages north and upward led to a familiar Tiny Room with a recycled puzzle involving a massive wooden door locked from the other side.

Another direction led to a Riddle Room, with a familiar riddle:
Above the stone, the following words are written: "No man shall enter this room without solving this riddle:

  What is tall as a house,
    round as a cup,
      and all the king's horses
        can't draw it up?"

I knew this one! “Well.”

The door opened, and led to a broom closet storing a pearl necklace, and to the bottom of a well. I left my magic bottle of water behind in Zork I, though, so I’d need something different to progress here. I went back to the Carousel Room.

Another direction leads to a Cool Room, filled with a damp mist emanating from a westward passage. Across a stone bridge to the north, my sword started to glow blue.

In another direction was a “Cobwebby Corridor,” where the fuse for the C4 was placed. Through this corridor was a “Guarded Room,” not actually guarded, but the vestibule door to the next area had a live lizard head embedded in it, which kept me away from the door. My sword did not glow blue, suggesting no danger, but also had no effect on the lizard head.

Climbing upward led to a “Lava Tube,” suggesting the volcano from MDL Zork. Sure enough, further up the tube was a “Volcano View” room. The wizard popped up again and incanted “fireproof,” to no obvious effect on either of us.

Climbing down from the Lava Tube brought me to the old “Ice Room” with the impassable wall of ice filling the left half, but the east side looped back to the cool room.

I went back to the stone bridge and crossed, arriving at a dragon’s lair! My sword glowed brightly, but the dragon didn’t attack unprovoked, and I could continue eastward or westward. Eastward led to a series of ledges between the marble room and tiny room. Westward led to the Bank of Zork and no doubt to its infuriating puzzle that Zork I had been better off without.

The wizard continued pestering me during this time, casting these spells, with these effects:
  • Feeble – Made me drop items and temporarily unable to pick them up again.
  • Fantasize – Unknown.
  • Freeze / Float – Couldn’t move for a while.
  • Ferment – Directions got confused.
  • Fumble – Dropped something.
  • [Inaudible F-word] – Random effect.

Unlike MDL Zork, there were two viewing rooms, on the east and west. The safety depository had a discarded piece of paper with a clue to the bank’s bizarre puzzle.
The paper is barely readable except for an area near the bottom. I can make out only "... valuables are completely safe ... advanced magic technology ... impossible to take valuables from the depository ... either teller's ... Many customers faint ... teller pops in ... seems to walk through ... walls ..."

Also, every now and then, a voice whispered “Curtain Door Closed.”

Either the rules of the bank changed, or I got them wrong the first time around. In playing MDL Zork, I had assumed that a silent bank alarm controls where you are sent to when you walk through the curtain of light in the safety deposit room. But this isn’t the case in Zork II, and possibly never was.  There is no silent alarm at all, and your destination when walking through the curtain of light depends on which room you were previously in before entering the depository. The fact that Zork II has two different viewing rooms was key to helping me understand this rule.
  • West Teller’s Room -> West Viewing Room
  • East Teller’s Room -> East Viewing Room
  • Chairman’s Office -> Small Room
  • Small Room -> Vault
  • Vault -> Small Room

Possessing either of the bank’s valuables still prevents you from leaving the safety depository by any means other than the curtain, and the solution is the same. Get the bills from the vault, drop both the bills and portrait in the safety depository, then exit into either teller’s room. Come right back, collect the valuables, and enter the curtain to be teleported to a viewing room.

Another exit from the Carousel Room led to a quarry full of limestone menhirs, the biggest of which had a mysterious “F” carved into it. Past this quarry were some downward stairs to an “Oddly-angled Room,” which at first glance seemed like a MOTLP, a network of interconnected rooms, each with a diamond-shaped window in the floor, glowing with varying brightness. One room had a long club with a burned thick end. But this room resisted my attempts to map it. Sometimes moving in a direction would succeed, even when immediately before, moving in the same direction produced a “there’s no way to go in that direction” message. The windowed floors had no discernible pattern. Even dropping items as breadcrumbs didn’t help. Exits between rooms seemed to be random with every move I made.

Eventually, the wizard taunted me.
As you thrash about in the maze, the mirthful voice of the Wizard taunts you: "Fool! You'll never get past first base at this rate!"

And then the meaning of the diamond window and club became obvious. This maze is supposed to represent a baseball diamond! I stumbled around until I found the club, presumably on the home plate, and by trial and error, found that when I walked southeast, the window went from flickering to glowing. This suggests that home plate is in the west, and first base is to the south.

Next, I walked northeast to second base, where the window glowed. Northwest to third base, and the window glowed brightly. Southwest back to home plate, and the window glowed “serenely.” The puzzle solved, this maze re-arranged itself and became mappable, and a staircase leading down from the pitcher’s mound led to a crypt guarded by Cerberus.

I figured that the GUE 2.0 was about as well mapped out as it could get without solving some more puzzles, so I restarted to recharge my lantern and did precisely that. I went to the tiny room, and unlocked the door by using the letter opener to dislodge the key onto the mat. Behind it, as in MDL Zork, was a dreary room with a blue sphere, which I peered into and saw a murky room with a sandy floor and stone walls.

I hadn’t found any magical bottles of water to use to float the bucket in the well, but I did have a teapot. So I tried filling it with water from the stream, pouring it into the well, and sure enough, this made the bucket float to the top. The Tea Room awaited, with its old cake puzzle. This time, though, they had words written in icing. Only the green cake’s lettering was legible, and it said “Eat Me,” so I did, and shrank down small enough to enter the pool room.

The pool room was unchanged, and still contained a pool of sludge and flask of poison. Zork II, unlike MDL Zork, straight up told me that something hazy was submerged in the pool. There was also the flask of poison, which was useless in MDL Zork, but here I could use it to read the lettering on the rest of the cakes.
  • Blue – Enlarge
  • Red – Evaporate
  • Orange – Explode

These additional clues were much appreciated! I threw the red cake in the pool, which evaporated, leaving a package of candy rather than rare spices.

The Low Room was in this area too, along with its robot puzzle, which I well-remembered how to solve. A red sphere in a booby-trapped closet was linked to the blue sphere already in my pocket. I stopped the carousel room, and returned, where a dented box with a violin awaited me, and I was able to traverse west to a new room containing a can of grue repellant.

Here, I was stuck, and decided to end my session, using the now stationary carousel room as a base of operations. My Trizbort map feels pretty fleshed out, but there are a number of tasks remaining to be done.
  • Where is the last sphere?
  • What do I do about the dragon?
  • How do I melt the ice wall? Presumably this leads to the volcano area.
  • How do I pass the big menhir?
  • How do I pass the lizard head?
  • How do I pass Cerberus?

My collection of junk:
  • Stradivarius
  • Portrait
  • Zorkmid bills
  • Bank brochure
  • Grue repellant
  • Iron key
  • String
  • Brick
  • Letter opener
  • Sword
  • Pearl necklace
  • Teapot
  • Blue sphere
  • Flask
  • Candies
  • Red sphere
  • Newspaper
  • Matchbook
  • Steel box

My Trizbort map (so far):

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