The Let's Play Archive

Return to Zork

by Xaiter

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Original Thread: Slider puzzles? I'm going to need some rye. Let's Return to Zork!



Ah, Return to Zork. Released in the Summer of 1993, it was the Zork franchise's attempt to jump into the modern era of gaming. The first game in the series that wasn't text based, a trend that would continue in a darker tone with Zork Nemesis and the much lighter hearted Zork: Grand Inquisitor. Return to Zork sports a CD soundtrack, voice acting, "live action" actors, and animated CG cut scenes. It's also chronologically the last game in the series, taking place almost 400 years after Zork I-III.

Thrawn527 did an excellent LP of Zork: Grand Inquisitor, which is definitely worth checking out. A couple of other people have LP'd Zork Nemesis, but neither LP is available in the Archives.

Return to Zork originally shipped with three feelies: a zorkmid, a copy of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica, and a letter informing you that you'd won sweepstakes with the grand prize being an all expenses paid trip to the Valley of the Sparrows! Which is where our story begins, so without further ado, let's play Return to Zork.

YouTube Playlist

Post-Game Bonus Videos

A chat with William Volk

William Volk provides some information on the technology used to create some Activision games, including Return to Zork, Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2 and Manhole, and describes the behind the scenes of the video game industry 80's and early 90's.

Encyclopedia Frobozzica Excerpts

A one-eyed giant. Although fairly rare in the Great Underground Empire, they present quite a problem encountered. The average cyclops would quite willingly devour an average human, and love every bit of it. So much of a nuisance were cyclops, that quite often one could find advertisements in Popular Enchanting posted by people looking for cyclops eradication work. Throughout the years only two methods of avoiding cyclops have proven effective. One could either feed it something other than oneself, or trick it into believing you are Odysseus, the ancient cyclops nemesis. One of the few cyclops specimens found in the wild was one that had taken residence in the Great Underground Empire in Eastlands after the fall of the empire.

Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive
The great-great-great-great-grandson of King Duncanthrax, ruled the Great Underground Empire from 770 GUE to 789 GUE. He was the seventh king of the Flathead Dynasty, coming to the throne after Mumberthrax, and before Loowit. Born in 723 GUE, Dimwit was Mumberthrax's firstborn, and grew up as heir to the throne of Quendor. A tad spoiled, little Dimwit was fond of torturing his nannies in the Egreth Castle dungeon.

Dimwit spent most of his early adulthood vacationing (with 40,000 attendants) in the sparsely populated Eastlands across the Great Sea. Dimwit despised the outdoors, and he was petrified of rain, which puddled embarrassingly on his level pate. He soon became enthralled by the underground caverns in those areas, an interest that was to change the course of the Kingdom. When Mumberthrax felt death's icy hand in 770 GUE, Dimwit began his reign. Described by Boswell Barwell as "vibrant," Dimwit has also been portrayed as "the single worst ruler the Empire ever produced." (The Great Underground Empire: A History, by Froboz Mumbar) Dimwit moved the capital of Quendor from Egreth in the Westlands to Aragain in the Eastlands on 14 Jam 771. Aragain, a small village, was transformed and renamed Flatheadia. Another indication of Dimwit's vanity was his renaming of the Great Sea to the Flathead Ocean. Dimwit also decreed that Quendor be called "The Great Underground Empire." These names are now used interchangeably. Lord Dimwit's vanity was surpassed only by his outrageous sense of proportion. For example, his coronation took 13 years to plan (and therefore took place two-thirds of the way through his reign), lasted an additional year and a half, and cost 12 times the Empire's GNP. This incredible ceremony quickly earned him the nickname Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive. More evidence of his excessiveness came in 783 when, on a whim, he ordered the erection of Flood Control Dam #3, an underground project whose uselessness (it never rains underground!) and its cost (37 million zorkmids!) did not diminish its magnificence. He also had huge granola smelters built near the Antharian Granola Mines of Plumbat.

Dimwit also developed an incredible urge for odd candies. He commissioned the Frobozz Magic Candy Company to make him candied grasshoppers, chocolate ants, and worms glacee. His love for these was only surpassed by his desire for rare chocolate truffles. In order to indulge his bottomless appetite, he ordered the excavation of entire forests where the truffles grew. Another of Lord Dimwit's accomplishments was the creation of the Royal Museum to house the crown jewels. Built in 776 GUE and dedicated the next year, this Museum had incredibly tight security that actually showed restraint on the part of the king. He had originally planned to build the museum under two miles of mountain, and surround it with 500 feet of steel. This rare moment of self-control was probably due in some part to the sound advice of one of his chief advisors, Lord Feepness. His other advisor, Delbor of Gurth, was probably too frightened to give his opinion in the matter. Some bitter chroniclers have described Dimwit's castle at Flatheadia as his biggest folly. It covered 8600 square bloits, and housed, at one time, over 90% of the empire's population.

At this point, discerning readers will have noted that all of Dimwit's acts seemed to have been to gratify his ego. This, however, is not true. When the Endless Fire of 773 destroyed the city of Mareilon, Lord Dimwit Flathead issued over the following few weeks a series of 5,521 edicts severely limiting access to magic, and, incidentally, lawyers. These edicts resulted in the blossoming of the highly successful institutions of the Guilds of Enchanters.

Lord Dimwit gave all of his underground projects to the Frobozz Magic Cave Company, chiefly because his brother, John D. Flathead, was President of FrobozzCo International, the Magic Cave Company's parent company. Another of Dimwit's projects that involved the Cave Company was his plan to quench and then hollow out a mighty volcano near Flatheadia. Dimwit was fond of this idea, and personally reviewed the plans at each stage. After the volcano project was finished, the king conceived of two more stupendous projects. The second idea, never to be realized, was the creation of a new continent in the center of the Flathead Ocean. The outline and contours of the new continent would have been a gigantic reproduction of his own visage. Fortunately for mapmakers, Dimwit passed away in 789 before he could accomplish his final goal.

Not surprisingly, his vanity would bring about the end of his Empire, and his life. In 789 Dimwit ordered the defoliation of 1400 square bloits of lush forest in the Fublio Valley to erect a nine-bloit-high statue of himself, lending credence to the Royal motto, "A truly great ruler is larger than life." One resident of Fublio Valley was not impressed. The matter came to a head at a banquet thrown by Dimwit to celebrate his new statue. This banquet, a minor affair that used 300 dragons to feed a few thousand guests, saw the conception of the last two royal proposals of Dimwit's reign. Wishing to have a dedication for his statue, he suggested giving everyone in the Kingdom a year off, and inviting them to Fublio Valley. The second main topic of discussion at the banquet was Dimwit's idea for a new continent. The empire simply did not have enough money to build it, and Lord Feepness, the voice of sanity in the realm, pointed out that raising the tax rate from 98% to 100% simply would not be a wise political move. Lord Dimwit, never satisfied, proposed adopting everyone in the Kingdom and telling them that he'd cut off their allowances.

Just at that moment, the great mage Megaboz appeared amidst a cloud of smoke. Furious at the statue darkening his home of Fublio Valley, he cursed Dimwit's life, family, and Empire. In only a few moments, Lord Dimwit and his eleven siblings came to a sudden death, thus ending one of the most colorful chapters in the history of Quendor. The court magicians were able to postpone the other effects of Megaboz's Curse for quite some time. Ninety-four years later, on 14 Mumberbur 883, in the reign of Wurb Flathead, the Empire came to an end. Flatheadia was destroyed, and the age of the Flathead Dynasty was over.

Coconut of Quendor
For many years historians, though reluctant to dismiss the Coconut outright, regarded its historical existence as dubious at best. Orkan of Thriff has suggested that if all the "Shards of The One True Coconut" and "Vials of The Blessed Milk" were gathered in one place, they would form a stack nine bloits high. Orkan and Gustar Woomax, the leading chronicler of Coconut lore, was one of the privileged few who were on hand in 966 GUE when the existence of the Coconut was actually verified.

For years the Coconut had been in the possession of a group of Implementors on the Ethereal Plane of Atrii. In 966 an ur-grue, whose motives are not entirely understood, stole the Coconut and secreted it deep under the Mithicus Mountains. An obscure peasant was able to recover the Coconut, which was then used to store the sum of all human knowledge from the Age of Magic. It is believed that the shell of the Coconut is impervious to the passage of time, and thus the knowledge of Magic will survive the Age of Science, and be rediscovered by generations in the distant future.

The Royal Museum
Built by Lord Dimwit Flathead in 776 GUE, and dedicated by him the following year, houses the crown jewels, a technology display, and a famous royal puzzle in the form of a sandstone and marble maze. The technology display contains items generously provided by FrobozzCo International, such as a Temporizer, Pressurizer, and Room-Spinner. It is of slight historical interest that the adventurer who would eventually become the second Dungeon Master used the Royal Museum's Temporizer to travel back in time to 776 GUE to steal one of the crown jewels. This resulted in a dramatic increase in security measures by Dimwit Flathead. He had originally intended that the museum be built under 2 miles of mountain and surrounded by 500 feet of steel, but had to settle for a less excessive construction plan. The theft of his royal ring no doubt led to a greater eccentric excessiveness on his part.

The Island Province, is 959 square bloits of beautiful land right in the middle of the Great Sea. The weather in Antharia is picture-perfect, except for an occasional hurricane in late summer. Tourists to Antharia bring in a remarkable business. No trip is complete without a visit to the shipbuilding factories of South Anthar, the marble mines in the Peltoid Valley, the port of Marba, and the Bella Quease. Mid-spring in Antharia brings the Marble Pageant, followed in the summer by shark-wrestling in the Flathead Stadium.

Antharia became a part of the Great Underground Empire in 665, when the forces of Duncanthrax vanquished the Antharian Armada at the famous battle of Fort Griffspotter. Up to that time the island-nation of Antharia was the world's premier sea power, and this victory gave Duncanthrax undisputed control of the Great Sea, and put the superb ship-building facilities of Antharia at his disposal. The conquest of Antharia also gave the kingdom access to Antharia's famed granola mines. Unfortunately, no one in Quendor liked granola.

For many years now Antharia has been ruled by a council of four "Elders" - one from the Shipbuilding Guild, one from the Granola Miners Guild, one from the Marble Cutters Guild, and one from a popular waterfront pub called "Emu's". Spenseweed is the official flower of Antharia, and the island's motto is "Hieya wizka," which translates to "Hello sailor." The capital of Antharia is Anthar.

It should be made clear at the outset that it is not known whether the Legend of Wishbringer is a tale about humans or platypi. Ancient texts depict human figures, and yet the tale supposedly takes place in the Kingdom of Misty Island, a known platypi home.

In the reign of King Anatinus of Misty Island, a beautiful peasant girl named Morning-Star was born. The legend of her beauty spread all throughout the kingdom, and Queen Alexis grew jealous. Alexis caused the kidnapping of the beautiful child, who was then raised as the Princess of Misty Island. Morning-Star grew, and her beauty blossomed. At the arrival of her seventeenth birthday, Anatinus decreed that anyone desiring of her hand in marriage must fulfill a Love-Quest of the Queen's choosing, according to the custom of the kingdom. Alexis, envious of the horde of knights who descended on Morning-Star, devised horribly difficult quests that resulted in the death of six young suitors.

Alexis concluded that no one was fit to wed her daughter, and declared, in the Edict of Alexis, that Morning-Star must remain unmarried and virgin her entire life. The princess suffered through life as her beauty faded away. Many kingdoms after, when the whole incident had faded into legend, a scholar exploring Misty Island came across the tomb of the princess. All that was left of her mortal remains was her heart, which, hard and shrunken in the grave, was shining brightly with the stifled wishes of her lifetime.

This magic stone, said to grant seven wishes to its bearer, passed through many hands, and eventually came into the possession of the proprietor of Festeron's magic shop in the tenth century GUE. The Evil One, desiring power over Wishbringer, magically turned the village of Festeron into Witchville in order to capture the stone. The Festeron postal employee who succeeded in defeating The Evil One magically altered Wishbringer by transforming it into one facet of a mysterious cat known as Chaos. Thus the stone Wishbringer, and all memory of Morning-Star, passes into history.

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