Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor

Posted by Matthew Murray.
First posted on 31 March 1999. Last updated on 13 August 2009.
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Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor
A character can be created with custom attributes.
Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor
A primitive auto-map feature is among the game's unique design innovations.

Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor is a game that works very hard to bridge the gaps between the Zork and Enchanter trilogies. Rightly regarded as among the most distinctive games from Infocom, Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor's innovations are many, and its successes plentiful. Though it does not achieve complete success as the adventure/role-playing hybrid it aspires to be, it is nonetheless a game not to be missed by devoted Infocom fans.

In the year 966 GUE, the Guildmaster of the Enchanter's Guild embarks on a great quest to fully restore magic to the kingdom of Quendor. As his quest (chronicled in Spellbreaker) nears its end, the few remaining great enchanters know that their knowledge may not easily survive the coming Age of Science. Their only hope is the fabled Coconut of Quendor, a priceless relic in the possession of the Implementors, the creators of the world. To obtain the Coconut from the hands of the Implementors, the enchanters send forth an adventurer unskilled in the ways of Magick and unknowledgable of the fate that can befall the realm. Are you able to find the Coconut of Quendor and save the secrets of Magick, or are the secrets of the few remaining enchanters doomed to die with the Age of Magick?

Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor shares with its predecessors as among Infocom's interactive fiction titles by sporting a powerful parser that is capable of understanding full English sentences and a large vocabulary. The screen, however, is no longer filled with only white text on a black background. Though you can now customize the colors of the display with any of 6 different color palettes, the game's major innovation is the layout of information on the screen. The upper portion of the screen is now dominated by an onscreen map and a window. The map, in the upper right corner, shows you the rooms you have visited in your immediate vicinity as well as the exits connecting them, and lets you move between them by clicking on them with the mouse cursor. The window, to the left of the map, contains room descriptions, a listing of your inventory, or your character's current statistics, depending on the commands you type. The window can also be set to always display one type of information. If you do not like the graphical enhancements, they can be removed, thus letting you play the game as an ordinary all text adventure. In addition, the game introduces user definable function keys, allowing whole or partial commands to be typed automatically with a single keystroke. This makes typing commonly used commands much less of a chore. Unique also in this game is the use of randomized locations. The geography of several places is randomly generated, making the map of the game a little different every time you play.

The game is written by "Professor" Brian Moriarty, who is also the author of Wishbringer. It is based on the concept of interactive fiction told through a story interpreter pioneered by Infocom. The Infocom story interpreter is platform independent, and the game themselves are complied for a virtual computer architecture called the Z-Machine. There have been 4 versions of this game released since 1987. The last version dated 1987 uses Version 5 of Z-Machine. The game supports 128 rooms and 77 objects, with a vocabulary of 1,569 words and 32,778 opcodes.

All the new enhancements to the traditional Infocom engine make Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendo easy and fun to play. Being able to always have a complete list of your inventory on the screen, especially when inventory management becomes very difficult as the game approaches its conclusion, is very helpful and a feature from which other Infocom games can benefit. The onscreen map makes getting lost (especially in some of the game's randomized geography) much harder to do, and makes exploring new areas easier than ever. The text parser in this sequel is, of course, excellent, making communication with the game nearly effortless.

Lots of elements make Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendo a joy to play. Its truly expansive geography and cleverly designed puzzles are chief among them. The game is very immersing. From the beginning of the game to the end, the game universe surrounds you and does not let go. What little dialog there is often proves to be entertaining and serves the game well, while laden with just the right amount of dry wit. A great plot twist, occurring near the middle of the game, energizes the remainder of your adventure in a way unlike most Infocom titles.

For all it has going for it, Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendo is also one of Infocom's most unbalanced games. Designed as an adventure/role-playing hybrid, it never seems to exactly find its voice. While the adventuring portions of the game are quite strong, the role-playing elements are less effective. Combat in the game often seems more akin to puzzle solving than to having the correct combination of skills and weapons. Most of the skills, in addition, do not always seem to have a noticeable bearing on the game, and certain ways to enhance skills are all too easily missed. This can make the last part of the game difficult, if not impossible to win. The end result is that it seems as if the role-playing elements are not as well thought out as they should have been. Given the strength of the puzzles and adventuring portions of the game, this is all the more unfortunate.

Overall, Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendo attempts to reach beyond the traditional model to become a true adventure/role-playing hybrid. While it is a great adventure game, it is a not so great role-playing one.

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