Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz

Posted by Karen Tyers.
First posted on 25 May 1998. Last updated on 09 September 2009.
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Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz
Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz is among the most difficult text adventure games from Infocom.

Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz continues the story from Zork I: The Great Underground Empire. Each game in the Zork trilogy is completely independent of each other, so you do not have to play the original game first in order to try this one. As with the previous title, this sequel is a pure text game—one which all true adventure gamers should play at least once.

In Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz, you explore a long hidden region of the Empire that is dominated by the Wizard of Frobozz. He is once a respected Enchanter, but when his powers begin to fade he is exiled by Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive. Though he is now bordering on senility, he is still a force to be reckoned with. Your goal, as you venture into the wizard's realm, is to avoid his capricious tricks and learn to control his magic powers.

As with original game in this trilogy, the text parser in Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz is extremely flexible and user friendly. It enables you to enter fairly complex commands, including one that are separated by a comma or various prepositions such as "and" or "except". Of course, as a text adventure, there is not a screen of graphics present. However, in my opinion, this is actually a bonus, as you can concentrate on the tasks in hand and not be sidetracked by pretty graphics.

The game is written by Marc Blank and David Lebling. 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. The first version of this game uses an updated Z-Machine from Zork I: The Great Underground Empire. There have been 8 versions of this game released since 1981 using 2 different versions of Z-Machine. The last version dated 1984 uses Version 3 of Z-Machine. The game supports 86 rooms and 50 objects, with a vocabulary of 684 words and 6,804 opcodes.

Gameplay follows the tradition set by the previous game of the trilogy. It is totally absorbing. You meet the Wizard of Frobozz very early on when he tries to prevent you from completing your quest. He also appears at random places throughout the game and casts various spells at you that can delay you considerably, but it is well worth noting the names of them. The game bears a slightly different twist from Zork I: The Great Underground Empire in that there are a few more random elements with which to contend that can prove extremely annoying, especially once you have worked out what you need to do and then find out you need to try several times to do them. In addition, there are a couple of places where you need another character in the game to do something for you. I feel there are more puzzles to be solved in this sequel and the puzzles are much harder. There seems to be a lot more running to and from than in the previous title.

From the perspective of an adventure gamer with a passion for interactive fiction, I really enjoy the complexity of some of the puzzles. They require an awful lot of thinking! Similar to the original game, the main highlight of this game is that it is a text pure adventure.

Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz is regarded by many fans as one of the most difficult games in the Zork series. The puzzles are devious and the clues are too scarce. The game also suffers from a number of fundamental flaws in adventure game design, including the "resurrection" fallacy and the "dead-end" fallacy. The "resurrection" fallacy states that an adventure game must never require the player to die or fail in the game in order to gain information that is subsequently required during the replay to complete it. Puzzles such as the ones involving the "dehydration" cakes, the brick, and the "shrinking" candy are examples in which the solutions must either be guessed or deduced only after the player makes an incorrect choice and fail to complete the game. In contrast, the "dead-end" fallacy refers to any situation whereby the player cannot finish a game because a puzzle or an item has been missed which the player now no longer can access. This leads the player down the long path of a dead-end. The player must then restore to an older saved game to replay the key sequences. Puzzles such as the ones involving the red sphere, the "dehydration" cakes, the "shrinking" candy, and the matches, are examples of this fallacy.

Full version of the Zork trilogy (including this game) is available as free download for a limited time in 1997 from Activision. The promotion is to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Zork trilogy and to welcome the release of the sequel Zork Grand Inquisitor. As with the original game in this series, Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz is a must for any traditional adventure game fan.

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