Return to Zork (RTZ) is an adventure game released in 1993 and was the first in the series to use graphics with the other games being a solely text based adventure. Released around the same time as the exceeding popular Myst the games share a number of similarities with a point and click adventure at their core. Exploring the world through a first person perspective the game features video captured actors which was a popular inclusion within video games during the time period of release.
In Return to Zork you play the unfortunate winner of a sweepstakes contest that gets an all-expenses holiday to Zork in the year of 1647 GUE which is well ahead in the franchise timeline by several hundreds of years. As a result the events (such as the Great Diffusion) you may have experienced in the past Zork stories are almost seen as myth and legend.
Once players reach their sweepstake destination they quickly discover something is off about the place and that it has been overtaken by a dark and mysterious power. It’s up to you to save the inhabitants in the Valley of the Sparrows that are in hiding through exploration and investigation of this new evil power that calls itself Morphius. With some buildings outright disappeared, vultures occupying the area and any survivors succumbing to insane nightmares there are many dark events to unpack.
Like many other games of its time Return to Zork uses video captured actors to serve as NPCs in the game world which players must first locate and then save. The most impressive feature of the game though is the multiple ways players can interact with an object which drives a sense of real world like choice. Unlike many other adventure games that allow only one or two options for a given item in Zork you can expect to have half a dozen options for everything in the game world which compounds the puzzle challenge you’ll experience.
This large number of options and freedom also ties into the multiple endings that Return to Zork has to offer. Each of these multiple endings is reached a different way based on how you advance through the game and ultimately complete it which means replay value is extremely high, especially considering the year that this game was released. All in all there are a total of 6 different ways to finish Return to Zork that each have an associated impact on the world after your adventure.
This multiple options philosophy also extends to the various puzzles players will have to complete with nearly all puzzles having 3 or more different ways to get past them so players don’t have to follow a strict linear solving adventure. That being said there are several clear pathways that provide the most efficient method of progression that feel equally satisfying to uncover. In progressing players can also utilise other unique mechanics of Return to Zork that include facial expressions to communicate with NPCs, a camera that ca take photos and a recording device that allows players to reflect on things they have seen or heard at any time.
If you find the logic in puzzle adventures sometimes frustrating you’ll really love the freedom and options in Return to Zork which lets you approach the game in multiple ways although without context of the past games you might find yourself equally frustrated.
- The first Zork game to not use a text based interface which expands on the game world further.
- Multiple ways to complete the game gives great player freedom through puzzles and ultimately game endings.
- A beautiful soundtrack with over 100 different and original compositions to play throughout your adventure.
- An interface that gives you multiple interactions and quick access to your camera and voice recorder.
- Released in 1993 during the great era of point and click puzzle adventures titles.
Review Platform: PC