Zork I - magic words, alternative solutions, short cuts, and jokes

By John Sweeney


Issue 28

Jul/Aug 87

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Because of its origins, ZORK seems to have evolved rather than have been designed. Some of the original problems in the mainframe version have been given different solutions on the micro, in some cases the original solution has been left in the code on the micro, in other cases it has been removed.

Where these multiple solutions occur, then usually one is a single 'magic' word which is sometimes illogical and you have to be lucky to guess it, while the other is usually a longer, more complex, solution involving a number of actions of a more logical nature. The 'magic' word solutions generally appear to be older, part of the original game while the longer solutions have in some cases been added on the micro, presumably to enable a more logical solution without the poor adventurer having to make a lucky guess.

Some of the magic words are of course jokes.

PLUGH — in the Original Mainframe Adventure (NOT ZORK), if you stand at Y2 and wait, then a hollow voice booms PLUGH — which turns out to be a magic word for transporting you back to the building. In ZORK, if you type in PLUGH then it responds 'A hollow voice booms 'CRETIN.'

GRANITE — There are, I think, three granite walls in ZORK. I have not found any use for them. They are very clearly marked on INFOCOM's own map of ZORK. Are they entrances to the Thief's secret passages? Does anyone know their purpose? On the mainframe if you type in GRANITE it responds 'I think you are taking this thing for granite!'

Don't read any further unless you have either solved ZORK I or don't intend to try!

ECHO — On all versions I have seen this changes the Loud Room so that you can pick up the bar. The fuller solution, which does NOT work on the mainframe, is to open the dam, wait for the reservoir to empty, close the dam, and nip down and pick up the bar while the reservoir is refilling — the noise is from the water going over the top of the dam.

EXORCISE — On the mainframe you just get the Bell, Book, and Candle, go to the Entrance to Hades, and type in EXORCISE. Not so easy on the micro! — EXORCISE SPIRITS responds with 'You must perform the ceremony'. So here is a case where they had a simple solution on the mainframe and removed it. Now you must go through the whole rigmarole of RING BELL. GET CANDLES. LIGHT MATCH. LIGHT CANDLES WITH MATCH. READ PRAYER.

ODYSSEUS/ULYSSES — The full solution to getting past the cyclops involves feeding him hot peppers, then giving him a drugged drink of water to put him to sleep. The magic word scares him so that he smashes a route from the Cyclops Room to the Living Room for you. This not only saves time in getting rid of him, but also does away with the need for the key, the grate, and the other half of the maze! (Doing this also stops the thief from barring the trapdoor.) On the mainframe you also get 10 points for entering the Secret Passage which the cyclops uncovers, presumably this is another reason for making the prayer an acrostic about Ulysses (look at the first letter of each line of it!) — so as to give you a hint on how to get those last ten points!

PRAY — I didn't discover this until a year after I successfully completed ZORK I. It transports you and anything which you are carrying (such as the coffin, which otherwise appears impossible to extract from the Altar area) to the forest. The alternative is to pick up the coffin as early as possible in the game and drop it immediately. The thief will then take it and you can retrieve it later from his room at your leisure.

GERONIMO — On the mainframe, at the top of the falls, there is a wooden barrel. if you climb in you find the word GERONIMO etched on the side of it. Typing GERONIMO makes the barrel, with you in it, go over the falls. No, you don't survive! It was quite fun though, shame they left it out on the micro!

Short cuts:

RUB MIRROR to transport yourself from one side of the reservoir to the other.

Rather than wasting time getting into the boat with the sceptre, then having to repair the boat with the gunk, just PUT SCEPTRE IN BOAT, then it doesn't puncture it. Or, even better, wave the sceptre from the OTHER end of the rainbow.

Rather than going through all the rigmarole with the basket, lowering it down the shaft with everything in it, try going into the Draughty Room very early in the game —sometimes, on some versions, on some computers, it lets you walk in and out carrying as much as you like!

Do YOU know of any other short cuts or alternative solutions?