Beyond Zork, subtitled The Coconut of Quendor, attempts to bridge two of Infocom's text adventure trilogies by combining ideas from Zork's gameplay with Enchanter's style of storytelling. It also tries to marry text adventures with role-playing by making visual cues a meaningful part of the text adventure experience. Although not entirely successful at these innovations, the game contains enough good material and elements to recommend it to gamers.
The innovative gameplay is obvious from the very beginning, as you must first create your character by dividing a number of points between six attributes: Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Compassion, and Luck. Combined with an Armor Class rating, the attributes affect how you play through the storyline. Some of the stats help determine your success in combat, while others, at a high enough level, open up new options for solving puzzles. Attributes increase or decrease depending on actions taken, and the RPG element is important when trying to raise scores as much as possible in order to have a fighting chance later on in the game.
Unfortunately, there's not much more to the RPG gameplay beyond that. Despite the fact that you can name your character at the beginning of the game, your character is still very much the nameless faceless hero with no real personality that populates so many text adventure games. The storyline is also much less developed than the typical RPG, and you often get the sense that you're wandering around solving puzzles with no real purpose.
Other innovative ideas in Beyond Zork mainly serve to improve play mechanics rather than actual gameplay, and are welcome additions. For example, the auto-map feature lets you see (with an overhead view) your location at all times and the exits available. This visual cue helps greatly when mapping the game world, and with a good memory, you can rely on it to be your blueprint. Six different color palettes give you the ability to program the function keys anyway you'd like.
In terms of gameplay, Beyond Zork feels much more like an Enchanter title than a Zork entry. Instead of a treasure hunt in an underground cavern, you're faced with an above ground world populated by a variety of characters with which to interact. The writing ranges from quite good to excellent and shows that even the most boring of rooms can have interesting descriptions.
There's plenty of humor, as in most Infocom text adventure games, including the "cruel puppet" creature that attacks you by insulting you in various ways. The puzzles are well designed and, in some cases, quite original. Many of them have multiple solutions, an aspect that adds even more gameplay.
Beyond Zork is actually a text adventure game with superficial RPG pretensions, and fans of the genre shouldn't give the game a second thought. However, text adventure fans will appreciate the possibilities that come with the addition of RPG elements. The game's innovations, combined with a solid text adventure, make the game interesting and enjoyable.
Graphics: The game is a text adventure.
Sound: The game is a text adventure.
Enjoyment: The attempt to incorporate RPG gameplay is not very effective, but is successful as a text adventure game with RPG element hooks.
Replay Value: The RPG elements and the puzzles having multiple solutions make the game's replay value much higher than the average text adventure.
You are but a lowly peasant who has to deal with the hard times that have fallen upon the Southland of Quendor. The enchanters have all vanished without the slightest trace and order has all but disappeared. Undesirables and monsters walk the streets. You find yourself tested at every turn. With every success, your strength and powers grow. Will you be able to get find the fabled Coconut of Quendor?
Difficulty Level: Advanced
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