Thursday, February 3, 2011

Zork 2: The Malifestro Quest

All is not well in suburbia!

It’s been a while since Bill and June helped their “uncle” Syovar save the magical realm of Zork from evil and returned to their humdrum lives in Anytown, USA. After sharing a nightmare about Syovar being tortured, however, the kids decide to use the magic ring their beloved “uncle” gave them to warp back to Zork. Once they’ve arrived and turned back into Bivotar and Juranda, they find out from a pair of annoying elves that a brand new all-powerful evil wizard, Malifestro, has kidnapped Syovar. The knights who went to save him haven’t returned and without them Zork is overrun with thieves and bureaucrats. Sounds like a job for a pair of adventure gamers!

Unlike the first book in the series, which was memorable mainly for its mechanics, the experience of reading through The Malifestro Quest is likely to stick with you for a while after reading it. Mind you, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Perhaps the most memorable things are Max and Fred, the elves. Why was everything in the 80’s produced for kids so convinced that having a cutesy but useless sidekick or two would make it more appealing? Listening to those two short people argue isn’t cute or amusing. Lucky for us, Meretzky seemed to realize how endearing Max and Fred actually were, and shortly after the adventure proper begins, they’re ditched until almost the end of the book.

Just who I want at my side on a harrowing quest.

Speaking of the beginning of the adventure, the first choice isn’t whether to accept the quest or not. No, the author held off on that until the second choice, and choosing wrong at the first one will just get our heroes sent off this mortal coil that much sooner. And if having another "do you go on the adventure" choice wasn't bad enough (it was) there’s a choice regarding whether to bail out, ignoring all the dangers you already passed, or continue the quest when you finally get within striking distance of Malifestro’s castle. Thank you kindly Mr. Meretzky, but if we get bored we can just close the book and put it away without you giving us the option.

What really makes the book more memorable than The Forces of Krill is that a sense of humor is much more in evidence. For one thing, Bivotar decides to grab a book on exorcism just on the hunch that it might come in handy, sounding exactly like someone playing an adventure game. In one ending he also learns the hard way that these games want you to take the intellectual path whenever one presents itself.

Watch out! A kid with a weapon he can barely lift!

You’ll meet Walter Smith, Cyclops. And there really is a dangerous bureaucrat in this book, no fooling.

The book’s still pretty simple and won’t pose any great challenge to people who remember the adventure gamer’s credo of investigate everything and take everything that’s not nailed down. Especially as the do-over feature is in place again and will be for the rest of the series. There isn’t even a cheater trap that doesn’t let you try again.

The Malifestro Quest is without a doubt a better book than its predecessor, but not quite enough to move up to the next level. It is, however, probably the only Zork book where you’ll die on purpose a few times looking for another humorous ending.

No comments:

Post a Comment