Despite the elite pedigree that its name suggests, Zork Nemesis has little to do with the best-selling, text-based Zork of a simpler era.
That said, expect the folks at Activision, Inc. to walk around their West Los Angeles offices with a classic "What, me worry? grin. As soon as Zork Nemesis deposits players into its temple courtyard, the Myst crowd will feel right at home, and Activision should keep on smiling all the way to the bank.
Myst, which has stayed on top of the sales charts since it was released in September 1993, put the final nails into the text-adventure coffin. It's ironic, then, that this new adventure-exploration CD-ROM should attack its family tormentor by taking the graphic adventure genre to a new level.
This title's richly-executed visual environment, well-written plot, "Z-Vision" 360-degree pivoting point of view, Gregorian chant soundtrack, and ambient sound effects (Windows 95 only) make for a slick, enticing game experience--but computer gamers should expect that experience to be a long one.
While Zork Nemesis follows the search-for-goodies-that-will-get-you-out-of-trouble format, the game's designers trip players up by throwing in many situations that demand abstract, sometimes counterintuitive reasoning. If players can get past these frustrating moments and concentrate on what decisions fit best within the Zork Nemesis underworld, they'll be rewarded with a progression of puzzles more closely tied to the story than is the case with The 11th Hour or Phantasmagoria.
In between decision points, Zork Nemesis presents some of the best integration of full motion video to date. Why? The use of such footage is restrained and understated. There's a lot of it throughout this three-disc adventure, but it's always supportive of the 3-D rendered environment and the story.
Lately there has been a clarion's call for multidimensional characters and situations in computer games, and Zork Nemesis actually delivers the goods. As players uncover more information, they come to realize that there are reasons why the chief villain has set events in motion. Players may even become sympathetic. Other characters are just as complex, and assuming that an ally can be trusted can lead to dead ends.
While Zork Nemesis may be too graphic and intense for children, adults who loved Myst or Phantasmagoria will find a lot to like about this CD-ROM. With Broderbund Software pushing the sequel to Myst back into 1997, computer gamers might not find a better substitute than Zork Nemesis.