Zork: InvisiClues

invisi-1_th(This is part of my journey playing through Zork.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

So I’m going to take a short interlude today to talk about one of the interesting products that Infocom offered: InvisiClues.

Put yourself in the shoes of a computer gamer in the early- or mid-80s playing Zork.  You’ve got this fantastic fantasy realm to explore, but sooner or later you’re going to hit a wall that is insurmountable.  It might be a puzzle you can’t solve or even the location of a puzzle (or, heck, what to do next).

What do you do?

You don’t have the internet or access to online anything (unless you were at a university).  If you had a friend that played and beat Zork, well, then they’re your resource.  Otherwise you are out of luck.

I think Infocom realized how frustrating their games could be, because they started publishing books called InvisiClues.  These were walkthroughs, maps, and puzzle hints that could carry a gamer through the tough spots.  It allowed Infocom to double-dip, too: charge once for the game and once for the solution.

What was interesting about these books is that, as the name suggests, they were published using invisible ink.  This allowed players to look at only the spoilers they wanted to see and not the rest.  The book came with a special marker that would temporarily reveal the clue, although the clue would fade in six months.

Additional markers were available “for a nominal fee.”  Of course.

The books also had a “for your amusement” section highlighting some of the cool little easter eggs of the game.

The maps and the instructions (although not the clues) are on this website.  I’ve decided to use just the maps from here on out because my own drawn maps are way too sloppy.  From looking at it, I’ve already uncovered at least half of the game, so that made me feel a bit better.


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