The Lost Treasures of Infocom (volume 1)
an Infocom fan's view

by Roger J. Long

(article date: 1991)

It has been a few years since Infocom has released a new adventure. Their last product, "Circuit's Edge", was only available for the IBM. "The Lost Treasures of Infocom" was said to make Infocom fans rejoice. Whether you do or not depends on how you look at it.

To begin with, Lost Treasures is a re-release of 20 of Infocom's games. Most of the 20 are Infocom's "Classics": the Zork series (Zork I, II, and III), the Enchanter series (Enchanter, Sorcerer, Spellbreaker), the Mystery series (Deadline, Suspect, The Witness, Moonmist), the Science Fiction series (Planetfall, Stationfall, Starcross, Suspended), Ballyhoo, Infidel, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In addition, Beyond Zork, Zork Zero, and The Lurking Horror, three of Infocom's later games, are also included. This re-release is priced around $60, which is a large savings of over $700, if you had bought them separately when first released. Amiga, IBM, and Macintosh versions are available.

I had thought (hoped, actually) that Activision (parent company of Infocom, and Mediagenic is the parent company of Activision) would be simply putting all 20 game packages inside one box. But doing so would have resulted in a single package that would be about 3 feet long, taking up too much shelf space. They took a different approach.

In the Amiga version, the 17 "Classics" fit onto just 3 disks, with the last three each taking one disk. This is because Beyond Zork and Zork Zero incorporate graphics into the game, and The Lurking Horror uses sound effects.

The 20 instruction manuals have been re-printed in a single black and white manual. In addition, Lost Treasures also includes the contents of the 20 Hint Books, again re-printed in a single black and white manual. The accompanying maps are also re-printed in black and white, essentially a photocopy. The hint books and maps sold for around $15 each, so this is another savings of $300.

But, where is the soul?

Gone are all the freebies that made Infocom game so enjoyable. No more Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses, no more glow-in-the-dark Wishbringer stones, no more circus balloons, no more stationary with a watermark, and no more "Don't Panic" buttons.

Gone is the color. As I stated, the new manual and maps are in black and white. The originals were printed in color.

So why would someone like me, who has most all the original packages, buy something that isn't as satisfactory? Well, first, I hadn't realize that everything was going to be re-printed like it is. I had thought that all of the manuals and hint books would be included in the package. (I bought one of the first packages that Software Etc. had. Interestingly enough, the Amiga version came with IBM start-up directions card and a registration card geared for IBM machines, which got returned to me due to Activision's forwarding address had expired.)

Second, most of what I have is for the Commodore 64. Purchasing the Lost Treasures saved me trying to track down Amiga versions. The Amiga versions are in 80 columns (the C64 uses 40), so if I have the game print something to the printer, it will use the full width of the page, not just half. The Amiga versions can be loaded completely into memory, so the response time to what I type is quicker. (Only a few of the C64 games would make use of the RAM Expansion Unit, allowing for the same quickness.)

And third, it includes a few games that can't be played on a C64. Beyond Zork was released in a C128 version, because it needed a little more than 64K to run the enhanced text routines, and for the auto-mapping graphics screen. Zork Zero, which relies heavily on graphics, was not released for any 8-bit computer.

Where is the soul of this new release? I've been able to re-create the good feeling of playing a true Interactive Fiction adventure by using the original packages for the background information I need, and using the Lost Treasures version of the game for easier game play.

My recommendation is that if you do not have the games in this package and cannot find someone who is selling the original package, then this may be a way for you to fill in the ones you are missing. But, if you're more of a Collector of Infocom items, you might want to take the approach that I did, described above.

An update to the above article  * A further update: The Infocom Documentation Project

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Last Update: December 1, 2001.

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