Tuesday 16 January 2024

Missed Classic: Beyond Zork - Rejected by Heaven

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back to Beyond Zork! After ten hours, I have to admit that I’m struggling a bit with the mix of RPG and text adventure elements: I’m never quite sure if I should be looking for a puzzle solution or just hitting whatever the obstacle is very hard. I’m having a lot of fun, but starting to get frustrated by the game never telling my character that she should be doing any of this, almost as if I missed some big “call to adventure”. Last time out, I explored pretty much the entire game world that I could, defeated a few monsters, was defeated by even more of them, and generally got the lay of the land. This week, I need to put two and two together to solve some puzzles and try to get someplace. 

When I left off, I had just made my first trip south of the crocodile-infested jungle to discover a strangely Christmas-themed village. It was appropriate for December, but the rampaging Christmas tree monsters there weren’t as easily dealt with as putting your discarded tree out on the street on trash day. Near the village, I also rescued an adorable “minx” from some abusive hunters. It looks like a fantasy version of a “mink” (best known for being popular in coats of the 1980s... shudder), but one that can dig up chocolate truffles. (In the real world, mushroom truffles can be found and dug up by some breeds of pigs and dogs.) With my new companion in tow, let’s explore!

Setting off on an adventure with my best mate.

Failing at Puzzles: The Cliff, the Truffles, and the Bridge

Before I get too far, let me wrap up some loose ends from last time:

  • I appraise the deadly Christmas tree ornament, hoping (and expecting) that it would be a rare and valuable treasure. It is plastic and worth 2 zorkmids.

  • The vial that I found under the pew in the church that I completely forgot to mention contains holy water.

  • The scroll I nabbed in the jungle is a “scroll of honing” that will add an enchantment to any weapon, but just one. I should decide on my permanent gear before using it. 

  • The minx follows me everywhere, but can get stuck. It cannot climb ladders or exit the cable car without help, but otherwise I can mostly ignore it and it follows me around. I consider selling it, but none of the shopkeepers are interested in becoming a pet store.

It’s difficult to narrate the next bit, but it involves a lot of thrashing around without a good idea of what to do next. I try to free the unicorn from the stable, but only discover that I can increase my luck score by kissing its horn. Otherwise, the stable lock remains stubbornly locked.

I also spend too much time on the cliff riddle:

“My tines be long, 

 My tines be short,

 My tines end ere my first report.

 What am I?”

The key parts appear to be “tines” and that they end “ere” (before) “our first report”. The dictionary tells me that tines are usually the prongs of forks, but the word can also refer to antlers, branches, the pointy bits of a comb, and other things that stick out like that. “Ere our first report” still makes me think of a clock with the long and short tines being the big and little hands of the clock. If that’s the case, all my attempts go nowhere, as do less well-reasoned attempts involving sunbeams, chimes, music, shadows, and worse ideas. The previous riddle’s answer was “youth” and I am inclined to suspect a theme, but it doesn’t really fit. I’m coming back to this cliff over and over again while exploring, but no breakthroughs come immediately.

My next attempt is to find a “chocolate truffle” and I am half successful. The manual mentions these truffles several times, revealing that the minx can find truffles in the roots of some oak trees. I go to the first oak that I remember (the one on the hill near where we start the game) and it doesn’t take too long for my cute adventuring buddy to find what he (or she?) is looking for. I do have to pick up and drop it a few times to trigger it searching; there may be a better way to do that. Unfortunately, once we have a truffle in hand, it melts and goes bad in just a few turns. The manual hints that it is “valued by royalty”, but I do not find anyone close enough and royal enough to be its destination before it spoils. I restore and at least know how to find it again when I find someone that wants one.

I fail next with Zeno’s Bridge. If you recall from last time, this is a bridge that works like Zeno’s Paradox: as you go across it, you go halfway, then halfway, then halfway again and never get all of the way. There’s a parrot-headed umbrella in the middle of the bridge that seems like we can Mary Poppins down with, but we are too heavy and the umbrella breaks. Is there a “make me lighter” spell? Since I cannot cross that way, I blow the whistle and summon my pterodactyl friend. (This game has a lot of animal friends.) He informs me that he may be summoned only three times. Unfortunately, we cannot ride him as his back is too slippery. I guess I will need to find a way to get the saddle from the unicorn’s stable after all. 

My final failure is thinking that my character surely needs to be getting some motivation before now. (Remember that we the player have been told what is up, but our character is just a country peasant that has decided for absolutely no reason to start traipsing up and down the countryside.) The most likely place where I will learn the plot is at the Circle of Enchanters, but they are currently being guarded by a monkey grinder wielding a magic hurdy-gurdy. I try to fight him or use items on him, but everything is useless. I don’t land a single blow or spell. Even the “cane of annihilation” power just gets absorbed into his hurdy gurdy. I will have to try another approach.

We discovered a truffle! At least, I hope that’s a truffle.

Finally Managing to Defeat Something

At this point, I resolve to treat the game more like an RPG. If I am going to defeat any of the monsters that are currently killing me (the cruel puppet, the crocodile, and so many more), I will need to care about my stats. It’s time to buy better weapons and armor.

What should I buy to optimize my chances? The boutique sells a cloak that the shopkeeper there cannot identify, but the magic shop tells me is a “cloak of stealth”. It increases my armor class by five. Trial and error shows the leather tunic I can buy increases it by 10, while the scale mail bumps it by 20. (I don’t even have enough gold to try out the plate mail.) Since money is limited, I elect to get the axe from the weapon shop as I cannot afford the sword and the leather tunic. Those are the second best items in two shops which I hope will be better than the best from one but not the other. 

Even with my new kit, the cruel puppet defeats me handily. I at least learn that the oak tree in his forest also has truffles, meaning that if I spoil one that I probably have somewhere that I can get a second. I also learn that eating a truffle in front of the minx reduces our compassion score by one, but feeding it one doesn’t increase it. That hardly seems fair!

Despite not working against the puppet, I take my gear into the jungle and it makes me powerful enough to defeat both the bloodworm and the crocodile! We’re getting somewhere! Neither of them drop any new items, but I do advance to level three. We only (obviously) get more endurance when we level up, but even that will help with combat. I spend some time trying to solve some of the jungle puzzles with fewer distractions:

  • The baby Hungus still needs to be rescued from quicksand. The “rod of sayonara” seems like it should do the trick (it teleports a monster to a nearby room), but the game sees that as being aggressive and doesn’t let me do it.

  • The “Crocodile’s Tear” puzzle is a see-saw where I think we have to drop heavy stuff on one end so that we can climb to the jewel on the other side without falling in. Unfortunately, even putting everything I own on one end isn’t enough to keep the see-saw up in the air. For a second time, I wonder if there isn’t a magic object that will make me lighter! Will the mother Hungus sit on one end after I rescue her baby?

  • When I do get caught inside the idol’s maw again, I can use the “rod of sayonara” on myself to teleport out. This lets me squeeze the moss inside to increase my dexterity, without getting stuck. Considering the last time we saw that moss, it was because there was a dexterity-related puzzle, that could be what is going on here as well. Could I need both heavy objects and high dexterity to get the idol?

This is also the point where I realize that I have not been using my potions correctly. They all say “shake before using” and I have just been drinking them. Doing it properly reveals that my “potion of might” permanently increases my strength to 27. I cannot yet afford the potion of enlightenment without selling things I don’t want to part with, but if I do that (and then restore), I learn that it increases my intelligence to 51. 

With the additional level and bonuses, I finally defeat the cruel puppet! A few turns later, I am attacked by a hellhound. Although that fight is even more difficult, I have the power and dexterity to take it down too. I am now level four! Even with all that, I cannot hit the monkey grinder even once so I suspect there is more to him than a straight fight.

During this run around, I think I found a way to keep the truffles fresh. If I dip them in the fountain of youth, they appear to stay fresh forever. There is no message about this and I’m not even sure it’s not a bug, but after I took a dip (while playing with the “old horseshoe” to try and turn it into a “young horseshoe”), it didn’t degrade anymore. That seems like a crazy use for a fountain of youth when a refrigerator would do, but magical kingdoms have magical solutions.

Honestly, I could just make low-quality AI art about our heroine and her adventure ferret all day.

Exploring the Northern Ruins

I’m just about of puzzles that I can solve, but the saddle in the stable calls to me since that will let me fly on the pterodactyl. Like most puzzles, it makes me feel dumb in retrospect: I can use the “Amulet of Bok” (the one that gave me temporary strength to escape the cellar in the inn) to temporarily increase my strength and then smash it. Our new unicorn friend immediately wanders off, but now I have the saddle. Score!

Everything else works just like I expect: I go to the center of the bridge, grab the parrot umbrella, then call the pterodactyl. (This is the only way to get the umbrella without breaking it.) I put the saddle on him then I was able to fly north, bypassing the bridge. I dismount and begin to explore. As you might expect, it’s another “dungeon”:

  • A ghoul attacks me with a spade. Defeating it is simple, but now I have a spade. Is there anywhere that I need to do any gardening?

  • An undead warrior attacks next. Have you noticed that most of these dungeons have monsters in twos? My axe does no damage to it at all, but tossing the holy water defeats it immediately.

  • Deeper in the run, I discover an archway with an hourglass-shaped gap that seems perfect for the one that costs 1,000 zorkmids. I don’t know how I will afford that, but perhaps that is where the Crocodile’s Tear comes in?

  • Outside the ruin is another patch of spenseweed that I can cultivate. 

Unfortunately, that is it. The ruin is just a few rooms, two battles, and a mysterious place to put an hourglass. We cannot even cross the bridge again without the pterodactyl so I have to burn two of his three flights just getting her. Something tells me that I was supposed to solve the bridge first, but I was truly expecting something on this side that would help with that.

This picture is missing a ferret.

Since I’m flying anyway, I take the time to explore where I can fly to. I quickly realize that the strange notations on our map correspond to a different “room” while aloft and a place where we can land. The arrows represent directions that we can go; the pterodactyl will refuse to fly in other directions for one reason or another. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that because we also have occasional headwinds or cross-winds that we have to “wait” out to travel in a specific direction. 

My target is the only spot on the map that I haven’t been yet: the manor or castle in the southwest corner. This reveals another puzzle: no matter how I try and no matter how I try to wait out the wind, the conditions are never right to get to “J” on the map. Notably, we also cannot get to the Christmas village (“N”) from the rest of the map either, but traveling there and trying to fly directly northwest doesn’t work either. I suspect that this is a key puzzle. The manual tells us that there is a “compass rose” that could be used to control the wind, but I haven’t found one yet. I have only found one flowerbed in the game, near the unicorn’s stable, but there are no roses there. 

Having burned all of my pterodactyl flights and accomplished nothing, I restore back to before I crossed Zeno’s bridge. I’ll try again when I locate the rose or another way to cross the chasm.

It makes sense in retrospect.

Giving Up and Taking a Hint

I’ll spare you another round of crashing against puzzles and getting nowhere. I tried to bring the extremely heavy onion into the jungle to use with the idol puzzle, but there’s no obvious way to get there. The thing is so heavy that we cannot lift it– but we can roll it from room to room. Even if I get it to the gondola, we cannot roll it into the car and we’re stuck. (How I’d get it down the support tower ladders is a different question, but I didn’t get that far.) Knowing that I can roll the thing around, I tried using it in a few locations. If we hack into it in the presence of an enemy, we can cause its eyes to sting. The monkey grinder is immune to this, just like he’s immune to everything else, but I’ll be on the lookout for where I can use these tricks.

In the end, I failed at the riddle on the cliff and gave up. Just to remind you, this is what I was trying to solve:

“My tines be long, 

 My tines be short,

 My tines end ere my first report.

 What am I?”

After looking at forks and clocks and time and so many things, I give up and search online for the answer: it’s “lightning”. The fork-like branches of lightning are the “tines” and they end before their first report because light travels faster than sound: we see the flash well before we hear the “report” of the thunder. As expected, it seems obvious in retrospect, but the vocabulary tripped me up. The lightning blasts open a passageway into the cliff face, allowing me to access the lighthouse above.

What follows is another Beyond Zork-style randomized dungeon, except this one was fairly big: 3-4 rooms per level for four levels, all ascending to the top of the lighthouse.

  • On the first floor, I discover a giant spider and have little difficulty defeating it with my axe.

  • On the second floor, we find a staff and a giant slug. He’s immune to attacks from our axe, but he dies immediately if we sprinkle salt on him. He leaves behind a bubblegum card.

  • On the third floor, we find replicating dust bunnies. Attacking leads to multiplication. Fortunately, the answer for this is in the manual: static electricity or lemon-scented sprays. While life has not yet handed us lemons, the bearskin rug that we found at the beginning of the game caused a static charge whenever we walked across it. I fetch it from the inn and defeat the bunnies easily. They leave behind a ring. 

  • On the fourth floor, we discover a Dornbeast (creature with many eyes) guarding a treasure chest. My recent experience rolling and cutting onions comes in handy here as he can be distracted by the stinging of a freshly cut onion. Even with that advantage, he’s still a powerful fiend and takes a while to kill, but he eventually goes down. I am level five again!

While I ran back to get the onion, I stopped to identify my new stuff: the staff of levitation, a ring of shielding, and a scroll of recall. The ring is not clear what it shields us from, but it “sends a chill down your spine”. Does it protect against fire? The scroll says that it is “just the thing for emergencies”, but I don’t know what constitutes an emergency or exactly how it helps. I’ll have to play with it later.

“You and your ferret are not welcome here!”

Opening the chest in the lighthouse transports me to the “Plain of Transinfinite Splendor”, a heavenly realm where unicorns graze. Unfortunately, they spy me immediately after I arrive, call me an “intruder” (even after I saved their friend!), and force me to experience a lifetime of equine drudgery before returning me to the lighthouse. The chest no longer works and I am forced to restore. 

What do I need to do to not be rejected by heaven? An indulgence from the church? While there is a nearby church (complete with a relic of some kind), I don’t know how to get that and I don’t get the impression that the unicorns would care. Do I just need a higher compassion score? It’s been going up every time I do a good deed. Thinking that is the trick, I return to the jungle and rescue the baby Hungus using my new “staff of levitation”, but even with a compassion score of 56, that isn’t enough for the unicorns to like me. Where is the one that I rescued? I try various other things, but none of them work. I was sure that wearing the cloak (“a powerful virtue if woven into the cloth”), but even that doesn’t do it. I give up and just leave the chest untouched for now.

That feels like enough for this week. Here is my current list of open questions and puzzles. Barring some leap of intuition over the next several days, I think I am getting stuck:

  • How do I get the jewel from the idol? What am I missing to work the weight puzzle? The wand of levitation doesn’t work on ourselves or the jewel. 

  • How do I get the unicorns in heaven to like me?

  • What do we need the chocolate truffle for?

  • How do we enter the lightning region or the manor in the southeast of the map?

  • Where is the compass rose to control the wind?

  • What is the “correct” way to cross Zeno’s bridge?

  • How do I defeat or get past the monkey grinder?

  • How do I re-make the glyph in the mountains to keep the Christmas tree monsters at bay?

Time played: 4 hr 45 min
Total time: 9 hr 40 min
Score: Level 5 Female Peasant
Inventory: Battleaxe (wielded), scroll of Recall, ring of Shielding, staff of Levitation, pack, silver ornament, scroll of Honing, cane of Annihilation, wand of Anesthesia, lantern, vial of holy water, whistle of Summoning, rod of Sayonara, stick of Eversion, arrow, chocolate truffle, old horseshoe, scroll of protection, leather tunic, amulet of Bok, 7 zorkmids (plus stuff I am storing and not carrying: minx, bearskin rug, bubblegum card, and saddle)

In loving memory of Rakeesh “Raki” Pranevich, my very own adventuring buddy, 1990-1999.


  1. If I am in a "walking dead" state, please let me know. A couple more hours in and I'm not making any further progress.

    It *feels* like rescuing the unicorn should have made the unicorns in heaven like me more, but they do not. Have I done something elsewhere in the game that annoyed them? (Maybe kissing the unicorn horn while the unicorn was still in the stall?)

    - I suspect that the idol will give me the gold to get the hourglass and unlock the area on the north of the bridge.
    - I suspect that the key to the idol puzzle with be in the manor in the southwest, but I need the compass rose to get there.
    - I'm wondering now if the hurdy-gurdy guy isn't actually the last villain in the game, given his blaise ability to ignore anything I try to do to him.

    But I'm now wandering increasingly empty areas looking for a detail that I missed. Maybe I'll find it tonight.

    1. I don't recall specifics on those puzzles that well. Did you restore after using the pterodactyl so you still have all 3 uses? (Just for "walking dead" state)

      Here are my best recollection yes/no answers to your three bullet points. (I did not answer just yes/no because that would be pretty obvious in rot13, but all of these spoilers below boil down to yes/no) And they correspond in order
      - V oryvrir gung'f na nssvezngvir
      - Vs gung'f gur pnfr vg snvyf gb zngpu zl erpbyyrpgvba
      - Artngvir ba uvz orvat gur ynfg ivyynva va gur tnzr.

    2. Sorry for a second reply but I _think_ I remembered the solution to the chest and I couldn't edit. If I'm correct, you're not walking dead

      Here's the barest hint I can come up with, _assuming_ I remember correctly. The hint _might_ be too strong so... don't decode it unless you're really stuck. (And it might be wrong - I didn't google it to validate my hint)
      Zl uvag vf gb cvpx hc gur purfg (jvgubhg univat bcrarq vg)

    3. Saving the baby hungus too early will put you in a walking dead state.

    4. How would I know if I did that?

    5. You need the mother hungus for something, but she's only available as long as the baby remains stuck.

    6. Ok! Looks like I am stuck then.

      My theory is that I need the mother to sit on the bottom of the idol's see-saw. I am not sure how I will accomplish that, but that will be what I try to figure out tonight.

    7. Torbjörn Andersson18 January 2024 at 00:04

      Harvin wrote:

      > Zl uvag vf gb cvpx hc gur purfg (jvgubhg univat bcrarq vg)

      Bcravat vg bapr fubhyq or svar. (V hfhnyyl qb.)

      Joe Pranevich wrote:

      > The chest no longer works and I am forced to restore.

      Pybfvat vg naq erbcavat vg fubhyq jbex.

      V qvqa'g fnl vg jnf n tbbq vqrn.

      [Entering spoiler territory.]

      Ohg gurer vf fbzrguvat nobhg gur purfg gung lbh frrz gb unir zvffrq.

      V oynzr gur tnzr, orpnhfr hayvxr Zntargvp Fpebyyf, Vasbpbz tnzrf jrer hfhnyyl zhpu pyrnere nobhg guvf fbeg bs guvatf. (Gubhtu rira va guvf tnzr, vg qrcraqf.)

    8. Okay, I worked out the mother hungus puzzle to get the idol. (It is a very unnatural set of moves to do that, unless someone knows a way that I don't. I would never have done that if I didn't know that I had missed something.)

      That leaves me still working through the hourglass puzzle but I am not 100% sure that I have the right item for that. Unless the helmet is the "helmet of not getting attacked by a hurdy-gurdy", I'm still missing something elsewhere because I don't see how it connects to any of my other problems.

      I may take a break from this puzzle and try one more thing I thought of with the glyph. (The spade isn't a good writing implement, but I didn't try the arrow...)

      I feel good that I am getting closer to cracking this game, but it's been a bit of a slog.

    9. Adding to what Harwin and Torbjörn wrote about the chest: Vfa'g gurer fghss vafvqr vg?

    10. I don't know, I always restored as soon as I got kicked out assuming that was a dead end.

    11. Spoilers:

      1. Vg vfa'g n qrnq raq. Lbh pna'g ernyyl qb nalguvat va gur havpbea jbeyq. Vg vf jung gur purfg pbagnvaf naq jung lbh pna qb jvgu vg gung'f vzcbegnag. Zber fcbvyref ba gur ynggre vffhr qbja orybj.
      2. Vs lbh pna hfr gur purfg gb tb gb gur havpbea jbeyq, bguref pna nyfb. Lbh znl nyernql frr na nygreangvir fbyhgvba gb n chmmyr lbh'ir fbyirq ol bgure zrnaf, ohg gur purfg vf hfrshy va nabgure cynpr gbb.
      3. Unir lbh rknzvarq gur purfg vgfrys (abg jung'f vafvqr vg)?
      4. Gurer'f n jneavat ba gur purfg gung lbh fubhyqa'g bcra vg. Qb lbh xabj nalbar jub pbhyqa'g ernq?

  2. The lighthouse puzzle with the Dorn Beast is the puzzle I always recall solving early in the game(since although it has a lot of health it doesn't really fight back IIRC), and I was really puzzled as to how you hadn't encountered it yet, but apparently it was behind the riddle.

    This game confused me for years on the difference between chocolate truffles(which would melt) and mushroom truffles(which could be found and dug up by pigs)

  3. Regarding your question about walking dead scenarios...

    Lbh zvtug or nyernql va bar, abg fher, gubhtu. Nf n ehyr bs guhzo lbh unir hfhnyyl frireny jnlf gb fbyir chmmyrf ohg lbh arrq gb tb n pregnva jnl nf abg gb jnfgr erfbheprf lbh arrq nsgrejneqf. Rkcrpg gb erfgneg n pbhcyr bs gvzrf.

    And something spoilery regarding the pterodactyl:

    Lbh arrq nyy lbhe syvtugf naq unir abar gb fcner. Fb lbh unir gb gel jurer lbh pna tb naq gura, nf vaqvpngrq nobir, gnxr bar svany eha naq ivfvg nyy eryrinag ybpngvbaf va gur cebcre beqre bapr lbh xabj gurz.

    1. Torbjörn Andersson20 January 2024 at 02:29

      Eddie wrote:

      "Lbh arrq nyy lbhe syvtugf naq unir abar gb fcner. Fb lbh unir gb gel jurer lbh pna tb naq gura, nf vaqvpngrq nobir, gnxr bar svany eha naq ivfvg nyy eryrinag ybpngvbaf va gur cebcre beqre bapr lbh xabj gurz."

      I just played through the game, and nf sne nf V pna gryy, lbh bayl arrq gur cgrebqnpgly gjvpr. Qrsvavgryl ab zber guna gung, orpnhfr gung'f jung V qvq.

      Juvpu zrnaf gung vs lbh qba'g yrg uvz syl njnl nsgre lbh urny uvz, lbh pna trg njnl jvgu bayl hfvat gur juvfgyr bapr.

      V hfrq gur fpebyy bs Tngvat gb pebff gur oevqtr, naq gur fpebyy bs Erpnyy gb trg onpx.


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