The Cavern of Doom (1983) is the third Zork pick-your-path book. Most of the basic features are the same: two kids, a boy and a girl, explore the Great Underground Empire in a fairly linear quest suitable for young readers. It plays fast — you can probably solve it in about 30 minutes, it has one optimal path (I think), about 15 ways to die surprisingly grisly deaths and one trap for cheaters. Plot-wise, we’re exploring the titular cavern in hopes of finding the elves Max and Fred. As they are missing, so is a good deal of humor that was found in the previous book.

This one makes up for that lack by being the most like a Zork videogame in structure. You need to collect objects to solve challenges and you pick your way through a dungeoncrawl that, for the first time in the series, actually feels like the GUE to me. There are lots of grue. We even get to see what they look like, thanks to Dell Harris’ illustrations. I’m not sure how I feel about that broadly, but I do appreciate how toothy they are (I also have a hard time believing this Dell Harris is the same as the last book’s Dell Harris, to the point that I am wondering if it is a pen name). Phil Parks delivers a cover that is less awesome than the last volume’s but, I think, suits the book, and the larger Zork universe, quite nicely.

If you’re gonna get one Zork pick-your-path that isn’t tied to nostalgia for the cover, this is probably it.

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