Honestly, if I were to say which Infocom game has the biggest impact on me, other than the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which also I formed my choice of authors to read even up to the point, it would be Wishbringer.
It was one of their few beginner games, which meant that I was actually able to finish it :D And if it was aimed a younger audience, well, that’s what I was at the time :P
But it also was seriously charming and told a solid narrative. The puzzles were real but so was the story.
You are the postman of the island village of Festeron. Delivering a last minute letter ends up with you having to rescue an old lady’s kidnapped cat. Oh and thwart the Evil One who has changed quiet little Festeron into the dystopian Witchville. Save the cat, save the world.
The titular Wishbringer, which also came as a glow-in-the-dark plastic rock with the game, was an artifact that could cast seven different spells. But, here’s the clever bit which I didn’t really appreciate as a kid. Most of the spells could be used to solve puzzles but you could complete the whole game without using any of the spells. It’s a way of organically helping inexperienced players without changing the story.
For me, Wishbringer bridges the worlds of Zork and Hitchhiker. Zork is just a map full of puzzles while Hitchiker is a series of scenes telling a rather convoluted story. Wishbringer is a map full of puzzles but they come together as a coherent story.
Wishbringer is a whimsical, slightly fractured fairy tale. As an adult, I might find it less challenging as a game (maybe?) but I would still enjoy it as a story.