Murder on the Zinderneuf

Murder on the Zinderneuf
Murder on the Zinderneuf
Murder on the zinderneuf.jpg
Cover art
Developer(s) Electronic Arts
Publisher(s) Free Fall Associates
Designer(s) Jon Freeman
Paul Reiche III
Platform(s) Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari 400/800, PC (booter)
Release date(s) 1983
Genre(s) Adventure game
Mode(s) Single-player
Media/distribution Floppy disk

Murder on the Zinderneuf is a computer game developed by Jon Freeman and Paul Reiche III (design) and released by video game developer Free Fall Associates in 1983. It was developed for a number of popular home computer platforms, including the Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari 400/800 and the PC as a booter.[1]

The Apple II version was programmed by Alan Pavlish of Designer Software.[2] All other versions were programmed by Robert Leyland.[3][4][5] The Commodore 64 version states it was by Mission Accomplished, Inc.,[6] but it also gives credit to Leyland for programming.



The game is set in 1936. The player is a detective traveling across the Atlantic aboard the world's most luxurious dirigible, the Zinderneuf. The craft is full of high-profile personalities from all walks of life. A murder takes place aboard the Zinderneuf, and it is up to the player to identify the culprit before the ship lands.


The player is given a choice of eight detectives to play, each with a distinct personality. They must then search the rooms of the dirigible for possible clues, as well as interview passengers to identify the killer. The detective must carefully chose his or her method of questioning suspects. Choosing the right approach means that a character is more likely to offer useful clues.

Once they are satisfied that they have a culprit, the detective has the option of accusing them directly, or waiting until enough clues are found to prove their hunch. If they are wrong, the person they have accused will not speak to them for the remainder of the game. A denial does not always mean the detective is wrong, only that more proof is required for the murderer to confess.

If the detective is correct, the killer will explain the motives behind their crime, and the detective is given one of six ratings based on the effectiveness of their investigation:

  • Super Sleuth
  • Ace Detective
  • Expert Criminologist
  • Trained Investigator
  • Glorified Gumshoe
  • Feeble Flatfoot

The player is presented with a different murderer and victim each time the game is played. This, combined with the depth of narrative detail in the stories and characters, makes the game highly replayable.



  • Agatha Marbles: An elderly but sharp-minded old lady with a taste for mystery
  • Harry Hacksaw: A hard-bitten gumshoe who relies on gut instincts
  • Humboldt Hause: A scientific-minded detective with an eye for small details


  • Veronica Marlowe: A famous blonde Hollywood actress, married to Buck Battle
  • Francis "Buck" Battle: A former Olympic medalist, now an actor. Married to Veronica Marlowe
  • Margaret Vandergilt: A gossip columnist, mother of Felicity Sucrose
  • Vincent Van Wente: A handsome French modern artist
  • Felicity Sucrose: A charming `poor little rich girl'. Daughter of Margaret Vandergilt
  • Rod London: A wealthy and handsome adventure-seeker
  • Sally Rose: A former fan-dancer, married to Oswald Stonemann
  • Oswald Stonemann: A middle-aged empire of industry.
  • Natalia Berenski: A dark haired Russian orphan and ballerina
  • Reverend Jeriamiah Folmuth: A fire-in-the belly Southern preacher
  • Stephie Hart-Winston: A red-haired aviatrix who's also a crack shot.
  • Aldo Sandini: A somewhat shonky stage magician
  • Marie Roget: A successful fashion designer. Married to Anton Peste.
  • Anton Peste: A tall, dark and handsome Hungarian immigrant.
  • Hester Prymme: A shy librarian who keeps to herself.
  • Phillip Wollcraft: A Bostonian with an interest in the occult.


Designer Jon Freeman said that the game was a homage to the classic board game, Cluedo, but there are obvious influences from books and movies in the mystery genre, ranging from Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Inspector Clouseau books, to Sherlock Holmes and the films of Humphrey Bogart. A number of famous personalities from the 1930s may also have inspired the creation of the passengers aboard the Zinderneuf, such as Veronica Lake (Veronica Marlowe), Johnny Weissmuller (Buck Battle), and Hedda Hopper (Margaret Vandergilt).


A reviewer for Computer Gaming World was particularly impressed with Murder on the Zinderneuf's 1930s characters, each with colorful, easily distinguished graphics. Praise was given for attention to particular details, such as the engine noise increasing as the player moves towards the back of the zeppelin. In addition to the game being fair and winnable, the reviewers reported playing the game twenty times, only seeing two repeat "confessions", in illustration of the game's numerous different plots.[7]


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