Zork: Grand Inquisitor
Zork Grand Inquisitor, the eighth title in the Zork series, takes place 120 years after Zork Nemesis. The objective of Grand Inquisitor is to restore magic to the Great Underground Empire, something easier said than done since practicing magic is outlawed. Your only hope is the underground magic resistance and the ability to travel back in time to classic Zork eras. Using the Z-Vision game engine introduced in Nemesis that enables 360-degree movement, Grand Inquisitor adds some new gameplay elements like an environment map that allows you instant access to different areas. The preview version's flawless controls served the point-and-click gameplay perfectly.
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Nobody expects the magic inquisition! Such is the setup for the latest Zork installment, where the residents of Frobozz are no longer allowed to use either hocus or pocus. Your job? Free the magic, of course.
Using Zork Nemesis's cool 360-degree engine, Zork Grand Inquisitor can best be described as Riven in the round--only a whole lot funnier. The graphics look gorgeous (unless they're animated), plus there are plenty of inside jokes and a good sense of self-mocking humor, delivered crisply by Tinseltown talent. The interface is a dream, and believe it or not, the game supports multiplayer for joint brain power.
If Riven's too tough or too serious to be fun, see if you get some giggles out of the inquisition.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is the latest chapter in the Zork saga, and it brings to life all the humor and challenging puzzles which fans of the original Infocom text adventures have come to expect. As the game begins, you learn that the Grand Inquisitor is quickly eradicating magic and any who stand in his way are being "Totemized" (a very bad thing).
To avoid this fate, you soon flee to the Great Underground Empire and undertake the quest to depose the Grand Inquisitor and restore magic to the realm. To complete your quest, you must locate the three most powerful magic items -- the Coconut of Quendor, the Skull of Yoruk, and the Cube of Foundation. Once you have recovered all three, you can use their power to restore Zork and the Great Underground Empire to their former glory.
Unlike Zork Nemesis, Grand Inquisitor is firmly based in the realm created by the original text adventures. If you never played the original Zork series, you’ll miss a lot of references and in-jokes. Don’t worry if you haven’t, though -- solving Grand Inquisitor does not require you to know anything that happened in earlier games. But if you missed the original Zork, I would recommend picking it up -- Activision has made all three original Zork games and an all-new text adventure (Zork: the Undiscovered Underground) available for free download from the Zork: Grand Inquisitor web site.
You begin the game at the crossroads just outside the town of Port Foozle, one second before curfew. Unfortunately for you, the local residents aren’t about to let you take shelter from the inquisition troops. But you don’t remain friendless long -- soon Dalboz, the third Dungeon Master (who is imprisoned inside a magic lamp), joins you on your quest. He provides witty comments on your actions, and occasionally makes helpful comments. He also introduces you to the many other characters you meet throughout the game.
Like most adventure games, Grand Inquisitor is mostly puzzle solving. And while solving most of the puzzles means collecting a lot of inventory items, there are some truly challenging logic puzzles as well. My favorite is the demented automated phone system in Hell—think of one of those annoying voice mail systems, only worse. Getting through all the puzzles will take time, but the game is laden with hints that give all the help most players will need.
Another feature new to the graphical Zork games are the spells, which for the most part will be recognized by people who have played theseries of Infocom games. When you first pick up your spell book it doesn’t appear to contain many useful spells (why would I want to turn purple things invisible?), but the spells add a new dimension to the puzzle solving, and you’ll use spellcasting almost as much as inventory objects.
Grand Inquisitor also takes you to many of the scenic areas from the original Zork games, including one of the best-known adventure locations of all—West of the House, complete with the boarded-up front door and mailbox. Also included are many things made famous in earlier games, such as Zorkmids and Grues. I was happy to see the real Zork back again, after the departure from the classic Zork universe in Nemesis.
Graphics and Audio
Grand Inquisitor uses the same basic engine as Zork Nemesis, with a few minor updates. Inquisitor looks much better, mainly because the graphics are brighter and have more detail. As with its predecessor, the graphics in Inquisitor become slightly blurred while moving or panning the view, but the effect isn’t too distracting.
The game is also loaded with full-motion video, with some top-notch talent used in the cut-scenes. This game uses a lot of talented actors, including Michael McKean as Dalboz, Dirk Benedict as an out-of-work adventure star named Antharia Jack, and Erick Avari as the Grand Inquisitor. In addition to the video cut-scenes, there are also several computer-generated animations, ranging from a comical dragon to a gorgeous curved stair railing that gives you a helping hand.
The sound effects and music are also top-notch. The soundtrack ranges from the mysterious to the comical, and it always blends in just right with the game locations. The sound effects are also fantastic, providing that touch of reality that is needed to give the player the sense of being in the game.
I did run into one problem with the graphics, though -- after playing Grand Inquisitor, my Windows display settings were usually scrambled, and if I exited Windows without restoring them, I would get display errors or crashes the next time I booted my system.
One thing missing from adventure games today is the assortment of documents that came with the early Infocom text adventures. Unfortunately, Grand Inquisitor isn’t much better than most in this regard. The game does include a time-line poster that covers the major events in Zork history, but more extras could have easily provided a rich Zork history and background for players who missed the original games.
Grand Inquisitor has an option that allows "linked" play. Two players connect over modem or network, and one takes the role of the driver while the other rides along. The passenger can use his or her mouse pointer to bring objects to the attention of the driver, and the players can switch places at any time. It’s always been more fun to solve an adventure game with friends, and the linked play option provides a unique way to allow players to share in the gameplay.
Pentium 90 or faster, 16MB RAM, 20MB hard disk space, PCI or VLB SVGA Card, 2X or faster CD-RO, Windows 95; Sound Blaster or compatible sound card.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor has finally restored the sense of whimsy that made the original text adventures so much fun. The challenging puzzles, detailed environment, and clever story and dialogue will give both new players and seasoned adventure gamers plenty to sink their teeth into. Definitely the best Zork game ever, this is a must-have for any Infocom fan.