Zork Grand Inquisitor by Activision
The Zork name needs no introduction to those who started their adventures in the
text-based era. A great many gamers have fond recollections of the explorations that began west of a white house, in front of a mailbox. The Zork series are among the most beloved in interactive fiction, and are among the few that have made a successful transition to the multimedia format. Zork Grand Inquisitor is the latest, and hopefully not the last, installment in the series.
Unlike its immediate predecessor, Zork Nemesis, Grand Inquisitor is distinctly Zork in all its aspects, and the storyline is no exception. All is not well in the Empire. Yannick, the Grand Inquisitor, a firm believer in the merits of technological progress has declared magic illegal, imprisoned the Dungeon Master and sealed off the entrance to the G.U.E. (Great Underground Empire). He is also a tyrannical madman, has proclaimed that "I am the boss of you!" and anyone who disagrees is subject to immediate totemization (a very bad thing). You are a nameless adventurer (experience using a map and inventory, useful, but not required) just arrived at Port Foozle as the curfew begins. You will soon find a magic lantern, in which the spirit of the Dungeon Master is held captive. The task of restoring magic to the land falls to you and before you are done you will visit such historic locations as Hades, G.U.E. tech and Flood Control Dam #3…but first, you must find a way to enter the G.U.E.
The graphics are very well done, colorful and clear, with many details that bring the Empire to life. Some locations are particularly imaginative, like the Dungeon Master's lair, and varied locations and designs will make certain that you are not bored. The movie quality is good (I have the DVD version that includes movies of better quality, but to enable them you must have one of two software players, neither of which is popular, and so I didn't manage to see them) and the rotation smooth.
Music is well done, but nothing exceptional. It accompanies the game well enough, but you will forget it as soon as you turn off your PC . After the much better score of Zork Nemesis, where, in my humble opinion, the music and sounds were at least as much part of the experience as the graphics and puzzles, I expected something better.
This is a first person, point and click adventure, with cinematic sequences featuring live actors. You have one cursor that changes according to the action that can be performed. A simple dagger means that nothing can be done, a dagger with a glowing hilt shows a hot spot and a pointing dagger a place where you can go at. Your inventory at the top of the screen has room for 20 items (you will never need more) and next to it there is a menu with a shortcut to your spells. You can save at any point during the game, and for this purpose the game has 40 slots (the DVD version, the CD one has 20 and can get 20 more if a patch is applied). For reasons I can't guess, there is no way to enable subtitles in the DVD, while the CD had this option for both the in-game dialogue and the movie sequences.
The puzzles are based on inventory management; one difference from most adventure games is the need to cast spells, but in the end, they are used much the same as other inventory items, find them and then find where and how to use them. Putting spells to improbable use will often give hilarious, and sometimes deadly, results. Oh, yes, you can die in the game, and in honor to the origins of the series, the description of the various ways you pass away are given in text only- a move that eliminates the need for space consuming cinematics and gives the opportunity for some very funny lines. I have twice mentioned the humor, and if you like clever conversations this is a game for you; the one-liners come fast and furious, and the very atmosphere of the game is light and sometimes irreverent, as befits a true heir to the Zork legacy. This is by no means an easy game though, so don't start it as a break from more "serious" adventures; you should expect to get stuck, and it will get quite some thinking to progress in the later parts of the game. The movie acting is in keeping with the game's none-too-serious nature, but that doesn't mean it is not good. On the contrary, I think it takes quite some talent to not give too much dramatic tension in some of the scenes, and Erick Avari is excellent as the Grand Inquisitor-the scene where he tricks Antharia Jack into telling him your whereabouts is a favorite of mine. It should be noted that in the game you will assume, with the help of magic of course, the identities of 3 different creatures; Lucy Flathead, the last of the line of the old rulers of the empire, the Griffin, a rather cowardly small dragon, and Brog, who may not be able to think much, but who needs to when he has such strength and a handy wooden board?
On the whole, Zork Grand Inquisitor is an excellent adventure, worthy of the name it bears, and highly recommended to anyone who is tired of more serious or darker themes and just wants to relax and enjoy a first person adventure with no action.