Zork Grand Inquisitor
Review by Orb
I Am the Boss of You!
Zork Grand Inquisitor is the last (a subject bemoaned
by Zork devotees) of titles in the venerable series and,
for me, by far the most enjoyable. There was literally not one
aspect of this game that I did not find aligned completely with
my personal tastes as far as graphic first-person adventure games
The story itself and the quality of writing recaptures the whimsical
nature of the early Zork text adventures, something that
had in small increments fallen away from the series upon the inclusion
of graphics, a change whose pinnacle was reflected in Zork
Nemesis (a beautiful but dark, brooding game). In Zork
Grand Inquisitor, magic has been banned from the underground
empire by edict of a Grand Inquisitor, played by Eric Avari (Stargate).
If caught practicing magic, the guilty party is totemized, a punishment
whereby the offender is sealed is a small container that looks
suspiciously like a paperweight. Your job is to save the kingdom
and avoid getting totemized in the process.
The writing is crisp and clever and had me laughing out loud
throughout. The jokes are cleverly built in, some delivered by
characters, some included in the design.
Another sterling decision, to the designer's credit, is the inclusion
of real actors that do real acting jobs throughout the story.
In other words, the names in this, including Avari, Dirk Benedict
(in an Indiana Jones parody), and Rip Taylor (think Gong Show),
do not give you the idea when they are speaking in your general
direction that you're holding their cue cards for them. There's
also some great voice acting, including turns by Michael McKean
and Marty Ingles.
The graphics are extremely well-designed and capture perfectly
the lighthearted nature of the subject. Transitions are smooth
and waste no time; the prerendered landscape is some of the best
artwork in a first-person game. The game boasts something called
Z-Vision, really just a fancy title for 360-degree panning, which
makes the environments open up, giving the player a freedom of
movement that's quite enjoyable. The cursor is well designed,
giving away just enough info to be helpful, but not in too complex
There are several design omissions that require, just because
it's so miraculous to have all omitted in one game, that I bring
them up. There's virtually no pixel hunting. There are no mazes.
No conversations with mind-numbing conversation trees. No text
parser (I played this right after Starship Titanic.)
A particularly nice touch is the inclusion of a mapping system
that allows the player to instantly travel to places in the game
that she has been through before, virtually eliminating the drudgery
some games resort to of making the gamer trot back and forth in
an odious and redundant manner to get to and from various areas
in the game.
The music is well-done and aligns perfectly with the gameplay.
There are some simply clever ambient sounds, such as a snapdragon
flower that's really the head of a creature that's snapping, and
the sound increases and decreases as the player moves closer or
farther away from the area.
The gameplay is entirely nonlinear, and huge sections of the
game are open once the player gets underground. Despite this,
there are additional locations that open up as rewards for completing
tasks. The puzzles are put together well, but they are not so
difficult that the player is stopped dead in his tracks, and there
are enough open locations that one can go back and forth to try
different things rather than being stonewalled and stuck in front
of one thing trying to figure it out.
The game has some straight built-in puzzles, but most are inventory-based,
and the inventory is also designed well, with items no longer
needed (with the exception of only one or two) dropping away once
used so that they do not become tedious red herrings later. The
game also uses the casting of collected spells as puzzles, something
I thought I'd dislike very much but came away charmed by, and
I had a lot of fun with these.
This game talks and walks like something designed by people that
play these darned things themselves. A thoroughly refreshing idea.
And it goes in my all-time top ten.
Release Date: 1997
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 90 MHz
16 MB RAM
4X CD ROM drive
50 MB hard drive space
High-color (16 bit) 640x480 VLB or PCI video card
Sound Blaster 16-compatible sound card
I played this with Virtual PC 4, on a 466 MHz iBook with no glitches.
Mac OS 8.6 or higher
233 MHz iMac (G3 400 MHz recommended)
50 MB free memory (128 MB recommended)
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