A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Episode IIX: A New Trilogy
(dah-duh dah dah dah duh duh…)
The Grand Inquisitor of the Empire has outlawed magic in the kingdom of Zork in an effort to maintain control of its citizenry. The pro-magic resistance movement has put its faith behind a young adventurer who has the potential to change the Great Underground Empire and to overthrow the Grand Inquisitor. With the guidance of the disembodied Dungeon Master, there is a new hope for the people of Zork.
The Zork series spans a time greater than many game-players today have lived. Twenty years ago Zork I was released, and it laid the foundation for one of the most successful adventure series of all time. Originally based solely on text, the Zork games have grown with the new technology and can be considered one of the most influential series in gaming. Zork Grand Inquisitor is the first in a new trilogy of Zork adventure games, which will be the first time three Zork games have been intertwined since Zork I, II, and III.
Although Grand Inquisitor may be chock full ‘o Zork nostalgia, there is room for newcomers like myself (it says so in the instruction manual). Grand Inquisitor is played in the first person perspective in the strange and mysterious world of Zork. You are the adventurer who has somehow been entangled in the turmoil over magic. Using your noodle and your trusty, disembodied, dungeon master-in-a-lamp, you have to solve puzzles, gather clues, outwit monsters, cast spells, and destroy things. Your basic adventure I would say.
In order to make the adventuring experience more realistic, Activision has improved on their Z-Vision system of display. Z-Vision combines live-action video, detailed graphics, and 360 degree movement to enhance the sense of reality. I agree with the hype/jargon to some degree; the 360 degree movement of the screen with detailed graphics and seamless movies makes Grand Inquisitor more lifelike than some other adventure games. The problem is that the game still requires you to click to move backwards and forwards, so the game isn’t entirely flowing. I applaud them on the 360 degree viewing though because the artwork is excellent and appears very realistic as you turn around.
Another strong point in Zork is the full motion video scenes. Activision hired quality actors to play the roles of the wacky citizens of Zork. The actors include Dirk Benedict (A-Team), Rip Taylor (Gong Show), and Erick Avari (Stargate). Okay, it isn’t Emmy Award winning work, but it is a hell of a lot better than the ‘acting’ seen in games like Resident Evil. Plus, the Zork series is known for its weird characters and sarcastic humor, and the characters in Grand Inquisitor follow this standard to a ‘T.’ All of the movies and 3D animations are well done and flow perfectly with the game.
Of course the adventure is the reason to buy the game, and the designers didn’t hold anything back in that department. Grand Inquisitor packs two CD’s of intense puzzle and problem solving. The game plays like most adventure games. You gather items and spells and interact with objects in order to progress. At times you have to react quickly in order to survive, so you have to be on your toes. There are numerous areas to explore and just tons of things to accomplish. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of making Grand Inquisitor very difficult. There is little guidance in the game, so you often get stuck with no idea what to do. Of course you can always get the game walkthrough provided online by Activision to help you along. With the walkthrough in hand for emergencies, Grand Inquisitor is a great adventure.
Since multi-player games are so hot these days, Activision included a linked mode where you can team up with someone to play Grand Inquisitor. One person controls the mouse movement and the other controls a cursor that directs the controller. This can be done over the internet, modem, or IPX Network (LAN).
Grand Inquisitor is a great adventure, but there is always room for improvement. I felt that many of the puzzles should have been clearer in order to keep down on frustration time. A help function might have made the game more enjoyable. Grand Inquisitor is also very repetitive in the way you constantly walk around clicking on things. Perhaps they could have put some small action scenes such as those in The Curse of Monkey Island in order to break the tedium. Finally, music would have helped. There are great sounds and voices to hear, but the silence can drive you mad, especially since you can walk around for a long time without hearing anything. The lack of music makes the game seem even more monotonous.
Zork fans should be pleased with this title, especially since it is a promising start to a new trilogy. I was impressed and I’m a first timer. Grand Inquisitor is a good adventure, but it could have been better. It’s a solid game: there’s nothing really wrong with it, but it doesn’t have the makings of a ‘revolutionary’ game.