Zork Grand Inquisitor

Posted by Matthew Murray.
First posted on 18 November 1997. Last updated on 07 August 2009.
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Zork Grand Inquisitor
The infamous White House in Zork Grand Inquisitor should be familiar to any Zork fan.
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Meet Marvin the Mythical Goatfish!
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Breathtaking surreal scenes bring the Great Underground Empire to life.
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Whimsical artworks reflect the unique tone in this sequel.
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Panoramic views immerse the player into the Zork universe.

Among the next generation titles in the venerable Zork series, Zork Grand Inquisitor bears the closest resemblance in both tone and style to the original Zork text adventure. To the delight of many Zork fans, there is now the ability to explore in full color graphics the many infamous Zorkian locations featured in the original text series. Finally, the infamous White House can be seen in its full glory!

It is the year 1067 GUE in Quendor, but how things have changed. A man known only as the Inquisitor has moved into Port Foozle and outlawed the use of all magic. Any who are caught engaging in the arcane arts or breaking any of the other laws he has instituted are punishable by totemization (a very bad thing). How is he able to do this? Where is the rightful ruler of Quendor? Can magic be restored? How can the Inquisitor be stopped? These questions and others will be answered as you explore Port Foozle and its surrounding environs, both above and below the ground in your quest to liberate Port Foozle and all of Quendor from the iron fist of the Inquisitor.

Though not in tone, Zork Grand Inquisitor bears much similarity in its overall to Zork Nemesis. Zork Grand Inquisitor is a much lighter game, albeit it still has the occasional dark elements. Like Zork Nemesis, nearly all of its locations (including several familiar Zork locales) are rendered in full graphic details, allowing you to explore your surroundings easily and completely. The game is very well paced, thus keeping disc swapping at what must be the barest minimum imaginable with the 2 discs on which the game comes. Full Motion Videos are used only sparsely and only to advance the plot. The video sequences are, for the most part, well done in terms of both content and production. The acting in these videos and in the other places throughout the game is largely well done, although Erick Avari's performance as the Inquisitor seems a bit too over the top for the computer screen. The voice acting is superb, and Michael McKean has done a lot with seemingly very little portraying the lantern bound Dungeon Master.

All the graphics are pre-rendered in high resolution 16-bit color. The nonhuman characters and creatures are modeled from clay and then digitized in the computer for animation. Great efforts are spent by the artists to create scenes with appropriate lighting to accentuate objects of importance and available pathways. This avoids the clicking frenzy for hotspots that is so prominent in Zork Nemesis. Aside from the beautifully animated graphics, the voice Hollywood veterans head up the live action sequences, including producer Mark Levinson (executive producer, Home Alone), producer/director George Bloom (The X-Files), Dirk Benedict (The A-Team), Rip Taylor (The Gong Show), and Avari (Stargate). Many programmers and artists who worked on Zork Nemesis have returned to contribute to this title.

Zork Grand Inquisitor employs an upgraded engine from that used in Zork Nemesis. It features the proprietary Z-Vision engine technology that allows 360° panning. Unlike Zork Nemesis, only horizontal panning is available in this game. There is no ability to tilt. Both the quality of the graphics and the speed of panning have improved significantly in this sequel. The interface has also undergone a facelift. There are now a separate inventory screen and a spell casting screen. From the inventory screen, the player can access the lantern as well as a map that allows the player to travel from one area to another bypassing all areas in between. The spell casting screen contains the spell book that automatically stores spells found during the game for later use.

Many locations featured in the original Zork text adventures have made their return appearances in this title. Among them include the White House, Port Foozle, the Great Underground Empire Tech, Zork University, and Flood Control Dam #3. Including the Enchanter sub-series, Zork Grand Inquisitor is the twelfth game in the Zork series.

The interface is very simple and easy to learn, though it suffers from all the same problems of any other single icon (or cursor) interaction system. You do not have complete control over your environment, and you do not have to know exactly what you want to do all of the time. This makes for puzzles which, most of the time, seem unnecessarily simple. However, a good number of the puzzles are of a more esoteric nature (usually dealing with spell casting), so this does not detract from the rest of the game a great deal. Inventory management and item manipulation are very easy, as is the casting of magic spells (some of which you may remember from the Enchanter series). The spells are mostly utilitarian rather than combative in nature. Among the key objectives of this game is the recovery of three artifacts—the Skull of Yoruk, the Cube of Foundation, and the Coconut of Quendor.

One of the more distinguished, entertaining games of the last several years, Zork Grand Inquisitor is light and amusing (and in some places, very funny). It strikes a good balance between its tone and subject matter. Unlike both Return to Zork and Zork Nemesis, Zork Grand Inquisitor treats the original series of Zork games very respectfully and succeeds in paying homage to the groundbreaking original series by actually incorporating the world of Quendor into the game instead of merely paying lip service to its locations and characters. The overall arc of story is interesting and well thought out, with a very clever endgame sequence. Full Motion Videos are used in just the right amount, never detracting from the story. The most memorable character in Zork Grand Inquisitor is Dalboz, the Dungeon Master, who becomes the player's companion.

While being more faith to the original Zork games than either Return to Zork or Zork Nemesis, this game still misses the mark by a fairly wide margin in its delivery, with overly broad humor and a world that still seems too technological (although the outlawing of magic and the Frobozz Electric Company are a part of the game, these issues are never fully explained or dealt with.). Most of the puzzles are not very intuitive, and unfortunately several ones require leaps of logic to solve. The game is not very large. There are relatively few areas to explore, and most of the game is not very challenging. The most glaring problem with Zork Grand Inquisitor, however, is the graphics. As nice as they are, they simply cannot match the literal pictures painted by the original text adventures. I saw (and heard) the Dungeon Master, Y'Gael, Belboz, the White House, GUE Tech, Flood Control Dam #3, Hades, and Port Foozle in my head long before I played Zork Grand Inquisitor, and the representations of each in this game simply cannot compare.

The DVD-ROM version of Zork Grand Inquisitor, released in November 1998, features 30 minutes of reprogrammed MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital DC-3 multi-channel sound. As a bonus, a full version of Zork Nemesis is also included in the DVD-ROM version. In both the CD-ROM and DVD-ROM versions, an interesting option allows for link up with another player inside the game via Internet, LAN or modem to explore Zork cooperatively. Overall, Zork Grand Inquisitor is the best looking game among the next generation titles of the Zork series. While it is a very good adventure, it is not a very good Zork.

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