Zork: Grand Inquisitor

1997 Activision
Designed by Margaret Stohl, Matthew Harding; Laird M. Malamed
Reviewed 1998 August 17

Rating +5 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 1st 360 simple Real-time minor

The Grand Inquisitor has taken control of Quendor and bannished magic. It's up to you to recover the three great items of magic to restore magic to Quendor.

As with the other Zork games, there's not a lot of developing plot here. What plot there is is told mostly through cut scenes activated by largely unrelated events. It sounds worse than it is: they provide a sense of time to the adventure, and the scenes are good rewards for overcoming the challenges. They are well made and entertaining. They are also short enough to prevent you from slipping into "I'm watching a movie" mode. While there might be little plot, the back story is well developed and the setting is richly detailed.

The humour is much more obvious than in Zork Nemesis, more like that of Return to Zork. In addition to the good cut scenes, you have a sidekick, the old Dungeon Master, who is full of quips and information. The running dialogue effectively diverts your attention from the low population.

Most of the challenges are fairly easy, but many are cleverly designed and require a leap of intuition to overcome. Any one of these could be a personal stumper. One or two border on silliness: it helps to think with cartoon logic. The challenges are just difficult enough to be entertaining, but still easy enough to keep the game moving (especially combined with the non-linearity).

In addition to the standard object based play, the spell book makes a return for the first time in a graphical Zork. Many challenges are overcome by casting the appropriate spell on an object. This makes the game much more interesting, alleviating the one action mouse straight-jacket.

The game engine is similar to that of Zork Nemesis: first person view with 360 degree rotation at most sites. The rotation is cleaner and the graphics clearer. The locations are richly detailed. Everything you need is clearly presented -- there's no pixel hunting.

Zork Grand Inquisitor is solid in all aspects. It's a fun world to wander through, there's a good story behind it, and the challenges are well designed. The lighthearted tone, aided by your companion, keeps it brisk and refreshing.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Related reviews:

  • The Zork Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.