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Zork: Grand Inquisitor (Windows)

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3.9
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Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (171558)
Written on  :  Jun 12, 2001
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Summary

Who is the boss of you?..

The Good

Grand Inquisitor is the final entry in the famous and long-running Zork series, which originated with classic text adventures at the dawn of computer gaming. It is also the third graphical Zork, fully confirming the well-known saying about the third time being the charm. Return to Zork was occasionally too frustrating, and Nemesis perhaps too serious and Myst-like for some people. Grand Inquisitor, on the other hand, perfectly captures the spirit of old Zorks, with enough silly nonsense to satisfy any fan; but it has also learnt from the mistakes of the past and the history of adventure games in general, resulting in an immaculately designed puzzle system that manages to be challenging and amusing without resorting to the older design philosophy of deaths and dead ends.

In fact, even though some of those puzzles require plenty of observational skills and careful clue-gathering, they rarely appear contrived. Most of them are perfectly logical (in their own weird way, of course) and quite entertaining. The spellbook, in particular, is a great idea. Hunting for spell scrolls, figuring out which spell to cast, is one of the major gameplay elements which never gets tiresome or boring.

Grand Inquisitor always keeps a great pace, leaving enough unsolved puzzles at any time so that the player wouldn't feel stuck. Most of the game takes place in the massive Underground area, which includes several locations connected by subway. You are free to go to most locations early in the game, but you'll have to carefully explore all of them to find the right clues, objects, and spells. And then, maybe, you'll figure out the perfectly logical place where a spell that makes purple things invisible should be used, or where exactly you'll have to magically grow vegetation, or how you use a magical vacuum cleaner...

Excellent puzzles are not the only thing this game has to offer. In adherence with the venerable Zork tradition, Grand Inquisitor is humorous in a lighthearted, goofy way. Don't expect any profound witticisms or clever sarcastic remarks - the game is all about laughter for the sake of laughter. However, the overall idea of the game - a former student of magic university taking over the country and instituting a totalitarian regime which forbids magic - is not without satiric merits. Listening to the Inquisitor's ramblings is a pleasure. Even though this story has been done many times before, it has its own nuances that are unique to this game.

Most of the humor, though, is just harmless, but ever so delightful silly stuff. I'm sure everyone has its own favorite scene, character, or location in Grand Inquisitor - examples are plentiful: the cutscenes with the Grand Inquisitor Yannick, the telephone shuttle service in Hades, the Magic University, etc. In fact, there is hardly anything here that is not memorable; everything is done with care and is unique.

Add to that lovely (if unnecessarily hampered by outdated interface) graphics, cool music and sound effects, and surprisingly good acting. Yes, like many other multimedia titles of its era, Grand Inquisitor uses real actors for cutscenes. Those are really cool, and the actors truly bring across the careless humor of the game through their mimics.

The Bad

I was never particularly fond of first-person navigation consisting of "jumping" from one still screen to another. There is more advanced scrolling and more smoothly integrated videos this time around, but you'll still have to move your mouse around a lot just to find those "hot spots" that turn the cursor into a navigational arrow. And those spots are sometimes really easy to miss: I remember getting stuck in that dragon's body only because two navigational arrows leading to two completely different places were too close to each other. It is needless to say that a 3D engine would have worked much better. But I guess the achievement of Under a Killing Moon was overlooked.

Grand Inquisitor has a very particular sense of humor, which may not strike a chord with everyone. It doesn't have either the clever, subtle wit of a LucasArts comedy or Sierra's strong propensity to puns and gags. Also, staying true to the legacy, it is concerned more with specific situations than an overarching plot encompassing logically deducible actions on the part of the player. The whole thing might just become a disjointed mess to those looking for more sane forms of entertainment.

The Bottom Line

Grand Inquisitor is weird and funny, but also surprisingly atmospheric; it is Zorkish in every way imaginable, the fullest incarnation of the series' graphical branch, and a grand conclusion to the monumental franchise. Above all, it is an expertly designed adventure game, with delightfully tough puzzles that are a pleasure to solve. Play this game and shun everything - and then shun shunning!..