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Zork: Grand Inquisitor (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168858)
Written on  :  Jun 12, 2001
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars

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The crown of the series

The Good

Grand Inquisitor is the third and the last entry in the famous Zork series, which originated with classic text adventures at the dawn of videogaming age. And, as they say, third time's a charm. Return to Zork was way too frustrating; Nemesis perhaps too serious and Myst-like for some. GI captures perfectly the spirit of old Zork, with enough silly nonsense to satisfy any fan; but it has also learnt from the mistakes of the past and from the history of adventure games in general: it has an immaculately designed puzzle system that manages to be challenging, amusing, but never frustrating.

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 is a great idea, and hunting for spell scrolls, figuring out which spell to cast, is one of the major gameplay elements which never gets tiresome or boring.

The game always keeps a great pace, leaving enough unsolved puzzles at any time (okay, it doesn't look like I have the right spell/item, for this one... I'll go explore other areas and then come back), 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...

But excellent puzzles are not the only thing this game has to offer. In adherence with the venerable Zork tradition, GI is humorous in a silly, goofy way. Don't expect any profound witticisms or clever sarcastic remarks - GI 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 a satiric merit. Listening to the Inquisition's ramblings is a pleasure. Even though this story has been done thousand 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/location in GI - the examples are plentiful. The cut-scenes with the Grand Inquisitor Yannick, the telephone shuttle service in Hades, the Magic University, etc. In fact, there is hardly any location/character/scene that is not memorable, everything is done with care and is unique. Result: it is never boring. It is always fun.

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, GI uses real actors for cut scenes. Those cut scenes are really cool, and the actors really bring you the careless humor of the game through their mimics. I really loved the guy who did the Grand Inquisitor himself!

The Bad

Well, it's another one of those mystified adventure games where you jump from still picture to still picture (though with some scrolling and videos this time around, thank you very much). Which means that you'll have to move around your mouse 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 on that dragon's body only because two navigational arrows that led to two completely different places were two close to each other. Needless to say 3D would have worked much better. But I guess Under a Killing Moon was for video games what Cassandra was for Troy.

And of course, the whole plot is silly and for the most part makes no sense, but hey, that's what comedy adventures are about!

The Bottom Line

Grand Inquisitor is not only the best graphical Zork, but also one of the finest comedy adventures around - sadly, it's also one of the last truly great ones. It's weird and silly, but also surprisingly atmospheric; and above all, it's an expertly designed adventure game, with delightful puzzles that are a pleasure to solve.

Down with the Inquisition! Long live maaaa-giic!...