Zork: Grand Inquisitor
Description official descriptions
Magic is banned in the Great Underground Empire, and the Grand Inquisitor Yannick (with the kind help of Frobozz Electric) has a stranglehold on the world of Zork, establishing a totalitarian regime. According to his own words, the goal of the new state is to "shun magic, shun the appearance of magic, shun everything, and then shun shunning." Any opposing forces will be "totemized", which is apparently a rather unpleasant procedure. The player character in the game is just that - the player character: Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person (abbreviated AFGNCAAP), as the politically correct designation by the Dungeon Master Dalboz defines him/her (it?). Naturally, it is the hero's duty to save the world by collecting a Cube of Foundation, the Skull of Yoruk, and the Coconut of Quendor, so that magic can return to the land and the Grand Inquisitor falls victim to his own shunning policies.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is the third in the row of graphical Zork games. It utilizes the same engine as its predecessor, with first-person perspective, 180 degree camera rotation, pre-rendered backgrounds, and live actors. Compared to the previous game, it is more similar in tone to the early, predominantly humorous Zork adventures, containing plenty of references to them.
The gameplay is puzzle-oriented; most of the puzzles are inventory-based, though there are also a few that require manipulating the game's environment. Casting magical spells is an important element of the gameplay. The protagonist discovers spell scrolls and learns spells from them, which must be frequently used on objects and items to solve puzzles. The spells range from simple magic that can open locked doors to exotic variations such as "making all purple things invisible". The player can also cast spells backwards, in which case they will have an opposite effect; in the aforementioned examples, casting the reversed spells will lock a door or magically make an object visible, provided it was purple before that condition was inflicted upon it.
Credits (Windows version)
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|Lead Game Designer|
|Lead Engine Programmer|
|Lead Game Programmer|
|Senior Art Executive, Consultant|
|Senior Creative Executive|
|Assoc. QA Project Lead|
|Senior QA Lead|
|[ full credits ]|
Average score: 82% (based on 31 ratings)
Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 49 ratings with 4 reviews)
First, I loved the humor. Nothing in the game is taken too seriously, and even the most dire situations have something to make you laugh. Plus Dalboz has a funny description for every item, and pop culture references pop up throughout the game.
Second, the puzzles are by and large doable, with hints for how to do them given by your trusty sidekick Dalboz or scattered around the underground. There were only a handful of things the first time I played that I couldn't do without a walkthrough, and only one I couldn't do the second time (it turns out to combine the Snavig scroll, one half needs to be in the viewer. So simple, but I couldn't remember or figure it out for a day).
Third, it's multimedia. The graphics are beautiful, some of them worthy of hanging on a wall or using as a desktop. You can really tell that whoever designed these levels really took their time and had attention to detail. The animations are good too. The cut scenes are really interesting, and fun to watch, and the audio is very good, both in the sound effects (3D sound, you know) and the voice actors. And the music is catchy, pleasant to listen to, and fits the situations.
Fourth, the story and setting was immersive. I really felt like I was in the world of Zork, where magic is used side by side with electronic technologies (though apparently no one invented firearms or combustion engines), and I could really get in to the game.
Fifth, the game didn't seem to shove it down my throat that it was a sequel, and didn't take any information the people who played previous games might have taken as a given.
Well, the animation is significantly lower quality than the still pictures, and it shows. Whenever something moves, the screen (either the whole picture or isolated around the moving object) drops to about half the resolution it was before. It might be part of the technical limitations of the age, but compared to the still pictures, the in-game animations look shoddy.
A few of the puzzles seem so strange and contrived that you have to wonder how the developers expected the player to figure the puzzle out by themselves. Thankfully, it's only a few, and if you get stuck on a puzzle once you figure it out it's usually an "oh duh" moment.
Also, even playing again, the plot seems a little contrived, and things in the setting seem don't make sense if you think about them too much. There's a whole lot of Fridge Logic in the game if you think about practically anything. I won't list many here, but just as an example, what kind of nonsense is it to link a vending machine to students' lockers? Does that mean that students have to pay a Zorkmid to open their lockers, that they have to buy candy with it, and that anyone with a Zorkmid could open anyone's locker? Maybe it was partially intentional since the game is set in a strange world and it is only rated T (Really? T? I would have thought E. Hmm. Ah, here it is..."Comic Mischief, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco & Alcohol" Well, I suppose wondering what would happen if you cast Snavig on a woman is one of the more fun parts of its Fridge Logic), but the sheer number and obviousness of the incongruities and plot holes boarder on carelessness sometimes.
While the death messages are humorous, I'm torn on them because they provide a sort of perverse incentive to try to get yourself killed in every way imaginable just to see the funny death message.
The only other thing I can think of is that its options screen doesn't have anything to adjust voice, sound, and music audio preferences. I couldn't make out the what people were saying a few times, but truth be told, it's not that big of a deal, because it allows closed captioning to be turned on, so I can make out even the few places that are hard to hear, then turn them off when I don't need them.
Oh, also, there're a few minor errors and bugs here and there, but nothing too serious.
The Bottom Line
I've never actually played a Zork game besides this one. Sure, I played a few turns of the original Zork (then gave up), and played through I played through another game, I think it was "Zork: The Undiscovered Underground" now that I look it up (huh. turns out the game was related to ZGI. I never knew that until now) though I could hardly go two steps without a walkthrough for those. But ZGI was different, in an unrelated sort of way. It was my first and only experience with Zork, and I fell in love with it even though I didn't really like the text adventures, and usually don't like puzzle games. Now, several years later, I decided to give it a try, but this time, see if I can do it with no walkthrough at all (like I mentioned, I needed to use it once for something so simple I was kicking myself afterward) and to try to do it without dying at all (still died 7 times). And playing it again, it's just about as good as I remember it, even if I'm not seeing everything for the first time.
In a word, it's good. It's sort of like how Portal is these days, in that it's fun even for people that don't tend to like puzzle games (and even people who never played a Zork game before). But unlike Portal, it's immersive, story-driven, and multimedia (and has a greater variety of puzzles), making it a true gem in the world of puzzle games.
Windows · by kvn8907 (173) · 2008
This is the cream of the crop when is comes to great humor and a good short story that I love to share with novice adventurers to get them hooked. You do not have to play any of the other dozen empire related games in order to understand the plot. Yes you can get killed during dangerous parts of the game but if you use your wits you can stay alive to enjoy the fun puzzles like the scratch ticket, the courtesy phone, the secret mirror room, the totemizer machine, a strip grue fire and water challenge, and even the famous "white house" from the original zork 1 adventure.
Zork Grand Inquisitor was one on the first to have built in LAN or MODEM linked play feature so you play online with a friend and TAUNT your partner if they were getting lost in the adventure. The game came out around 1998 and since then there is no way to get that feature to function. You can also see that this came was cut short by Activision and many parts of the empire were cut out. The game got rave reviews and was very popular winning all kinds of award but sadly this would be the last Zork adventure leaving its wide fan base stone cold.
The Bottom Line
You start out above the great underground empire during curfew and need to find your way down into the darkness with 3 items, a lantern, a sword and a spell book. Along your journey you meet Charon, Harry, Dalboz, Anthara Jack and a two headed monster. The lantern serves as your guide and if confused with answer every question you might have with a touch of humor and many puns. The game uses a point and click (inventory) and 360 degree viewing. Set up is quite easy and you can save and come back to the game later. There are some good cut scenes like all adventures but listening to the voices of Lenny and Squiggy tip the comedy scales.
Windows · by Pumbaz (94) · 2020
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.
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!..
Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (180491) · 2014
|Middleware: ScummVM||trembyle (417)||May 30th, 2023|
|Middleware: ScummVM||trembyle (417)||Nov 4th, 2022|
|In Windows XP||vedder (68266)||May 23rd, 2010|
|Can anyone help me find this game?||Simon Skafar (52)||Feb 8th, 2009|
Activision released a DVD version of Zork: Grand Inquistor. The DVD also had the complete version of Zork: Nemesis. You could play both games without ever swapping a CD.
Related Sites +
A humorous review on PC Gamer
Hints for Grand Inquisitor
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Windows XP Setup - CD Version
Windows XP Setup - DVD Version
A Mac review of <em>Grand Inquisitor</em> written by Andrew Plotkin after the original Macintosh port was canceled and before the game was subsequently published (March, 2000).
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Swordmaster.
Macintosh added by Jeanne.
Game added July 14th, 2000. Last modified August 27th, 2023.