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Review by: Brian Pipa
Published: December 5, 1997
The last Zork game I played was Zork III on my Commodore 64. Boy, things have come a long way. Zork Grand Inquisitor (ZGI) takes us back to those familiar places in the Great Underground Empire, like Flood Control Dam #3 and the White House, but this time in full graphical splendor. For those who don’t know, the Zork games were text adventures (remember those?) that were insanely popular in the 80′s. If you haven’t ever played Zork or another text adventure, Activision has released Zork I, II, and III and even a brand new Zork text adventure to commemorate the release of ZGI. These text adventures are available to download from Activision’s website.
Don’t fear, though. You can enjoy ZGI even if you have never played nor heard of Zork. It seems that the Grand Inquisitor has banned magic and its use from the Great Underground Empire. The practice of magic has been declared punishable by totemization (a very bad thing). It is up to you, brave adventurer, to save the day and bring magic back to our beloved Zork.
One of the things I immediately noticed on the box is the ESRB rating of Teen (13+) and the reasons on the back: “Comic Mischief, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco and Alcohol.” Cool. I enjoy a good laugh, and ZGI provides plenty. The humor within takes on a bunch of different forms. Sight gags, puns, and a good dose of Monty-Python-esque humor make for a good time for me. I think that’s one of the reasons I like ZGI so much more than Temujin. Both games use approximately the same method of maneuvering the gameworld, and both have an inventory system that is similar, but where Temujin bored me, ZGI held my interest, mostly because of the humor.
Most adventures nowadays are one of two kinds: a third person point-and-click adventure like the Monkey Island series from LucasArts or a first-person, Quicktime/VRML similar to Myst. ZGI falls into the latter category. The gameworld of Zork is navigated through a first-person point of view called Z-vision that allows the adventurer to see through the eyes of his/her on-screen persona and allows a reasonable, yet limited, degree of freedom. The cursor changes to reflect the different actions that can be performed at different times in the game. It’s very easy to learn and works quite well.
One of the first characters I met in my travels through ZGI was Antharia Jack, who is played by Dirk Benedict (from Battlestar Galactica and The A-Team). It’s a bit odd seeing a (relatively) famous actor in a video game, but as the game industry gets bigger and bigger, I imagine we’ll see more and more actors playing parts in games. All of the acting and voice-overs are extremely well-done — no cheesiness at all.
The spell system is very easy to use. Soon into your travels you receive a spell book which contains 3 spells. These can be used as many times as needed. Along the way, you’ll find more spell scrolls and your magic spell book will transfer the spells into the book to use again and again. Some spells cannot be transferred into the book and therefore can only be used once. To cast a spell, open your spellbook (by right-clicking or by opening the spell menu at the top-right) and once you choose a spell, your cursor will change to that spell’s symbol. Choose what you want to cast the spell on and click. That’s it.
The spells are not the major focus of the game, however. The majority of the game is the typical stuff adventures are made of: exploring the gameworld, picking up everything not nailed down, and solving the puzzles and mini-quests you uncover. ZGI is a lot of fun and the best adventure I’ve come across this year. I recommend it to the fans of the Zork series or anyone in search of a fun and entertaining adventure.
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