A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there once was a young girl, namely me, who played a small, simple game called Zork. She would type away for hours at her DOS prompt, trying to find the right combination of wording to open the door to the White House.
>Use key to unlock door
I do not understand "unlock."
Things would go on this way for a while. Once I was successful, I would tread into a dark tunnel and get eaten by a Grue.
You inadvertently stumbled into the nest of a hungry Grue. You are viciously torn apart. Your score is 14/1200, ranking you as a hopelessly bad adventurer. Thank you for playing, please try your call again later.
It hurt to keep getting torn apart! Ah but little did I know . . . .
It's all in the technology.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is Activision's third offering to the modern graphic adventure take on the classic Zork series. Their first game (which is actually labeled for Infocom, but they were part of Activision by the release) Return to Zork kept the humor of the original text games, but added the fun of visuals and sound, moving Zork into the world of point-and-click fare. Zork: Nemesis, the second game, is an intensely dark tale with some of the Zorkian quirkiness. But fans, like me, scratched their heads at why this game was so serious. It's a great game, but very out of character for the series. Then came ZGI. And all was right with the world.
"Remember who is the boss of you. I am the boss of you! I am the boss of you!"
You are once again thrown into the role of the ageless, faceless, gender neutral, culturally ambiguous adventure person, or AFGNCAAP as Dalboz refers to you. It is the time of the great magic Inquisition where any kind of magic is illegal. All magic creatures have gone into the underground. All those caught or found to be associating with magic are taken to the old monastery (now Inquisition headquarters) and "totemized;" basically, flattened into a small disc about the size and thickness of a hockey puck. You, as the AFGNCAAP, must join forces with the Dungeon Master Dalboz who was imprisoned in a lantern by the Grand Inquisitor. Together, you must make it to the Underground and find the three legendary objects that will restore all magic to the realm and destroy the Grand Inquisitor. To do this, you will need to wield your dwarven sword, your spell book, and your trusty vacuum. This is a Zork game after all.
Dungeons and Dragons
While not as creative as the plot from Zork: Nemesis, ZGI is a great fantasy tale set in a more modern-day world than its predecessor. The idea of totemization is very original, and downright frightening! I get sick enough sitting in the back seat of my parents' mini-van. Could you imagine spending the rest of existence in a coaster? No thank you! The humor of this game is wonderful. Once in a while, I like sitting down with a game that will not only challenge me, but also put a smile on my face. We need more laughter in our world people! The characters are hilarious, ranging from the narcissistic Grand Inquisitor to the funk-loving skeleton Charon who taxis you across the river into Hades. One of my favorites is Dalboz's security system Harry, the smoking and drinking door that seems more at home with Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Rat Pack than in the world of Zork. (Want some rye? Course you do!) And then there's Dalboz himself. While a majority of gamers out there like silence in their characters, I for one love having a wisecracking, smartass sidekick who speaks up at any given time. (Given from the way I write my reviews and walkthroughs, this should come as no surprise to all those JA+ readers out there.) Arthur from Presto's Journeyman series was the same way. Some people wanted to shut him up; I liked having him around. So Dalboz, Arthur, you guys are okay in my notebook.
Lookie here ma!
ZGI is a feast for the eyes. The humor from the game's plot creeps into the design of everything, including the program loader. Make sure you take the time and actually read the messages in each dialog instead of just clicking yes over and over like you normally do when loading a new game. It's worth it, I promise you. Each area you will visit over the course of the game is filled with visual humor, open jokes and inside jokes alike. Read the posters in Port Foozle and check out the counter board outside the Monastery. Activision's attention to detail is amazing! Although blocky at times, the graphics are extremely colorful and vibrant. During panning mode you can view moving objects, such as a floating fountain in the University and a ticked off snapdragon in front of Dalboz's house. No more jellified water and frozen fire here kids! Your traveling companions Griff and Brog are rendered in full 3D animation and look great. I love Brog's leopard print loincloth and tattoo in particular. During live motion video sequences, the integration of the actors into the pre-rendered backgrounds is a little choppy, but hardly takes away from the overall effect of the game. The movies themselves are showing some age with the advancements in technology since this game was released, but I can deal with it. They still look really cool! By the by, the acting in this game is above average . . . I would almost say excellent. Nothing at all like the lackluster performances of Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in a certain pair of games from Take 2 Interactive.
Hark! Is that George Clinton and the P-Funk All-stars I hear?
If it's one thing that all three graphic Zork games have done well, it's sound and music.Return to Zork's game disc could also be played in your CD player so you could get a taste of the instrumentals. Zork: Nemesis integrated the Qsound system into its engine to promote depth and perspective in the game. (Go read Erik Reckase's review of ZN and he'll explain the details of Qsound.) ZGI uses sound to again promote its element of humor. Right from the start, we are treated to some audio humor with the nasal announcement of "Curfew will start in one second. CURFEW!" As you trot all over Port Foozle, the announcements will keep playing. Be sure to listen to these closely for game clues and a few great jokes. Music is well done, emphasizing the mood of a particular locale or person. Traveling with Charon, I felt like I was watching Shaft or a bad porn (not that I partake in those things, mind you). Ambient sound effects are amazing, once again giving a great feeling of location and distance from the source of the sound. Make sure you have the 3D audio on in your options menu for the full effect.
All that other nonsense, you know, those puzzle things.
The puzzles in ZGI mostly consist of finding, combining, and using inventory items, whether they come from your sack or spell book. Those spells, by the way, will be familiar to anyone who's a fan of the original text series. REZROV anyone? In tradition with all adventures, you will glean information from written sources and play with all kinds of machines. There are a couple of games AFGNCAAP will have to outsmart, so make sure you save your game. (Dalboz will clue you into this fact too!). There will be times when you will play as your traveling companions. Be sure to use their "talents" to your advantage in each location. There are two puzzles in ZGI that stand out on my best puzzle list. Do you really hate those automated telephone services? Well, roll up your sleeves for this one kids! In Hades (would figure, wouldn't it?) you will have to outsmart the meanest, most confusing automated telephone service in order to summon Charon. The other, well, I won't get into it too much, but let me say this: make sure to check out the mirror in Dalboz's bedroom. (Evil laugh.) Overall, the puzzles weren't obnoxiously difficult and made sense in most cases. But most importantly of all. . . THEY WERE ENTERTAINING! Don't stand there with your mouth open; you might swallow a fly.
Patches! Oh Patches!
As in all games, ZGI does have a few minor bugs and some "not so well thought out" additions to the game's engine. The latter comes in the form of an online, multi-player option that can be loaded if you have access to the Internet, LAN, or VPN. While a neat idea at the time (oh cool! Online gaming!), the usefulness of this engine now is nil. On several occasions, I have logged into Activision's servers to use the interface. Designed to have gamers assist other gamers over the course of completing ZGI, these are now nothing more than empty chat rooms. Go talk to Dalboz; he's more entertaining. In terms of bugs, head over to your local patch site to download the version 1.2 patch for ZGI. This will correct a few game play issues and add an additional 20 save game slots. Also, if you don't wish your game to crash when changing discs, shut off the auto-insert notification in your systems settings. Back when I was a dolt, I went back and forth with Activision over this issue, only to find out it was the silly auto-play. Go me!
I need a red ribbon so I can wrap this up!
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is an extraordinarily entertaining game that can be replayed time and time again. It's like watching a Mel Brooks movie; you pick up on something new each time. The end sequence is nicely done and sets up the characters for a future Zork game, which sadly, doesn't seem to be in our future. I had read on a fan site that Activision had planned ZGI as being the first in a series of three games that would follow AFGNCAAP through modern Zork history, including the Magic Wars. (There was even a rumor that Zork: Nemesis was going to be made into a movie! Gasp!) The Zork series is proof that high quality entertainment can be found in the world of adventure games, that you don't need to blow up things with a big nasty gun to get a laugh. But (sigh) I suppose that we Zork enthusiasts will have to wait until the fates align to bring us another installment of this series. Until then, enjoy this one.
Grade: A (with two thumbs up and four stars)
For more Zork fun, visit the Frobozz Electric Website #50809
System Requirements for PC CD-ROM:
Pentium 90 processor, 100% IBM PC-Compatible
U.S. Version Microsoft Windows 95 operating system
16 MB of RAM
Quad-speed CD-ROM drive (600K/second sustained transfer rate)
50MB of uncompressed hard disk space
High-color (16-bit) 640x480 graphics with a VESA local bus (VLB) or PCI video card with 1MB of RAM
100% Sound Blaster 16-compatible sound card (for digital audio)
100% Microsoft-compatible mouse and driver
28.8 modem for multiplayer option
100% Windows 95-compatible computer system (including current 32-bit Windows 95 and DirectX compatible drivers for CD-ROM drive, video card, sound card and input devices.)
Power Macintosh G3/233 MHz
64 MB of RAM
Mac OS 8.6 or later
Pentium 166 processor
32MB of RAM
125MB uncompressed hard disk space
SVGA Video Card with 1MB RAM