“Never forget who is the boss of you. Me! I am the boss of you!”
- Mir Yannick, Grand Inquisitor of Zork
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is the eighth entry in the popular Zork computer game series. Activision, the company that brought the Zork series from text-only adventures to fully graphical quests, released it in 1997.
The game’s plot contains several nods to the other games in the series and actually relies on some of the events from games past. The player begins the game by viewing “Propaganda on Parade,” a film showcasing the work of Mir Yannick, the self-appointed Grand Inquisitor. Yannick has banned all magic from Zork and deposed one of his former schoolmates from GUE Tech, Dalboz of Gurth, by imprisoning his spirit in a lamp. An underground (literally) magic movement exists but its major players are eventually scattered around the world. If only they had some sort of catalytic person to reunite them all and help them save the empire! (Needless to say, this is where the player comes in).
“Curfew will begin in one second! CURFEW! Curfew has begun. Curfew began one second ago. Curfew began five seconds ago.”
- The speaker in the middle of Port Foozle
The player begins the game in the harbour of Port Foozle, a lakeside town in ravaged by the Inquisition. A nightly curfew is imposed on the residents, who have become bitter and unwilling to trust strangers. The player is not welcomed into the city and is actively shunned until he or she finds a broken lantern (the likes of which haven’t been seen in Foozle for years) and brings it to Antharia Jack, an adventurer-turned-repairer of lanterns who attempts to fix it. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary lantern, however, and the player is forced to bring it (and thus the former Dungeon Master who got stuck inside it somehow) underground to avoid the Inquisition.
Dalboz of Gurth, the previous Dungeon Master and schoolmate of Mir Yannick, is relegated to offering the player advice from the lantern – the essence of his being lives inside of it but he’s still able to speak. Together, they travel through the underground and visit Zork landmarks including Flood Control Dam #3, GUE Tech and the White House in order to retrieve three magic relics that will help them in their quest to overthrow Yannick and restore magic to the empire. They also run into some other friends, all of whom were also deposed by the Inquisition because of their ties to magic, during their quest.
The player must navigate dozens of old-fashioned Zork-style puzzles to retrieve the Coconut of Quendor, the Skull of Yorrick and the Cube of Foundation. Each of these artifacts (which mysteriously went missing after the Inquisition and are now hidden underground – but where?) is essential to restoring the three kinds of magic (high, light and middle) to the empire. There are some areas to which Dalboz (by virtue of being stuck in the lamp) and the player cannot travel; various spells taught along the way help their imprisoned friends to break out of their totems (small circular artifacts into which their spirits are squished) so they can help out in other dimensions.
“I’ll just call you Ageless Faceless Gender Neutral Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person – AFGNCAAP for short.”
- Dalboz of Gurth
The game continues the live action tradition started in Return to Zork; the main difference here, however, is its use of more prominent actors. Michael McKean provides the voice of Dalboz, former A-Team dude Dirk Benedict plays Antharia Jack, and veteran comedian Rip Taylor has a small cameo as an Inquisition guard. Actor Erick Avarti plays Mir Yannick, the Grand Inquisitor himself.
The game’s references to the rest of the Zork series are numerous. One of the alternate dimension sequences takes place in and around the infamous White House (of “you are standing by a white house” fame). Other plot points involve visits to Flood Control Dam #3 and GUE Tech. After inebriating the Dungeon Master’s house’s security system (because it won’t let you inside – it doesn’t recognize Dalboz’s new look), it pays tribute to Boos Miller from Return to Zork. The “Game Over” screens are also based on the text-based adventures. The player will still be told that he or she was eaten by a grue after entering a dark area without a light. In one instance, the screen reads, “What were you thinking? A dark well in a Zork game. You have been eaten by a grue.”
While the majority of the game’s inside jokes refer to the other games in the Zork series, there are other outside references as well. One of Antharia Jack’s lines is a reference to the A-Team. While McKean voices the Dungeon Master, his Laverne and Shirley cast mate David L. Lander provides the voices for the Port Foozle speaker system and a talking torch later on in the game.
Graphically, the game is well made and its music sounds polished and blends into the background enough to avoid becoming annoying, as some game soundtracks do. Its difficulty level ranges from fairly easy to moderately difficult, but there’s still enough replay value for players to enjoy it (even eight years after its release – yikes). Some of the puzzles require the player to dig around and find information within the game, but there are plenty of walkthroughs available for those who’d rather cut to the chase. The game’s writing is witty enough to keep people from losing their minds, though the recorded dialogue is programmed to repeat itself after certain actions and this can get annoying after a certain number of times.
Zork Grand Inquisitor also features “linked play,” with which two users who own the game can play simultaneously over the Internet. They can even “taunt” each other with pre-recorded sounds and keyboard commands.
Zork Grand Inquisitor Review and Walkthrough (http://www.balmoralsoftware.com/zgi/zgi.htm) 10 May 2005
I’ve owned this for six-and-a-half years.