Way back in 1980, the company I worked for employed a little Scottish guy who used to programme a computer to control a video-editing suite. When he wasn’t using his amazing skills on his home-made wooden PC, I’d play a game on it – called simply Adventure. This was my first adventure game, programmed in FORTRAN. it was the start of an addiction that lasted for years. Later, on my ZX81, I would play the same text-based adventures, but that was 20 years ago, and things have moved on a little. Or have they?
Adventure first appeared in 1977, but the original version of Zork was hot on its heels. Since then there have been at least eight new Zork adventures, and Grand Inquisitor is the latest one. I’m not sure which adventure first moved away from the text-adventure format, but even this one isn’t far off the original format. The familiar, wandering around and picking-up stuff is still the order of the day, despite rather-more advanced graphics.
Your adventure starts in Port Foozle, where you’re instantly in breach of a curfew. This makes things a little difficult, and the inhabitants a little crabby. Your first job is to get some adventuring equipment, and that involves the usual finding of objects and using them on other objects with entirely unpredictable results. You either cheat using a walkthrough from the Internet, or you spend a long time using trial and error. Either method is a bit depressing, you are either a cheat or you spend hours trying to progress.
When you interact with other characters in the game, you’ll find that there’s real video footage of live actors. This is an interesting way of dealing with characters, though it leaves the options for interaction rather limited. The actors used are a step-up from the usual Z-list celebrities – but not far up.
Erick Avari will certainly look familiar, though you probably won’t be able to place him unless you are a regular viewer of Stargate SG-1 – although he does have titles such as Planet of the Apes and Independence Day to his credit. Another face to recognize is Dirk Benedict, whose career peaked playing “Face” – the suave one in The A-Team. Further down the list of credits is Rip Taylor, a Vegas veteran and regular guest on Hollywood Squares (US version of Celebrity Squares).
Actually Zork isn’t a bad game, it’s just dated. After a while you get wrapped up in the story, and there are moments of tension just like in action games. There’s still something about traditional adventure games that’s addictive. Before long you’ll find yourself lookingat discarded tin cans in real life, wondering if they might come in handy later.
This isn’t a must-have game, but it may have a special appeal to those of a certain age. It’s slower-paced than most modern games, and there’s certainly less carnage. If you’ve been a fan of Zork over the years, you’ll know what kind of thing to expect. If you haven’t had the pleasure before, the original text games are available as a free download from various Web sites.