Saturday Crapshoot: Zork: Grand Inquisitor

Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, prepare to enter a world of adventure where life is cheap, only cheaters prosper, and a few familiar faces are looking forward to saying hello.

When I say that I hate the Myst series, I'm not being entirely fair. Oh, they are dreadful, don't get me wrong - the most fun I ever had with them was imagining that their backstories were a lie, and really the inhabitants of these pretty-but-boring worlds died out because some idiot locked their only toilet with a stupid puzzle that required them to demonstrate knowledge of local celestial movements before they got to take a bowel one. If you put me on a desert island with a computer and the entire series, I would snap one of the discs in half and use it to slice my own wrists open. Probably Riven.

Really though, what I hate about them is what they did to adventures - convince people that no, we didn't want characters or plotting (and please, spare me the links to a wiki about the intricate backstory of the Stoneship Age) or puzzles with an actual reason to get in our way. Now, if you could render a vaguely pretty world and put some unmarked levers and dials on it, your job was done. In the entire history of Myst-type games, I can list maybe five I genuinely consider worth having given a chance.

So when I now say that Zork: Grand Inquisitor was a wonderful surprise, I really mean it.

FREE STUFF ALERT! Our friends at Good Old Games have given us 10 copies of Zork: Grand Inquisitor to give away. Check out the competition details at the end of this post.

They did it first

Richard Cobbett at

In a world of clones and copycats, it’s worth remembering that every idea was once new.

Whether it’s Richard Garriott turning himself into the world’s first cosplayer by showing up at conventions dressed as his alter-ego Lord British, or Westwood inventing the RTS in Dune II, these are the moments that defined the games we play today. On PC, anyway. Herzog Zwei? What’s that?

But what about some of the more obscure firsts? Who made games talk? Who made film ratings part of our industry? Which FPS first came up with the idea of mixing driving and shooting, in much the same way that the genius who first combined salt and vinegar crisps and broken up pieces of Kit-Kat created the most delicious snack of our age? That is the question.

We’ve gone back into the archives in search of the geniuses, the dreamers, the designers and games that proved there were still ideas left to explore – just as today’s designers continue to prove how much more can be done.

Crap Shoot: Leather Goddesses of Phobos

Richard Cobbett at

Richard Cobbett spends a quiet evening investigating an army of psychopathic ladies who want more than just your planet. People of Earth: Phobos needs talcum powder!

Let's be honest, the main reason that anyone remembers Leather Goddesses of Phobos is because it's called Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Here's a list of game names from 1986. Alex Higgins' World Snooker. Chessmaster 2000. Karateka. Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter. Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Tank Wars. Be honest. Which of those would have jumped out at you on a games shelf back then? It definitely wouldn't have hurt that it was written by Infocom, then-Princes of the text adventure genre, or was written by the main guy behind both the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy game (which was awful, incidentally, no matter how rose-tinted your glasses) and A Mind Forever Voyaging (which was utterly brilliant, and we'll be looking at in this column at some point). This was pre-Leisure Suit Larry too, when the mere idea of a game including (*whisper*) sex seemed daring and new. For many people, the Leather Goddesses of Phobos would be their first time... at least with a computer.

PLEASE NOTE: You must be 18 or over to read this week's Crap Shoot. Don't you dare read on if you're not! Your young mind is not ready for the thrilling sexy adventures that await you!