Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

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Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
Titelimage from the game
Game No. 120
Voting 9.12 points, 128 votes
Developer David Fox, Matthew Kane, Ron Gilbert
Company Lucasfilm Games
Publisher Activision
Musician Matthew Kane
HVSC-File /GAMES/S-Z/Zak_McKracken.sid
Release 1988
Platform Amiga, Apple, Atari ST, C64, PC-DOS
Genre Point'n Click Adventure
Operation Icon Port1.pngJoystick Keyboard
Media Diskette
Language Language German Language:english Language:Italian

Description[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Annie in San Francisco waiting for the sleeping bus driver
Unterlude: the aliens between themselves

It is 1997, and the world is as stupid as never before....Aliens have built a dumbness machine, which slowly lowers everyone’s intelligence quotient. But the worst is that the only person who can stop the aliens is the boulevard reporter Zak McKracken, who invents the most far-out stories about vegetarian vampires and carnivorous cauliflower for his magazine.

They have taken over the telephone company... This sounds exactly like another one of Zak's crazy stories. But while nobody really believes him, he finds three people who he doesn’t need to convince any more: Annie, boss of an archaeological company, and her friends Leslie and Melissa, which have flown to mars with a reconstructed camp mobile. The four of them need to put together the parts of an ancient puzzle, unmask the aliens and destroy the dumbness machine.

And here you come into play.... you take control over the activities of Zak, Annie, Melissa and Leslie, and lead them to exotic places where you will find some very strange things – and even stranger creatures!

To help you solve the many puzzles in the game, there are "Cut-Scenes". These are scenes that play in other places where there is something important going on. As in the movies, you will be shown what goes on elsewhere. Furthermore, there are many hints hidden in the issue of the National Inquisitor, Zak's employer, which also is in the packing of the game.

If this is your first computer adventure, brace yourself for an entertaining puzzle. It might take a while to solve all puzzles. If you are stuck somewhere you might have to solve another puzzle first or use an item you do not have yet. But if you stay persistent and use your fantasy, you surely will accompany Zak successfully through the game.

The game[edit | edit source]

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is the second adventure that used the SCUMM engine. It was the indirect follower of Maniac Mansion, but had with regard to the contents nothing in common with it, except for the insider gags.

In this adventure Zak travels around the whole world – also to exotic places as the Bermuda Triangle, the jungle of Lima and Kinshasa or to the temple complex in Egypt and Mexico - and also a side trip through the outer space to Mars is made. Alongside there are lots of interactions with humans and animals (with the right education you can also put yourself into the mind of animals and take them over), so the player should not be shy.

Design[edit | edit source]

... Zak annoys the baker ...and gets the desired item ...
... one mess is not enough ... but an egg in the microwave ...

Through the use of the SCUMM engine is the game design similar to the one of Maniac Mansion, i.e. in the two upper thirds of the screen are the graphics with the persons or objects and in the lower third are the activity words, whereby graphics are often scrolled to the right or left. But the graphics are not especially exciting. It is functional and in any case harmonious. Besides, there are interludes which press ahead with the plot.

The puzzles are partially rather tricky. It can e.g. get a problem just to kill an animal to get to the aim, which can later retaliate, so that you have to start anew; so it is advisable to save often during the game. Also you should not afford to book too many flights at the beginning, as otherwise you will be broke very quickly. This can be avoided by reducing flights to a minimum or by looking out for further sources of capital.

Hints[edit | edit source]

How you play[edit | edit source]

After the title scene you see Zak stand in his bedroom. When he turns towards you and in the lower parts some words appears, you can start.

The message lines are the two lines at the upper rim of the screen. Everything that the single persons say and all other game related texts appear here.

The animation window needs the most place on the screen. It shows the game area from the view of a film camera.

The sentence line is directly below the animation window. You use this line to put together sentences which give directions to the persons. A sentence consists of a verb and one or two objects (items). An example for a sentence would be: "Use pencil with tapestry". Conjunctions as "with" are automatically inserted by the programme.

Verbs need to be chosen from the verb list by clicking them with the cursor. Often take a closer look at the verbs: sometimes they change to be able to cope with new situations in the game.

The inventory list is directly below the verbs. Every person has an exact list of items, which he or she is carrying. At the start of the game, Zak has only one item. When a person picks up an item its name appears on the inventory list. The carrying capacity of the persons is unlimited. If more than four items are on the list, two arrows appear between the words. If you click on them you will see the rest of the list.

Objects (items) can be picked in two ways. On the one hand you can move the cursor onto the image of the item in the animation window and click. All important items can be reached that way. They also have a name which then appears in the sentence line. On the other hand you can choose objects directly from the inventory list.

To move a person, choose the word "Walk to" from the verb list, by moving the cursor over it and clicking. Then move the cursor to the place where the person should go to and click again. If you click on an open door the person will walk through it. Notice that "Walk to" is almost always written in the sentence line when you have finished an instruction. This offers more comfort, as you will use this word most often.

To prompt a person to execute the instructions, either click a second time on the chosen object or once into the sentence line. If nothing happens, check again what order you have constructed. To substitute a verb or an object without constructing the sentence anew, it is enough to click on the new verb or object. It will appear at the right place in the sentence.

"Cut-scenes" are short film sequences as scenes in a movie. They give important hints. If you watch a cut-scene you cannot control a person, so the verb and inventory list disappear for a short time.

Keys[edit | edit source]

The 2 astronauts Leslie and Melissa on the Mars
  • F1   = Zak
  • F3   = Annie
  • F5   = Melissa
  • F7   = Leslie
  • Space   = pause
  • Return   = shorten cut-scene
  • Shift   + F1   (F2) = load/save
  • Shift   + F7   (F8) = restart
  • +   = message line speed faster
  • -   = message line speed slower

Solution[edit | edit source]

A few helpful tips
  • Take everything with you that is not nailed down. Almost every item will be needed in the game somewhen, somehow!
  • Read the "National Inquisitor", here many hints are hidden. The article about the "Jet-Lag" for example could get you to the idea to get up to something in the plane to occupy the stewardess and so be able to search the airplane unhurriedly. But take the contents of the paper with a pinch of salt. In there are some hints, not the complete solution!
  • Many creatures that you meet have some kind of function. The baker man, the Guru and the dosser at the airport belong to them.
  • If you are really stuck in a blind alley, take again a close look at the inventory list and think of the places and person that you know. With great probability a connection will come to your mind that you can use.
  • You have to do something really crazy to kill the pawn and then keep stuck in a dead end. Therefore you do not need to save before every action but just now and then.
  • There are puzzles that need to be approached only by two or more persons at the same time.
  • Many puzzles have several solutions.
  • Don’t hesitate to go around and look at Zak’s world. You do not need to play on “win” right from the start!
  • Fish for the plastic card under Zak’s table. This works by using the phone bill or another adequate item as a help. First choose the verb “use” from the verb list. Then click on phone bill, which can be seen in the dresser drawer. At last click twice on the plastic card under Zak’s desk. Note that Zak is clever enough to first pick up the phone bill and then go to the desk.
  • If the moneys is short, look for a way to make money - or for something valuable to sell!


The labyrinths

  • Jungle area

These are not real labyrinths - only the number of exits that you use count. So always continue towards your target on the next best way.

  • Egypt - The Sphinx

First through the gate with the sun symbol, then through the gate with the eye symbol.

  • Mexico - The Aztec Temple
Zak Karte1.gif
  • Mars - The big chamber

Two of the mars labyrinths are very small and easy, but the first of the two has a bit more to offer:

Zak Karte2.gif

Cheats[edit | edit source]

  • This is no cheat in the original sense, but a hidden and very helpful facilitation: The knife from Zak’s kitchen can be bended in the loose boards under his bedroom carpet or at different other places. If you then sell it in the pawn shop you‘ll get quite some money for it.
  • Look at the lotto machine at the right end of the aisle in the space Cadillac of the alien leader with the Elvis tick and remember the numbers. Then bet on these numbers in San Francisco in Lou's Loan's and after a while fetch the prize. Here you win so much, that all money trouble should be a thing of the past.

Voting[edit | edit source]

Voting of the C64-Wiki users (10=the best vote):
9.12 points at 128 votes (rank 2).
You need to be logged in to cast a vote.
64'er 8 Issue July 1989
C64Games 10 25th November 2013 - Language German - "Highlight" - 19061 downs
25th November 2013 - Language:english - "Highlight" - 19088 downs
Lemon64 9 25th November 2013 - Language:english - 9 of 10 points - 274 votes 9 25th November 2013 - 9,1 of 10 points - 138 votes
The Legacy 9 25th November 2013 - "excellent" - 79 votes
C64.COM 9 9th July 2014 - Language:english - 9 out of 10 points - 19281 downs
Gamebase64 10 "Classic!" Language:english
ZZap64 9 Issue March 1989 - Language:english - 93% - p.70
Amiga Joker (C64-Version) 8 Special April 1993 - Language German - 83%
Power Play 9 Issue October 1988 - Language German - 91%
ACE 8 Issue April 1988 - Language:english - 75% - p.96
Computer & Videogames 9 Issue January 1989 - Language:english - 85% - p.46
Commodore User 8 Issue January 1989 - Language:english - 77% - p.31
Games Machine 9 Issue March 1989 - Language:english - 89% - p.27

Reviews[edit | edit source]

Jodigi: “A really successful adventure which tied me to the C64 for several hours at that time. A small disadvantage is though, that here only 4 fixed persons are used, while in Maniac Mansion you could play with a choice of several persons. However, the game is worth ten points.“

Guybrush: “Clacker, in our town there were 3 people who had bought the game at the same time and then they quested together and busily phoned each other, when another puzzle had been solved. My favourite gag is the can of chain saw fuel that you find on Mars but cannot pick up as "I don’t need it, because it is for another game". (Background: In Maniac Mansion you find a chain saw and in the whole game there was no fuel for it, the world of gamers had searched for months in despair for the fuel in MM *g*) Clear 10!”

TheKills: “God grief, how long I sat and played this game. Great story (in my opinion much better than many following graphic adventures), good sound and an uncountable mass of gags make this classic unforgettable. However, I always liked Maniac Manson a tiny bit better, as there are numerous approaches to solve the game... maybe also because of Day of the Tentacle later. Therefore only 9 out of 10.“

Mailhunter: “A classic, which really deserves the name "Classic". The game is on my list of "games-to-play-through-one-more-time"every 3 to 4 months. Personally I never made it to "lose" and to see how the aliens dumb the world completely. One should try that to see what will happen, hehe. The allusions to many topics as e.g. the monoliths on Mars (2001: A Space Odyssey), the Mars face (which "allegedly" does not exists, but real Zak fans believe in it anyway, hehe), the fuel (for the chain saw for Maniac Mansion), the two-headed squirrel (which the makers probably took from the yellow press), the alleged curse of the mummy (which is believed to guest in the Sphinx) and much, much more, makes the story interesting again and again and keeps the whole thing up to date. So from me a clear 10 out of 10 for this milestone in the history of adventures.“

mombasajoe: "Great, crazy story, told nicely and presented refreshingly funny. Deduction alone for the unnerving labyrinths. 9/10."

Snake Slobodan: “As the forerunner Maniac Mansion it is a real classic but more manifold. I also puzzled forever to solve the story for the first time – good that you can save the score on the C64! Therefore also from me the highest number of points 10, not negotiable! ;-)”

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Gags[edit | edit source]

  • Put Sushi in the sink (use) and press the switch.
  • In the phone company keep in mind the number and phone it from home.
  • Go to the guard in the Sphinx three times.
  • Type in the wrong (copy protection) code 5 times
  • Put Sushi on the closet and turn into the gold fish.
  • Turn into the squirrel.
  • Do not pay in the bus and stay standing there.
  • Sell something in the shop in San Francisco and buy it again.
  • In the hostel on Mars open the closet and pick up the petrol can.

Cover[edit | edit source]

... Cover front ...
... Cover back ...

[edit | edit source]

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Highscore[edit | edit source]

  • In this adventure there is no highscore possible, either you save the world from stultification or it falls into the state in which it is now...

Links[edit | edit source]

WP-W11.png Wikipedia: Zak_McKracken