Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

Zak Mckracken and the Alien Mindbenders was the second game to use the SCUMM scripting language. Zak McKracken is not one of my favorite games by LucasArts, but it was worth playing. There are a few things that I didn’t like about the game. It has a free-roaming atmosphere that lets you travel from airport to airport in any order that you wish. Unfortunately, this costs money, and it is possible to get yourself stuck in a dead end by doing this. I first played the game when I purchased the LucasArts Classic Adventures pack, and the copy protection used was one of the most annoying I’ve come across. You had to enter a code from the manual each time you used the terminal at the airport. Since air travel is such a huge part of this game, that quickly became a tiresome task. The game is also full of mazes. Some mazes, such as the forest mazes, were able to be navigated by blind clicking, but other mazes, such as those in Egypt and on Mars were real chores. I never liked mazes in adventure games, as they seemed to be more of a time waster than a puzzle. Those mazes and the annoying copy protection caused me to put down Zak McKracken quite a few times before I finally completed it. In fact, I never did finish the game until years later when I played it on ScummVM.

There are some positives about the game though. The game has quite a few references to Maniac Mansion, and since Maniac Mansion was my first taste of LucasArts adventure games, I got a huge kick out of those. The humor in the game is quite weird and funny, using Zak McKracken’s career as a tabloid reporter to full advantage. The game takes quite a few jabs at tabloid reporting in general, and also plays around with the notion that most of the tabloid news that is reported is actually real news. I love the line where Zak complains that he wants to report meaningful news instead of making up stupid stories, and the boss tells Zak to “make up stories that aren’t stupid”. The game’s theme song is also great, and it even sounded good on the old PC speaker.

All that being said, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is a hard and frustrating game. But, I don’t regret taking the time to complete it, since the strange but gripping story and the wacky humor made up for it’s shortcomings in my opinion.

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