Saturday, 25 August 2012

Game 23: Zak McKracken - Globetrotting Goodness

Zak McKracken Journal Entry 5: “So much has happened and yet I feel my adventure is far from over! I’ve finally found the clue that Melissa and Leslie needed to progress on Mars (I figured it out while watching a tribal dance in Zaire of all places), and as much as it doesn’t make sense, I know that the two of them now know that information too! I also found the Guru that wrote the book on enlightenment while travelling through Nepal, and he passed onto me knowledge about how I am to make use of the blue crystal I found in Seattle. However, while I had success in Zaire and Nepal, I have merely added more questions to an already long list while visiting Egypt and Peru. All I can do is continue my quest for answers, and hope that Annie, Melissa and Leslie can play their part in stopping whatever it is that’s causing humanity to get stupider!”

At the end of last post, I'd just found Annie's "misplaced" cashcard

So it was that I continued my travels around the world, looking for items that might solve puzzles elsewhere and trying to piece together what exactly it was I was supposed to be doing. I’d been to Seattle, Miami, London, Mexico City and Mars, but there were still more locations on the airport destination list to visit. I felt like there was nothing else to do in Seattle and Miami, but there were unfinished puzzles in London (the altar), Mexico City (the statue) and Mars (the two locked doors). The next country on the list was Lima, the largest city in Peru, so I restored back to the airport (after just completing everything I could do as Melissa and Leslie on Mars) and travelled there.

They really tried to make Peru airport look as crumby as possible

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself facing yet another maze as soon as I arrived, having to make my way through labyrinthine jungle similar to Mexico City. Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to get find my way through it, and I then found myself standing on a ledge with a small platform on it. The sign next to it informed me that it was an “Ancient Incan Bird Feeder”, and that I should only fill it with dry bread crumbs. Well I just so happened to have some dry bread crumbs as a result of processing the stale bread thrown at me by the baker back in San Francisco. I placed the crumbs on the bird feeder, and watched with satisfaction as a bird flew over and started eating it. I then tried everything I could think of with the bird, from picking it up to tying a rope to it, but nothing worked. It appeared that whatever I needed wasn’t in my possession.

What the hell could I possibly need a bird for in this game?!

I had to assume that Lima was yet another location I was going to need to revisit later, so I took a plane to Egypt, hoping for more luck. Once I was standing in the Egyptian desert just outside Cairo, there were two structures I could check out. I could visit the Sphinx to the right of screen or I could enter a pyramid to the left. I decided to see what the Sphinx had to offer, and soon found myself looking at yet another set of yellow markings (found on one of the outstretched legs), wondering once again what symbol I was supposed to draw with my crayon. Just as with the statue in Mexico City, I had no idea, so I had no choice but to see what was inside the pyramid instead.

There's no way you'd be able to get this close to any Egyptain landmark without being pestered for "baksheesh"

On entering the pyramid, I found myself in complete darkness, so I had to hunt down a torch, which I lit with my lighter. As expected, I was standing in a tomb, excitedly wondering what mysteries I might find. Perhaps I would find some carvings that would hint as to what symbols I was required to be drawing? I pixel hunted that tomb more than any other part of the game so far, convinced that there must be something in there that I needed to find. I came up empty-handed! Apart from the torch, which appeared to be firmly attached to the wall, I couldn’t find a damn thing to interact with in the pyramid, leaving me very confused as to what its purpose could possibly be. Disappointingly, Egypt had offered up nothing of value, and the possible destinations were dwindling. I hoped beyond all hope that Zaire and / or Nepal would have something to offer!

There can't really be nothing to do in this place...can there?

I may or may not have mentioned before in this blog that I suffer from a condition many Australians have. We’re geographically retarded! Our only excuse is that Australia is a long way from anywhere (apart from New Zealand), so we don’t exactly have the opportunity to country hop for the weekend. Personally, I consider myself to be a reasonably worldly guy, who knows at least something about what’s going on outside my own country, but if you ask me to pinpoint cities on a globe, or to name the capital of just about anywhere on the planet, I’m screwed! Even taking that into account though, I was surprised that one of the locations in the game would be somewhere I’ve never even heard of. Kinshasa, Zaire meant absolutely nothing to me, so I immediately assumed it was one of the many African nations that newspaper trivia sections so often love to torment me with (my answer is always Kenya and rarely correct).

I think I might go over zaire!

A quick search of Google confirmed my guess to be true, but it also made me feel much better about my apparent ignorance. You see Zaire hasn’t been called that for fifteen years. It’s now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, which I have actually heard of! Interestingly, the name change occurred in 1997, which is the year Zak McKracken is set, meaning it could still be considered historically accurate, at least on that point. Anyway, Zaire was my next destination, and after the customary jungle maze, I found myself standing in front of a hut with a sign reading “THE DOC IS IN”! I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a doctor in the truest sense, and given the material used for the hut and the skulls perched outside, was likely to be a witchdoctor.

Oh good, they accept cashcard!

Stepping inside revealed that to be true, with a native sitting at a desk with a mask on. In the corner of the room was a bag of golf clubs, so I immediately figured the lone golf club I had in my inventory was about to become useful. It’s times like this where the lack of a “Talk to” verb option is plainly obvious. Unless someone runs up to me and starts talking, there’s no way to start any sort of conversation directly. I was going to have to give him something just to get his attention, so I gave him the golf club. Apparently the Golden Boar Sand Wedge was exactly what he needed to complete his set, and in return I was going to be fortunate enough to witness a sacred dance, taught to the natives by “the Ancient Ones”.

This place is like the Tardis! It's much bigger on the inside!

I really had no idea why I might want to watch a performance, but the witchdoctor told me to “Watch carefully. It is said to unlock the door to the head.” I tried to think of a head elsewhere in the game that I might need to unlock, but couldn’t think of one. The doctor then danced around the fire for a while with two other natives, before continuing a bizarre knee bending climax. I took note of the fact that he crouched down three times, then the second native crouched down once, before the third native crouched down twice. 3 – 1 – 2. What did it mean? The natives then wandered off with the doctor re-entering his hut, but not before telling me to “come back with the Yellow Crystal!”

Seeking answers to alien door puzzles through an ancient African squatting dance

Well at least I now knew where to take the crystal once I’d found the second half (and presumably recombined the two parts), but I still didn’t have any idea what the symbol was that I needed to unlock it in Mexico City. 3 – 1 – 2?! Where might I need a combination? Suddenly I knew exactly what it meant! One of the locked doors on Mars had three buttons! The natives were showing me how to unlock the door, and the “head” they spoke of must be the face on Mars that was in my dream. Even though I was almost certain I’d found the solution to a major puzzle, I decided to travel to the one place on the airport destination list I hadn’t yet been to before switching back to Melissa and Leslie.

Um...I don't remember mentioning that!

On arriving in Katmandu, Nepal, I found myself standing next to a yak with a sign around its neck. When I read the sign I realised the yak was nothing more than transportation back to the airport, for which I was going to have to pay using my cashcard. There were two buildings of interest in Nepal, and I decided to check out the one on my right first of all. The front door was guarded, but before I even tried to enter, I noticed a haystack just sitting next to the building. I don’t know whether I have some deep-seeded pyromaniac tendency, but I immediately wanted to know whether I could set it on fire. Using my lighter, I did exactly that, and I assumed this action was going to cause the guard to come running to put it out.

I can't explain it really. I saw it...and I had to set it on fire!

It turns out someone did come running to put it out, but it wasn’t the guard outside the building I was expecting. That guard simply yelled out fire, and the man that came running had originated from the building I hadn’t yet explored. I thought I better make the most of the distraction and wandered over there as quickly as I could. On the outside of the building was a flagpole, which I picked up before entering. Inside was a cell, suggesting this was some sort of prison, and there was also a counter, a cabinet and a noticeboard. Finally, there was a large key hanging on the wall, which I eagerly snatched up. The cabinet was empty, as was the cell, and I couldn’t find anything useful to do with the counter, so I set about reading the notes on the noticeboard.

Now I know how to break into the prison incase I ever need to be rescued!

I couldn’t actually read any of the notices as they were all in Nepali, but I could see that one of them contained the flagpole I’d removed from outside the building while the other was a wanted notice for the meteor in Maniac Mansion. I couldn’t pick any of them up, and couldn’t think of any way that I might be able to learn Nepali in quick time, so I had to assume that the flagpole notice was merely drawing attention to the object for anyone that missed it. At least, I hoped so! The empty cell and cabinet seemed odd to me, and I wasn’t satisfied not knowing what their purpose was, so I restored my game to when I first arrived in Nepal, and attempted taking the flagpole without first setting the fire. Just as expected, I was locked in the cell and my possessions (apart from the lighter) were placed in the cabinet.

Well at least I know how to rescue myself! Now all I need to do!

Obviously then Annie would have to come and get me out, and while I was intrigued to find out how she would get the lighter off me without drawing the guard's attention, decided to restore once again and avoid capture. It was time to see whether I could get past the guard on the other building. When I tried to open the door, he told me that “only devotees of Guru may enter.” The obvious thing to do was to give him the book on “How to Raise Your Consciousness and Lower Your Golf Scores”, and it worked. He responded with “I see you are a follower of Guru!” and then let me in. Inside was a noticeboard, with an advertisement for the book, a certificate for a record breaking golf score at Pebble Beach, and a photograph of the Guru playing golf with an African Shaman (presumably the one I just met in Zaire). In the next room...was the Guru himself, Swami Holanwanda!

The light blue is back! Always the light blue!!!

The Guru straight away picked up on the fact I had the blue crystal in my possession, and set about teaching me how to use it. The training took around six hours, and I was only witness to snippets of what was taught, including how to sauté something in yak butter with a clove of garlic over medium heat, jokes about his wife, and perhaps importantly that the crystal only works when in contact with the Earth. Once it was over, he sent me on my way, so I can only assume that I will now be able to do whatever it is I’m supposed to do with the blue crystal whenever the time occurs where I’m supposed to do it.

Can't you just teach me how to levitate? That's like, really cool!

Things are starting to come together for me in Zak McKracken. I’m fairly certain that I’ll now be able to make progress on Mars, and I desperately hope that I will find the symbols I need up there somewhere. I’m still guessing that I’ll be able to take the second piece of the yellow crystal (once I attain it) to Stonehenge, and I’m now starting to think that I might be required to use the blue crystal to join the two pieces back together (now that I’ve been trained in its use). If that turns out to be correct, then I’ll take the yellow crystal to the witchdoctor in Zaire, and who knows what will happen from there. I don’t have any idea what I’m expected to do with the bird in Peru though, or the flagpole I got in Nepal, or the oversized bobby pin, or the guitar, or the......

It's time to go see what Melissa and Leslie are up to

Session Time: 1 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. I'm surprised by the current total time. You've given such a detailed report that it feels like it could have filled 10 hours. Keep up the good work. Maybe I'll finish my game before QFG so I can join you. I haven't purchased it yet, holding out hope to win it. ;)

    1. Tell me about it! I'm pretty sure I've written about Zak for more than twice the amount of time I've actually spent playing it. If you guys are getting something out of it, then I'm not complaining. :)

      I reckon there will be lots of people playing QfG simultaneously. Should be pretty exciting!

  2. I'm not sure if it's a spoiler or not, but since you already went through that scene, I won't rot13 it:

    "and perhaps importantly that the crystal only works when in contact with the Earth."

    Is that really all you learned from the guru?

    1. That was a spoiler Cedric. Who knows whether I would have figured out how to use the blue crystal without your comment making me go back and focus more on what the guru was saying. I'd like to think I would have, given I'm having to play through the same sections multiple times just to make efficient use of my travel funds. We'll never know now.

      Please know that I don't take any pleasure in it, but I have to deduct 10 CAPs from you (which puts you on -10 CAPs) for breaking the rules. I'm sure you understand that I have to set a precedent for spoilers if I don't want this blog to end up being a walkthrough for my own experience. There'll be no grudges held, but rules are rules.

    2. Sorry about that, I'll be more careful next time.

    3. Apology accepted. I know you didn't mean to, otherwise you wouldn't have even discussed whether or not it was a spoiler.

      You guys all need to be aware that it's difficult enough for me not to decipher ROT13 messages, let alone not try to find hidden meaning in every other comment. ;)

    4. So, we don't have to hunt Cedric down and give him a punitive beating? ;)

  3. This game seems rather large and ambitious. Craziness.

  4. And I'm back from vacation!

    I love your Zak posts, they really give me a good picture of what your game experience is. It shows how you think, and seeing where you hit your head against the wall compared to my own frustrating headaches.

    Too bad about the spoiler though, as Zak is a somewhat difficult game and you were doing really good without asking for any hints yet.

    1. Welcome back! As you can see, I haven't progressed very far since you left.

      I'm glad you're enjoying the detailed posts Lars-Erik. I need some encouragement every now and then. :)

  5. It's interesting how you're missing things I found easy.

    But then there's things you're finding easy that took me ages or even had me looking up a walkthrough (like setting the haystack on fire to get the flagpole)

    Unfortunately for me there's more of the latter than the former. :)

    1. "It's interesting how you're missing things I found easy."

      That comment fills with me with dread! I still have a few things up my sleeve to do in the game, but I just have this bad feeling that I'm going to hit a wall at some point.

      Oh well, all I can do is keep playing and hope I've done "enough". That's the beauty of a game with multiple solutions. I can miss something but still solve the puzzle...sometimes.

  6. I THOUGHT that Nepal jail scene looked familiar--it's the same background the game uses for Pirate Jail! The only differences are that the notices board has been replaced by a pirate flag, and the key has been removed, lest it gave you any hope of breaking free:

    I'm actually surprised Pirate Jail hasn't come up yet. (It's where the game sends you if you fail the copyright-protection test.) Maybe it wasn't included in the version Trickster played? It was a big part of the game for me, since I didn't have the manual; all this stuff about crystals and Mars and jet-setting around the world is kind of blowing my mind. To me, Zak McKracken was a game about pawning your couch cushions for scuba gear, and then getting sent to jail. The end.

    ...I must've played it that way a dozen times, without even knowing what the actual game was.