Monday, 27 August 2012

Game 23: Zak McKracken - A Message from Beyond

Zak McKracken Journal Entry 6: “Today I had a deserved rest after all of my travels. I now understand what that National Inquisitor was on about when discussing the negative effects of jetlag. Despite my day off, it has still been a very successful day when it comes to solving the mystery of the alien invasion. Firstly, I was pondering over what the Guru had told me earlier and suddenly, out of nowhere, realised what the real purpose of the blue crystal is. It’s supposed to be used to take control of animals, which should allow me to make use of the bird I befriended in Peru. Secondly, as Annie suggested earlier, Melissa and Leslie have been communicating to me through my dreams. They’ve found the symbols I need to progress in Mexico City and Egypt, and have telepathically transmitted what they look like. It seems I need to pack my bags again. The adventure continues!”

Where we left off: It's always important to be Karmically clean

At the end of last post, I was just about to switch back to Melissa and Leslie on Mars, confident that I now knew how to open one of the doors that had previously barred my way. I did exactly that, and it wasn’t long before I had Melissa and Leslie pressing the 3 – 1 – 2 combination on the door with the buttons on it. The door opened, leaving me with a real sense of satisfaction! The chamber inside was massive! I walked the length of it to see what there was to look at before trying anything in particular, and found three “massive doors” and two “huge statues”. It struck me immediately that the two statues were of the same being as the statue I’d found previously in Mexico City.

"Should we be doing this? I think someone's watching us!"

I had a strong feeling I was about to solve the mystery of the unknown symbol, and that feeling was vindicated when I found yellow markings at the base of one of the statues. The symbol was there, and it was nothing like any of the ones I’d attempted. I was so thrilled in having discovered it that I was tempted to switch back to Zak right there and then so I could go and get that damn crystal piece, but decided the more efficient thing to do was to see what else the chamber on Mars had to offer. Who knows, I might come across another piece of useful info or a puzzle that needs solving back on Earth.

Hmmmm...I've seen that statue before!

With that done, it was time to focus on the doors. Each of them had a face on it, and they also had a pedestal just to the left of them. Further investigations made me aware that two out of the three pedestals had blue crystal spheres at their peak, whereas the other one didn’t. That had to mean something! I positioned myself in front of the first door and tried to get the blue crystal, only to be told I couldn’t reach it. I placed the ladder in front of it and tried again. Touching it caused a wacky electronic tune to play, which in turn caused the door to open. Another small but significant victory! I walked inside to find myself in complete darkness.

Herenow noizbop! It's waycool earstuff!

I remembered that Melissa had a flashlight in her inventory, which I’d found in the hostel locker, so I moved her into the dark room and switched it on. It allowed me to see, but I had to move the light around the room to get a full picture of my surroundings. It soon became very apparent that I was in yet another maze, and I can’t say I was very happy about it. Given the darkness, and that there was no real sense of space apart from estimations, I once again struggled to form a map. As soon as I was able to map out the square perimeter, I was much more confident. I’m very glad I managed to do it this time, as unlike every other maze I’ve made it through in Zak McKracken so far, this one had two rooms of interest!

Maybe if I close my eyes, the maze won't be there anymore!

At least I assume they’re both of interest. The first one I came across had a large machine in it (which scaredy-cat Melissa wouldn’t go near, so I had to get Leslie), with levers that control temperature and air pressure. If I switched both levers to the up position, the machine whirred into action, and I was informed that “the temperature is quite nice, and the air pressure is comfortable.” I had no idea why I might have done this, or whether or not there was any reason I might want to make things cold or uncomfortable, so I decided to leave it with both switched on. Actually, while I’m writing this post, I’ve suddenly realised that the whole purpose of the machine is to make the great chamber have breathable air! I can’t believe that didn’t cross my mind earlier!

Only martian technology could create an air conditioner that was just the right temperature

The second room of interest was a room with a large map. The map had five yellow markers on it, but I didn’t seem to be able to interact with it in any way. I didn’t recognise the landmass either, but that’s likely to be my geographical retardation coming to the fore once again. The carving just to the right of the map sure looked familiar though! It was the sphinx, and just below it was the symbol I needed to progress in Egypt. Happy days! Figuring out how to get into the chamber on Mars had resulted in me discovering both symbols, which was exactly what I was hoping would come to pass. I couldn’t make my map make exact structural sense, but I was fairly happy that I’d found what I needed to find. I moved onto door number two!

Oh God! Please don't make this a geography test!

This was the door where the pedestal didn’t have a blue crystal atop it, which meant I wasn’t going to be able to open the door the way I had with the first one. When I’d used the crystal to open the first door, the game had made a real point of describing the “music” that had been emitted at the time, making me think this could finally be the puzzle that required recording with the boom box. I took both Leslie and Melissa to the first pedestal, and then set the boom box to record in Melissa’s possession while Leslie used the crystal. I then took the boom box to the empty pedestal, played back the recording, and watched the door open with a smug grin on my face. Puzzle solved, but I really hoped there wasn’t another maze awaiting me inside!

Yeah you love this shit don't ya!

While it initially looked like there would be another maze, I was delighted to find that the second door led to a single pitch black hall which in turn led onto a chamber. In the chamber was another statue, with this one having a small ankh sitting above its right hand. Unlike the crystals, I simply walked up to the statue and picked up the ankh, which came as a bit of a surprise. There was nothing else in the chamber, so I walked out the way I entered and moved onto door number three. I played the recorded tune again to open this door as well, but looking at my screenshots, there’s every chance I would have just been able to use the ladder and the crystal. Either way, I soon found myself in yet another dark hallway followed by yet another chamber. This one was far more interesting though!

You're just going to let me walk up and take it? What's the catch here?!

Within it was some sort of machine that kind of looked like the chair containing the dead alien in the original Alien movie! In front of it was a glass tube that looked capable of holding a man, and on the wall were two keys of differing sizes. Between me and all of the above was a dividing wall, but just next to the wall was a panel with the shape of an ankh on it. Well, I just so happened to have an ankh, so I used it on the panel and the wall moved aside. A little bit of pixel hunting revealed a small button on the back of the machine and after pressing it, I realised it wasn’t a chair at all. It was a projector! An image of an alien (the same alien from my dream) appeared in the tube, and this is what he had to say:

What this room needs is a really oversized key...oh look!

“Greetings! Our race departed this dimension fifty millennia ago. We, the Skolarians, were your guardians. We knew of the corrupt Caponians and took steps to protect you. They will subvert the Earth with their deadly machines. We sent you dreams to lead you here. You must construct our device to neutralize the Caponian menace. Use these keys to obtain the Power Crystal. Hurry, before they stop you.” Right, so the device that Annie and I are trying to piece together will somehow stop the Caponians from making all of humanity stupider. I take it the power crystal is the third crystal I need, and I also assume that it will be found somewhere in the pyramid on Mars. I grabbed the two keys, hoping that one of them would open the pyramid door, but the larger one crumbled at my touch! left fifty millenia ago...but before you did, you built a machine that would communicate with beings that hadn't even been created yet...on another planet altogether. I see!

Damn it! I knew instinctually that the big key was going to be the one I needed to open the pyramid door, and a quick visit to the pyramid confirmed that to be the case. I had no choice but to take the small key and move Melissa and Leslie back to the hostel while I used Zak and Annie to collect the second piece of the yellow crystal from Mexico City, and then draw the second symbol in Egypt to enter the Sphinx. At least, that’s what I was going to do before I checked the comments on my last post. A reader, who will go unnamed as they’ve already received suitable punishment for their indiscretion, had left me a little message that I’m certain hadn’t intended to be a spoiler...but it was! oversized keyhole!

I won’t repeat exactly what was said, but it was basically along the lines of “So the Guru taught you that you need to be in contact with the Earth for the blue crystal to work. Are you sure he didn’t teach you anything else?” Well, I just had to know what that comment meant, so I restored back to Nepal and went through the whole scene over again. After informing me that he would teach me about the crystal’s use, he casually said “It will put you into a state of deep rapport with any animal. Simply focus...” I’d initially thought this was just the Guru talking spiritual enlightenment nonsense before getting down to the real teaching, but now I realised this was the actual purpose of the crystal!

It appears I wasn't very good at the focussing bit

I have no idea whether I would have figured this out for myself. I’d like to think that I might have paid the Guru another visit later on while trying to take the most monetarily efficient path around the world landmarks, but I guess we’ll never know. Either way, after trying the blue crystal on the yak outside the Guru’s temple, I found I was able to take control of him for a short period. I expect I might have had control for longer, but using the crystal still invited the attention of the Caponians, and one of them would come for me not long after its use. The only action I had available to me while controlling the yak was to “chew”, but I knew of another animal elsewhere that would be the most likely target for such an ability. The bird in Peru!

"Chew........chew chew......chew.......chew...."

So it was that my sixth Zak McKracken session came to an end. This game has some serious volume! I may have only been playing it for eight hours, but I’ve hardly been stuck at all. It’s been eight hours of solid adventure gaming, and I’ve still got numerous ideas about what I can try next. I can go to Peru and take control of the bird, I can go to Mexico City to get the second piece of the yellow crystal and then try to find out how to join them together, or I can go straight to Egypt to enter the Sphinx and beyond. Hmmm...I just now had a thought that maybe the pyramid in Egypt that appears empty is where I come out from my trip into the Sphinx. At least that would explain why it appears entirely useless at this point. Even if I do get really stuck, I can always re-read the National Inquisitor articles to see if there are any clues. Exciting times!

Time to go back to Earth, at least for a while

Session Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 00 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!

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!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What's Your Story? - JosephCurwen

Its been a while since the last What's Your Story post, but I still have quite a few waiting in the wings. Today is JosephCurwen's time to shine, and while I always assumed that was his real name, I now realise that's not likely to be the case. A quick Google brought back the following:

"In Lovecraft's novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Joseph Curwen is a necromancer who comes back to corporeal existence through his descendant Charles Dexter Ward."

Maybe the man himself can confirm if Lovecraft was the inspiration behind his online name?

JosephCurwen: His avatar requires no guesswork and suggests he's among friends here.

My home country is… USA (Washington DC)

My age is… 32, which makes me just a tad younger than Trickster (Ed. - Rub it in why don't you!)

The first adventure game I played was… (tie) Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood (owned by the girl down the street) and King's Quest III (bought at a yard sale). I can't remember which came first. First game I finished was King's Quest IV ... thanks to massive help from the Sierra Hint Line, which I would love to hear about here.

Al Lowe's Winnie the Pooh game avoided my list, but certainly had an important role to play in the adventure genre

When I’m not playing games I like to… study for the bar exam, ugh. Running, biking, writing music, watching TV or movies, cooking, too many other things to write here. Renaissance man.

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… same as Trickster. I used to love the big old boxes, but lately I've been paring down my life, and selling off a lot of my excess stuff. Digital is lean, and appreciated.

My favorite adventure game is… Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. Secret of Monkey Island and the Longest Journey are also very highly ranked by me as well.

Quest for Glory IV: I honestly don't recognise any of the screenshots for this game, yet I'm quite sure I played it

The thing I miss about old games is… the creativity. The genres were still more or less wide open, so the developers had a lot of leeway. Hence things like hand-drawn backgrounds, interesting scores, and a LOT of quirky humor which is largely missing these days.

The best thing about modern games is… maturity. Back in the day, games like The Witcher just weren't really possible, and adult subjects were glossed over or ignored entirely. Very few "complex" moral choices were possible, a la the Mass Effect games. Etc.

The Witcher: Very high on the "games I would play if it wasn't for this blog" list!

The one TV show I never miss is… Mad Men.

If I could see any band live it would be… Who knows, these days.

My favourite movie is… Citizen Kane.

Classic films seems to be another common interest for lovers of adventure games.

One interesting thing about me is… I have an MFA in creative writing.

Interested in sending your answers and getting 20 CAPs for you trouble? Email

Monday, 20 August 2012

Game 23: Zak McKracken - Back in Zak

Zak McKracken Journal Entry 4: “I found the second part of the crystal I need to be able to travel to Mars, but unfortunately I am struggling to find a way of attaining it. The piece is contained within a part of a statue I came across while exploring a temple in Mexico City, and while I’m quite sure the yellow markings on the side of it hold the key to its release, I have not yet been able to solve the puzzle. I’m beginning to think that I might find a hint elsewhere, so I’ve also spent some time in England looking at Stonehenge. Still nothing, so plan to visit Peru and Egypt next. My cashcard balance is under threat, so I hope I find what I’m after soon!”

You two just stand there for a while. There're some beds behind you if you get sleepy.

My last Zak McKracken session was pretty much played entirely on Mars, with me controlling student girls Melissa and Leslie. I had a pretty successful time up there too, but had run into two puzzles that I didn’t know how to solve. Firstly, there was the pyramid door that had a keyhole of sorts, for which I had nothing to open it with, and secondly, there was the door containing three sound-emitting buttons, which I also could find no obvious way to open. I made a decision at the end of that session to spend some more time on Earth with Zak and Annie, in the hope that I might find something that would assist me in finding solutions to what I faced on the red planet.

I see the two of you got closer in my absence. Good for you!

It had been a while since I’d been back on Earth, so the first thing I did was try to figure out whether there was anything outstanding to check out before I hopped on the bus and travelled around the world. The only thing I could come up with was the application to The King Fan Club that I’d previously sent in the mail. I paid a visit to my apartment, but there was no new mail waiting for me, so I went inside. There were no new messages on my answering machine either, so it was time to go globetrotting. However, as I came out of my apartment, I found that there was now some new mail! Opening it, I found I now had a membership card for The King Fan Club, although I had no idea what good that would do me.

Somehow I don't think I want to be this King's teddy bear

Off to the airport I went, and since I’d already visited Seattle, I decided my next destination would be Miami. When I arrived, I was confronted by a beggar requesting debit. When I gave him my cashcard he thanked me (I have no idea how he processed the transaction), but his exact words were “tanks, but my life shtill ain’ got no meanin’”. Straight away I figured that what I needed to give him was the book I’d bought from the Hare Krishna dude in Seattle airport. That was the right thing to do, and the bum rewarded me for changing his life by giving me the bottle of whiskey he’d been reliant on up until now.

If only people weren't this easily convinced

Rather surprisingly, that was the only thing I was able to do in Miami airport, as apparently Miami is closed for repairs. Oh well...that was one destination I could cross off the list, at least for now. I used the ticket reservation machine once again, and the next destination on the list was the Bermuda Triangle. Well this should be interesting I thought, but after buying my ticket I was informed that the plane wasn’t in the airport right now. I’m not entirely sure whether that was just a setup for a joke (after all, planes are said to have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle under mysterious circumstances), or whether I will at some point be able to visit the Bermuda Triangle later in the game. I’ll try again later.

The Bermuda Triangle: The perfect place for an extended holiday.

Thankfully, using the machine again refunded the $99 I’d spent on the ticket, and I straight away purchased one for the next destination on the list...Mexico City! As soon as I departed Mexico City Airport, I found myself standing in a jungle. There was more than one path available for me to take and it very quickly became apparent that I was going to have to work my way through a maze. Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while will know that I really don’t like mazes in adventure games, unless they include some sort of logical solution. To get through the maze in Mexico City, I was forced to take random pathways until I eventually found myself standing in front of a temple. It seemed to be nothing more than a delaying exercise and for all I knew, there were other locations accessible through the maze that I just hadn’t come across. In a game relying on specific objects being found, that’s not a nice feeling.

What this game really needs is a pointless maze!

I decided to assume that the temple was the sole reason I’d come to Mexico City, and chose one of the numerous doorways to enter. Inside...was another maze! Each screen I entered was entirely devoid of light, so I was forced to pixel hunt for torches that I could use my lighter on. At least I knew if I’d been to a screen before, as the torches would either be lit or not. Being an RPG gamer at heart, I immediately opened excel and started mapping my way. It wasn’t difficult to do, because the walls were tile based, meaning I could make each cell represent one tile. This idea fell entirely flat though, as it didn’t take long for my map to overlap on itself, meaning the structure I was in made no physical sense whatsoever. I had no choice but to randomly choose doorways, attempting to find dark rooms to know that was a new path.

That first maze wasn't annoying enough. Let's have another one!

Eventually I came across a room with a statue in the middle of it. Once again I had no idea whether this was the only room that I needed to find in the temple, but I had to assume that the game developers were not bitchy enough to hide more than one location of interest in an apparently randomly generated maze. Just next to the hand of the statue, was the second half of the yellow crystal I needed, but this time there was no infrared sensor to be found. There was however some strange yellow markings, similar to the ones I’d found in the Seattle cave. However, the game wasn’t going to do the dot connecting for me when I used my yellow crayon on the markings. A close-up of the markings appeared on the screen, and I was going to have to join the dots myself.

My reward for getting through two mazes was...a puzzle that I don't yet know the solution to. Joy!

When looking at the dots, I could kind of see what direction the lines must have gone before time wore them away. I figured I just needed to put lines wherever there was a suggestion of a previous line, and that this would result in the picture forming and the crystal being released. Unfortunately, that great plan didn’t work out at all, and my numerous attempts at drawing symbols achieved nothing at all. I tried to think of what the symbol might be, but I just couldn’t make anything happen. Just as with the puzzles on Mars, I ended up having to admit defeat, and hoped that I would find a hint to the markings somewhere else in the game.

Oh come on! The Aztecs loved phallic symbols!

Since I’d not actually picked anything up in Mexico City, didn’t feel like finding my way back through the maze, and also didn’t want to have wasted the money on the airfare, I restored my game back to Miami Airport and used the ticket machine. The next city on list was London, so I purchased my ticket and set off once again. Leaving the airport, I found myself standing just outside Stonehenge, with a guarded fence blocking my path to the site. A sign informed me that the fence was electrified, but I thought I’d try and open it anyway. After I yowled in pain from the zap, the guard suddenly announced how COLD it was tonight. Perhaps I had something in my inventory that would help warm him up? Of course I did...the whiskey!

Ello govna! Fancy a drink?

Certain of my success, I gave the whiskey to the guard and waited for him to open the gate. Instead, he replied with “sorry, mate, you’re not my type!” That left me with only one option. I needed to use Annie to give the guard the whiskey! There was one problem though that I hadn’t thought of until this moment. Annie didn’t have a cashcard! She wasn’t allowed to use mine, so I was going to have to buy her a ticket and then give it to her. How would she then pay for a ticket to leave London? Suddenly the complexity of travelling anywhere as Annie became obvious, and I started to wonder if I’d failed to discover a second cashcard in her apartment. I let that thought go though as I came up with a plan that would allow me to get both Zak and Annie to London simultaneously.

Goodbyes are much harder when you have to pay for the ticket too!

My plan involved getting both characters onto the bus from San Francisco, then I would buy two London tickets at the airport, give one to Annie, and then travel one at a time to London. It worked, but it certainly seemed like an expensive and time consuming way to get around. Oh well, I could at least see what London had to offer now. I took control of Annie and gave the whiskey to the guard. He accepted it, and subsequently drank himself into a stupor. I was then able to enter his little post and turn off the electricity, but unfortunately that didn’t open the gates. They were still locked, so I was going to have to figure out another way through.

If you can't keep up with a college girl, you deserve the hangover

Taking control of Zak, I tried using the rope on the gate in the hope that I’d be able to climb over. When that didn’t work, I went to work on the fence with my wire cutters, and was stoked when a large hole formed. I took both Annie and Zak into the centre of Stonehenge, where there was an altar stone. I personally went to Stonehenge a couple of months back, and I certainly didn’t see this altar stone in the centre, but let’s not let reality ruin anything. I had a strong feeling that the crystals were going to play a role here, and that feeling was amplified when I was able to place the yellow crystal on the altar. I had no idea why I was doing any of this, but I then attempted to place the blue crystal on the altar too. It was then that something rather odd occurred!

Are you sure you don't want to lie down here on the grass with me for a while Annie? are amazing!

As soon as I used the crystal, Zak announced that he felt dizzy, before stumbling around and eventually collapsing. Shortly afterwards he got back up, but then suddenly I was viewing the aliens back in the telephone company in a panic. Apparently using the blue crystal had alerted them that someone had it in their possession and was currently testing it. One of the aliens then put on the human disguise (i.e. nose glasses and hat) and then somehow teleported himself to my location. Before I could even think of running away or using an item in retaliation, the alien grabbed me, teleported both of us back to the machine room, and put me in the cell I’d seen earlier in the game. To make matters worse, he then took the blue crystal from me and stashed it in the cupboard before leaving.

Aaarrrgghhh!!!!! I'm trapped by a highly advanced alien race! Whatever shall I do!!!!????

I briefly watched as the machine gradually made Zak stupider, removing one verb at a time from the menu system while in control of him. I would have to use Annie to rescue Zak, and I knew exactly how to do it too! I restored back to just arriving at Stonehenge and went through the same process again, although this time I gave Annie the nose glasses and hat and put her on a plane back to San Francisco in preparation for the rescue. Once Zak was teleported to the cell, I quickly put on the glasses and hat and successfully infiltrated the telephone company. I was just about to execute my brilliant plan when it became apparent that I was completely wasting my time. The aliens ignored Annie’s presence in the machine room altogether and released Zak before I could rescue him, thinking that the stupid machine had made him too stupid to continue to be a threat.

What? You're letting me go to continue my efforts at stopping your evil plan?

Zak then recovered his verbs one by one as he recovered his senses outside the building (making the aliens actions completely pointless), while I used Annie to recover the crystal from the cupboard. At the end of this whole sequence of events, I was no better off than I was prior. I’d gained no items and no real knowledge, apart from the aliens’ method of disguise which I’d already deduced. So why did it occur in the first place? Would it happen again if I used the crystal on the altar again? The answer turned out to be yes, but not only that, it turned out that the whole thing had nothing to do with Stonehenge at all. If I use the blue crystal anywhere on anything, the aliens come to teleport me back to the machine room and I have to break in and get the crystal back. So, after much confusion, I finally had to assume that the purpose of Stonehenge is to join the two yellow crystal pieces back together, and nothing to do with the blue crystal at all.

Slash had decided that pink was the new black!

So, I’ve crossed off Seattle and Miami, and have done as much as I can for now in Mexico City and London, as well as on Mars. I’m at least temporarily unable to visit the Bermuda Triangle, which leaves only Lima and Cairo yet to be explored. There may be other destinations too, only accessible from other airports, so I’ll need to check that in future. Before I made any decisions about where to go next, I restored to Annie’s apartment in the hope of finding a cashcard she could use. It took me all of thirty seconds to try picking up the blotter on the desk (I thought I was going to have to use it, not pick it up) to find a cashcard hidden beneath. Well that’s certainly going to make things easier! I’ll end this post here, but I plan to continue my exploration immediately, eager to figure out what on Earth (or Mars) it is I’m supposed to be doing.

Well, you could have told me where you hid your cashcard Annie! Or was it all part of your money-sucking plan?

Session Time: 2 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 5 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!