Monday, 13 August 2012

Game 23: Zak McKracken - Headline Solutions

Zak McKracken Journal Entry 2: “Would you believe it! I found that damn two-headed squirrel my boss was at me about! To be honest I couldn’t care less though, and I’m much more interested in figuring out what my dream meant, and how that cute girl on the TV came to be in it. Anyway, I’ve done my duty and travelled to Seattle to get this story, but I don’t plan to stop there. I’m going to find a real story, and if I can get close to solving the mystery of how and why we’re all being made stupider, I’m gonna go for it. Now where does this cave lead...”

Who knows where I put that oversized bobby pin. I don't want to think about it really.

At the end of my last post, I’d just finished scouring San Francisco for objects of interest. I was pretty sure I’d been everywhere I could go, so it was time to take stock of what I had, and see if I could figure out what I needed to do with all this stuff. The first thing that came to mind was the application I’d filled in. I went back to my apartment and stuffed it in the mailbox. I had to assume that at some point a mailman would come by and pick it up, although this certainly doesn’t happen in my neighbourhood. The next thing I decided to do was to head back to my kitchen, and more specifically, to see whether I now had the necessary tools to do something with the sink.

Do postmen really collect mail out of mailboxes anywhere in the world?

I used the monkey wrench to unscrew the pipe beneath the sink. This didn’t however result in the pipe being added to my inventory, so I could only assume that the purpose of doing so had more to do with the sink than the pipe. I looked through my inventory again, but I still couldn’t see anything that looked like it might require processing. At least now I knew that at some point I was going to put something through the processor, and collect the remains as it fell out of the pipe beneath. Putting the sink to one side for a bit, I tried to think about places I hadn’t yet achieved anything. The drop slot came to mind, but I still didn’t have an artefact to put in it. Then I remembered the baker!

Only in adventure games would you try flooding your own kitchen incase that was the right thing to do

I went back to the baker and rang the bell again. Once again he came to the window and told me to go away. What would make him let me in? Could I even get in, or was I supposed to do something else with him? Suddenly I had the ridiculous notion that maybe if I put the hat and nose glasses on, the baker might think I was someone else...or something. In hindsight it was a stupid idea, but I didn't know what else to do. This little act of desperation surprisingly resulted in me solving two puzzles, but not the way I expected to. Firstly, when I pressed the doorbell again, the baker got totally fed up with me and threw some horribly stale bread at me. Secondly, as soon as I saw myself in disguise, I was immediately reminded of the “cowboy” in the phone company.

Familiar much?

I can’t say I like puzzles that require the player to try the same thing multiple times before success suddenly occurs. The fishing section in King’s Quest IV comes to mind, although I have to admit the baker puzzle in Zak McKracken is nowhere near as bad as that one. At least with this sequence, the baker seemed quite irritated the first time I buzzed him, and then even more irritated the second time. I guess some players would wonder whether they could push him over the edge by bugging him a third time, but I tend to try things once before moving onto other things. The good news was that I now had some really hard bread, and I actually had a fair idea what I might need to do with it. The compressor!

I tried to make bread once and it may actually have been hard enough to do this

Before I went back to the kitchen though, I decided I would follow my instincts regarding the hat and nose glasses. When I re-entered the phone company, I knew for certain that somehow my disguise was linked to the representative behind the counter. I’d earlier tried and failed to open the counter door, but I made another attempt with my new look. I was able to waltz straight in and the guy treated me like I worked there. It suddenly dawned on me that the guy was actually an alien! The nose glasses were a disguise for him to pass as human, and the two little holes in his hat were positioned so he could see. He now thought I was one of them! It also dawned on me that I probably didn’t need to pay my phone bill earlier, and could have wiped the balance out on the computer system.

For aliens that managed to make it all the way to Earth, they really are stupid

I figured there was every chance I would have to start the game over again at some point, and I’d test the phone bill theory at that point. In the meantime, I wanted to know what was out the back of the phone company. I opened the door and walked through, to find myself right next to the humming machine I’d seen in the cut-scene! Obviously I couldn’t turn it off, as the two settings were either ON or ON and there was no other ways I could see to interact with it. Besides, that would make for a pretty crappy game if I could just turn the machine off and save humanity after an hour or play. Interestingly there was another lever just to the right of the machine, but that merely turned a force-field on for a vacant cell. Whatever happens in this room must happen later.

How to shut down a machine with no shut down mechanism...hmmm...

With that itch scratched, I wandered home to see whether I could grind the stale bread down in the sink compressor. It worked just as I expected it to, and the result was a bunch of breadcrumbs that I still had no purpose for. While I was in my apartment, I thought I would check my messages on the answering machine. There was one from my mother, but all she had to say was that I should try to date someone like the girl on the artefact ad, because she looks like my type and lives right near me. I might just do that! Alright, I’d done everything I could think of! I’d achieved at least something at every location in San Francisco apart from the drop slot, but I was convinced the artefact would not be found without travelling somewhere else. It was time to see whether I could get on that bus!

Another example of doing something just because I can. I don't need either bread or breadcrumbs at this stage.

I was initially concerned to find that the bus driver was still asleep, so I wasn’t able to get on. Unlike the first time I tried though, this time I spent some time going through my inventory to see whether I had any means to wake him up. It didn’t take me long to realise the kazoo was the answer! The instrument woke the driver up and I was then able to get on the bus, ending my theory that I wouldn’t be able to get on the bus until I’d done everything I needed to in San Francisco. I could have used the kazoo as soon as I left my apartment and nothing would have stopped me from travelling to the airport and beyond. Still, I felt much more comfortable knowing that I’d achieved so much before moving on to the wider world.

Don't ask me why I'm still in disguise. I thought it might be important.

I swiped my cashcard and was transported to the airport. There was a ticket machine, but I already had a ticket to Seattle, and a newspaper vending machine, but it was recommended I read the headlines instead of purchasing one. That left only one thing of interest in the airport itself, which was a religious nut trying to sell me a book called How to Raise Your Consciousness and Lower Your Golf Score. I thought “what the heck” and gave him my cashcard to pay the $42 asking rate. When I tried to read it I was told that I will read it later, so there was nothing else to do but to enter the boarding gate. I kind of expected to find myself in Seattle, so I was a bit surprised to reappear on a plane, being shown to my seat by a cranky stewardess.

A Hari Krishna at the airport. That's the second game to feature that in the last couple of months.

The Hari Krishna wasn't the only similarity to Larry 2. Zak McKracken also utilizes the non-caring, brutally honest stewardess jokes on the plane that appeared in that game. I'm not suggesting anything sinister was going on, as both games were released within a couple of months of each other. It still raises a smile here, despite that similarity, but I soon found myself sitting in my chair with a packet of peanuts, wondering exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It was clear that this wasn’t just a cut-scene, so I got up and started exploring the plane. If I tried to access anyone’s luggage, the stewardess would come and tell me to sit down, and she’d do the same if I tried to enter her cabin. The only place I was allowed to fully investigate was the toilet at the back. I picked up some toilet paper, and soon figured out that if I rang the bell, the stewardess would come all the way to th back to investigate. Perhaps I was supposed to ring the bell as a distraction and then go and do something else?

Airport security really wasn't very good back in 1997. I boarded a plane wearing nose glasses!

Well, I tried everything I could think of. I tried opening the luggage bins, playing around with the microwave, and even opening the door to outside, but she would always rush back and tell me to sit down. Just when I was starting to run out of ideas, the plane landed in Seattle and I was quickly shuffled off. I didn’t know whether I’d missed the point of the flight sequence altogether, or whether I just didn’t have the necessary item to do whatever was necessary, but figured there would be quite a few flights to come to recover. It was time to see what was waiting for me in Seattle! However, before I had any chance to find out, the screen flicked to another cut-scene at the stupidity machine.

If only plane toilets were this big!

This time the guarding alien was “dancing like a gloon” and acting even more stupid than before. His companion was not at all impressed, and warned him that there was still a chance that someone might “discover and activate the Skolarian device”, whatever that is. Apparently it’s the only thing that can stop their world-conquering plan! I guess that’s what I’ll be discovering then, so I better get on with it. Seattle didn’t look at all like I expected it to. I’d anticipated another city landscape, yet I found myself standing outside in front of Mount Rainier (is that really right next to the airport?). I did what I always do when I enter a new screen. I clicked “What is”, and moved my cursor around to see what objects I was going to be able to interact with. I came across a tree branch, some loose dirt, and a two-headed squirrel!

Oh the Skolarian Device! I hadn't thought of that!

Yes, that’s right! It took me all of ten seconds to find the two-headed squirrel my boss sent me to Seattle to track down. Aggressive little bugger too! If I tried to go near it, the squirrel would attack me with both sets of teeth, although it apparently couldn’t do any damage to me. My first thought was that I was supposed to hit it with the tree branch, but since I’d already read Ilmari’s challenge about not hurting any animals in the game, I figured there must be a non-violent approach. Then I remembered that I’d just been given some peanuts on the plane, and well, all squirrels like nuts! That turned out to be the right thing to do, as the squirrel took the nuts and went away. I was then able to use the tree branch on the loose dirt to open up a cave, which I entered.

Ilmari won't be happy with me if I do this!

I couldn’t see anything inside the cave. By that I mean it was pitch black in there, and I was forced to pixel-hunt with no reference points at all. I came across an abandoned bird nest, a fire pit, and the squirrel, whose own nest was in there too. I picked up the bird nest and put it in the fire pit, and was then told that I needed more wood. I put the tree branch in the pit too, and started to think about how I might light a fire. There was nothing in my inventory that might achieve that goal, and despite looking for a long time, there didn’t appear to be anything in the cave that would help either. I knew there were some strange markings on the wall, but without light, I was stuffed. For the first time in the game, I was well and truly stuck. My only option was to fall back on the one thing I’d been planning to do for a while, but until this point had been making solid progress without it. It was time to RTFM!

I was totally in the dark about what to do next. Hey, I'm a dad, so I'm allowed to tell dad jokes!

The only reason I hadn’t read the manual previously, and in particular the National Inquisitor that came with it, was that I knew none of it would mean anything to me. It’s all humorous nonsense really, and only starts to make sense when you can apply all the silliness to situations you come across in the game. Some of the articles didn’t relate to anything I’d come across so far, but quite a few of them did. In fact, reading the National Inquisitor is just about imperative for making sense of some of what has happened in the game thus far, and I’m really bloody glad I found out about it (I think it was rotgrub that told me about it so cheers for that!). This is what I found out:

Surely there are more direct, and more reliable, ways to attempt murder.

Firstly, there was an article about a teenager trying to kill his parents by exploding eggs in a microwave. Well, that explained what I was supposed to do on the plane, but I still didn’t know how I would use the microwave without the stewardess catching me. Secondly, there was an article about how bad jetlag is on the body and the mind. It talked about how stewardesses were also being affected by it and getting in bad moods, which would explain why the stewardess I had, was so grumpy. Most importantly though, it mentioned that some passengers thought it was funny to make bad messes on planes to see how far over the edge they could send the poor jetlagged stewardesses. There were also articles about the use of cashcards, the sink processor, the two-headed squirrel, and even the book on finding enlightenment while playing better golf.

If anyone does cure jetlag, they truly deserve a nobel prize!

Instead of just restoring to the plane, I took the opportunity to start over and avoid paying the phone bill this time. I also thought I might see something else of note that clicked with what I’d read, but it turned out I didn’t. I did avoid paying the bill though, which saves $1138 (10 points to Lars-Erik for picking up on the THX – 1138 reference. I can’t believe I missed it!). Once I got back to the plane, the solution was actually pretty obvious. I used the toilet paper to block the sink and then turned the tap on. That caused a mess alright, and I was then able to put the egg in the microwave, which subsequently exploded. Investigating the plane while the stewardess was occupied revealed two important items. An oxygen tank in one of the luggage bins, and a lighter under the spare seat cushion! That’s exactly what I needed!

More plane security issues. Someone brought a lighter onboard!?

Once again I think this post has run its course. There’s something about this game that takes a heck of a lot of writing to describe. I’m actually interested to find out what you guys think about me spending so much time detailing what only covers two and a half hours in total. Is it too much!? In the end I do this for your enjoyment as the reader, so please let me know if that entertainment factor is running thin. I feel much better about the game having read the newspaper articles, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the game’s reliance on an external source to really make sense. I guess it’s not a requirement to read it, and I’m sure many players have finished the game without it, but it got me through a sticky situation and made Zak’s world seem much more real to me, which is a good thing I guess.

I'll just settle in here next to the fire for a while. See you all in a day or two!

Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 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 think that finishing this game without the newspaper must be really difficult, even if not impossible. However, considering the game's humor relies a lot on nonsensical situations, I think you have to resort to a lot of trial and error if you don't have this help...

    I personally like the long posts, even if it slows you in your progress. After all, it's your reflexions and chain of logic which makes the reading interesting, so you can go on for thousands of words, I won't be the one complaining.

    1. I like the detailed descriptions and leaps of logic. If I had more time, I'd play through more games with you.

    2. I'm the one who asked you to lengthen things out way back when; I'm quite enjoying the detail in the posts, I just wish you'd get to a more serious game. While I can enjoy quirkyness, Lucasarts adventure games never really held much draw for me. X-Win, Tie Fighter and Dark Forces on the other hand....

      I can't wait for us to advance a few years and get to some more serious games. Seriously, the game that I most remember is Uninvited, since it had a creepy-serious plot, even if it wasn't very well done.

      Lets see:

      Below the Root: Not much of a plot, but serious.
      King's Quest: Quest for the Crown: Silly.
      Déjà Vu: Serious.
      King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne: Silly.
      King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human: Silly.
      Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter: Silly.
      Tass Times in Tonetown: Silly.
      The Black Cauldron: Serious (Kinda)
      Uninvited: Serious
      Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Silly.
      Maniac Mansion: Silly
      Mortville Manor: Serious
      Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel: Serious, kinda?
      Shadowgate: Serious
      Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge: Silly
      Captain Blood: Serious?
      Gold Rush!: Serious (but lighthearted)
      King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella: Silly
      Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places): Silly
      Manhunter: New York: Serious
      Police Quest II: The Vengeance: Serious
      Psycho: Serious
      Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders: Silly

      12/23: Less then half, and quite a few of those are nearly plotless or are terrible, terrible games. RPGs managed to do epic quests this early, FPSes are starting to (Wolfenstine 3D and DOOM both had very basic, single-paragraph plots, but still cool ones).

      I've heard about some of the later adventure games being great for storytelling; Is this true, or do they mostly stay like this?

    3. I'm a big fan of storytelling in games, but RPGs generally do better in that regard IMO.

      Sure, in 1988, CRPGs were doing epic, but apart from Ultima V and Wasteland, the game plots were still largely wafer-thin. Even most of Wasteland's dialogue had to be read from the instruction manual so I'm thinking detailed/interesting dialogue wasn't really doable on computers at this point.

      But adventure games do get a lot better in that regard as the years roll by. Some of the best game stories ever are the 3 games in the Gabriel Knight series, in my opinion.

      As for serious v silly, for the 10 games in 1989 I've played 4 of them and 3 are serious (Indy3, Manhunter 2 and Mean Streets) and 1 silly (SQ3).

      Larry3 will obviously be silly and I'm guessing Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Princess and Hero's Quest will be too.

      The others (based purely on their names) sound serious to me. So my guess is 1989 - 6 serious, 4 silly.

    4. Based on hazy recollections:

      Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess: I've played it only little, but it seemed serious enough
      Codename Iceman: as serious as it gets
      Hero's Quest: it does have silly moments, but IMO the main plot is somewhat serious (well, the ending is perhaps silly...)
      Neuromancer: despite the connection to the very serious book, it has some quite silly dialogue
      The Colonel's Bequest: pretty serious

    5. TBD: in 1988 I think EVERY game had super thin plots. Except for Portal, but that might not even count as a game.

      I'm trying to think of the first moderately detailed plot in a game I can remember. The first I can think of would be Goldeneye, though I suspect there were games before that. Also, not sure if that counts, since it was copying the movie.

      The first game I recall really caring about the plot was Baldurs Gate from 1999.

      I have heard of Gabrial Knight; I'm really looking forward to it.

  2. Oh, and yes, in the U.S. mailboxes can contain outgoing mail, and the mail man will take it back with him to the post office. On older mail boxes there are red flags on the side that you raise to signal there's mail for the post man, so he'll know to take it even if he doesn't have anything to deliver. I was told these aren't used much anymore due to a rash of mail thieves in the 90s.

  3. Yeah, hooray for long & detailed posts!

    I did finish Zak many years ago without any documentation, so I can attest it can be done! Not that it's not a spoiler, I can disclaim that I accidentally killed the squirrel while actually trying to feed it (I used the stale bread). That led to much amusement.

    And just to be annoying, it's actually spelled "Hare" Krishnas. They're certainly colorful, but having met and interacted with a few devotees "nuts" does sound a bit harsh...

    1. So I haven't been the only one trying to feed the bread to the squirrel.

    2. Apologies for the mispelling and the "religious nut" comment. In my defense, the guy was selling books which describe how connecting with your inner self will give you the ability to levitate around the golf course and score in the twenties for an entire round.

      "Peace be with you, and may the waters of divine bliss flood the sandtraps of your heart." ;)

    3. No worries Trickster, didn't mean to sound defensive. :-)
      It's just that I have a soft spot for this particular digital Hare Krishna -- it was actually the first contact I had with the religion and their airport dancing habits.

      But what always comes to my mind whenever I see a Krishna today is that hilarious "Airplane!" scene, and of course this one from Hannah and her Sisters:

  4. I'm a huge fan of these longer, more detailed posts. I think particularly they will serve you well when you come to Hero's Quest/QFG, when you can roleplay a little, since your identity in those games is more fluid and self-created.

    This game reminds me a lot of Maniac Mansion... but not necessarily in a good way. The puzzles so far are what I might term "oblique" and require some really circuitous thinking and getting into the game designer's headspace. As Alfred said, playing without the manual/newspaper would be a major, major hindrance (since it sets the tone for the oblique solutions as well as the general style of thinking and humor).

    I feel that Maniac Mansion had more "natural" puzzles - since you were confined to a house with relatively known dangers, and the number of objects, and thus solutions, were more confined - and also that the humor was largely separated from the puzzles, unlike here. Just a personal reaction, perhaps.

    Besides Maniac Mansion and Zak here, Escape from Monkey Island (the fourth game) also has a brief, but quite funny 1138 reference. It was actually the first (and before now, only) LucasArts game I knew of that reference THX-1138. Even though it's not a spoiler, I'll say no more. By the time you get to that game (in the year 2000!) you'll have long, long forgotten this post!

    Zenic: About 5 years ago I had a small incident with my car, where I lost control on a bad graveled curve on a remote back road and took out someone's mailbox. When I, like a dutiful citizen, went to their door to tell them about the damage, the woman inside informed me that I was the fifth person that YEAR (!) to take out the mailbox, the curve in the road was notoriously bad, and that she actually had a spare mailbox in her basement just in case it happened again. Long story made short: they definitely still make the red flag variety of mailboxes. In fact, where I live (Washington DC) it's actually difficult to purchase the alternate dead-drop style of mailbox. Talk about quotidian matters!

    1. Hah, will I drive you crazy if I tell you there's another THX 1138-reference in a LucasArts-game? Not only that, but one we've already been through?

    2. If we've been through it, it's Maniac Mansion, I assume... and yes, I am being driven crazy thinking where it could be... !!! I will figure this out, I swear!

    3. I went through all my Maniac Mansion screenshots and couldn't find the reference, so I Googled it.

      Tbbtyr fnlf gung gur ahzore cyngr bs gur pnqvyynp vf GUK-1138, ohg zl fperrafubg fnlf RQFRY. Jnf vg qvssrerag va gur CP irefvba be qb lbh unir gb ybbx ng gur ahzore cyngr gb frr gur pbqr?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. While talking about references, the enhanced version (don't know about the original) has the poster of Maniac Mansion in the shop and a poster of "Rescue on Fractalus" (I googled for it, it's another Lucasfilm game. Anyone played it?).

      In the FM Towns version, the same posters display Monkey Island and Indy 3.

    6. You just wanted a chance to use ROT13, didn't you Trickster?

    7. Regarding the Maniac Mansion THX reference, vs V'z abg ragveryl zvfgnxra, lbh unq gb hfr gur 'Ernq' ireo ba gur yvprafr cyngr gb trg gur GUK-1138 ersrerapr. Vyybtvpny, fvapr gur cyngr pyrneyl ernqf RQFRY ba lbhe fperrafubg. Be creuncf gur ersrerapr bayl rkvfgf ba gur P-64 irefvba?

  5. Another big fat YES to detailed posts! The only downside I can see is it's a lot of work for you. Other than that, I love getting more information about games I haven't played, but also different views and details I haven't noticed in games I have.

    I did write a paragraph here stating I don't appreciate games being dependent on external paraphernalia to be solvable in a normal fashion, but then the Sherlock Holmes FMV adventures came to mind. They came with mock ups of period news papers as well, and gave important clues for solving the murders occurring. They did that very well, so I guess I have to change my position on that. :p

    1. I forgot about those Holmes FMV games, which I dearly loved and which I certainly have forgotten the solutions to and thus could play again.

    2. I used to love pack-ins that are referenced or need to read through in order to get into the game. Here are memorable ones:

      Where in ... is Carmen San Diego? - This had an atlas/almanac/encyclopedia that you needed to reference if you didn't know the trivia style answers off hand.

      Wilderness - A text adventure that had detailed material for surviving in the wilderness including a map of where you crashed; the game is basically unplayable without these.

      The main SSI gold box series had the codex wheel, which was fun to use for the various passwords in the game.

      StarTropics - An NES game, it came with a letter in addition to the instruction manual. While playing, you get the message that the pass code is in the letter. You never get a letter in the game, so this confused us when we rented the game. It turns out that you need to take that real life letter and submerge it water for the pass code to appear.

      I remember the Zork games (all Infocom games actually) had pack-ins, but I don't remember if they were useful for the game. The Ultima games came with a bunch of extras too.

      Last game I remember was a medical game called Life & Death. It had so much detail in the manuals from proper scrubbing to different types of surgeries that the game itself was really hard to play. It also came with a schedule you were to follow and some other fun things like a glove and doctor ID. Here's a nice description:

    3. I forgot to mention Star Saga One and Two, which had the bulk of story text inside booklets containing 888 passages in the first game and over 1000 in the second. I can imagine the third (was supposed to be a trilogy) would have been larger than the two combined.

    4. Life & Death! Oh the memories! There was a sequel, too, I think it was about brain surgery...

    5. We'll have to get Trickster posting clips when we reach the FMV era.

  6. I have nothing against detailed posts, and indeed, love to read them. But as Lars-Erik said, it might be a lot of work, so I can understand if you want to make more concise texts once in a while.

    And I think I can safely say that you've passed my challenge already - or at least I don't know any other ways to harm animals in the game than the two you've already discovered.

  7. Seems like the creators of the Book of Unwritten Tales are at it again, making The Raven. How they plan to make an adventure game "fast paced" though, I don't know. Hopefully it doesn't end up an arcade "adventure".

  8. More than happy for long, detailed posts - provided you're enjoying writing them, and there's enough interesting stuff from the game to talk about.

    The airplane bit required me to go to a walkthrough. I spent ages trying to light a fire, and just couldn't figure out how to do it. Then, I spent far too much money trying to get the stuff on the plane, so had to restart (well, reload an early save). Kinda wish I'd got the manual/newspaper now, perhaps it would have helped.

    I would suggest that the puzzles don't get any better, it's pretty much like that for the rest of the game (as far as I've played anyway). Of course all this talk of odd logic and weird puzzles does bring to mind an Al Lowe quote, where he talked about making more money on the hint-books than the games.

    And as for the locations, the designers seem to have taken a few liberties. I think it might be a consequence of them cramming so many in there (as a way for you to use up all your money, and so extend the time it takes you to play the game?).

  9. I like the detailed posts too, but agree that if you'd prefer shorter ones, go for it.

    If it's becoming a chore to write a post, definitely try a shorter one. The last thing I think we want is for this blog to become more like unpaid work for you. That's when things like this become abandoned.

    Continuing with this game's use of multiple items to do the same job, I used the butter knife to dig into the squirrel hole (which had an interesting side effect)

    Also, I'm pretty sure you've missed an easily missable clue early on in the game. I'm pretty sure you can still do what you have to do by trial and error, but I don't think you'll ever get another clue so you'll have no idea why you're doing it.

    SPOILER: Ng gur irel ortvaavat bs gur tnzr, Mnx fnlf fbzrguvat yvxr "Jung n fgenatr qernz. V fubhyq pbcl qbja gur znc V fnj va zl qernz fbzrjurer."

    1. I remember my reaction "what the heck" when I did that for the first time.. I think this is another example of a puzzle type that too often appears in adventure games: you need do "find" items to perform some mundane tasks. E.g having to find a shovel, when you want to dig in your backyard. Or worse, if you have to construct a shovel or use something else to dig.. In real life, you would just march into a store and buy it..

  10. Wow, it's amazing how so many adventure games are aided in the solving process by the manual.

    When i played Zak McKraken years ago, figuring out the egg in the microwave filled me a perverse glee. So many adventure game solutions have you as a player doing horrible things to other people. :)

    And i too enjoy the longer posts. I found when i was blogging about games, it's the interesting ones that would warrant long posts because there were things worth discussing. The nonsensical nature of this game seems to be the connecting theme through the writing so far (but man, if you think this is nonsensical, wait until Sam & Max Hit the Road) :D

  11. I like the long posts too, and I'm glad the newspaper has been helpful to you. You have an audience of people who love adventure games, so thinking through the solutions and getting stumped are all part of the experience. Particularly I like seeing the problem FIRST, and then discovering the solution later. I feel like I'm experiencing all these memorable games without having to play them.

    My only concern is what others have mentioned, that it could be a lot of work for you. You may want to find ways to shorten your posts just to prevent burnout. If you skip over stuff and only a cover highlights (and lowlights), nobody will give you a hard time and we'll still be reading. :)

  12. Wow, I'm surprised nobody's mentioned something quite interesting found in the very first room of the game. It's not really important, just interesting.

    Did any other of you guys who played the game find this?

    Note - I did play the even more enhanced version, but I don't think anything was added, just graphics.

    Vs lbh yvsg hc gur pnecrg va Mnx'f ebbz gura lbh erirny fbzr ybbfr sybbeobneqf. Lbh pna yrire gurfr hc jvgu jerapu. (be cbffvoyl bgure vgrzf, whfg qba'g hfr gur ohggre xavsr, vg oraqf vg.) Guvf erirnyf n ubyr va gur sybbe.

    Vs lbh snyy qbja gur ubyr jvgubhg n qvfthvfr, gura lbh ner chg va gur pryy Gevpx zragvbarq naq vg znxrf lbh fghcvq (Lbhe npgvba bcgvbaf fybjyl qvffnccrne) Jura lbh'er qrrzrq fghcvq rabhtu, lbh ner yrg tb, ohg jvgu ab jnl gb qb nalguvat. V qba'g xabj vs guvf vf creznarag naq n qrnq raq be abg, V erfgnegrq.

    Vs lbh chg ba lbhe qvfthvfr naq ubc ba qbja, gura lbh'er yrsg gb serryl jbaqre gur ebbz gung Gevpx tbg vagb guebhtu gur cubar fubc.

    V whfg gubhtug vg jnf cerggl vagrerfgvat gung lbh pna trg va va n pbhcyr bs qvssrerag jnlf.

    1. Lrnu. V riraghnyyl sbhaq guvf ragenapr. V'q orra gb gur ebbz guebhtu gur sebag qbbe jvgu gur qvfthvfr orsber V qvfpbirerq guvf gubhtu.

      V qvq trg pncgherq yngre ba gubhtu (jvgu obgu Mnx naq nabgure punenpgre) naq gur fghcvqvgl qbrf tenqhnyyl jrne bss.

      V nterr gung vg'f vagrerfgvat. Bar bs zl snibhevgr guvatf nobhg guvf tnzr vf gur zhygvcyr jnlf gb qb guvatf naq V gubhtug gur jnl gur tnzr fubjrq lbh trggvat fghcvq jnf ernyyl pyrire.

    2. Tb nurnq naq oraq gur xavsr. Vs lbh gnxr gur orag ohggre xavsr gb gur fubc naq fryy vg, ur tvirf lbh $1500 vafgrnq bs gur abezny $100 orpnhfr ur guvaxf vg vf n fvyire fphycgher.

    3. Wow! I had no idea about the hole in the floor. Why did you guys even try picking up the carpet in the first place? Was there something that caught your attention or were you just experimenting?

    4. In my case, I remembered the puzzle in Maniac Mansion with the key under the doormat right on the very first screen, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to take a look under the carpet. :-)

  13. Whfg gb shegure vyyhfgengr gur zhygvcyr zrgubqf nccebnpu. Gurer'f zber guna bar jnl qbja gung ubyr. Snyyvat qbja trgf lbh pnhtug, ohg vs lbh pybfr gur orqebbz qbbe, gvr gur ebcr gb gur qbbe xabo, naq gura tb qbja gur ebcr, lbh jba'g znxr gung penfuvat fbhaq gung trgf lbh vzzrqvngryl anoorq.

    1. And.. that was supposed to be a reply to Bleaghhh and TBD up above.

    2. I did discover the thing mentioned in Bleaghhh's post, but not what Jarikith discovered. Let's take this even one step further. I haven't tested this, but I assume this would work.

      Lbh pna "ernq" gur cubar ng gryrcubar pbzcnal, juvpu tvirf vgf cubar ahzore. Lbh pna gura znxr n pnyy sebz Mnx'f orqebbz naq yrnir gur cubar yvar bcra juvyr lbh pyvzo qbja. Gur nyvra gura nafjref gur cubar (abgvpr gur ersrerapr gb Znavnp Znafvba ol gur jnl), fb lbh pbhyq pyvzo qbja naq cnl lbhe cubar ovyy jvgu gur pbzchgre.

      On the other hand, it's a shame you don't have to use this approach, as the abfr tynffrf solution is so obvious..

    3. Fb znal qvssrerag fbyhgvbaf sbe bar ceboyrz vf ernyyl njrfbzr. Gbb onq gur uhtr znwbevgl bs nqiragher tnzrf vf bayl "bar cngu, bar fbyhgvba". V guvax bapr ntnva vg'f n fvta bs gur gvzrf : qrfvtavat zhygvcyr fbyhgvbaf sbe n chmmyr vf purncre jura lbh qba'g unir gb navzngr/svyz/znxr ibvprf sbe fbzrguvat unys bs gur cynlref jba'g frr... be znlor gur qrirybcref unir whfg orpbzr ynml ;)

    4. Actually my speculation on how to pay the bill (above) had a fault in logic..

      Lbh boivbhfyl pnaabg znxr gur cubar pnyy gb gur Gryrcubar Pbzcnal, hayrff lbh nyernql cnvq gur ovyy. Ohg arireguryrff, gur znva cbvag fgnlf gung gurer ner guerr nygreangvir fbyhgvbaf ba ubj gb ragre gur onpx ebbz: 1. Qvfthvfvat nf na nyvra 2. Guebhtu gur orqebbz sybbe jvgu gur ebcr naq 3. Znxvat n cenax pnyy gb GCP naq jnyxvat va..

    5. Alfred: There are 3 endings to Mass Effects 3, and many, many more choices you can make during the game. Every few years someone comes out claiming that multiple endings are going to be the next big thing in gaming. Mass Effect 3, Deus Ex and so on.

    6. In fact, I was mainly talking about the paths in pure adventure games. Whatever my love for Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Islands is, you have to admit that all you do is follow one path of solving. The recent "mainstream" point and click adventure games (Runaways and whatnot) have the same logic. One path, one puzzle, one solution. It's not a big deal and it's all part of the "point and click" canon, but I miss the liberty you can find in games like Maniac Mansion and this one.

      RPGs are a different thing, you're right, and usually have a lot of different paths/solutions to one problem.

    7. Yes and know. JRPGs usually only have one. Depending on the year RPGs may have more, or they may just be kill it all.

      Old FPS usually have lots of tactics you can use, modern ones are too obsessed with telling a story and cool set pieces.

    8. To jump in on a four year old conversation, there's some value in puzzles having a single solution, though. It trains the player in solving future puzzles. Providing the rest of the game is well designed, the player is entitled to expect that, once they solve those initial puzzles - which should be fairly simple - the processes and logic they applied there will continue to be a sound basis for solving the rest of the game. They know what the scope of the puzzle space is and a little about the mind that designed it.

      The more puzzle solutions you accept, the more you dilute that purity of communication between designer and player, and the more likely you are to frustrate the player that logic and solutions that work in one place don't work in another. Again, sufficiently good design can overcome that but I'm not sure the benefit justifies the increased cost of success and likelihood of frustration.

    9. A good revelant article:

      That Doesn't Work!

      The rest of Yahtzee's article series is also worth a read:

      Playing the Fool
      Use Key on Door
      Tell Me a Story

  14. After reading what Jarikith, Fenrus and Chumazik did that I missed totally, I'm liking the game even more. There's so many different ways to do things.

    I think this game would have been considered an all-time classic if it didn't have the pbafgnag ercrgvgvir znmrf

  15. I also appreciate all these various ways to get things done. Good game design!

  16. And I finished it.

    Resorted to using a walkthrough FAR too much, but got there in the end. Will save what I thought of it until Trickster's "Won!" post.

  17. Next gameplay post will be up tomorrow. I've finished writing it, but have run out of time to apply screenshots and captions. Very tough at work this week. So...very...tired...zzzzzzzzzz.

  18. I have such good memories of Zak that I decided to replay it at the same time as you, and I'm having a great time so far. I'm a little bit ahead of you and I haven't read any spoiler so far, but my vague memories of the puzzles have helped me a couple of times. I have already restarted the game from scratch a few times, by the way, so expect to do that as well.

    By the way, another reference you might have missed is the $42 price tag of the book: most likely a nod to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  19. By the way, what's enjoyable with this game is that there are various ways to accomplish things. Not main puzzles, as far as I know, but little things to move forward. For example, I never realized you could use the kazoo to wake up the bus driver: I have always woken him up by tapping on the door with something (golf club, monkey wrench, etc... various items work).

    Same thing about the squirrel, I initially clubbed him to death until I remembered the peanuts.

  20. What other games have this feature besides the Quest for Glory games? Open-solution puzzles?

    1. Well I guess QFG is the best example, but that may be due to it being as much an RPG as an adventure game (although the two genres do share a fondness for random item collection and lots of dialogue).

      I guess the main reason Zak allows multiple puzzle solutions in certain situations is to avoid you becoming dead-ended, which is a very different motivation from QFGs multiple solutions for each character class.

  21. Thought some of you might like this; New game, though not crowdfunded: