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.
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!