Saturday, 1 September 2012

Game 23: Zak McKracken - Elvis Made Me Do It

Zak McKracken Journal Entry 7: “Annie and I have managed to fuse the two yellow crystal shards together, which means there’s only one crystal left to be found from the aliens’ device plans. Not only that, I think I’ve figured out exactly where it is, as a map inside the Sphinx suggested there’s something important inside the pyramid on Mars. As if all this wasn’t excitement enough, I’m still struggling to believe what I’m about to write next. I won $10000 in the Lotto! It wasn’t exactly luck mind you, as I found out what the winning numbers were going to be during an alien abduction incident that occurred while I was flying over the Bermuda Triangle. This is all probably starting to sound crazy, but it’s really happening! I can hardly wait to see where all of this leads!”

You mean the key that just fell apart in my hand? Damn it!

Buckle up folks cause this ride’s about to get bumpy. My most recent session of Zak McKracken saw me travelling to just about every single destination in the game, tying up stacks of loose ends on the way. I still haven’t completed the game, but I’m making very steady and exciting progress. My last post described my movements through the great chamber on Mars, which resulted in me finding the two symbols I needed back on Earth, plus it also revealed an important part of the plot, with a message from the Skolarian race of beings being projected for my viewing pleasure. That session ended with me discovering the purpose of the blue crystal (through unfortunate means), and I walked away from the game with quite a few obvious paths ahead of me.

Melissa and Leslie will have to wait here again while Zak and Annie get to work

When I cranked up the game this time, I was a little bit indecisive about which of these paths I should take first. I could go to Mexico City to get the yellow crystal, or to Egypt to enter the Sphinx, or back to Peru to try using the blue crystal on the bird. I chose the first option, and after making my way through the jungle and temple mazes, found myself standing in the statue room containing the piece of crystal. I quickly drew the symbol I’d found on the identical (albeit bigger) statue I came across in the great chamber on Mars, and soon enough had the piece in my possession. I had always assumed that I’d be able to join the two yellow pieces together on the altar at Stonehenge, but I put that to the back of my mind for now. It was time to go to Egypt!

You want me to do what for the crystal? No way man!

Once I was standing in front of the Sphinx, I once again drew the required symbol, with this one being the swirl I’d come across in the map room (also in the great chamber on Mars). Doing so caused a doorway to open up in the Sphinx’s leg, which I eagerly moved through. You’ll never guess what was inside! Actually I’m sure you will, because this game is filled with mazes. This particular maze though was a bitch! At first I tried not mapping it, as I’d been able to get through the majority of mazes without doing so, but I continually found myself back at the beginning again. Eventually I figured out that the symbols above the doors were the key, and after carefully plotting my way so I didn’t keep circling back to my start position, I managed to find the room of interest.


The focus of the room was three buttons surrounded by hieroglyphics. I had horrible flashbacks to the three button puzzle on Mars, and wondered if I was yet again supposed to find the correct combination elsewhere, but a quick attempt made me realise this one was going to be easily solved by trial and error. Unlike on Mars, if I pressed a button here, it stayed pushed in. After I pressed all three buttons in random order, the floor opened up and I was dumped into a dark room with an unseen but deadly creature. I restored, and since a puzzle like this can only have six possible combinations, I set about trying each of them, getting it right on the third attempt. I’d be interested to know if the combination is found anywhere in the game or whether trial and error is the only way?

Uh oh, I think I'm restoring!

Pushing the buttons in the right order opened the wall up, revealing a map of sorts. Zak then commented that the right section was a map of the Martian Face, and that “I should draw a map of this”. Draw of map? I went through my inventory to see what I might be able to draw with and on, and all I could come up with was the yellow crayon and the book or torn wallpaper. I tried to use the crayon on the wallpaper, and was fairly stoked when it worked. What was odd though was that Zak not only drew the Mars map, he also drew his “dream map” beside it. What dream map?! Was there a map in Zak’s dream in the intro the game? I saved my game and started a new one to see if I’d missed something all those days ago.

No map is perfect man. Trust me!

The answer of course is that there is a map in the intro, and it’s the exact map that I found in the great chamber map room, and the one Zak drew with the crayon on the wallpaper. Of course there’s no way that I could have known that the map was important and that I was suppose to draw it, at least there wouldn’t have been if Zak hadn’t told me to as the very first thing he says in the game proper. That’s right, as soon as Zak appeared in his bedroom after the intro he said “I should make a drawing of that map I saw.” You’re probably wondering something along the lines of “Are you a complete idiot Tricky!? How could you not have seen that and drawn the map in the first instance?” Well, I think this is a simple case of what I’m now going to call the “blogger’s curse”.

You really should make sure you have people's attention before you start speaking Zak!

The blogger’s curse occurs because I’m often so focussed on capturing screenshots that I miss, or ignore, what’s actually happening on screen. It’s not normally a big problem for me, because adventure games normally stand still and wait for me to do something. There’s rarely a time when I have to do something quickly while simultaneously needing to capture screenshots for the blog. However, the blogger’s curse really seems to come into play during Zak McKracken for one simple reason. Cut-scenes! I’m sure I could solve the problem if I played around with SCUMMVM settings, but the cut-scenes seem to play through really quickly, giving me very short periods of time to read dialogue, let alone take screenshots.

This map looks just like the one I found in the map room on Mars. Hmmm...

I’ve been forced to replay cut-scenes multiple times just to get the shots I want, and then I’ve got into the habit of reading the screenshots rather than playing through the cut-scene once again. I used this same process to capture the intro of the game and in doing so, I actually didn’t realise that Zak said anything at all after the intro’s completion. I’m putting my lapse of concentration during the blue crystal training down to the blogger’s curse as well, and it makes me wonder what other minor but important detail I may have missed. I’ve now promised myself that I’ll watch the cut-scene all the way through before I even attempt to start getting screenshots. Anyway, now I had a map! What the hell was it for though?

Another day, another strange marking

I spent some time investigating the map on the wall, and found that I could interact with the pyramid, the face, and another set of “strange markings”! The markings had a dotted line to the great chamber, suggesting the place I would need to draw the symbol would be somewhere in there. I “read” the markings and was shown a temple shaped symbol, which I took a screenshot of for later. When I “read” the pyramid (there’s no look verb), I was told that it “looks like there’s a special object inside the Martian Pyramid.” I already figured that was the case, given that the large key that disintegrated would have given me access. Perhaps the third and final crystal is in there!? I couldn’t do anything with the face, so I took my new symbol and went back to the airport.

There better bloody be. I've spent weeks trying to get in there!

While the airport destination did have London on the list, where I intended to take the two crystal pieces, I knew that I was going to need Annie to achieve anything there, as she was the only one that could give the guard the whiskey. The other destination where I thought I could achieve something was Peru, but that wasn’t on the list. Looking at my screenshots, I knew I could get there from San Francisco, so I decided to travel there via Miami. Once in Miami though, I couldn’t help trying to visit the Bermuda Triangle again, just hoping that the plane might now be available for me to get on. Totally unexpectedly, it was!!! It wasn’t a standard type of plane though, as I found myself on a biplane!

If you're going to dare the Bermuda Triangle, make sure you do it in a really old plane.

After a short pilot commentated flight, the plane suddenly disappeared, apparently the latest victim of the Triangle. Next thing I knew the plane, with me on it, was being drawn onto a spaceship! You read that right! It soon became clear that this was a regular occurrence for the pilot, who quickly pressed the correct combination on a panel of coloured squares, then hopped back in his plane to be beamed back down to Earth. I wrote down the combination in case I needed it, and then pressed the button next to the only door out of the room. It opened, and a Caponian came to collect me, and then led me to The King. I immediately remembered that I had my The King Fan Club card in my inventory, and waited to see what was going to happen.

That's one cool spaceship! Kind of retro yet futuristic at the same time!

The King, as you might expect, was a Caponian dressed as Elvis Presley, and he quickly began trying to come up with a suitable chore for his new captive to get to work on. While he was doing so, I noticed the word LOTTO on some sort of metal panel to the right of screen. The King seemed to be coming to a decision about what to do with me, so I gave him the fan club card. Given I was obviously a big fan, he decided to let me go, and sent me away to be transferred back to Earth. That clearly wasn't all I could achieve though, so I restored, and focussed all my attention on the Lotto area while The King made his choice. Opening the panel revealed...tomorrow’s winning lotto numbers!!!

Because The King knows everything

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders just keeps surprising! I took a screenshot of the numbers, then gave The King my fan club card, eager to get back to San Francisco and purchase a Lotto ticket. I did exactly that, entering 2560 when asked to choose my numbers at Lou’s Loan Shop. I figured I’d have to let some time pass before going back to claim my prize, so I set out for Peru. On arrival, I made my way through the maze to the bird, and laid out the bread crumbs. As soon as it settled down to feed, I used the blue crystal on the bird, gaining control of it in the process. Everything was going to plan, and I used the “Fly to” action to move the bird off to the right of screen. In the distance I could see a “huge carving” in the side of the mountain, so I flew towards it.

The Google Map Anomalies clan would go nuts over this!

I found myself at the head of the carving, with the option of entering either eye. I decided on the right one, within which there was a platform and a candelabra. I didn’t seem to be able to do anything with either, at least not as the bird, with the candelabra being too heavy to pick up and no way of interacting with the platform. I had to restore at this point, as a Caponian came to collect me (Zak), after being alerted to my position through my use of the crystal. Eventually I entered the left eye, where I discovered and picked up a scroll, which I then took back and gave to Zak. Switching to Zak, I quickly left the screen so the alien couldn’t get me, and went back to San Francisco. I had to hope that I would somehow be able to do something with the candelabra later, as I was convinced I could do nothing at this point.!!!

Once in San Francisco, I took the quickest path back to Lou’s Loan Shop, where I was informed of my $10000 lotto win! I should point out that at this stage I was running pretty low on funds. I’d always assumed that I would eventually have to restart and play through more efficiently, but winning the lotto made it entirely possible that I could finish the game without having to do so. For now though, it was time to switch to Annie, and to see whether my intuition about fusing the crystal pieces together at Stonehenge was correct. I gave Annie the whiskey, wire cutters and the two pieces of crystal, and then went to the airport and onto London. I quickly gave the guard the bottle of whiskey, turned off the electricity, used the wire cutters on the fence, and then put the two crystal parts on the altar. Nothing happened!

Awesome! Now I can afford the sewing machine I've always wanted!

I tried “using” the crystal pieces and the altar itself, but I just couldn’t get anything to happen. I’d been so certain that this was the right place to try to do this, and the fact I could put both pieces on the altar in the first almost certainly meant that was correct in some way. I remembered that the witchdoctor in Zaire had asked me to return to him with the yellow crystal, and I suddenly wondered if returning to him with the two parts would be enough for whatever progression was to occur. I restored to a recent save game and took Zak to Zaire with the crystal pieces. When I tried to give them to him he said “First, make this shard whole again. Find the place and words of power.” Words of power!? The scroll!

No-one ever gives a straight answer in the world of adventure games

I restored back to San Francisco after I'd just won the Lotto, then gave Annie the two crystal shards, the wire cutters, the whiskey, and the scroll. When I gave Annie the scroll, she began deciphering the scroll and talked about “words of power”. Clearly this was going to work! Long story short, putting the shards on the altar and then using the scroll caused lightning to strike above the altar. However promising that was, the crystal still wasn’t fused together! At first I thought it was just a positioning thing, and I read the scroll from various screen locations, but eventually I was forced to accept that I needed something else. Suddenly I knew exactly what it would be! The flagpole would conduct the lightning!

That has got to hurt a little bit!

So it was that I restored once again to San Francisco and repeated the whole process, but this time I made Zak give the flagpole to Annie too. Once everything was in position at Stonehenge, I used the flagpole on the altar and felt great satisfaction when Annie stuck it into the slot in the stone. I then read the scroll again, and this time the lightning hit the flagpole, fusing the two crystal pieces together in the process. Job done! So I now have the blue crystal and the yellow crystal, and I have a fairly good idea where the white one will be found. I’m getting pretty excited about reaching the conclusion of this game, and am starting to believe that I can get there without any requests for assistance.’s time to take the yellow crystal to the witchdoctor in Zaire, to see why he’s so interested in the thing. Wish me luck!

I assume you were wearing rubber soles!

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 10 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! 


  1. Cool, nice to see you making so much progress. Have you considered recording your sessions in DOSbox or FRAPS or something, and worrying about the screenshots later?

  2. Ok Trick, you asked for this so I'm not going to ROT-13 it.

    I think you missed something about Annie being an Archaeologist, she's kind of like a female Indiana Jones. If you took her to the Sphinx, she can read the Hieroglyphs and tell you the order to press the buttons.

    Also I'm glad that you finally made the map, as it's been the subject of a few ROT-13 comments so far.

    I also just want to say that I'm really enjoying this playthrough Trickster. This is one of my favorite early adventure games and now I'm disappointed with myself that I only predicted a score of 62, as I can now see that I think it should score much higher. I thought that the mazes were really going to annoy you and that you would punish the game harshly for it, but you apparently passed them easily even though it's an obvious flaw in game design.

    Keep it up, I'm looking forward to the ending and it's final score.

    1. Oh, I almost forgot something. Her name is Melissa, not Michelle. That's the second time you called her that.

    2. Wow! I have no idea why I keep calling her Michelle. I just changed all three cases I can find where I've done that to save future confusion. 10 points to Chumazik!

    3. As for Annie being an archaeologist, I actually figured that out towards the end of this session but didn't mention it. As soon as she was able to read the scroll, I wondered whether she would be able to read the Nepali as well, so I restored to an old game and tried it out. She could! It then dawned on me that she couldn't probably have helped me in Egypt as well.

      I've definitely under-utilised her. Oh...and if I've made it seem like I passed the mazes easily then I've misrepresented how difficult some of them have been. In particular, the maze in the great chamber along with the ones in Mexico City and Egypt took me ages to find my way through. Getting out of the room of interest in the Sphinx took me even longer than it did to get him, as for some reason I didn't seem to be able to follow my own map out.

    4. And as we're talking about under-utilizing Annie, if you brought her with you into the "button room", she can decode the hieroglyphics above the buttons and tell you the correct order to push them.

    5. Finally the map! Man have we been biting our tongues every time we saw that Torn Wallpaper in the inventory on the screen shots. :P And definitely you should follow through with the watching of cut scenes to avoid the horror of the Blogger's Curse, it's only going to get worse as more games start using them more often. :)

      The Mazes: Egypt never bothered me even when I originally played as a kid, I quickly hit on the key to it and its something that's stayed with me even when I forget something else about the game between plays. The Mars Face Maze is actually fairly easily and logically mappable for the most part. It's that Mexico City maze that always irks me the most.

      I didn't see it mentioned or shown in the screenshots so completely easter eggy spoiler that has no bearing on winning the game: Gur Jbeqf bs Cbjre unir na npghny zrnavat. Abg vzcbegnag gb orngvat gur tnzr, ohg n avpr gbhpu gung gurl'er abg cher abafrafr.

    6. Ah. I think that will show up in a later post. :P

  3. I think I missed some vital clues while playing. And I don't get to blame blogger's curse for my incompetence.

    I had the crystal shards but had no idea they were part of the yellow crystal and also never worked out that I was supposed to use them on the altar until a walkthrough told me to.

    Were there clues to this that I missed? I know I never took the shards to the witchdoctor to get his hint, but I blame him because he told me to come back when I had the yellow crystal and I didn't even know my shards were yellow.

  4. Damn it! I'm so close to finishing the game, but I can't find the piece of the device to put on the base! I've been through every single screenshot and I can't find anything that remotely resembles the piece I need. As far as I can tell, I've been everywhere and done everything!

    I hate to have to ask when I'm so close...but what have I missed?! Answers in ROT13 and please give hints before spoilers.

    1. If it's the piece I think you're missing, oh boy how do you hint about that without just spoiling it outright...hmmm.

      Hint 1(No use): V'z thrffvat gurer'f n cynpr lbh unira'g orra lrg.
      Hint 2: Ubj qb lbh srry nobhg Fgne Gerx?
      Hint 3: "Ornz zr hc, Fpbggl!"
      Spoiler 1: Gryrcbegref pna hfhnyyl or pbasvtherq gb gryrcbeg gb qvssrerag cynprf.
      Spoiler 2: Yvxr gur cvybg jub hfrq vg va n qvssrerag jnl guna gur nyvra?

      These are not very good hints and spoilers, and won't give you the complete answer, but should point you in the right direction.

    2. If you haven't done what I think you haven't...

      Hint: Gurer'f fbzrjurer lbh unira'g orra gb ol cynar lrg

      Hint2: Fbzrgvzrf, jura fbzrbar'f gnyxvat gb lbh, lbh pna vtaber gurz naq qb fghss.

      Hint3: Unir lbh bayl gnxra gur cynar gb gur Orezhqn Gevnatyr bapr?

      Hint4: Unir lbh gevrq gb nibvq trggvat xvqanccrq ol nyvraf

      Spoiler: Whzc bhg bs gur cynar jvgu gur cnenpuhgr orsber gur nyvraf pbzr

    3. Hah, didn't realize there were several solutions to that puzzle as well. Awesome that they at least avoided dead ends there.

    4. I hate it when I post my answer only to find out 2 others have answered the same question while I was writing mine. :)

      And... yeah, another alternate solution - tremendous. At first I thought you and Bunyip were talking about a totally different puzzle.

    5. Lars deserves extra points for Star Trek references. Just saying.

      Did you know there are several Star Trek adventure games? :D

    6. Yeah, should be hitting the first one during...what? 1994? 1993? (Checked, 1992), and as far as I can tell, it's got both the requirements for a must-play for Tricky.

      Did you know the famous quote that everyone and their dog knows was never actually said on the show?

    7. Beam me up Scotty? Yeah, of course I knew that.

      Did you know that James Doohan lost a finger fighting for Canada in WWII, so they always had to choose shots that would not show this, or use a hand model?

    8. That's interesting - like hiding Radar O'Reilly's congenitally crabbed hand on M*A*S*H. Doesn't make a lot of sense - both shows take place in dangerous, war-time environments, of course a character or two will have a hurt hand.

    9. Didn't know that about either of them! They hid it well, although I agree that they really didn't need to.

      I guess that was why Radar always had that clipboard?

    10. Fascinating, didn't know about the hand. Did you know that Doohan was the one that created the basis for the Klingon and Vulcan languages?

    11. They hid it, as that type of would gets one discharged from the military in peace time (In Star Trek --There was only a very brief period of warfare against the Klingons, the rest takes place in a period nominal peace, though there are many border incidents. Also, that would imply that Star Trek tech can't regrow fingers).

      In M*A*S*H such things would get you out of the draft, which would have kept Radar out of the military.

      No, I didn't Lars. Chock one up for Canada.

  5. Hint! It involves fbzrguvat lbh jebgr qbja va pnfr lbh arrqrq vg.

    In unrelated news, I can remember figuring out one of the maps by remembering which torches I lit - for example there were a number of long identical hallways with two torches in them. I lit the left in one, the right in another and then both in a third which helped differentiate them when I came back to them later. I can't remember which maze it was now since it's been a year or two since I played this one.

    1. Whoops, I didn't reply directly to the request. Anyway you might want to try Lars-Erik's hints 1, 2 and 3 before mine as they're a little less spoilery.

  6. Glad you've nearly finished Trickster, I'll be interested to see how you rate it.

    As for the request for help:

    V fhccbfr vg'f n trbtencul guvat? Gur znc lbh qenj nyybjf lbh gb gryrcbeg (juvpu V nffhzr lbh'ir svtherq bhg vs lbh'er arneyl qbar), naq bar bs gur cbvagf qbrfa'g jbex (gur vfynaq va gur prager bs gur znc).

    Abj V fhccbfr vs lbh erpbtavfr gur znc nf orvat n yvggyr yvxr Rnegu'f cnfg: uggc:// - lbh'q erpbtavfr gung gur prageny vfynaq qbrfa'g rkvfg, naq zbfg crbcyr xabj gur zlgu bs Ngynagvf.

    Naq juvyr gurer'f ab zragvba bs Ngynagvf va gur arjfcncre gung V pna frr, gurer ner n srj bgure uvagf gurer gb yrnq lbh va gur evtug qverpgvba.

    1. Nice one.

      Trickster, if you haven't read the rest of our hints yet, Andy's hints would probably be your best starting point because these hints will tell you WHY you want to do what the rest of us gave you hints on HOW to do.

  7. I think I'm beginning to get McKracken fatigue. This game is complex, and lengthy, but I'm not certain it seems particularly entertaining. I enjoy the read-throughs, but I often find myself thinking "I'm kind of glad I didn't choose to play along." Maybe it's just not my cup of tea?

    1. I didn't play along with this one either, but I did play it years ago.It's a good game. It's not great, but it's good. For me, I found the mazes annoying, having to save/reload all the time not to end up with no money killed the involvement, and having to juggle different characters to see which ones could solve which puzzles was more tedious than it had to be.

      On the plus side, it has a different story and settings than other adventures at the time, varied scenery, some good puzzles and a bit of humor. All in all, a good game. But it's not one I pick up again and again.

    2. I found it somewhere between mediocre and good. The quirky humour was certainly a plus, but I doubt I'll ever play it again. A few too many things I didn't really like, but the best Lucasarts games are still to come.

    3. I have to agree with Lars-Erik and Andy that it's definitely not one that you'd want to try again due to mazes and general annoyance at having to watch for your funds. But it does have some interesting puzzles, like when you create havoc in the airplane or when you use the alien as a broom.

  8. Pyramids on Mars? This is starting to sound like Doctor Who.