Monday, 3 September 2012

Game 23: Zak McKracken - Won!

Zak McKracken Journal Entry 8: “We did it!!!! After the witchdoctor in Zaire taught me how to use the yellow crystal to teleport myself, I made my way to Mars and found the power crystal! With all three crystals in my possession, I then teleported back to Annie in Egypt, and set about trying to piece the device together that would stop the Caponian plot. We soon realised we were missing a vital piece, but I followed a tip-off from a good friend and eventually found it on the ocean floor in the Bermuda Triangle. With the device complete, we started it up, and successfully thwarted The King’s plan for world domination! I’m so incredibly happy, and plan to write a book about the whole experience. I think I’m falling for Annie too...”

Two crystals down, one to go.

I finished! I wish I could say I finished without requiring any assistance, but unfortunately I faltered at the very last hurdle. I also can’t ignore the spoiler I received two thirds of the way through, although I have no idea whether I would have required it had it not been thrust upon me. As has been the case with all of these Zak McKracken posts, there’s a lot to get through here, so let’s get started. At the end of my last post I’d finally fused the two crystal shards together at Stonehenge to form the yellow crystal I needed. The most obvious thing to do next was to take it to the witchdoctor in Zaire, as he instructed me to do during an earlier visit. Since I already had control of Annie, and it was she that had the crystal, it seemed most efficient for her to make that trip. It wasn’t!

Can't you just give me a message to pass along?

After a fairly indirect flight to Zaire, I rushed to the witchdoctor, only for him to tell me that “The Teleport Crystal will not work for you. Give it to Zak and send him here.” Well, at least I now knew that the yellow crystal had something to do with teleportation, but I was forced to restore back to London, then make Annie go all the way to San Francisco to give the crystal to Zak, then finally put him on a flight to Zaire in her place. The end result was that the witchdoctor taught me how to use the crystal, along with the map I’d drawn on the wallpaper, to teleport myself to certain destinations. I was pretty keen to see how it worked, so I “used” the crystal, then selected one of the dots on the map, which was currently marked “???”.

You couldn't just tell Annie that?

I disappeared from Zaire, and then reappeared in a room I’d never seen before. It contained some sort of platform, and three levers on the walls. If I switched one of the levers on the back wall to the up position, nothing happened, but if I moved away from it, it would go back to the downward position. I immediately assumed that I would need to get Annie into the room at the same time as Zak, so both of them could use the switches simultaneously, but I didn’t know where I was or how I could get Annie there. I pulled the lever on the left hand wall, and a staircase opened up in the floor Following it down, I found myself somewhere familiar...the tomb that I discovered in the pyramid in Egypt!

I got the lever fever baby!

Now that I knew where I was, I switched to Annie and put her on a flight to Egypt. I brought her to the tomb and up the stairs to the room with the levers, eager to see what would happen. Unfortunately the result wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped for. When both levers were switched up, the lights next to the platform started lighting up, but nothing else happened. I tried using pretty much every item I had on the “base”, but nothing worked. Clearly whatever I needed to do here relied on something I didn’t yet know or have. There were quite a few other destinations on my map, so I moved onto one of the others marked “???”. I noticed the first one I’d travelled to now said “Teleport to Egyptian Pyramid”.

As opposed to to what other type of pyramid?

The second destination I teleported myself to was inside the right eye of the “huge carving” in Peru, and by now I understood that the yellow crystal allowed me to teleport myself to the numerous platforms I’d seen previously. Once I was there, I was able to pick up the candelabra that I hadn’t been able to collect when controlling the bird. Everything was starting to come together, but I couldn’t think of what I might be able to do with the candelabra. I teleported myself to the two destinations to the left hand side of the map, and found that they were the platforms next to the statues in Seattle and Mexico City. That left only the central destination, plus the pyramid and face on Mars.

The complexity of the game is pretty impressive really

I used the yellow crystal again, and this time I clicked on the dot in the middle of the map. Rather surprisingly, nothing happened. I remained exactly where I was when I tried using the crystal. Slightly bemused, I wondered whether I could only teleport myself to places that I’d already been, but then I’d been to every destination available from every airport. I tested my theory by clicking on the pyramid on Mars, which I’d never been to, and found that I also couldn’t visit there. Well that seemed to be the answer to that question, and left only one destination on the map to visit. I clicked on the face on Mars, thinking I would be transported to a room I’d visited previously with either Melissa or Leslie. I wasn’t!

Oh...which door to take???

I found myself in a room I’d never seen before, with three doors leading off the rear wall. No matter which door I chose, I ended up in complete darkness, with no torches available. I only had the lighter, so I had no choice but to wander around from room to room until I somehow found myself out of the maze and in...the great chamber! As soon as I realised where I was, I figured out that I’d just been making my way through the same maze that Melissa and Leslie had struggled through, albeit with no flashlight to assist. I was a bit confused as to why I hadn’t found the three doors during my earlier exploration, but didn’t feel it likely I was supposed to do anything else in the maze now that Zak was on Mars.

It turned out to make no difference at all

Obviously Zak could breath because of the air controlling machine I’d turned on earlier, but I was a little confused as to what benefit having Zak on Mars might actually bring. The only area that I felt needed solving up there was the locked door to the pyramid and since Zak didn’t have the key for it, I was a little stumped as to what I was going to do. I said a quick hello to Melissa and Leslie and set about trying to form a spacesuit out of the bits and pieces I had in my inventory. I’d been assuming for a while that the fishbowl, the oxygen tank and the wetsuit would play a role, but there was one major hurdle to my plan of trying those items out. I’d never got rid of Sushi the fish from my fishbowl!

Anyone care for Sushi? No...I don't mean like that!

As soon as I tried to put the fishbowl on, I was told that I couldn’t do that while Sushi was still in there. I was forced to restore back to Earth, travel to Zak’s apartment, and then put Sushi in the sink (don’t worry Ilmari, I didn’t turn the compressor on!). I’d always assumed that I would come across a more suitable place to let the little guy go, but hadn’t come across any bodies of water anywhere in the game. Oh well, I’m sure he’d be fine in the sink until I got back, so i teleported myself back to Mars and this time used the map I’d made earlier to escape the maze. I was then able to put on the wetsuit, the oxygen tank and the fishbowl, but despite looking somewhat like a spaceman, I was informed that air was leaking out of my makeshift helmet.

Never mind that my hands are exposed

They say duct tape can fix anything and I proved that to be true here, taping up the bottom of the fishbowl to make a seal before putting it back on. I was now able to leave the chamber into the outside world of Mars, but I still didn’t know what I was going to do. I decided to take Zak, Melissa and Leslie to the pyramid, just to see if a solution to the locked door miraculously revealed itself. All three characters bought two tokens at the monolith in case we needed to come back, and on arrival Leslie used the alien broom to sweep away the sand, as I’d done in an earlier game. I opened up my inventory and looked through it for anything I might be able to use on the huge lock. It’s safe to say that I’ve been a little bit stupid at times during some of the games I’ve played on the list, but this was a massive face palm moment! Of course I had an item to open a giant lock! A giant bobby pin!

Is that a huge bobby pin you have there or...

Why I didn’t see this earlier I can’t really explain. It was just an oversight, and I’m very thankful that I took Zak to the pyramid despite not really having any reason why I was going there. I unlocked the door, and entered the pyramid. Once again it was pitch black inside, so I had Leslie give the flashlight to Zak. Thankfully it wasn’t yet another maze as I’d expected, and the short passage led to a room with a sarcophagus in it, but nothing more. Interestingly the feet of the sarcophagus appeared to be able to be interacted with, so I tried opening them, picking them up, pulling them etc. It was only when I got to “push” that something happened, but due to the darkness, I couldn’t see what the grating noise had actually been caused by.

Tickle tickle....

I soon figured out that I needed to bring another character into the room (in my case it was Melissa) to push the feet, while Zak used the flashlight to find, and then ascend, a set of stairs in the wall. At the top of the stairs was a room containing a strange device and the power crystal I’d been looking for! There was also a box on the right hand side of the machine, with a keyhole in it. It was pretty clear that the solution was to use the golden key I got from the projector room in the great chamber in the box, which I hoped would release the crystal so I could pick it up. As sound as that reasoning was, putting it into practice turned out to be much more challenging. The main problem I had was that the staircase blocked my path to the other side of the room!

The damaged platform was the real reason why I couldn't teleport here!

That wasn’t my only problem though. I was constantly running out of oxygen and dying, forcing regular restores while I tried to figure out how I was even going to get to the keyhole, let alone unlock it. I can only think that it was the time limit that was causing my second face palm in just a few minutes, but I reckon I wasted at least ten minutes trying to get past the stairs (or to use items at long range), only to suddenly realise that the solution was incredibly obvious! I switched to Melissa, got her to walk away from the sarcophagus feet, making the staircase close up again. I was then able to walk straight across and unlock the box, revealing a button on the inside. Was I the only one that struggled with the staircase? Tell me I wasn’t! I feel pretty stupid about that one.


As expected, pressing the button released the crystal, but unfortunately I had to keep holding the button in or else the device would clamp down on it again. In the end I had to bring Leslie up the stairs alongside Zak, get Melissa to step away from the feet, get Zak to press the button, and then get Leslie to grab the crystal. I had to do all of this within the smallest time frame due to Zak’s oxygen levels, and I then had to give Zak the power crystal and use the yellow crystal to teleport him to Egypt before the oxygen ran out. I assume I would have been able to get to the room with much more oxygen had I known about the limits, but I made it without restoring back to the great chamber.

Don't just stand there. Grab that crystal Leslie?! I'm running out of air here!

Right, I had Zak and Annie in the room in Egypt with the two levers and the platform, but before I tried anything there, I thought I better get Melissa and Leslie to safety. I got them to the spacekombi, closed the door and used the controls to send them back out into space on a two month journey to Earth. Now all I had to do was put the device together and finish the game...right?! I’d just put the candelabra onto the base, and then put the three crystals onto each arm, and then finally get Annie and Zak to pull both levers simultaneously. Easy right?! I’m afraid not! I wasn’t able to use the candelabra on the base, and a quick look at the screenshots I had of the device (from Annie’s apartment and from my dream) suggested something very terrifying indeed. Despite feeling like I’d completed everything I could at every destination, I was missing a part of the device!!!!

I recorded over their only music cassette too!

There was a piece of the device that I needed to put on the base before using the candelabra on it, but I’d not seen anything like it anywhere in the game. I looked through every screenshot in great detail, but still couldn’t find it. After about twenty minutes wracking my brain for where it could be, I finally had to accept that I was going to have to request assistance. It was either that, or systematically go through every location from scratch, trying to find anything of interest that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I decided to ask you guys for help, and it was Lars-Erik that responded first. His first hint was “I’m guessing there’s a place you haven’t been yet.” Really?! So it wasn’t just a matter of missing something in a location I’d been to?! I was shocked...and intrigued.

This dream was becoming a bit of a nightmare!

His second clue was “how do you feel about Star Trek?” Um...well...I’ve seen the most recent movie, but never watched the TV show. Thought about doing so at some stage, but then I’d have to start from episode one of the original series and work through from there (but you knew that). That’s quite an investment and one you guys probably don’t want me to make! What could Lars-Erik mean by that? The King’s spaceship? Was there something else I was supposed to do up there apart from get the winning lotto numbers? Hmmmm...only one way to find out! I used the yellow crystal to travel to Seattle, and then got a plane to Miami before finally getting one to the Bermuda Triangle. This time I paid close attention to everything that happened on the biplane, and then watched as the pilot used the coloured buttons to teleport himself back to Earth.

That's a good question my friend!

After he’d gone, I thought I would try doing exactly what he’d done, although I figured that would simply teleport me back into mid-air without the biplane being there. Suddenly I knew that was exactly what was supposed to happen, and that the parachute the pilot had given me did have a purpose after all! I quickly put the same code that the pilot had used into the panel (I’d used the one given to me by the aliens the first time around, which had teleported me to my apartment) and stood in anticipation. Just as I thought, I was teleported back to Earth, but found myself falling out of the sky. I used the parachute and floated gently down into the ocean, where I bobbed up and down, catching my breath. What now!? I tried going underwater, but I wasn’t able to hold my breath long enough to go deep enough. It looked like I was going to have to use my spacesuit as a scuba diving suit!

At least I had one hour to figure out this puzzle.

There was one major problem of course. After putting on my wetsuit, oxygen tank and fishbowl helmet, I was informed that I couldn’t breathe. I’d used all of my oxygen up on Mars! Was I supposed to complete this part of the game before going to Mars, and would then be able to refill my oxygen tank in the kombi? Surely not! I had more trust in Lucasarts than that, so I set about trying to find another solution to my problem. I could see a shark (or was it a dolphin) swimming around madly in the distance, and remembered something I’d read in the National Inquisitor. The article talked about how dolphins were saving gondoliers that had fallen out of their boats, but only if they sang!

This article was too strange not to have something to do with the game

I certainly didn’t have a “sing” verb, so I turned to my inventory. The guitar? No! The kazoo! That was it! Using the kazoo made the dolphin swim over to me, and I was then able to use the blue crystal to take control of it. I imagine this puzzle would have stumped many a player, particularly those that didn’t have the National Inquisitor to receive clues. Once I had control of the dolphin, I swam beneath the surface, and looked behind bunches of seaweed until I found what I was looking for...the piece of the device! Once Zak had the piece, I used the yellow crystal to teleport myself back to Egypt, where I quickly put the device together and used the levers.

Are we supposed to think that the aliens hid all the device parts all over the world 50000 years ago in preparation?

There you have it! After 13 hours of playing and no less than 9 posts (soon to be 10), I’d completed Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. The stupidity machine in the phone company was destroyed by my device and The King left Earth for good! Apparently the co-ed girls made a smash hit movie based on their experience, Zak won a Nobel Peace prize for his efforts and a Pulitzer for his book about them, and finally he and Annie fell in love, giving the overall experience a very satisfying conclusion. I do wish I’d been able to complete the game without that last minute request for assistance, but I also feel pretty happy with my efforts. This was a tough game, and one that I played through during a pretty tough time in my professional career. I’ll save any further ponderings for the final rating post.

Given how rampant pseudoscience and bizarre religious practices are across the world, I'm not sure we're saved just yet!

Session Time: 3 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 11 hours 00 minutes


  1. Nice! Congrats on only needing one hint. I need to get to work on that wikipedia article! Wait, I'll just add it to the list now, link to the French article, and then work on the English one at my leisure. >.>

    1. Could someone link me to the French Wikipedia page? I want to make sure I have the game on my list before Trickster's 1989 posting, but I can't find it.

    2. Do you mean Emmanuelle? The French Wikipedia article is hereéo) - but, now that I've actually played the game, I'm having great doubts as to whether we really should bother Trickster with it...

  2. Congratulations man! Needing hints only once on Zak totally counts as a victory in my book; it's a hard game, and as I remember, I had to have help more than once when I played it.

  3. Congratulations, Trickster! It looks like Zak was a real tour de force, but not an unrewarding one. I'm feeling more confident about my optimistic score! Looking forward to the "dissection" post.

  4. Congratulations! I am still behind with my own playthrough, luckily I am going for a business trip tomorrow, which means I will have lots of spare time in the hotel tomorrow evening. Take your time in writing your final raiting post :)

  5. Congratulations! I was sure you'd need more help with Zak, but once again you exceeded expectations. Well, it's only CAPs I betted.

  6. Congrats Trick! Nice work and fascinating to follow!

    Considering you've finished the game, it's time to switch to ROT26 to write the next thing I had to say : I actually never found the alien spaceship! Once I was in the plane, I immediately jumped out of it, remembering the National Inquisitor article about the parachutes, so I never went to the point where you're abducted by aliens. I had a hard time with the lack of money in my travels and had to restore a lot in order to figure out the most efficient way to go everywhere. The luck with it is that I had no real trouble solving the dolphin puzzle, and I wasn't stumped here. However, I really had a hard time with cash, but it's possible to go through the game without winning the lottery!

    I have to confess too that I had absolutely forgotten to send back Melissa and Leslie into space after having completed the device. I guess they're still waiting in the youth hostel... Would it have been a Sierra game, it sure would have cost me a few points...

    1. I had no idea you could jump out of the plane! I didn't harp on about it in my post, but I do feel this section is a little reliant on luck. I'm sure there are people that never tried going to the Bermuda Triangle at all, let alone choosing the right things to do once there.

      Getting that piece of the device was tough!

    2. When you read Andy_Panthro's ROT13 clues in the previous post you might notice that the game did give you a clue of sorts - the teleport point that didn't work on on the map was in the Bermuda triangle (between North and South America) on a landmass that no longer exists.

    3. Does everyone around here know where everything is except for me? ;)

    4. I thought that Bermuda triangle clue was actually beautiful, even if you had to be able to make sense of the map to get it (btw, the Americas are the key -- they're basically untouched save for the fused Greenland). I guess all those years of playing on distorted/stylized world maps from different versions of Risk paid off in a weird way! :-)

  7. Other pyramids.... like the mayan ones? :)

    1. Yeah, you got me there! It was a fairly narrow minded comment I'll admit. :)

    2. Not only that, but you actually explored a Central American pyramid AND a Martian pyramid in this very game!

    3. Errgg. I thought of that while reading to, but forgot to comment on it.

    4. Well the Martian pyramid can hardly count. ;)

    5. Hey. I have proof! ;),or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=46600fbf5a92ac92&biw=1920&bih=906

  8. Well done! I hope you enjoy reading all the ROT13 comments we left, there must be quite a lot over the course of this game!

  9. Grats on completing this Trickster. It was quite the slog but very entertaining. This is probably a taste of things to come seeing that the games are only going to get longer and more complex :)

  10. I'll admit to being stuck in the water having no idea what to do and resorting to a walkthrough.

    There was another clue that I missed to use the kazoo in the water. You can read the kazoo and its brand was Sea-something.

  11. Your posts on Zak McKracken are a really fun read. The puzzle design seems to be the best I've seen in the games you've reviewed so far. It seems like most solutions could be arrived at through logic and creativity, and very few were based on luck or -- heaven forbid -- bad text parsers. The mazes were a bit "cheap," but heck it shows how committed they were to making a long-running game that felt like a real accomplishment once you finished it.

  12. Congratulations on completing another game. Seeing as how you enjoyed it so much, I think I'm not getting the prize this time. Ah well, one more chance before I actually need to purchase Quest for Glory.

    1. Ditto. I bet somewhat low-ish, and this has really seemed impressive.

  13. The length of this game is quite incredible actually, even by modern standards for adventure games. Games like this make me understand why so many of the people who comment here appear to be incredible Lucas-Arts fan-boys. I still get annoyed that you seem to rate those games higher than the classic Sierra games (well not much statistical evidence of that so far, but I'm convinced from reading comments that it will end up being the case).

    I'm expecting this game to be the new scoreboard leader.

    As good as this game seemed to be, I'm curious why it never got a sequel? Was it too challenging? It certainly didn't seem very challenging, most of the "puzzles" were so transparent that they would barely count as puzzles really (based on my impression of reading your play-through). Very frequently you commented on how easy many of the puzzles were.

    The main source of challenge, in my opinion, seems to stem from the size of the game! The game was exceptionally large and open leading a player to have a very large area of game to traverse in order to find the items needed to solve puzzles.

    I can see getting stuck on the jumping out of the plane puzzle. I didn't see any clue that you would need to do that in your write-up (as would be expected since you wouldn't blog about a clue which you apparently didn't notice, if there even was one). I didn't parse your post to know when you got the parachute but seriously, what else are you going to do with it (this comment is actually sort of sarcastic, god knows what ingenious use a game would make for a parachute)

  14. Final Rating tomorrow, along with the the winner of the Quest for Glory collection.

  15. A cool article on a new, modern adventure game from the guy who wrote Monkey Island: