Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, IBM PC/Compatibles

Genres

Main Genre:
Adventure
Sub-Genre:
Puzzle Solving
Perspective:
3rd-Person
Setting:
Sci-Fi / Futuristic

Overview

IBM PC EGA version of Zak McKracken
IBM PC EGA version of Zak McKracken
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is an adventure game developed by Lucasfilm Games and released in 1988 for the Commodore 64. It was shortly after ported to the IBM PC, Atari ST, and Amiga. It is the second game Lucasfilm developed which uses their SCUMM game engine (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) following Maniac Mansion; like Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken features a similar point and click interface for interacting with the game. The game's story follows the title character Zak McKracken, a tabloid reporter, attempting to foil an alien plot to reduce human intelligence with their "mind bending machine".

Story and Gameplay

The game takes place in 1997 (which was about 10 years in the future at the time the game was being developed) and follows Zak McKracken, a reporter for the tabloid National Inquisitor. Zak isn't satisfied with his assignment (to track down a two-headed squirrel) and wants to become a "real" reporter; however, that night he has a strange dream about aliens and in the morning makes some notes about the dream and begins to investigate. Three other characters have also had similar dreams, and will be able to help Zak out. The conspiracy that's uncovered involves aliens known as Caponians attempting to take over world by slowly reducing the intelligence of all humans using their invention, the mind bending machine. As a disguise, the Caponians have taken over the phone company and wear a hat and nose glasses (a disguise Zak himself will be able to utilize throughout the game). The Skolarians, an ancient alien race, have left a defensive machine behind, however the parts are scattered on both Earth and Mars and need to be located. To win the game, players need to successfully locate all of the necessary parts and assemble the machine to stop the Caponian conspiracy.

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders uses a point-and-click interface to interact with the game. Along the bottom of the screens is a list of verbs along with the player's inventory. By clicking on verbs, objects, locations, or inventory items a sentence can be constructed which causes the selected character to perform the command (such as pick up an object, talk to another character, walk to a location, and so on).

Similar to Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken attempted to differentiate itself from other adventure games by making it difficult to die or become stuck in a no win situation. While there are a number of ways to both die or become stuck in Zak McKracken, the scenarios were fewer and less frequent than was common in many games of the era (such as those by Sierra); Lucasfilm Games would continue to refine the technique further with later games including Loom and The Secret of Monkey Island.

Characters

IBM PC version of Zak McKracken, at airport
IBM PC version of Zak McKracken, at airport
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders features several playable characters and during certain parts of the game players may switch between them at will. For many of the puzzles, it's necessary to either use a particular character or have multiple characters work together. Throughout the game, players can control the following four characters:
  • Zak McKracken: Full name Francis Zachary McKracken, Zak is a writer for the tabloid National Inquisitor. Following a dream, Zak is the main character investigating the alien conspiracy.
  • Annie Larris: Annie is a historian who is also searching for artifacts she had a dream about.
  • Melissa China: One of two Yale coeds; Melissa and Leslie both had dreams to convert a van into a space ship and travel to Mars to wait for further instructions. She wears a green space suit.
  • Leslie Bennett: The second Yale coed; she is with Melissa waiting on Mars. She wears a pink space suit.
Non-playable characters are encountered throughout the game too; in some cases the player can interact with them, at other times they will be shown in remote locations via cut-scenes which are used to advance the plot or provide clues to the player.

IBM PC Versions

Two different versions of the game were released for IBM computers. The initial release had graphics that recreated the original Commodore 64 version and was limited to a resolution of 160x200. An enhanced version was released shortly after which featured 320x200 graphics similar to the Amiga and Atari ST versions. Both versions of the game featured the same gameplay, story, and puzzles; only the graphics and sound varied.

Credits

System: IBM PC/Compatibles
Created and Designed by: David Fox, Matthew Kane, David Spangler, Ron Gilbert
Scripted and Programmed by: David Fox, Matthew Kane
"SCUMM" Story System by: Ron Gilbert
Background Art by: Martin Cameron
Character Animation by: Ron Winnick
Sound Effects by: Matthew Kane, Christopher Grigg, Dave Warhol
Original Music by: Matthew Kane
IBM Version by: Aric Wilmunder
Creative and Technical Support by: Ron Gilbert, Aric Wilmunder, Chip Morningstar, Noah Falstein, Randy Farmer
Project Directed by: David Fox
Lucas film Games General Manager: Steve Arnold
Production Management: John Sinclair
Marketing Management: Doug Glen
Administrative Support: Wendy Bertram, Paula Hendricksen
Lead Playtester: Kris Kahn
Thanks to the many other playtesters, especially: Judith Lucero Turchin, Leslie Edwards, Tim Partenfelder
Cover Art by: Steve Purcell
Package designed by: Paul Curtin
National Inquisitor written by: Victor Cross
Special Thanks to: George Lucas

Documentation

Instruction Manual
Commodore 64, IBM PC/Compatibles
Original version

Marketing

Product catalogs, magazines, flyers, or other documentation Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders has appeared in.
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Product Catalogs
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders in the Lucasfilm Games product catalog
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