Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders

Title           Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders
Game Type       Adventure
Company         Lucasarts
Players         1
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibillity  All
Submission      Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

This was the first ever point'n'click adventure I ever played and I
remember how impressed I was with it back then. The plot is rather silly:
Some aliens have decided to invade earth. To make things easier for them,
they've invented a machine which sends out signals through the television
which will eventually turn us humans even more stupid than we are.
Somebody has got to stop them! Who?

There are actually four heroes in this game: Zak, Annie, Leslie and
Melissa. First only Zak can be controlled, but when he meets Annie, the
player can switch to her and the two other girls. Teamwork is required if
earth is to be saved.

Zak is a reporter working for a tabloid newspaper. In the intro we see
his boss giving him his next assignment: Go to Seattle and check out a two
headed squirrel which has been attacking tourists. Under your control he
finds this squirrel and the cave it lives in. But he also finds more -
an ancient crystal. Back in San Fransisco he delivers this crystal to
Annie, who tell him about the dreadful fate which awaits earth and ask him
to help save it. Of course he agrees. Leslie and Melissa have all ready
travelled to Mars (they were told to do so in a dream), where they are
looking for a device which combined with the crystals Zak finds, can be
used to save earth from the stupid aliens. But now I've told you far too
much, the rest of the story is for you to find out.

This is a standard point and click adventure. In the bottom of the screen
you can see a control panel consisting of lots of verbs like: Pick Up, Read,
Push, Pull and so on. There are also a list of the character's possessions
in the control panel. There are more verbs than in most adventures of this
type, but for some strange reason there is no Look At, only a Read verb.
Zak also lacks the pretty standard Talk To command.
The most peculiar command is the special verb called What Is. If this is
selected, the game will tell what's under the mouse pointer. This is boring
because in most modern adventures, this happens automatically.

The puzzles in this game range from slightly logical to not logical at all.
Personally I don't like this. I like games where I can see the solution and
where the trick is to figure out how to actually do what must be done. But
I won't kick Zak McCracken because of this. The Valhalla series proved that
there is a lot of people who like illogical puzzles. I guess that most
people who liked Valhalla will like this.

Sometimes you will have to control other beings (using the ancient
crystals). This can be quite fun, but everytime you do this you've got to
get away in a hurry, because the aliens will notice you and come for you.
If they manage to capture you, they will put you in a stupidity machine
where you will slowly lose all your abillities. This isn't the worst thing,
though. You see, they also take the important crystals, and you will have
to find a way to get these back after recovering from stupidity.
The puzzles where you need to get your characters to cooperate are also
very interesting.

There are some puzzles I do think the game designers should have avoided,
though. For instance, there are too many mazes in this game. As you see
the character from the side (like in Monkey Island), mazes aren't really
easy to navigate through. One maze would have worked, perhaps two, but
in Zak there are too many of them.

There is a lot of humour in Zak Mc'Cracken. Although it isn't as fun as
Monkey Island or Flight of the Amazon Queen, there are lots of silly jokes
and some of the puzzles have really cool solutions (although they are a bit
hard to think of).

I found this game to be quite a challenge, and I have to admit that I
didn't manage to solve it on my own. In fact, I wasn't even close. The game
is very big and the puzzles are difficult. If you're after adventure games
where you can slowly and steadily progress without getting too stuck, this
isn't for you unless you consider yourself to be a very good puzzle solver.

But the fact that Zak is so big also means that you'll get plenty of
variation if you buy it. You'll solve puzzles in ancient pyramids, in
jungles, in Siberia and on Mars.

The sound is very monotone and boring. There are few sound effects (judging
by todays standards), and the music could have been much better.
The graphics are also boring. Not only are the pictures bland, but there
are not many animations in the background. Luckily, there are some nice
scenes as well.

Personally, I think this game is pretty average. Although the Amiga isn't
blessed with loads of adventure games there are still many games which
are better than this. But Zak Mc'Cracken has it's own style and charm, so
I guess you won't be too sorry if you get it, especially if you've played
through games like Monkey Island, Amazon Queen and some of Sierra's Quest
games. If you can live with the slightly primitive user interface and
the not-so-great graphics, there are some great moments within this game.
But only buy it if you have allready played through the games I mentioned
before, ok?

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