• Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders


  • Graphic Adventure


  • Lucasfilm Games


  • Lucasfilm Games

Release Date:

  • October 1988

On Wikipedia:


  • Commodore 64, DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, FM Towns

Everyone's familiar with the LucasArts SCUMM point-and-click adventure games with better-than-average writing, inventive puzzles, and breaking industry standards by not allowing the player to permanently get stuck or die. Unfortunately, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, the second SCUMM adventure game (Maniac Mansion is the first), isn't like that. While the game looks and sounds alright as it was faithfully ported to the Japanese computer FM Towns, causing it to look and play closer to The Secret of Monkey Island, it's still a bit quirky to play (the mouse cursor isn't very responsive).

"Zak"? Who is "Zak"? My name is Guy Incognito.

While the ways to get stuck or die isn't nearly as extensive or exhaustive as Sierra games, especially at the time, part of the problem is the game's design. Like The Secret Monkey Island and many other adventure games, these games rely on you being a nuisance and in general, a horrible human being, taking everything in sight whether or not it belongs to you. In something like the Monkey Island series it's fine because that's just who Guybrush is (he is a pirate, after all) but here it's inconsistent. You have to ring the doorbell to the bakery three times to finally get the baker annoyed enough to throw down some stale bread, which you need to complete the game. On the other hand, try to take the flag of Nepal three times and you lose the game.

I will say that the idea of setting the game in 1997 (eight years forward) is still grounded in reality, with not much than just bigger televisions (though they have to be worked exclusively through remote controls) and a few other enhancements...though the game does have you traveling to Zaire, which by 1997 was in a state of political upheaval that deposed the long-standing leader of the country, Mobutu Sese Seko, and renamed the country to "Democratic Republic of the Congo".

Unlike other LucasArts games, however, Zak McKracken isn't fondly remembered and has no chance of getting a "remastered" version...which would have to go through significant changes to make it more palatable to modern audiences.

Box art from MobyGames.