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Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
[[Image:The artwork for Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders|250px]]
Release Date {{{date}}}
System {{{system}}}
Engine SCUMM

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is a graphical adventure game, originally released in October 1988[1], published by LucasArts (known at the time as Lucasfilm Games). It was the second game to use the SCUMM engine, after Maniac Mansion. The project was led by David Fox and was co-designed and co-programmed by Matthew Alan Kane.

Originally released on the Commodore 64, it was later ported to the Amiga, the Atari ST, and DOS with EGA graphics. There was also an enhanced version released for both the Commodore 64 and DOS.Template:Fact The final version of the game was for the Japanese FM Towns computer system. It featured redrawn 256 colour graphics (based on the original version's) and a high quality digital soundtrack.


The story is set in 1997, which means about 10 years after its production. In the game's 'future', all transactions are made via debit card (named CashCards in the inventory) and Digital Audio Tapes are still a medium of music recording.

The plot follows Zak (full name Francis Zachary McKracken), a writer for the National Inquisitor, a tabloid newspaper; Annie Larris, a freelance scientist; and Melissa China and Leslie Bennett, two Yale University coed students, in their attempt to prevent the nefarious, alien Caponians (who have infiltrated society in the guise of a phone company) from slowly reducing the intelligence of everybody on Earth using dial tones.

Luckily, the Skolarians, another ancient alien race, have left a defense mechanism hanging around to repulse the Caponians, which just needs a quick reassembly and start-up. Unfortunately, the parts are spread all over the Earth ... and Mars.

The game was heavily inspired by the many popular theories about aliens, ancient astronauts and mysterious civilizations. The many places visited in the game are common hot-spots of relevant literature, like the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico, Lima, Stonehenge, Atlantis, a space cadillac with Elvis (really an alien) and eventually the Face on Mars. The general New Age feeling is very obvious since players will meet also gurus and a shaman who hold secret knowledge of everything, as well as help convert an airport-housed bum to become a Hare Krishna.

All this is no accident. David Fox, the lead designer and programmer, intended to make a more serious game. While designing the game, he spent some days with David Spangler, noted new age writer, before Ron Gilbert and Matthew Alan Kane persuaded Fox to increase the comedy angle.Template:Fact


A review in Computer Gaming World described Zak McKracken as a good game, but "it simply could have been better." CGW described the game's central flaw in the game's environments, limited to a relatively small number of screens per location, giving each town a movie-set feel compared to the size and detail of Maniac Mansion.[1]

Copy protection[]

Zak McKracken has an extensive code system put into the game to fight video game piracy. Whenever Zak or Annie have to leave the United States to go to an international destination, a "Visa code" is required (it is not required to re-enter the United States). This visa code consists of entering four different images into a keypad that is consistent with one in the game's instruction booklet. Prior to putting this code in, the game will dictate which four images to put in (e.g. Section 5, C16). If the images do not match the ones in the program, and after 5 incorrect entries, Zak McKracken gets put into pirate jail and the game is over - and a lengthy and ("I hope you ROT there!") speech from the police officer about the dangers of piracy. This feature was not found in certain compilation re-releases of the game.

Injokes and references[]

  • In Maniac Mansion, a red herring chainsaw can be found, but it has no fuel; in Zak, chainsaw fuel can be found, but not a chainsaw. When one of the characters is ordered to pick it up, the character replies "I don't need it, it's for a different game."
  • There is also a wanted poster for the Purple Meteor from Maniac Mansion inside the Friendly Hostel on Mars and in the Kathmandu, Nepal Police office.
  • Razor and the Scummettes, Razor's band from Maniac Mansion, are the band playing the song "Inda Glop Oda Krell" on the Digital Audio Tape (until it is recorded over).
  • The three girls in the game are named after the programmers' wives or girlfriends.Template:Fact For example, Annie Larris was David Fox's wife's maiden name and the character's appearance was inspired by her looks. Similarly, Leslie Edwards (Leslie Bennett in game) was Matthew Alan Kane's girlfriend, who also worked as a major playtester during the game's production.
  • Each time Leslie's helmet is taken off, her hair is a different colour. This is likely an in-joke referring to the real Leslie Edwards, although its background remains obscure to the public.
  • Two of the shapes made by the yellow crayon are David Fox's initials.
  • The 'words of power' (Gnik Sisi Vle) that mend the crystal in Stonehenge read 'Elvis is king' backwards.
  • Zak's phone bill at the start of the game is $1138, in reference to George Lucas's THX 1138. $1138 is also the balance of Melissa's cashcard (until you spend it on tokens for the Tram).
  • When Zak or Annie read the telephone in the Telephone Company's office, it gives a phone number, if you call that number, the representative goes to the phone and asks if it is Edna calling again (a reference to where you called Edna in Maniac Mansion).

Fan sequels[]

In the absence of an official sequel (and a very low likelihood of one ever appearing), numerous Zak McKracken fans have turned to designing their own sequels to the cult game. The first one to reach completion was The New Adventures of Zak McKracken by "LucasFan Games", containing graphics from the Japanese FM Towns 256 color version, country-specific backgrounds from King of Fighters and some original art. The original release was notorious for containing a somewhat perverse ending. However, the ending was soon changed. That sequel is very short and fairly limited, compared to the two other fan sequels ; Zak McKracken Between Time and Space, which was released to the German speaking public on the 19th April 2008[2], and Zak McKracken and the Alien Rockstars, which was planned to be released sometime in 2007. A sequel named Zak McKracken and the Lonely Sea Monster was scheduled on 1 July 2007, and it was supposed to maintain the look of the original.


The "Zak McKracken Theme" originally composed by Matthew Alan Kane is a popular song for remixes and reinterpretations. Among the artists who have made cover versions of it are Martin Irigoyen, The Dead Guys, Puffy64, DJ Lizard, Razor and the Scumettes and the German band Glückswald.



See also[]

  • LucasArts adventure games
  • ScummVM
  • Ron Gilbert
  • David Fox

External links[]

Template:LucasArts adventure games Template:LucasArts game engines

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