Zak McKracken was a perfect game for it's time. Designed and programmed by David Fox (who also worked on Maniac Mansion and created Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and released by Lucasfilm Games (now Lucasarts) in 1988, this game was the game to follow up Maniac Mansion, but not the sequel, but written with the same engine, SCUMM. It had everything: A soundtrack to write home about (at least on all versions but the PC version), nice graphics (we are talking late 80's here!), logical riddles and an absolutely whacky plot. In fact, I believe no other game since has had a chance to beat the plot of Zak on the funny weirdness scale. The name, by the way, was just picked at random from a local phonebook.
Zak is a reporter for a little tabloid, writing all kinds of made-up stories, but secretly dreams of winning the Pulitzer. When the game begins, he is sent on assignment to write about the two-headed squirrel of Seattle. And just at that time a group of aliens, the Caponians, who hide their larger heads by wearing cowboy hats and funny glasses, begin their fiendish plan to enslave humanity: They send out a mind-numbing signal over the phone lines. But they are not the only ones: other aliens visited earth millenia before (where do you think the pyramids came from?), and provided a defense mechanism. But to activate that, Zak must begin his quest around the globe, and beyond...
Oh, did I mention the leader of the Caponians is Elvis, who also controls the state lottery from his big spaceship over the Bermuda Triangle?
Anyway, the game was full of little anecdotes, conspiracy theories taken to the absurd and small gags, such as the broom-shaped alien on Mars, or the canister of chainsaw fuel (Which you don't need, as it is for another game, as you are told.
The music, originally composed by Matthew Kane on the C-64, is excellent, and has been remixed several times, by various groups, such as the Dead Guys and Puffy64. These tracks are available for free on the Internet.
But why am I noding all of this now, more than 14 years after the fact? Because Zak is back! But not thanks to any involvement by Lucasarts. No less than three different fan projects are busy writing a sequel, and the first one has just recently been completed. Located at http://www.zak2.de, this game, available only in german, brings back old memories (in fact, I started replaying Zak just now). Now, the game is no match for the old game, both in length (this one is way too short), and the humor is nice, but not quite Zak, especially the final "joke". But still, it was nice to play, if only to refresh the old memories, and give me a reason to start playing again...
The other two projects, which show a lot more prospects to become a worthy continuation of Zak McKracken, can be found here:
- http://www.zak2project.de/ : ZMK and the Alien Rockstars (There even is a promo video available for dl.)
- http://www.zak2.org/ :ZMK between Space and Time.
They look absolutely gorgeous, and I am already looking forward to them. Let's hope George Lucas
doesn't shut them down before they are done.
And here's an interview with the game's creator: