Fun, fun, fun
Zak in the movies.
Lara Croft is really Annie from Zak McKracken
1989: Return of the Alien Mindbenders
The term' Easter Egg' refers to something fun hidden inside a game. These things are not essential to complete the game, but are just nice touches. Given the tiny file size (floppy disks back then didn't have much space) the hidden jokes aren't always big, but that makes it all the more satisfying to find them. Many of these were posted by 'Melissa' on the Zak2/Rockstars message board, and by 'GameCat' after his walkthrough.
"Those inside jokes were especially fun to add to the game... it also rewarded players who played the earlier games -- kind of rewarding them for their loyalty. Running gags? Well, in Zak, using the microwave on the airplane to explode something was definitely a carry over from Maniac (where unspeakable things would happen if you put furry little animals into the Edison family microwave). We always tried to work in things from Lucasfilm movies, especially the number, 1138 from THX-1138. ... The interface did let us do some fun stuff when Zak was mind linking with animals... especially the Yak in Katmandu. I'm not sure how many people went beyond the first 10-20 "chew" commands to see what else came up in the verb set, though :-)" - David Fox
David said more about the microwave in an interview about Maniac Mansion (link now dead):
"It took me just a little while to immerse myself in Ron and Gary's wacky world of Maniac Mansion. The humor was a stretch for me at first, and since I was going to be writing much of the dialog, as well as doing much of the interactive scripts that drove the game, I had to get into their mindset pretty fast.
I knew I had arrived when I saw the microwave oven in the kitchen and wondered what would happen if one of the kids put Weird Ed's hamster into it. ...
More microwave fun... there's a gag where you have to steam open an envelope by heating up a glass of water in the microwave. But... if you get the water from the pool, which is radioactive, after the microwave is opened, the kid will spin around, screaming that they're dying from radiation poisoning... another tombstone...
I think working on this game let me express my own wacked out sense of humor, and I had a great time doing it!
References to Maniac Mansion:
- In "Maniac Mansion" you have a chain saw that needs a gas can - and the gas can is in a Martian locker in Zak McKracken. when you try to pick it up, Melissa or Leslie says "I don't need it. It's for a different game." then she smiles. If you read the label, it tells you that it is meant for chainsaws.
- One of the posters in the jail in Katmandu says: "WANTED: One murderous purple slimy meteor."
- [This only works if you have first paid your phone bill:] Go into the phone company and read the payphone, there is a number on it. go back to zak's house, use the telephone, and dial that number. the alien/telephone rep. will answer the phone and say, "Hello? Hello, who's there? Is this Edna again?" [Edna is of course from Maniac Mansion] if you do not hang up the phone, the rep. will stay on there forever. he will not notice you come into the phone company and he will not notice you go into the back room even if you don't have on the disguise.
- If you call the Phone Company man and leave the phone off the hook, he thinks you are a heavy breather and asks "Is this Edna again?" In Maniac Mansion, the player had to play the same trick on Nurse Edna who, it turned out, was a bit of a pro at heavy-breathing herself.
- If you go to a place and come back home there will be a message on your answering machine. after a couple of messages there will be one from Weird Ed from Maniac Mansion. He says something about picking up zak and sandy in the Edsel to go to a monster truck show.
- On Mars, you can play a music casette. It features Razor and the Scumettes, from Maniac Mansion..
- In Lou's Loans and the alien's secret room there are posters that advertise other LucasArts projects. These differ in diferent versions of the game. The early games advetise Maniac Mansion and 'Escape From Fractalus.'
References to Zak in other games:
- In the Maniac Mansion game room there's a Zak McKracken poster (presumably not in the first version though?).
- In the official help-booklet for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you are told that the gas needed to start a car is on Mars.
- Still in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: examine the crystal in his office and Indy says that some flakes in San Francisco (image from MixnMojo.com)
have been trying to get it off him.
- And Indy also also has a mask from a shaman in Kinshasa and a scroll warning about aliens in disguise.
- Night Shift, released in 1990, features characters from Zak McKracken, as well as Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
References to Lucas movies and stuff:
- Zak's apartment is number 5858 - the number on the gate at Skywalker Ranch.
- Zak's bill is for $1138. George Lucas' first film was called THX-1138.
- Some of the carvings inside the Sphinx look suspiciously like Star Wars TIE fighters.
- If you have a version that needs security codes, try entering them wrongly three times. You get sent to jail, and the guard talks about how disappointed he is in you, how you looked so innocent, he is sure your finger just slipped, etc. (Eventually you are let out for another go.)
- In Lou's Loans: try selling the sell window, buy window, lotto, or anything else in the store and see what Lou says. One Zak fan gave the following idea, but I have not been able to do it: Activate the blue crystal in lou's loans, then sell it, then get out of there as fast as you can or just wear the disguise, the alien will take Lou away and put him in the detention chamber.
- You can kill the two-headed squirrel with the butter knife or the wire cutters. then, when you read the newsstand in the airport it says, "LAST OF THE TWO-HEADED SQUIRREL! BLUGGEONED BY BUMBLING FOOL!"
- You can pour Sushi into your sink and then press the waste disposal button.... yuch
- If you use the butter knife to dig throgh the dirt in the cave it will get bent. when you get back to San Francisco, go to Lou's Loans and sell the butter knife. the guy will give you 1500 dollars for it (but only if it's bent).
- If you get captured by the aliens and taken to the Mindbender, there is a quick way out. As soon as you regain control, quickly put on the hat and nose glasses, but you have to be quick to do it before you lose the 'put on' command. How to cheat: pause the game (space bar), move the mouse to where you want it to be, unpause and quickly put on the hat, pause again, and so on.
- One of the the shapes made by the yellow crayon is the initials DF (David Fox).
- The 'words of power' that mend the crystal are 'Elvis is king' with the letters reversed.
- The name of the Bermuda airline is 'Divine Wind' - the English translation of Kamikaze.
- Try mindlinking with the two-headed squirrel or with Sushi.
- And of course, as mentioned above, you can mindlink with the Yak. Use the 'chew' command about twenty times. You then get the option to 'poop' (complete with sound effect and graphic). Then if you try to pick up the 'yak pie' Zak says 'yeah, right.'
The Caponians are attacking this site! (click and wait for the fun)
I just found this, by 'ProgZmax' at the AGS forums. Happy Christmas! (What? What do you mean, "It's January"?)
Such a great story. Four friends explore the great face on the Cydonia region of Mars (right). They find that it is really a great chamber built thousands of years ago by tall, thin benevolent aliens. They explore the chamber and are shown a projected video explaining with the last message from the aliens before they left. Zak McKracken? Or Mission To Mars? (BTW, Mars face experts will know that recent photos do not look face-like. But the movie explains that: it is simply covered in dirt.)
The promotional poster for the first Tomb Raider movie asked the question, "Who is Lara Croft?"
Now at last the truth can be told!
Above: an early concept drawing for the Tomb Raider series.
- Annie was the original Tomb Raider - and the model for Eidos' famous character, as the above recently discovered painting shows.
- Her name - Larris - means "Lara is"
- The latest installment of her adventures is called "The Lost Artifact." Zak fans will recall that the whole point of the Zak game was to locate lost artifacts. Annie's full time job was to collect them! In fact, Zak is based around finding four artifacts (three crystals and a machine for linking them) and the latest Lara story is all about "the fifth artifact" which "unlocks the secret of the meteorite's powers." Sounds familiar?
- And what about the meteorite? Sounds like the same one that landed near Maniac Mansion. Did the meteorite bring the Caponians? All the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fall into place...
- Her history - Why do we know so much about Lara's early life, but nothing about Annie's? Is there any truth in the rumor that the plane that crashed, starting Lara's career, was chartered by Divine Wind Airlines? We deserve to be told!
- Her adventures take her around the world - searching for artifacts from Atlantis to London and beyond.
- She's an expert in ancient languages
- Her greatest triumph was inside the tombs of Egypt
- The figure - the walk - she can't fool us just by tying her hair back. And she looks great in Zak's wet suit
- Any superficial differences are very obvious (and crude) attempts by Eidos to avoid paying royalties to LucasArts. The evidence speaks for itself. Why deny it? :)
Zak as Duke Nukem Forever
( by 'Christopher' of BTAS)
Kind of funny, since the copy protection system in Zak was called 'nukem.' Come to think of it, in real life there's a nuclear power station near my house, and a real world company on site is called Nukem. Maybe they play Zak?
Thanks to Pesce d'Aprile for pointing out this one. It had me convinced for a while - it's an excellent April Fool. Zak came out in 1988, and the April 1989 issue of the Italian edition of Zzap64! (the Commodore 64 magazine) reviewed the sequel! The three page review (yes, THREE pages) is below. The British edition also contained an April Fool feature, though I don't know if it was the same one as I don't have that issue, just this quote:
"Welcome, all you alien thrill-seekers, to a special April Fool's issue of ZZAP! We've got plenty of surprises packed into this month's mag or have we? Are we telling the truth or have we got no April Fool's surprises whatsoever? Well, there is ONE - and the first person to spot it and write in will get an April fool's prize."
Congrats to Zzap64 - this is top class. I just wish the game was real. (Sigh.) An English translation is at the bottom, courtesy of Stefano!
Stefano's English translation:
Exhausted by the pressure of working for Zzap!, one of our more thrustworty writers decides to stake everything by fleeing abroad: supposing that a trip to the United States would be the best way to have a good time, and at the same time improve his skills in english language, the cowardly one books an air ticket to Los Angeles, but in doing so he makes a colossal mistake.
The poor wretch is not aware of the fact that, by having our kind secretary make the booking for him, he had fallen into a deadly trap. Our swiftest and predatory Ed & BDB (sounds like a good name for an advertising agency!), after tapping his phone call, seized the opportunity for palming the boy off one of those interviews that made the new Zzap! famous - an interview with Lucasfilm.
The famous software house, founded by Star Wars creator, was chosen because of their kindness towards us, and especially because of their great pieces of work, such as (as all of you should know) the wonderful "Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders", the most successful software program of the last few years. After selling our aide such a pup, we eagerly waited for his return, but when we saw him enter our office with a Mickey Mouse-eared hat and a "I love Disneyland" T-shirt, we were even more amazed than we expected: certainly not because of his T-shirt or his hat (here we are used to much worse events...), but because of the four disks held in his hand, coupled with a photocopied version of the user's manual for...Zak McKracken 2!!!!!
A WHOLE LOT OF...A GAME
From what we managed to understand from his excitedly spoken report, Lucasfilm had the excellent idea of putting under strain their programmers in order to create a worthy follow-up to their most successful game to date, which sold in millions and it's still popular today. The outcome is this program, which resumes the adventures of our favourite journalist from where we left off at the end of ZMKATAM. The game is spread on four double sided disks, which can be loaded only if a special hardware protection device is connected to our computer's user port.
The great deal of talents employed in making this game allowed the programmers to create a truly revolutionary experience which, while mantaining the spirit of it's predecessor, shows a lot of technical innovations.
Let's examine them together...
DON'T PANIC!PANIC NOW!
The game begins with one of Lucasfilm's famous film footages : Zak and his partner Annie are inside their cosy mountain chalet, minding their own business, while, outside, a wonderful sun is shining bright. Zak is working on his book, called "How I foiled an intergalactic conspiracy..." on his computer (it looks like a Macintosh), while Annie decides to go for a walk with their huge and hairiest cute dog, Zlorfik.
After waving his heroic sweet husband goodbye, Annie gets out of the chalet, but immediately a (digitized!) scream disrupts the journalist's calm mood: Annie gets back with a wet face and an empty collar in her hands. Zlorfik has vanished!
The panicked couple, while running to the phone to warn the police, pass by the television, from which they learn that their superaffectionate Zlorfik is not the only one to have disappeared : all long-haired dogs on Earth have!
What is happening?
Why is Sushi, the little fish, swimming following a square pattern? Why is nobody able to get in touch with the housewives from Detroit, who, after coming back from their trip to Mars, have opened an astrophysics institute in Las Vegas?
Why has the famous television journalist Lori Amore (do you remember about her?) been suddenly replaced by a clumsy, moustached television pundit who always wears glasses and a hat? What has all this got to do with the meteor shower which is striking Earth?
As always, the burden of finding an answer to all those questions falls upon Zak, who begins his second adventure, with the task of blocking the born-again Mindbenders.
As the game begins, you notice the first changes : the part of the screen above the verbs, which had been used throughout both the first episode and the presentation of this game, is quickly replaced by a perspective landscape like the one used in the old Labyrinth game, and in the more wide-ranging scenes by an isometric representation of the in-game world.
The three types of representation keep on following each other as we move, and a first-rate zooming effect switches between them : such graphics were certainly chosen because of the enormous size of the game area, which not only includes a lot of earth locations, but even different planets and space settings.
Other novelties are the short arcade sequences (the one where Zak must cross a huge and very busy american highway on foot is really exhilarating), which require some manual dexterity, and the cinematic interludes which appear more often and are more varied than in the first ZMKATAM.
If, graphics-wise, those innovations are pleasant but scarce (in order to aid the sharpness of the display), the game reaches its top in the sound field. Lucasfilm's infamous grating music has been replaced by a lot of scores written by Rob Hubbard (now an american citizen), and we are costantly bombarded by sampled sounds and...spoken dialogues! Every character in the game speaks with an absolute purity (the people in charge are the same who created the voices in Impossible Mission) of sound and with particular accents which often leave room for nice gags; for the more important characters, Lucasfilm even bothered some famous Hollywood actors who dubbed our favourites.
The list of dubbers in the game manual is really impressive, but we will nonetheless quote some of them, so that you may have the correct impressions about the quality of this game: Annie Larson was dubbed by Kathleen Turner, the african witch-doctor by Eddie Murhpy, Zak McKracken by Chevy Chase, and playing the role of the alien king (do you remember about his passion for rock music?) is the great Elvis, digitized from recordings owned by his wife.
Still in the credits page, another name catches our attention, giving us a very pleasant surprise : the script was written by the man who inspired, with his crazy space adventures, the first episode involving Zak, the one and only Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". The work of the genius of techno-nonsense can always be felt and "touched" in every part of the game, and you will laugh behind the back of a streetsweeper pelted by cans of alien drink in Chicago, and of the Japanese tourist who appears in the most absurd of situations and places, holding his camera.
As the copy of the game we have is one of the very first to be issued, our correspondent could not bring back the minor elements which will be included in the retail sale packaging: some of them should be an alien disguise (fake glasses, nose and moustaches), Zlorfik's dog-tag, and even a copy of the first chapter of Zak's book, by reading which we can at last enjoy the prose of our favourite journalist.
The user interface is as easy to use as can be,and the quantity of gadgets included in the retail sale packaging is overwhelming. And, if the guys at Lucasfilm abide by their promises (choice between four foreign text languages, italian included, 3D effects [by using the 3D glasses] in limited colours - [the second feature will be for 16-bit computers only), we will be the first to book our copy of the game with our importer.
It is clear, well animated, and, most of all, keeps on switching between different framings, thanks to a zooming and pan system.
You cannot tell the effects and dialogues from reality, and the music was written by the great Rob Hubbard. You cannot ask for more.
As it is better than the first ZMKATAM and as much as enjoyable, you can judge by yourselves.
It's huge, and the system of different endings will make you play it again and again.
The best dynamic adventure game, the best plot, the best sound...the best follow-up to a game ever to have appeared on Earth.
RED RECTANGULAR BOX :
Warning : the version we have tested is not the final one, and, for the time being, Lucasfilm has not yet announced when and through which channels it will be distributed outside of the United States. Since the editorial team of Zzap! has obtained an exclusive collaboration from the famous american software house, we will be the first to know these dates : you are therefore encouraged to call us to ask for any explaination. Thank you.
S.G.'s comment :
I won't take long. I got only five minutes to write this article, before resuming playing what has now become my favourite game. I have always said that the first (and still wonderful) ZMKATAM was sometimes a little unrefined, and susceptible of a few small technical enhancements, but I didn't expect anything like this. Let's talk about the cinematic approach full of zoom shots, bird's eye views, change of perspective, made even more effective by the well-defined and outstanding graphics, aided by an excellent use of the sixteen colours of the Commodore 64, and by a very smooth animation. Let's also talk about the stereo-olophonic effect of the music score and of the synthetized effects squeezed out of the SID : you can sit in your armchair and think you are in a cinema. But this is just the aesthetic side of the game : as soon as you have loaded 'The Mindebenders are back', you are thrown inside a terrific adventure where anything can happen. The work of Douglas Adams and his nonsense humour achieved their goal by making this game even more fun than the first one. Everything has been planned so as to hamper the player as little as possible...you practically have a whole world in which you can do whatever you want. There are multiple ways to reach the conclusion, and even multiple endings. For example, I happened to flee to the second Galaxy with the Black Queen of Phobos, leaving Annie, Zlorfik and Earth on their own, obviously with a final score lower than the full 100% required for the optimal solution. Don't miss the game that, unless something sensational happens, is going to be the game of the decade.
FR's comment :
I am sleepy. I don't mean that this game is boring, quite the opposite : the problem is that I'm passing night after night in front of my monitor trying to solve it, and in spite of my continual progress, I can't see the end nearing at all. The hallmark of this game (apart from the technical innovations, which we have already explained in the review) is truly its extraordinary plot, full of apparently unlinked nonsense which suddenly all contribute to solve seemingly insuperable problems, which then bring more problems in! Apart from this side, we are left with a huge program (there are eight full disk sides to play!), technically flawless and gifted with perfectly clear graphics and sound. Loading times are short - thanks to the hardware device, too - the user interface is very user-friendly and, from a general point of view, this is a masterpiece, compared to which, the so much glorified 16-bit computers must ashame themselves. It's unfortunate that Zzap! has no diamond-studded platinum medals, because this would be the only high enough award we could give to Zak McKracken 2. Yawn....Zzzzzz...
Screenshot comments :
First screenshot :
The introductory scene, 'old style'...
Second screenshot :
A shark below the road surface? Even such things can happen in 'The Mindbenders Are Back'
Third screenshot :
The meeting between Zak and the alien Female Computer Bug...take a look at the interior of the loo...I mean, of the spaceship.
Wow! I just wish it was real!
Actually, it might be real, one day. Sort of. There are at least two sequels in production at the moment, and while they don't have these story elements (as far as I know), I'm making my own game on a totally different topic, and one day I plan to add some familiar scenes to it (San Francisco, etc.) as a homage to Zak McKracken, the game that inspired me. In a later release I will probably make scenes that look like those screen shots, and add as many elements as I can without being sued. To be continued!