Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
Zak McKracken And The Alien Mindbenders. For something with such a mouthful of a title, and especially for something produced by LucasArts, it is surprising that I had never even heard of Zak McKracken until it was added to GOG in 2015. Nobody talks about it — or at least if they do, they don’t talk about it anywhere near as loudly as the later classics like Monkey Island and Day Of The Tentacle. Even Maniac Mansion sometimes gets a mention just for being the first modern adventure game (not to mention the entire thing being included as an easter egg in DOTT) but Zak McKracken? Might as well have been lost to history until GOG rereleased it.
This seemed strange considering how well-loved all of the other LucasArts games are, but after having played through it now I completely understand why nobody ever talks about it. It’s because Zak McKracken sucks so badly it deserves to be thrown into the memory hole and never spoken of again.
I haven’t been playing much that’s new recently, so after a gap of several years I have decided to do another one of my concept pieces whereby I play through an older game series to see how it evolves over time. Unlike my prior attempts, because we are currently in the middle of a pandemic, and more importantly because I have half of the games already played and written up, I’m 90% sure I’m actually going to finish this one. The series in question is the point and click adventure games made by LucasArts in the late 80s and early 90s, and the reason I decided to do this is because I haven’t actually played most of them — I haven’t played anything before Monkey Island, and I haven’t played Full Throttle, or Sam & Max, or Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis. So this is going to be just as much a learning experience for me as it is a trip down memory lane, as I fill in some missing gaps in my gaming history and hopefully learn a little something about the evolution of adventure games in the process.
While waiting for a rather large file to download the other day I stumbled across my ScummVM install of Day of the Tentacle. Day of the Tentacle is special to me. Most people cite Grim Fandango or one of the Monkey Island games as the pinnacle of Lucasarts’ adventure game prowess, but for my money nothing can quite beat the time-travelling screwiness of Day of the Tentacle. It’s an adventure split into three different games in three different periods that both run in parallel and in series with each other; changes made in the past will affect the present, changes made in the present affect the future, and items can be traded between different time periods. This all combines to make the game a twisty brain-teaser that’s somewhat akin to trying to complete three jigsaw puzzles at once that constantly affect each other as you add more and more pieces; the sort of thing that would burn your brain out if Day of the Tentacle wasn’t charming and funny to boot. I can usually finish old Lucasarts adventures in less than three hours (unless they’re The Dig) since the solutions to all the puzzles tend to be indelibly etched into my noggin. Let’s see how long Day of the Tentacle takes me, shall we?