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Can one hack writer, two Yale coeds, and a stale loaf of french bread save the world from a galactic conspiracy? Not without your help.—Cover blurb
The game tells the story of a tabloid journalist named Zak, who has a dream about space aliens on Mars, who wear ten-gallon hats and Groucho Marx nose glasses. When he awakens, he finds himself uncovering a conspiracy by the alien Caponians, who are using the Phone Company in a not very hidden plot to try and Take Over the World.
The game featured many technical improvements on its predecessor, including a storyline that takes Zak all the way around the world, and an interesting system whereby the various characters have adventures independent of each other (two of the playable characters are introduced as space adventurers on Mars, literally a world away from the bits with Zak).
Tropes Used In This Game Include:
- Adaptation Dye Job: In the FM Towns version, Leslie's hair was changed from blue to white.
- Baguette Beatdown: You could use the stale baguette from the Bakery next door to kill the two-headed squirrel.
- The Bermuda Triangle: You simply fly here whenever you want to get abducted by the aliens. This is actually very convenient.
- But Thou Must!: the mind-bending machine has a big switch with two positions that are both labeled "on"...
- Call It Karma: The Guru will not help you if you killed Sushi or the Squirrel. Unless you bribe him.
- Catch Phrase: See Ya.
- Chainsaw Good: You find a can of gas ("For chainsaw use only!") in a locker on Mars as an in-joke, with the player character refusing to pick it up because "It's for another game."
- Copy Protection: A symbol dialing screen, accessed every time Zak or Annie book a flight arriving outside of the United States. If you fail this, the character is transported to jail, with the Jailor turning towards the camera lecturing you not to pirate the game.
- This was removed for the 1991 FM Towns port of the game.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet: Parodied, the Caponians are led by an Elvis impersonator named "The King".
- Fan Sequel: At least three sets of fans have set about creating a sequel: 1) Zak McKracken: Between Time and Space and 2) Zak McKracken and the Alien Rockstars, and 3) The New Adventures of Zak McKracken
- Feelies: The game came with a free issue of The Daily Inquisitor, the tabloid the protagonist works for. Several of the articles provide vital hints, such as how lightning can mend crystals
- Homemade Inventions: Zak makes a space suit out of a wetsuit, a fish bowl (leaving his fish in the kitchen) and copious amounts of duct tape. However, he'll also need an air tank or he will suffocate.
- I Can't Use These Things Together: "That doesn't seem to work."
- The Maze: The game has several mazes, most of which are easily mappable, and certain others that are random, but that you automatically get out of after three rooms.
- Money to Throw Away: If you make use of The King's lottery number prediction machine, that is! But even then, Zak is doing awfully well for himself despite being a tabloid reporter, if his CashCard balance is to be believed.
- Painting the Fourth Wall: The game represents the eponymous character's eponymous treatment by emptying his set of commands and having them gradually return as he recovers.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Caponians in their hats and Groucho glasses, who also get fooled by the same disguise that Zak later wears. They only see through it in two cases.
- The Pennyfarthing Effect: You won't get an item's name when you mouse over it unless you're using the "What Is" verb. This makes it very hard to distinguish that some of the background objects are usable.
- Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity: The plot revolves around aliens who took over the phone company and are sending out a signal that makes people stupid.
- Shout-Out: Miami is closed for Repairs
- Space Suits Are Scuba Gear: Zak literally builds a space suit of a set of SCUBA gear (and a fishbowl).
- Unwinnable by Design / Unwinnable By Mistake: There were only certain courses one could take to save the world, so if a previous action made them impossible...I for one will welcome our new Caponian overlords.
- Mind you, this game was released early in Lucas Arts history, when they were still in the process of figuring out their design philosophy.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Leaving aside what Zak has to do to the stewardess, he can also kill animals in inventive ways (e.g., bludgeoning the two-headed squirrel, running his goldfish Sushi through the garbage disposal). '
- To elaborate, during a regular flight, Zak floods the toilet, uses the distraction to explode an egg in the microwave, then uses that as a distraction to steal a seat cushion and an oxygen tank. The stewardess has to clean up both messes.