Lucasfilm/US Gold, C64 £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99
Go on, do it name a fate worse than death. Being stampeded by a herd of sheep in green wellies? Being forced into close hair-to-hair contact with Gordon Houghton's blubber belly (aaargh! I can't stand it!!)? Swallowing ten gallons of cod liver oil in one go without breathing, being forced to listen to a bloke screeching his ten foot nails down a blackboard for FIVE DAYS? Pretty bad, eh?
Ha! Still not as bad as the fate Zak McKracken faces. Nope, not half as bad as that, not a tiny weeny bit as bad as that. I mean, if you were just an average, ordinary newspaper journalist trying to make a crust reporting about two-headed squirrels and the like, you'd be pretty horrified if you found out that nasty bald-headed aliens were trying to invade the world. Shock, horror an' all that and everyfin'. And how are they trying to invade it? They're slowly sapping everybody's intelligence so that they end up as stupid as Maff... er... I mean as very stupid people in the end.
Now Zak's clever and he wants to stay that way, so he and (eventually) his three companions, Annie, Leslie and Melissa try to hit on a way to save the world. Cue very loud fanfare, MGM music, hymns and songs.
Zak's saga is play out pretty much in the style of Lucasfilm's other joystick operated adventure game - Maniac Mansion. The action of Zak and his mates is controlled using cursor, joystick and a menu system of possible commands and displayed a bit like a film in the top half of the screen. Basically, you move the cursor over verbs like WALK TO and USE and then move it over the appropriate object either on the screen or in your inventory. Easy eh?
It's up to you and your own little set of brain cells (whaddya mean you haven't got any?) to direct Zak from his humble first floor flat to Miami, Stonehenge, Mexico, Seattle and finally... wait for it, wait for it... MARS. Wooh!
Meantime, Zak can go into all sorts of different shops, buy a Groucho Marx disguise, watch TV, play with his pet sushi (er... yeah), get on buses, turn on taps, talk to religious devotees, try to map a Mayan maze in Mexico, look for a space suit (vot no helmet?), collect ancient artifacts, mess about with holographic projectors, explore secret chambers, try to survive an encounter with a shark and play the kazoo to his heart's content (phew! That was a long sentence and that's only about half the things you can do). It might not always do any good but anything's worth a try when the future of the world's at stake. Well it is, innit?
Every now and again the action's interrupted by cut-scenes. Whassemthem? Little cinematic scenarios designed to let you know what's going on, that's what. You don't control these you just sit quietly with your legs crossed and watch.
When you finally meet up with one of the other three characters (and remember, you're all gonna be heroes) you can even select SWITCH to become a girly. Far out!
And that's about it really. Well, OK, there's quite a lot more but to find about all that, you'll just have to play it, won't you?
Zzap, Issue 47, March 1989, pp.70-71