Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is the 1988 successor to Maniac Mansion. Successor in the sense that it uses the same game engine and gameplay style, but does not exist in the same universe.
You play a jaded reporter called Zak McKracken who wakes one day after having a surreal dream involving aliens. This dream proves to have a profound effect on Zak’s life, and he meets another person – a girl, called Annie Larris – who’s also had the same dream.
As a graphic adventure game, Zak McKracken is noticeably more refined and complex than Maniac Mansion, although it might not appear that way initially. It takes some effort to reach the part of the game where four individual characters become playable. The game also contains a few situations where – if you do the wrong thing – you can’t complete it. So can be frustrating.
That said: I think Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is brilliantly designed and great fun to play. Especially with a walkthrough, because some of the puzzles are relatively difficult to solve.
Compared to other SCUMM games Zak McKracken seems less about conversations and more about puzzles, and item and money management. And, of course, travel. You have to get used to buying plane tickets in this game – if you can first find your credit card…
Still available to buy on Steam and GOG.com today, Zak McKracken is arguably better even than Maniac Mansion. It’s all a matter of taste.