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The year is 1997 and the people of Earth are less intelligent than ever. Their stupidity is not their own fault though; aliens are slowly reducing everyone's IQ using a stupidity machine! These aliens have taken over the phone company located beneath Zak McKracken's apartment. Zak is a reporter for The National Inquisitor, a paper for which he creates unbelievable stories. Although Zak knows that something is up, no one will take him seriously thanks to how far-fetched the story sounds and the fact that he makes up similar stories every day for The National Inquisitor.
Fortunately for Zak, there are three other people who will help uncover the alien mindbenders and destroy the stupidity machine. Those three brave souls are Annie, the head of the Society of Ancient Wisdom, and her two friends, Leslie and Melissa, who are Yale coeds that have traveled to Mars in a modified van. Players take control of Zak at the start of the game while the other three main characters will become available for control after Zak meets them. Although only one character can be controlled at one time, players will need to switch between each of them in order to accomplish certain tasks.
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is a point-and-click adventure filled with puzzles that must be solved. Clues can be found via your actions, during the game's cut-scenes and by reading the copy of The National Inquisitor packaged with the game. Actions are performed by moving a cursor across a menu located at the bottom of the screen. Players will be able to click on such actions as "walk," "push," "open," "use," and "pick up." After selecting an action, players then click on the game screen to carry it out.
Along with searching the world for clues and solving all of the puzzles spread throughout the game, players will also have to manage their money. Zak has a credit card, but just like every other credit card, it has a limit. In order to complete the game, users will need to purchase items as well as plane tickets. While Zak begins the game in San Francisco, he will need to visit Seattle, Miami, Mexico, Peru, England, Zaire, Nepal, Egypt, and the Bermuda Triangle. Therefore, running up a high credit card bill will not be difficult — taking flights to locations before it is necessary can put an end to the game before you know it. Perhaps Zak might be able to figure out a way to win the lottery! ~ Jonathan Sutyak, All Game Guide