To celebrate August being C64 Month, we’re writing about a different Commodore 64 game every day! Start from the beginning here!

Zak McKracken introduced me to many weird things – alien telephone operators, Egyptian relics on the moon, and great pieces of art made from bent kitchen knives – but to me it’ll always be the game that introduced me to San Francisco.

Most of the games I played until then were set in some vague locale that I had no intention of ever going to, such as a military war zone, the furthest reaches of space, or a high school. The setting of Zak McKracken was different. Thin, colourful townhouses jutted against tiny eclectic shops that you could walk around with a sense of wonder, and the streets looked like something new was always around the corner.

The city was interesting and alive and so far away from my remote, desolate suburb that hosted one broken payphone, a closed water park and a dilapidated outdoor cinema that just played Brian Brown movies. I had to go there! The game – with its focus on a globe-trotting writer that explored the world in search of a world-saving scoop – pointed me towards becoming a journalist myself, in the hope I could see cool cities like this one.

Yes, Zak had all the classic ingredients of a good adventure game – solid puzzles, believable characters and enough humour to urge you towards the next plot point – but to me the sense of character that was given to the city made it so memorable.  

I ended up flying off to San Francisco for several work trips, completing a life goal that I had to wait almost 20 years for. Sure, there were no weird aliens trying to take over the world or places I could drop cultural artifacts off at, but the city was just as alive and magical as I always imagined it. I was just bummed I forgot to bring my Groucho Marx mask!

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