Nostalgia Lane: Space Quest 1-3

In junior high, the world of computers ceased to be a teaching novelty and became a standard institution in our school.  Computer class was the highlight of every day, mostly because our teacher would let us fart around as long as we were “learning” something.  That was when he showed us the wonders of CompuServe, where we could — gasp! — learn the skiing conditions in Colorado in real time through modems.

Computer class was also where my friends and I traded games, and some of our favorites were the adventure games that were omnipresent in the 80s.  King’s Quest, Police Quest, the Infocom games, and even the forbidden fruit of Leisure Suit Larry.  However, when I first booted up Space Quest I in that class, I knew I found my one true love.

Similar to how King’s Quest lampooned the fantasy/fable genre, Space Quest set out to snark on scifi in all its incarnations — but mostly Star Wars and Star Trek.  Instead of a bold, muscular hero, you stepped into the slightly damp shoes of Roger Wilco, space janitor.  Wilco would’ve lived his life free of adventures if destiny was not thrust upon him.  In the events of the first game, he becomes the sole survivor of an alien attack on his ship (because he was napping in a closet), and has to escape and escape and escape some more.

Unlike other adventure games — such as a bulk of LucasArt’s titles — you could and would die frequently in Space Quest.  Horrible deaths around every corner was a fact of life, and only by trial and error and a very small amount of wits could you live long enough to see the next plot twist.

Adventure games relied on their stories as the reward that propelled you forward — in order to get the next slice of the tale, you’d have to solve a puzzle, figure out a tricky conversation, or accomplish a task with an obscure arrangement of random tools.  Space Quest was better than its contemporaries in giving you a good reason to keep progressing, because the story was flat-out hilarious, and crazy easter eggs were hidden everywhere.  As a die hard Trekkie in the late 80s (and a considerable Star Wars fan as well), I found all of the obvious references hilarious, although I’m sure they wouldn’t stack up as well today.

I only played the first three titles all the way through — Space Quest III was a particular favorite — and for a solo game, it was a surprisingly social experience.  Back before the internet, there was no easy source of help when you got stuck in these games (and you WOULD get stuck), which meant that teams of friends playing the same game would become the main resource for each other.  We’d collaborate on tricky spots, and race against each other to see how far we could progress that night (or during class) to boast about it the next day.

I heard the main guys behind Space Quest left the series (or were booted) mid-way through, which caused the later installments to be a little less dependable in quality and laughs.  I wouldn’t know, as I moved on, but I’ll always remember my tour of duty on the Arcada with fondness.

12 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: Space Quest 1-3

  1. Waafer August 24, 2010 / 8:59 am

    I miss the days of having to call up friends to figure out exactly what to do next in a game. I remember doing this frequently while playing through Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Anywho, good post Syp!

  2. Waafer August 24, 2010 / 9:00 am

    Also, did you ever play any of the Journeyman Project games? (Think of them as more in the vein of the Myst series.)

  3. Jacob August 24, 2010 / 9:45 am

    For what it’s worth SQ 4-6 are pretty good games and still funny.

  4. ernesto benelli August 24, 2010 / 10:40 am

    I remember Maniac Mansion on the C64… the SCUMM platform. That for me was so awesome. All my friends had the just gotten the NES and I was the only one with a C64. They would all come over and look puzzled at the 5.25 disk and the even more insane cassette player for the C64. Great times.

  5. Azz August 24, 2010 / 10:48 am

    SQ3 was the best of the series by far. I spent hours as a kid playing through that tone. Good ol’ Aluminum Mallard and the Scumsoft boys. I think SQ2 was a close second.

  6. Thomas August 24, 2010 / 11:45 am

    I had the mid 90’s version of the SQ collection but never got around to playing any of them. I was more into King’s Quest, Quest for Glory, & Monkey Island.

  7. Syp August 24, 2010 / 11:48 am

    @Waafer – No, I didn’t, any good?

  8. We Fly Spitfires August 24, 2010 / 11:52 am

    They should totally make a Leisure Suit Larry MMO 😛

  9. Tesh August 24, 2010 / 12:07 pm

    I still love The Dig. The Quest for Glory games are great, too.

    Somehow I never did play Space Quest. With 1-3 on Good Old Games, I might just have to go back and take a ride.

  10. Artagus August 24, 2010 / 1:44 pm

    Loved this time in gaming. It took me days to figure out how to beat the Bounty Hunter in SQ3, and when I did….yes, I did a happy dance.

    In fact…one of my first characters in an MMO was Phleebhut.

    Great games, good memories, loads of fun.

  11. PeterD August 24, 2010 / 2:48 pm

    Don’t forget the phone hint lines! For an amount of money I don’t remember you could call up the developer and get automated hints to help you through stuck points.

    And . . . computer class in Junior High? Now I feel old. We didn’t have no stinkin’ computers when i was in junior high (or high school, for that matter). We used our abacus and were glad for it, dagnabbit!

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