(This is part of my journey playing through Space Quest. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
After that very, very long (but entertaining!) trip through Gabriel Knight 2, I thought we’d return to simpler times for a faster playthrough of one of my all-time favorite games: Space Quest.
My association with Space Quest began in junior high, when a copy of this game had been installed in our school’s computer lab. I think our teacher was just glad that we were interacting with computers, period, and didn’t so much care that we were playing games instead of programming. So I had the pleasure of not only going through this wacky adventure title, but doing so alongside of friends who were figuring stuff out as well. Multiplaying adventure games can be really social!
As King’s Quest was to fairy tales and fantasy, so Space Quest was to science-fiction, Star Wars, and Star Trek. The first installment — The Sarien Encounter — came out in 1986 and used the same parser and look of King’s Quests 1 and 2, but instead of being some noble wanna-be king, you were a space janitor. And not a very good one at that. The series went on to parody and lampoon wide swaths of the scifi genre (at least as we knew it up to that point in time) and had an even greater sense of humor and sarcasm than King’s Quest did. I liked it because as a fan of both Trek and Wars, I was “in the know” and got plenty of the in-jokes and sly references. Plus, the many deaths of Roger Wilco never failed to amuse.
However, even for a short game it was kind of tough and unforgiving, as early adventure titles could be. Sierra took the “trial and error” approach pretty seriously and it was weeks before I could beat it as a kid. Let’s see if I can do better today!
GOG supplied me with the original EGA version, not the VGA remake, so this is as authentic as it gets. Man, listen to that theme! Kind of catchy, even today.
So this is Roger Wilco, janitor of the ship Arcada. The game really does start you in medias res, as Roger stumbles out of a closet after a nap to find that the ship is on red alert and has been boarded. I got myself killed so many times before leaving this ship, because you’re unarmed and if you bump into any bad guys you get creamed. Made me absolutely paranoid.
Oh yeah: The ship is also set to self-destruct. Basically, I’m screwed either way.
It doesn’t take too long to find one of the titular Sariens. Thanks so much for making my day, dude!
Reload. Next to Roger’s closet is the Arcada’s library, which is a startlingly accurate vision of the far-flung future in which you must use a 400-pound terminal to order a slow-moving robot to retrieve a data cartridge. Roger wouldn’t have done so, I imagine, except for the dying scientist who stumbles in and urges the janitor to grab information pertaining to “astral body” and vamoose.
Have I said how much I love this game’s sense of humor? It’s dry and blunt and completely un-subtle. Just like a good breakfast cereal.
Getting off the Arcada isn’t too hard as long as you duck off to a new screen or inside a door if you hear footsteps coming. Of course, if you’re an idiot like me who likes to wander out in hard vacuum, then you might find that getting off the ship is quite painful.
Escaping the ship requires nabbing a key card from the aforementioned dead guy, opening up the bay doors, finding (and wearing) a spacesuit, and activating the remaining escape pod. So… this ship has just one pod? I also grab a translater gadget because you just know that’s going to come in handy later on.
But… but… I wanna! I wanna!
Fine, let’s blow this joint first.
Hooray! I’m going to die anyway! Wheeeeeeee!
Might as well push that button…
OK, seriously, how awesome is this? The game makes your escape pod crash-land into King’s Quest 1’s moat. And you die. But you die in a very memorable way, which is pretty much the best reward that this game can bestow.