(This is part of my journey playing through Space Quest. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
As I’ve been going through this series on Space Quest, I’ve been thinking about why this game had an impact on me back when I was a kid. The answer I’ve come up with is that Space Quest and King’s Quest offered me something I really didn’t get from most of my computer games up through the mid-80s: a story. Sure, some had a bare-bones framework to hang gameplay off of, and there was the occasional RPG that had a tale if you dug in hard enough, but it was really the adventure games that devoted themselves to involving you in a fun story from beginning to end. That’s why the puzzles were so frustrating, because finding out what happened next in the story was such a compelling motivator.
Anyway, with the planet Kerona behind him, Roger Wilco blasts off to find the Sarien ship and be a hero for some reason. Can’t he just go report to the authorities and turn in the schematics for the Star Generator first, though? No? Oh well.
We park our ship a little ways away from the Deltaur, making me wonder why we’re not being blown out of the stars. I mean, they can look out of their windows and see us hanging there looking like the dopes we plainly are. Hi guys! Mind if we come onboard and blow you up real good?
So I’ve mentioned how unforgiving this game is, especially if you’re used to later-generation adventure titles. Here’s another good example: When you get to Ulence Flats (heh, flip those words around and say the phrase), a guy offers to buy your skimmer for $30. You have no reason to turn him down, but it’s only if you turn him down that he comes back with $30 and a jet pack. The very jet pack you need to survive at this point. So there’s an excellent chance that many players screwed themselves into a corner here, without really knowing why or how to fix it. Better have a LOT of save games in the Space Quest series, is all I’m saying!
With the jet pack on, it’s time to board the Deltaur on what is clearly a suicide mission. Major points here for a nod to realistic space physics, as your jet pack will send you in one direction until you fire thrusters the opposite way to stop.
Sneaking around isn’t really my style. Voluntarily climbing into washing machines apparently is, however. You’d think that this would be the prelude to another death sequence, but it’s actually what you need to do. Going through the wash cycle ends up dressing me up in a full Sarien uniform, complete with ID badge. What luck!
The game then messes with me by having Roger stumble, which costs him his helmet and secrecy. Now I have to kill using my gun, which is all fine and dandy except that on my laptop keyboard the F6 key requires two keypresses and ain’t nobody got time for dat.
From there, it’s a run (well, a slow walk — you can’t run in this game) down to the Star Generator, disable the force field, and key in the self-destruct code. What, you didn’t watch the data cartridge video back in the underground alien lair to learn the code? Well, you’re completely out of luck, my friend. I, however, am not.
Boom goes the ship and Roger soars off in an escape pod (again) to victory.
There’s a funny little award ceremony at the end, as Roger is presented with (wait for it) a golden mop. Is gold even worth anything in the future? Did you just take a normal mop and glaze it with gold or did you craft a non-functional, non-absorbant mop out of gold? Do you really need an old-fashioned mop for a high-tech society? Am I overthinking all of this?
Wow, that was a really short game — much shorter than I remember from my childhood. I guess not knowing the puzzles and all of the ways that you can get trapped into not advancing further were huge speedbumps for the time, even if they weren’t fair.
So what did I think? The nostalgia factor was strong as I remembered most all of this (except, oddly enough, the underground scenes). It was amusing in parts but rarely laugh-out-loud funny. The deaths are really the star attraction. For the most part, I didn’t like Roger’s very limited interaction with NPCs and how isolated I felt playing him.
The graphics are still pretty servicable for 2014, in a quaint, extremely low-res way. There was a remake in the early 90s of this game that used “modern” graphics and tweaked the puzzles somewhat, but that would have felt unfair to play. I do want to jump right into Space Quest II, if that’s OK with you, so let’s put a capstone on this playthrough and move on.