(This is part of my journey playing through Space Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
While I won’t deny that the time travel angle of this game is really a clever hook, I do have one giant beef with it: The buttons in the time pod are near-impossible to make out, at least on my screen. Plus, you have to remember (or have written down) the codes to the previous eras so you can get back. I? I did not write down these codes. This would have been a huge problem in the early 90s, less so in the age of the all-knowing internet.
After diverting to two (three?) other Space Quests, we’re finally back in Space Quest XII. Roger’s got to dive to the bottom of all of this to figure out what in tarnation is going on. At least he’s got matches to help. Evil can’t withstand the awesome power of a matchbook, or so I’m told.
A little acidic slime puts this lock to shame and Roger begins to poke about the innards of Vohaul’s time fortress. Man, good thing I abducted that slime all the way back at the start of the game, no?
The matches come in handy for the next part, which is a tunnel filled with invisible laser beams. Using that disgusting half-chewed cigar from his ex-boss at Monolith Burger, Roger lights up and uses the smoke to make out the lasers. Kids: Smoking IS good for your health! Video games proved it!
If H.R. Geiger and M.C. Escher had a love-child, it would probably result in this place. Unfortunately, it’s here that Roger hits a (technological) stone wall: a computer terminal jack that’s incompatible with the little laptop he’s been lugging around since the first part.
If playing virtual IT guy isn’t fun enough, Roger’s also got to contend with another one of these spider/probe droids tracking him down throughout Vohaul’s fortress. This requires a lot of running all over the place, which is just so dang annoying because of the confusing walkways. This is where I imagine sadistic devs templing their fingers, narrowing their eyes, and hissing, “Oh, they’ll HATE this part! Ho ho ho!”
Finally, Roger whips out his (wait for it) pocketpal (wait for it) computer and gets to work. I imagine that this screen sends shudders of nostalgia or loathing for those who might recall the old Mac UI. And wow, look at that available memory! Yes kids, KB used to be a thing. Before MB. And GB. And now, I guess, TB. Fiddling around with this interface, Roger initiates a countdown to formatting. I don’t recall formatting countdowns back in the day, just screams of “holy CRAP what did I just DO.”
Roger finally makes it into the inner sanctum, where he encounters Vohaul… inhabiting Roger’s son’s body. Wait what? Oh, time travel. Man, do I have a headache. Also, how do you just take over someone’s body like that?
Vohaul starts attacking while warning Roger that this is a lose-lose proposition: Either Roger dies or Roger Jr. does.
Or third option: Roger shoves Vohaul into the mind-body transfer beam, retrieves the delightfully archaic 3.5″ floppy with his son’s memory on it, and swaps that back. Kobyashi Maru tests don’t sit well with the Wilco clan! Cue a lengthy reunion (of a weird sort), a vision of Roger’s future wife (Beatrice), and a happy game over.
I think my expectations for this entry might have been a little too high. There’s a lot to be enjoyed here, after all: a snarky narrator, the whole concept of time travel, and an actual story. Some of the puzzles were a little too spread out and abstract, but for the most part pretty logical and rewarding.
Still, I was pretty tepid on Space Quest IV by the end. Maybe I’ve just done too many of these in a row, but I didn’t find it especially funny or containing as many of the trademark parodies of other scifi franchises. And the voice acting was… pretty bad. Sometimes to the point of being insulting. We can make allowances for the fact that having this much voice in a game in the early 90s was amazing in and of itself, but… I wasn’t buying it, most of the time. I also wish they had done more with visiting Space Quests 1-3, considering that this entry would be the final one that both of the Two Guys from Andromeda worked on together.
I think I’ll put a bookmark in the Space Quest series for now and try my hand at a darker RPG for our next retro playthrough.