Space Quest 6: Stripped and strapped for cash

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1995’s Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I had originally planned to start a completely different game this week for Retro Gaming, but finishing up Space Quest V last week put a weird burr in my saddle about going into the next one and finishing up the series. It wasn’t just for a sense of completion, although that’s part of it, but out of a curiosity to see if Space Quest 6 is really as bad as I’ve heard. I guess “bad” isn’t the term I should use here; “disappointing” or “different” is more apt. So why not? Let’s put a cap on this series and see how it went out!

Space Quest 6 came out in 1995 and featured a lot of changes from previous installments. It was primarily designed by Josh Mandel (King’s Quest V, Dagger of Amon Ra) with some assistance by Scott Murphy. Mark Crowe, the “other” Guy from Andromeda, wasn’t present at all for this one, which might be why Part 6 here seems to gloss over so much that happened in the previous game. Voice acting and narrator Gary Owens (Space Ghost) returned after skipping a game in the series. And the visual style, as we’ll see, is a radical departure from the pixel art of the previous five games. It’s more… cartoony and Flash-style, if I had to describe it. Not horrible, but it definitely takes some getting used to. Also — and this really bugs me — they picked the sixth part to break from doing Roman numerals. Was that supposed to be a joke? If so, it’s not very funny. OK, let’s get started.

As we begin Space Quest… sigh… 6, Roger Wilco has gone from a galaxy-saving hero to scapegoat. StarCon brings him up on charges for killing Quirk and perpetuating a sequel and other nonsense, all while saying that he did return the Eureka. Which, for anyone who actually played through the end of Space Quest V, got blown up well and good. So in the first few seconds of this game, all of Roger’s previous accomplishments, captain posting, and budding relationship with Beatrice are thrown out the window. He’s stripped of rank (and generally stripped) and sentenced to the DeepShip 86 to work as a janitor. I guess that’s his lot in life.

Very first impressions here, but there’s actually a few reasons to be hopeful. Already I’m finding the jokes and narration a lot more funny than in the previous game, and the new art style does allow for a lot better facial gestures and consistent portrayals of Roger.

The captain of the ship looks a LOT like one of Wing Commander’s Kilrathi (which is a pretty dated reference at this point), and he gets in a terrific joke as he thanks the crew for their previous work. For about 30 seconds, he just says “thank you” over and over and over again, I guess thanking each of them personally. It’s silly and stupid and I loved it.

The crew of DeepShip 86 is given permission to head down to a rather seedy planet for some R&R, and Roger finds himself teleported right into the pavement. Unbeknownst to him — but knownst to the player — a shadowy figure outside the galaxy has ordered his abduction for sinister reasons.

After extracting himself from the street, Roger explores this dump of a planet. As the narrator says, he hasn’t been to an arcade for a sequel or two now, so why not visit?

So here’s something funny I discovered: If you leave Roger alone for a while, he’ll start whistling the Space Quest theme. Cute.

And if there’s an arcade in a Space Quest game, there’s a playable minigame to go with it! In this edition, it’s Stooge Fighter III, in which the Three Stooges battle it out with slaps and other goofy attacks. It’s pretty cleverly done, even if the computer grossly cheats.

Eventually, Roger gets an actual mission — to hunt down a rogue Endodroid. It’s basically another Arnold Terminator parody with the same sort of lethal reaction to Roger’s presence. Never actually seen my internal organs ripped out before, but there you go. Thanks, Space Quest 6!

Turnabout is fair play, and Roger freezes the endodroid with liquid nitrogen and shatters him into ice cubes. This only works for a little while — the endodroid ends up melting and reconfiguring — but at least it’s long enough to get paid for the job!

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