Space Quest 6: Jamming in cyberspace

(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.)

Inside the anti-anomaly as Roger flees from StarCon, he activates the manual override to help plot a course to Stellar. I’m sorry, I meant Manuel Auxveride, a holographic co-pilot. I do love some dorky wordplay. Roger gets to work repairing the largely busted shuttle so that Manuel can take him to his sort-of girlfriend.

I haven’t killed Roger for a while, so I decided to take a trip outside the shuttle without a suit — with predictable results.

Ripley (or a close approximation thereof) from the Aliens franchise shows up to give Roger a jump. She’s weirdly flirty with him before leaving. I liked how the alien climbed aboard her ship right before she left. Better there than in Roger’s shuttle!

Hey, it’s Fester Blatz, the alien shopkeeper again! Roger has to get a cyberjack to help reach Stellar, and going back to the starting planet of this game is the only way to make that happen. I’d totally trust this guy to slice me open, wouldn’t you?

Inside cyberspace, Roger embarks on the latest leg of his bizarre journey. We must remember that the mid-1990s was obsessed with the idea of a virtual cyberspace, although you simpletons probably don’t understand how cool it was. I’ll let Julia Stiles explain it to you:

Oh and we never referred to the internet as the internet. It was either the “world wide web” or the “information superhighway.”

We will never be this cool as a society ever again. GeoCities, save us from ourselves!

I’m not even being a smidge ironic or sarcastic when I say this: I kind of really miss the look and feel of Windows 3.1. That was when your desktop actually felt exciting instead of something you ignore unless you’re changing your wallpaper.

After a long and tedious slog through the computer’s files, Roger finds a reference to “Project Immortality” — an attempt to live forever. The old lady that tried to gas Roger and kidnapped Stellar is behind it, as is the brainy Dr. Beleauxs. It’s kind of late in the game to drop an actual plot into it, but I guess better late than never?

Space Quest 6: The one with Tango and 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.)

Fresh off of Stellar’s funeral, Roger is a bit stunned to get a call from her saying something about her death being faked. I want to take a minute to talk about the voice acting in this game, because it’s really not good. It’s not Space Quest IV levels of bad, but it’s obvious that they didn’t look that hard to find quality actors beyond the narrator. That’s a shame, because many of the deliveries here fail to land what would have been great jokes. Anyway, there’s a conspiracy to unmask!

I might be one of six individuals in the universe who deeply loves Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis is a really funny guy), but I do need to note that this is about the third time the game’s dropped a Tango & Cash reference. It wasn’t THAT popular of a film, guys. Did the game’s writer marathon it on HBO or something?

Anyway, the captain of the DeepShip isn’t going to go off on a rescue mission, so it’s up to Roger’s own ingenuousness to figure out a solution. Down in the dumps, Roger has a heart-to-heart with his good (and, previous to this, unknown by the player) friend Sydney. Sydney is a Data counterpart, so he’s an android with stilted speech and weird skin. Also, he literally gives Roger a hand — and an arm. And an eye.

I can’t help but laugh at how absurdly dark it is that Roger is totally OK with asking his friend to dismember himself. Well, whatever helps us beat the game!

Roger attempts to strong-arm his way into the shuttle bay with a good ol’ fashioned Vulgar neck pinch, but the other guard catches him and tosses Roger in the brig.

To bust out, Roger creates a life-sized version of himself from a mound of food. It’s actually one of the more creative solutions I’ve seen in adventure games. Thank goodness the guard is really nearsided!

Getting sent to the brig was the only way to get a donut to load up with drugs for the other guard to eat. When he munches on it, the guard does this extended cartoon sequence where he transforms into a bunch of different things, including a statue, a cow, and… Elton John? Sure, why not. Sydney’s arm helps to hit two switches at the same time, so thanks again, Syd!

Finally, Roger’s able to get into the shuttlebay and get on with the rescue! There are several shuttles here from various scifi franchises. My favorite is the Aliens drop ship in the lower right.

There’s no going back now! The shuttle lifts off as Storm Poopers arrive on the scene, shooting each other up in their enthusiasm. Roger dumps StarCon like a hot potato and heads out into an anti-anomaly in his search for Stellar.

Space Quest 6: Stellar entry

(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.)

Speaking of being down and out, Roger bumps into Elmo Pug. You know, the head of the ScumSoft Corp in Space Quest III and the target for Roger’s merciless beating vis-à-vis giant robots. Elmo’s fallen on hard times and become a drunk who sells cheat sheets for arcade games. Sounds like just the thing Roger needs to win at Stooge Fighter III!

Man, even E.T. is slumming it here? Roger needs to get off this planet ASAP.

Alas, that doesn’t look like it’ll happen — at least, not the way he’d want. Roger is kidnapped by a couple of beefy aliens and held in their dorky man cave. It takes a long time to figure a way out, but eventually Roger gets past the two dorks, activates a homing beacon, and is rescued by a StarCon crewmate.

Said crewmate is Stellar, a completely new character with a severely wrinkled forehead who seems to be infatuated with Roger (the girl, not the forehead). He’s interested but reluctant, fearing Beatrice’s wrath if he ever cheated on her. I don’t know how I feel about the game suddenly throwing this woman at Roger without any explanation as to… why… she’s interested in him or when they met, but at least he has an ally on the ship.

Meanwhile, the captain gets orders to go assist some craggy-looking crone with a project. I love the bridge of the DeepShip here, it’s packed with so many great details, like the SNES controls and the cat bed and cat litter for the captain.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Roger and Stellar start to try to figure out who tried to kidnap him. It’s here that we see — in what I think is a first for the series — Roger’s bedroom on the ship. You’d think that a janitor would be more sanitary, but no, it’s a dump. It’s good for several funny call-backs to previous games, as Roger has a lot of mementos from his adventures to date here — including his golden mop from the first game.

And speaking of mops, Roger gets a mission from the captain to beam down to another planet and clean the quarters of some old hag. This pulse-pounding action is exactly what people signed up for when they bought this game. Actually, it does get a bit more interesting, as the doors lock and gas starts pouring in through the vents thanks to the hag triggering a little remote under her blankets. I have to say that, so far, it’s really hard to die in this game, especially compared to earlier Space Quest entries. I had to wait like two minutes before Roger croaked here.

Stellar beams down to help Roger get out of the room, but she’s trapped and left behind. An explosion sounds and Roger lets out the predictable “STELLAR!” She’s assumed to be killed, and so the crew has a funeral for her back on the ship. I love that Roger reuses Kirk’s funeral eulogy from Star Trek II, albeit with a minor change (“Of all the souls I have encountered on my journey, hers was the most… scuff-resistant!”).

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!

Space Quest V: Clean up on aisle five

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Enough being the puke target of Quirk and the mutants — Roger is going to take the fight to the Goliath. The Eureka arrives at Commodore LXIV (it’s an old computer joke, forget it) and uses W-D40’s old cloak to hide from the massive ship.

With the Goliath’s shields up, the only hope of getting aboard is the old fashioned “board a pod and fly over there and then cut through the hull with a laser torch” method. Just like grandma taught.

The ship’s pretty much an ooze-covered mess, and Roger has to creep his way through it to avoid getting spotted by the guards. And since this is heading into the final stretch of the game, the developers did what they usually do in adventure games — and jam in an unfortunate maze segment. Seriously, there is no person on this planet who begged for mazes to be added into their adventure games. They’re never enjoyable, just time slogs designed to hold off the end as long as possible.

Stupidly long crawling section later, and Roger is captured by the mutated bridge crew of the Goliath. It’s not looking good for our hero, but at that very moment…

…W-D40 appears and blasts everyone with freezing nitrogen rays. From her, ahem, chest cannons? Really, the above image is a perfect example of the mature humor in this game. (And as an aside, I really do love the comic book panel story cutscenes they use here — they’re way more interesting to me than modern CGI scenes).

Cliffy uses the transporter to extract the pukoid slime from the crew’s bodies and sends it into space. That’s when the Eureka does what it does best — suck it up and put it with the rest of the trash. Unfortunately, the blob is alive and can’t be held for much longer.

Roger orders “abandon ship” and activates the self-destruct. If you at home have tears rolling down your cheeks at this heroic act, I do not blame you.

Evading the blob monster, Roger grabs Beatrice and Spike and heads for the transporter. I love that he sends Beatrice on the transporter first just to see if it works. I mean, if she died here, then — as the game has pointed out — they wouldn’t get married, have a son, and that son wouldn’t travel back in time to save Roger in Space Quest IV.

Anyway, everyone arrives safe on the Goliath and the toxic sludge is finally blown up for good. It’s a very happy ending for everyone involved, and a high point in Roger’s career!

Final Thoughts: I held off on playing Space Quest V for a decade because I thought it was the horrible game in the series. I think that’s the sixth one, but in any case, I’m delighted to realize that I was wrong. It may not have been the funniest game, but it had a pretty good story and did something different by having Roger establish relationships with an ongoing crew and captain a starship. The music was so-so and the lack of voice-overs glaring, but the pixel art is among the finest the series had to date. All in all, it’s a pretty darn good game — and now it’s over!

Space Quest V: A fly in the ointment, Hans

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Well, there’s nothing like freezing your future wife to keep her from mutating to put a sparkle in your day! Roger’s life is nothing if not complex, a state that is exacerbated by the Pukoid-crewed Goliath coming around to attack the Eureka.

It is kind of cool that you get the opportunity to order your crew about as if you were an actual starship captain. Those asteroids give me an idea… an idea to watch Empire Strikes Back and learn from Han Solo’s approach to star destroyer evasion. Into the asteroid field we go!

The ship is safe for the moment, but she’s taken damage. Cliffy heads out on an EVA to make repairs, but then kind of loses his grip and goes floating away. Well, I guess it’s that time of day, the time of day when we have to keep rescuing our chief engineer. Comes around every 11:00 am, it does.

Roger heads out in the Eureka’s pod to snag the engineer. As I found out, if you run out of fuel or oxygen during this EVA, the pod is sucked down into the atmosphere and burns up. In one of the funnier game over screens, aliens on the planet below make a wish on Roger’s “shooting star.”

With the ship and Cliffy safe, the next priority is to find a cure for Beatrice. This means a trip to Genetix, the laboratory that made the toxic sludge that caused the Pukazoids. Unfortunately — and “unfortunately” is a word you use a lot with Roger in these games — when he beams down, Roger and a fly get mixed up. The fly gets Roger’s body, and vice versa.

While Cliffy works on getting the transporter straightened out, Roger pokes around Genetix and discovers a computer with all sorts of info. The toxic sludge is actually a project to help terraform nasty worlds, but somewhere along the line it started turning healthy critters into mutants. Also, there’s clear evidence that Quirk was taking bribes to offload the sludge and hide it around the galaxy. This is my surprised face.

Eventually, Cliffy figures out how to reverse the fly/human situation and separate the two. Not-at-all funny bug puns abound.

But the transporter mishap might’ve been a blessing in disguise. Spike, of all crew members, figures out that Cliffy might be able to remove the mutated DNA from Beatrice with the same technique he just used on Roger. But if you ever play this, don’t do what I did, which is to take Beatrice out of the cryo chamber before defrosting her. She literally fell apart in my hands. Fun fact: You can also cook her in the cryo chamber. Not that I did. Because I’m totally not a monster.

Beatrice is saved, information is retrieved, and the Pukoids’ extreme aversion to cold is revealed. It’s time to head back to the Goliath and see if Quirk and crew can’t be brought to heel.

Space Quest V: The toxic avenger

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Well, here’s an interesting development. Following Roger’s bizarre rescue of Cliffy via space monkey sabotage on the Spacebar, Flo has taken a keen interest in the captain. As in, she’s offering him backrubs and innuendo with increasing frequency. Considering that Flo’s had like a dozen husbands and is angry at all of them, it’s probably best if Roger steers clear of getting entangled in her love life.

Here’s another interesting development on the Eureka: W-D40 has been rebuilt and reprogrammed to become a member of the crew. At this point, the ship is starting to look like a cozy family rather than an uncomfortable collection of work associates. Give us a cuddle, W-D40!

In any case, at the next trash pickup job, the crew discover that (a) there is no trash, and (b) the colony below isn’t answering any hails. This calls for an investigation. Upon beaming down, Drool and Roger find a deserted, trashed colony that’s absolutely creepy in its silence.

It’s not completely deserted, however. A mutant leaps out and tries to hawk green spit in Roger’s face to make him “pretty.”

I think it’s an improvement! Too bad you can’t play out the rest of the game looking like this. Anyway, if Roger dodges enough of these toxic loogies, Drool comes along to blast the mutant off of him. The mutant, uh, un-mutizes for some reason and gasps out “bad soup… secret path… over the ridge” before dying. Guess the entire colony got turned into these discount X-Men. The colony’s activity log says that the Goliath — Quirk’s ship — arrived a few weeks back, then attacks by mutants started happening, until finally the whole colony was converted and the rest of the mutants took off in a shuttle. After a short hike up the ridge, Roger confirms that there is a canister of some sort of genetic toxic waste, dumped there by a corporation. That ain’t not good.

Oh, and it gets even better. I mean, worse. The Eureka gets a mayday from the Goliath, saying that it is being infiltrated by the colony mutants. A brief cutscene shows that the mutation is spreading everywhere. Captain Quirk looks positively hungover in his new form. The crew decidedes to head over to Thrakus and investigate. There’s an escape pod from the Goliath that landed on the surface, which means another planetary EVA.

Of course, it’d help if Roger wore a breathing mask when he went down into a toxic atmosphere with a breathing mask.

It turns out that Beatrice was the sole non-mutated survivor of the Goliath, which Roger discovers when she ambushes him and rolls him off a cliff. About the point where she’s pulling his pants down to keep from falling, she realizes her mistake — and the real mutants show up. She says they’re “Pukoids,” because of the toxic puke, and who am I to argue? The pair escape in the nick of time by being beamed back up to the ship.

The good news is that Beatrice pulled the Goliath’s warp core distributor cap, keeping the ship from going to lite speed and endangering the rest of the galaxy. The bad news is that Beatrice got slimed and she’s going to mutate. The only thing that Roger can do for her at the moment is put her into cryosleep and hope to find a cure. That’s what we call a real “meet cute” in the biz.

Space Quest V: Killing time at the Spacebar

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The crew of the Eureka is tired and frazzled (from what? Roger’s the one who’s been handling all the work and threats of execution), so the ship heads over to the famed Spacebar. You get it? Like the thing on your keyboard? But a bar? GET IT? You better get it. At least Droole and what’s-her-name are pretty excited to have some R&R.

Welcome to the Spacebar. It’s not that remarkable, but it does capture the Marriott conference room feeling of Star Trek: The Next Generation pretty well. And yes, for real, Space Quest V was sponsored by Sprint, so that logo pops up all over the place. There isn’t much to do here other than order drinks, so that’s what the crew does.

Spoiling the bland atmosphere is the arrival of Captain Quirk and his toupee (they really went to town on Bill Shatner here), who picks a fight of words with Roger and then ultimately challenges him to a duel on the battle cruiser simulator nearby.

It’s… Battleship. Pretty much just Battleship, and as exciting as you remember Battleship being. Kind of wish I didn’t have to play through a full game of this, but then again, back in 1993 it wasn’t like there was the internet or texts to place an urgent call on our attention. We were probably desperate to be bored like this. Anyway, this took me way, way, way too long and I don’t appreciate that I had to waste time in my life on it.

Cliffy getting into a fight at a bar? What is this, Cheers? Begone with you, Cliffy, and the cigar you rode in on!

A diversion is needed to bust Cliffy out of the brig, and that diversion is — obviously — dumping space monkeys into a drink to make them hatch and float all over the place, reproducing like crazy.

Sure, we COULD rescue Cliffy… or we could just wait and sees what happens when uncontrollable space monkeys overpopulate a closed environment. Answer: Nothing good. After a long while, the station fills up with the cute green buggers and explodes.

In the *second* timeline, Roger uses Spike to acid up the cell bars and help free Cliffy right before everything explodes with pregnant green life. That’s more than enough “relaxation” for the crew, so back to work they go!

Space Quest V: Hunt or be hunted

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

To save his ship and unwelcoming crew, Roger Wilco beams down to the surface of Kiz Urazgubi and subjects himself to be hunted by yet another terminator robot. I won’t lie, this kind of feels like the game designers are going back to the well a little too soon.

Whoops, I took a little too long taking the above screenshot and writing up the start of this post that the robot managed to find and blast me into smithereens. I also learned that her name was W-D40, because this is the type of subtlety that the Space Quest games are known for.

Considering that the terminator has cloaking, a shoulder-mounted energy cannon, and a jet pack, it doesn’t seem quite fair that all Roger has is a stick. But he’s been in worse scrapes before, and after a bit of a chase, he leverages a boulder to crash down on Ms. W-D40. That knocks out her cloaking, but it takes a banana up the jetpack to blow her up well and good.

Happy victory music plays for a good long while after this. I’m all for that; being chased by a robot when you’re a chump is very stressful!

Roger’s now allowed back on the Eureka, as Cliffy takes all of the android parts and starts rebuilding her. I don’t want to know what for, considering that Cliffy seems like a lonely individual, but I wish the two of them well. Roger tosses him the head and a very bad dad joke, endearing him to me even more.

The two of them beam back to the planet and use the android’s device to reveal her cloaked ship. Probably not a good idea to go up into it, but up into it Roger goes.

Sitting in the pilot’s seat gets him electrocuted, but it’s worth it to hear that jaunty, game show-like music that you get with every death.

Speaking of imminent death, Roger yanks out the cloaking device from the android’s ship and triggers the self-destruct. He and Cliffy only barely make it back to the Eureka, where Cliffy works on making the android a non-lethal member of the crew and installing the cloak for the ship. I guess we came out of this a net positive, so it was probably worth being chased down and nearly killed a few times.

Space Quest V: In space, no one can hear you squeem

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Before I get into today’s playthrough session, let’s talk about Star Trek. While Space Quest as a series tends to spread its parodies, references, and homages around to a huge variety of scifi franchises, Space Quest V stands out as primarily a Star Trek parody with fewer references outside of that. I think this had to be a product of the time.

In 1993, Star Trek was hitting its heights as a franchise. The film series was still going strong, Next Generation was really popular, and Deep Space Nine was on the way. People knew Star Trek because it was everywhere and had saturated into the modern pop culture lingo. Other scifi franchises, such as Star Wars and Doctor Who, were in slumber by 1993. So aiming SQV at Star Trek makes a lot of sense when you consider that latching onto the popularity of Kirk, Picard, and company probably meant stronger sales.

Anyway, back to the game! Captain Roger of the starship Eureka is off to a… less than grand start with his command. His two officers, Flo and Droole, don’t seem to care for him very much. Plus, they all work on a garbage scow that’s been ordered to go pick up refuse. That doesn’t bode well for a bright future.

As the Eureka blasts off into lite speed, a ship appears with a female terminator, somewhat reminiscent to Arnoid the Annihilator from Space Quest III.

To make matters more interesting, the Eureka intercepts a transmission from an ugly alien to StarCon. I’m guessing the recipient is Captain Quirk, who talks with the alien about handling some “hot goods” ASAP.

Meanwhile, the Eureka crew keep picking up various bags of garbage in space. The second haul brings in more than they expected — something’s alive in it, and Cliffy the engineer ain’t going to be the first in through the door on this one. The captain IS wearing the red shirt, after all.

That “something” ends up being an alien facehugger who Roger promptly adopts as a pet and calls “Spike.” Obviously, Roger isn’t one to stack the odds in his favor of a long life expectancy. However, I do think it’s pretty funny for the game to make Spike a pet rather than the terrorizing murder-alien that we’d expect.

Roger’s quest to make friends among his shipmates hits a potential snag as the womanoid appears, knocks the Eureka around with her far superior ship, and then orders Roger to beam down to the surface of Kiz Urazgubi to be disassembled for messing around with the novelty company back in Space Quest II.

Well, this is probably the end of the road for Roger Wilco. Nice knowing you, bud.