Bunny Abandonware

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7 January 2007

Space Quest 1: The Sarien Encounter

 in 1986,1990,Adventure,Space Quest — Diamond

Space Quest Space Quest

Ah… Space Quest in the days when you could call your character whatever you liked – before you were always “Roger Wilco”. Space Quest back in the days where the emphasis was on the tricky puzzles and not the humour. Space Quest in the days of the “typical” Sierra RPG. It comes as no surprise that Space Quest is, very much, a typical Sierra RPG of the time.

For those of you who’ve seen Police Quest or Kings Quest, you’ll know what I mean. You walk a character around the platform-style level using the arrow keys (pressing the direction you’re already going in if you want to stop). If you’re not close enough to things, you can’t interact with them. That’s the graphical element of the game. The rest of the game is all conducted in text entries you make in the form of commands to your character (e.g. Pick up rock, kill dwarf, etc.).

Some people like the old-style text-RPGs and I often find them entertaining, except for those irritating moments when there’s something you’re SURE you can do, but you’ve got to find the right way to express it first. Especially when you have a blinkered writer who only puts in the entry “Look at console” rather than “Use console, use computer, use keyboard, type, etc. etc.” assuming that everyone will intimately know the working’s of the programmer’s mind. If they don’t, hey – why are they playing the game?

During Space Quest, I found myself stuck for 10 minutes at one computer screen trying to work out what I was supposed to do. “Push button, press button, use button, look at button”. I tried “press switch, turn knob, use thing” everything that I could think of to describe the action of pushing a button. My friend suggested that since the button is labelled “Open Door”, why not type “Push open door button”. He was right. Then again, he failed dismally at using any of the vital computers because he didn’t think of “look at console”.

Space Quest, I am convinced, was play-tested only by the people who wrote the game. They tested whether it was physically possible to go from start to finish – not whether it was actually possible for someone who’d never seen the game before to complete it. Sierra also love to make their puzzles complicated, which really doesn’t help. Nowhere is there a handy syntax list of available commands, or any indication of what you’re actually supposed to be doing. You just keep on trying until you go insane, get forced to resort to a walkthrough or burst a blood vessel after dying yet again after doing the slightest thing wrong.

Did I mention the start of the game? You’re on a ship invaded by aliens (who walk around randomly and kill you on-sight, your only warning being that you hear footsteps, which doesn’t tell you from which direction) which is about to blow up (you have about 10 minutes to escape)…but you don’t know it’s about to blow up – and the only way you can get out is to wait in a room for at least half a minute for a wounded scientist to appear. You don’t know he’s coming, so what would possess you to wait in a room doing nothing for half a minute if the ship is counting down to explode?

Sadly, Space Quest did actually have all the ingredients for a really great game. Sure, the interface was bad (and they didn’t get that sorted out until Space Quest 5) and it was exceptionally complicated and difficult, but the ideas were there…and once Sierra realised that the humour was what made the game great, not the difficulty of the puzzles, they were onto a winner.

Graphics: 5/10: Typical Sierra RPG graphics of the time. Blocky, expressionless, slow-moving sprites. Difficult sometimes to tell what objects are in a room.
Sound: 3/10: Even though digital sound was around in other games, Space Quest uses the internal sound card. There’s nothing special at all about the sounds, but because it has the Space Quest theme, it gets a 3.
Gameplay: 0/10: Honestly, give me the monkey who wrote the interface and I’ll introduce him to a queue of people who want to shoot him for making the game almost unplayable.
Originality: 9/10: A very original idea, which later went on to the comic mastery which was Roger Wilco – rivalling Monkey Island.
Long-Term Interest: 1/10: After you’ve completed it, you’ll never want to go back. Most likely, unless you’re really determined, you’ll never get past the second (or even the first) section of the game.
Overall: 3/10: Typically difficult Sierra RPG which really ruins a great idea.

Note: This game was originally made in 1986, the VGA version was released in 1990.

Related Links

Space Quest 1: The Sarien Encounter

  • Published by: Sierra
  • Designed by: Sierra

Resources

Space Quest 2: Vohauls Revenge

 in 1987,Adventure,Space Quest — Diamond

Space Quest 2 Space Quest 2 Space Quest 2

Space Quest 2 was released as quickly as possible following the success of Space Quest 1, which has been something which has always surprised me. I never got on well with the first in the series, cursing the unresponsive text-based interface and general feeling of “what AM I supposed to be doing?”. Nevertheless, I began playing Space Quest 2 with an open mind. Which lasted for about the first 5 minutes.

The introduction is more impressive than in SQ1, and sees you (still not Roger Wilco, yet…) sweeping a hangar and, when disturbed, letting your broom fly into space (okay, the graphics of that weren’t great, but it made me laugh. What’s that, 3rd time this week?). My heart soon sank, however, when I saw that the same interface was back. The graphical-movement, text-interaction interface which Sierra never quite managed to master. The game is, in layout, just like the first – only with a different storyline and slightly more thought-out graphics.

So, I thought, I’ve got to leave the hangar. First thing I did was step onto what looks like a platform to the right…and fall off the spacecraft to my death. Dying is usually the thing I do most frequently in Sierra games, and it never fails to annoy me. Reload the game, this time making sure I step EXACTLY onto the platform. Down I go into oblivion once again. Three tries later, I’m now convinced there has to be another way. That thing on the roof looks promising…but how do I get there? Accidentally, I find out that I’m wearing magnetic boots and can walk up the wall (as if walking up the wall is the first thing you’d try). My initial hope that Sierra might at least give you an idea of what you’re supposed to do vanishes.

Still, I’m at the thing on the roof and I walk across it. Nothing. I walk back across it. Nothing. I wait on it for a few seconds. Nothing. Cursing, I consider whether or not to call up my friend (as two heads are better than one) when I suddenly end up in the next room. Sierra always value large amounts of patience, despite never giving you any indication if what you’re doing is right or wrong.

After that shaky start, I continue through the game without much of a hitch. A mysterious kidnapping from an old enemy in SQ1 ends me up on a strange planet, where I’ve managed to escape and people are looking for me. I start to remember the horrors of SQ1’s first level and, yes, here we are again. Killed if you get seen and left with no idea of where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do. Oh, by the way, there’s a concealed pit in the landing area for you to fall into and die. Why is it there? No reason…just another thing to kill you, as if the game wasn’t hard enough already.

Cursing, I eventually shut the game down and proceeded once more, this time armed with my friend at my side (who had the walkthrough, in case we got drastically stuck). After completing the game, getting utterly foxed by the interface or incredibly obscure puzzles no less than five times, I was left with the same feeling as SQ1. What a great idea – if only Sierra had put more time into getting people who’d never seen the game before to play it, and then look at where they got terminally stuck and why.

On the plus side, SQ2 has a fair amount of humour and there are moments when you have the great feeling of the game being challenging enough to make you think, but not so hard that you can’t puzzle it out at all…ever. It has its moments of that feeling far more often, but real die-hard Space Quest fans or, for that matter, RPG players who grew up on text-based games and know all about how to say “press the button” in a hundred different ways until they find the right one will probably enjoy the game a lot. If you don’t fall into the above categories, don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.

Graphics: 6/10: Sierra sorted the problem of clarity and it’s now easier to tell what objects are. Other than that, the graphics are a bit of a let down in their blocky and blobby nature.
Sound: 3/10: Marginally better than the first, but still utilising the internal sound card when there were games out there making use of wave and midi formats. Weird.
Gameplay: 2/10: Far too many frequent moments of “what am I supposed to be doing?” and the interface just doesn’t make the game easy or rewarding to play.
Originality: 7/10: Nothing much different from the first in the series, which was disappointing, although the Space Quest idea itself still had a lot of aces up its sleeve.
Long-Term Interest: 3/10: The funny moments might make you want to play the game more than once to see them again, but since completing the game itself is such an uphill struggle you may never even get that far.
Overall: 4/10: Some improvements on the first, but a real let-down to the other games in the series.

Related Links

Space Quest 2: Vohauls Revenge

  • Designed by: Sierra
  • Published by: Sierra

Resources