Space Quest I Review - A classic Sci-fi adventure reviewed by Cola Powered Gamer

Finding good sci-fi games can be hard, and finding good comedy sci-fi games can be even harder. Fortunately, Sierra developed one of the best comedy sci-fi games ever, Space Quest.

Space Quest: Chapter I – The Sarien Encounter, or more commonly known as Space Quest I, was released in 1986, developed and published by Sierra. After Sierra gained popularity with King’s Quest in 1984, Sierra continued to create more adventure games with various themes, like Police Quest, Quest for Glory, Leisure Suit Larry and of course Space Quest.

Space Quest was created by Scott Murphy (the programmer) and Mark Crowe (the artist), who have worked together on previous titles like King’s Quest II and The Black Cauldron. Eventually, they went by their pseudonym “Two Guys From Andromeda”. Before Space Quest I, the duo never designed their own game, and according to Scott Murphy: ” at that time (1985), everything at Sierra was so somber and had an almost medieval atmosphere. So we decided ‘Why not make a fun, silly game? “. At first, the CEO of Sierra Ken Williams didn’t take the idea seriously, but instead of giving up the duo decided to create a prototype on their own time and present it again. The prototype had four screens (these screens would later be the first rooms of the game), and Ken instantly loved it and started the project.

Space Quest is a homage and a parody of various sci-fi shows and tropes. In interviews, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, as major influences listed: Star Wars, Star Trek, works of Arthur C. Clark, Stanley Kubrick, and Ray Bradbury. An inspiration to the game and its plot can be from Planetfall an interactive fiction game by Infocom, and this game can be considered a precursor to the game.

At the start of the game, you are asked to enter a name for your character, but the default name is Roger Wilco, a reference to the radio communication “Roger, Will Comply”. Initially, the game was conceived to the idea that the player could make their character male or female, depending on your choice. Unfortunately, due to the size of the storage medium, and the fact that every frame of animation for the main character would have to be available for both genders. But my best guess is that while the original was in EGA, this option was left in the game, and you could always imagine your character, as a female with short hair.

The plot follow Roger Wilco, a space janitor on the board of scientific ship Arcada, which is conducting experiments with a powerful device, known as a “Star Generator”. Roger wakes up from his on-duty nap in the janitorial closet to find everyone on the ship dead. The ship is being boarded and seized by the evil Sariens. Roger must escape, find the “Star Generator” and if possible save the universe.

So, after crash landing on the nearby planet of Kerona, Roger must avoid, dangerous creatures (one similar to the Sandworm from Dune) a Sarien spider droid. After discovering the scientist who lives underground, Roger takes his speeder and makes his way to Ulence Flats, one of the settlements on the planet. Here, Roger wins the “Slots of Death” and overhears the location of Sarien ship, manages to buy a spaceship and a navigational robot, makes his way to the Sarien ship and the “Star Generator”.

The game isn’t very long (about 35 minutes, if you know what you are doing), but this being a Sierra game, you can and will die, often in amusing ways. For instance, if you wait too long on the Sariens will come and kill you, if you stay too long in the desert you will die from dehydration, etc. The narrator is the most hilarious part of the game, offering sarcastic commentary on Roger’s every move. The game is not without flaws, as you can get stuck quite easily if you didn’t pay attention and it is very easy vital items. If you didn’t pick up a gadget on your spacesuit, you wouldn’t be able to communicate with the creature on Kerona. Also, you are supposed to reject the first offer from the spaceship salesman, so that way he can offer you a jetpack, which you will need later in the game. Also, the small game with the speeder can get a bit annoying, but fortunately it is short.

Space Quest I was a success selling around 100, 000 copies, while total sales are considered to be around 200,000 to date, not counting the many compilations it has been included in. The game was originally released with EGA graphics, but in 1991 it received a VGA remake, now rebranded as “Space Quest I: Roger Wilco in the Sarien Encounter”. The graphics are beautiful and have a nice sci-fi B-movie feel to them. There were also several changes in the VGA version. The VGA version uses “Walk”, “Talk” and other icons and the player isn’t required to type in commands anymore. Also in the VGA version, you have a magnet to help you with the slot machine, while in EGA version you needed to actually play the slots in order to progress in the game. Also, the bar in Ulence Flats in the EGA featured alien versions of Blues Brothers and a ZZ Top rendition of “Sharp Dressed Man” in all its PC Speaker glory.

In the VGA version, ZZ Top was removed after complaints from the musicians themselves and were replaced by a similar style of music. The robot shop was in the EGA version named Droids R Us, but this was changed to Droids B Us in the VGA version, following the lawsuit from the toy retailer. Oddly enough, the VGA version still has a mascot that is very similar to Jeffrey, the “Toys R Us” mascot. Although, developer commentary didn’t exist at the time in the game, the developer commentary can be found here.

Space Quest eventually spawned six games in total, and numerous fan games, books, and comics. If you are looking for a good sci-fi comedy, give Space Quest a try. Both the EGA and the VGA remake are excellent games, and I’m sure you would enjoy them both.

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