Growing up, I loved the Sierra On-Line video games. They were the first adventure games I played that had graphics. Oh, the graphics they had! Sixteen colors! (Assuming you had an IBM PCjr or a Tandy 1000, like me.) And the music! Blippy bloopy music! Plus instant-death and read-the-designer’s-mind puzzles!
Look, it was the ’80s. We took what we could get.
They had several series, but my favorite by far was Space Quest. The early games had a serious science fiction setting contrasted with a bumbling protagonist named Roger Wilco who, like Inspector Clouseau, managed to succeed despite himself. If you want an idea of what the early Space Quest games were like, read through this “Let’s Play” transcript from Space Quest I.
I blazed through Space Quest I…until I snuck on board the evil Sariens’ spaceship. I hit a point where I was skulking in a laundry room when a Sarien came in and shot me. I hid in the washing machine, only to have the Sarien turn on the washing machine. I assumed that that killed me, since the game was as full of instant-death moments as a deep-fried turducken is of cholesterol, so I reloaded and tried to find another solution.
I failed. I failed so hard that I scraped together my allowance and bought the hint book. Imagine my surprise when I read the clues for this puzzle to find out that hiding in the washing machine didn’t kill me, it magically dressed me in a Sarien uniform.
Even today I remember how stupid I felt.
Despite that moment of dumbness, I kept going and ended up being a fan of the Space Quest series. Now, nearly two decades since the last Space Quest game was released, there is not one, not two, but three fan-made sequels. In one month. This is akin to finding a twenty-dollar bill in the couch and pulling it out to find two thousand-dollar bills taped to the twenty.
The first is a remake of Space Quest II: Vohaul’s Revenge. The creators have replaced the original game’s text parser (which was fiddly at the best of times) with the icon-based interface Sierra used in its later adventures, updated the graphics, and added voice acting. I loved SQ2 when I was wee, which means that it’s probably a terrible game that you should never play. Nevertheless, if you play only one SQ2, this remake should be it.
The second is Vohaul Strikes Back. It’s an entirely new game in the Space Quest universe that’s set after the official series ended. By all accounts it’s somewhat self-referential but still playable even if you’re not already a fan of the series, and has a lot of the humor you’d expect from a Space Quest sequel.
The final one is Space Quest: Incinerations. This is the one that I find the most intriguing. For one, all of the graphics look like rotoscoped CG characters. For another, the scope of the game is much larger and more epic than the others — it’s Space Quest on a more truly interstellar scale. It also appears to fit tightly into the Space Quest universe, with many plot elements from earlier games making an appearance.
Richard Cobbett reviewed all three games for Rock, Paper Shotgun if you’d like to learn more — and I know you do. Me? I’m going to be playing Incinerations this weekend.