Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier
Hmm, another Space Quest game. Those loveable bods at Sierra just don't give up, do they? I'm sure that even as I write this they're scratching their heads and wondering what they're going to do for "Space Quest 7". Undoubtedly squillions more games in the series will follow that. The obvious question to ask at this point is: who's playing them? I've got to be honest and say right here and now that the only people I can think of who will want to play Space Quest 6 are the hard-core followers who've been following the series from the beginning. But I'm not sure that even they will have the patience to slog through another adventure in which Roger Wilco (the star of the show, i.e. you) solves loads more illogical puzzles, cracks naff jokes and basically has a pretty dull time.
Despite the fact I'm always suspicious of Sierra adventure sequels (with the exception of the excellent Kings Quest series), I went into this review with an open mind, but after just an hour of gameplay I was incredibly bored with the familiar slapstick comedy and crass character dialogue. If you've ever played Space Quest 5 or Leisure Suit Larry 6, you'll pretty much know what to expect. If you haven't, here's the low-down...
All or nothing
I have several criticisms of the game, most of which you can live with, but there's one which is unforgivable: the narrative for the game is, without any shadow of a doubt, the absolute worst I have ever heard in any cd adventure game. Look at something using the eye icon and the object in question will be described by some American tosspot with an unbelievably irritating voice. Everyone in the entire PC was cringing every time Mr Tosspot did his stuff. Thankfully, you can turn this idiot off. There is, however, a slight problem if you take this option; you lose the voice-overs for all the characters in the game, too. So, your brand-new cd talkie adventure goes out the window and you end up playing a mediocre adventure game of yesteryear. I really cannot understand why Sierra didn't include an option to turn off the narrator speech. You could do it in Gabriel Knight (which is still, as far as I am concerned. Sierra's finest game to date) and Kings Quest 7 (another Sierra game, which is infinitely better than this one), but whoever designed Space Quest 6 either didn't think people would react as violently to Mr Tosspot's narrative as we did, or he/she simply forgot to include an option to take it out.
We are not amused
As far as the game itself is concerned, it's pretty much standard Sierra stuff...
Roger, having been promoted to captain in the last game, has once again been demoted to janitor. There is a long intro, which makes much of Rogers demotion ceremony; he is not only stripped of his rank, but all his clothes, too. I'm sure all of the bods at Sierra must have been falling about with uncontrollable laughter as Roger's clothes started slowly disappearing, but the whole thing left me cold.
This is more or less par for the course as far as the whole game is concerned. However, it's not just the humour in the game (or, more correctly, lack of it) that finally put me off, it's a lot more simple than that - the actual gameplay is dull as hell...
It's a real pain in the —
Roger starts the game on shore leave, on a planet where there are plenty of characters to meet (both human and alien), but they're all terminally boring and they all seem to think they're incredibly funny when, in fact, they most definitely are not. There are a couple of parts in this section of the game that could have been interesting if they hadn't been so badly implemented. For example, in the arcade, you have to beat one of the locals at a video game, side-splitingly entitled "Stooge Fighter 3". The problem is. Stooge Fighter 3 is just as crap as Space Quest 6 is itself. To make matters worse, a lot of the puzzles in the game are illogical and laborious. At one stage of the game, you have to capture an android to make some money. This involves collecting several objects, manipulating them all in different ways, solving at least three sub-puzzles and running about from one location to another before finally freezing the critter and collecting your reward. This took me ages to work out, and far from being challenging, is a monumental pain in the arse.
On the slightly plus side
The incredibly detailed SVGA graphics are excellent. This is by far the best looking Space Quest game to date. Of course, that in itself is no reason to give it a fairly reasonable score. The main reason I haven't mercilessly slated the game is because there are a hell of a lot of Space Quest fans out there who will love it simply because it is a Space Quest game. Let's face it, the criticisms I've made of the game are more or less true of most of the other games in the series, but that sure didn't stop anyone from buying them en masse, thus inspiring Sierra to continue the series, did it? So it stands to reason that they'll all like this one, too.
The message is simple: if you're a Space Quest fanatic, go ahead, rush out and buy it, I'm sure you'll have a wild time with it. If you're not, don't even think about going anywhere near it.
Download Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Picture the scene. You've written a highly successful series of humorous science fiction adventure games. There's been five installments so far, and the public at large is clarhouring for a sixth. Unfortunately for you, you've used up just about every possible "space" joke, and exploited every single deep-space scenario you can think of. So what do you do?
Well, if you're Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, authors of the Roger Wilco Space Quest series, you sit down, have a think, and decide to cheat a little bit. Because Space Quest 6 is mainly set in "inner space", as it were. You remember Fantastic Voyage, the archetypal Sunday-afternoon-on-BBC1, family sci-fi thriller?
The one where Donald Pleasance and Racquel Welch and a bunch of other people (who shall remain nameless thanks to my own all-conquering ignorance) were miniaturised and squirted inside a human body? You know, the one where they're floating about inside the inner ear, and everyone has to be really J really quiet so the sound vibrations don't kill them, and then some dunderheaded nurse in the operating theatre outside drops a bloody big set of tweezers on the floor, and the resulting clang nearly turns the lot of them to pate? Well, Space Quest's a bit like that. Except it's a computer game. And since it doesn't feature Racquel Welch, the overall standard of acting is likely to be significantly higher (although, admittedly, less busty).
The next exciting Instalment
In case you're an avid Space Quest fan, you'll probably like to know that this game picks up the thread just where the last episode. Space Quest 5 - The Next Mutation, left it dangling in the wind.
Having loused everything up yet again in an amusing Norman Wisdom-like fashion, poor wickle Roger has been demoted once more to a lowly janitor's position on board a massive space exploration vessel. Oh for the life of a tragicomic hero. The storyline finds the girly-haired do-gooder getting shrunkified down to nano-tastic proportions, and injected into the body of some painted jezebel who he's taken a shine to. Why? Well, for three reasons, actually:
1) Because she's been brainwashed by some horrible nasty thing, and fixing the damage from the inside seems to be the most logical way of going about it.
2) It means that Roger can at last truthfully claim that he's inside a woman at least once in his sad, pathetic life.
3) Because it provides the authors with a whole new range of things for them to take the piss out of.
Spruced up and SVGA!!
The chuckles will doubtlessly flow like steaming urine from a recently skewered bladder, as Master Wilco journeys through the collected slippery nooks and squishy crannies that make up the human body, on his way to the untamed grey matter of the brain. Gasp! As he wanders nonchalantly through the acidic slime pits at the base of the stomach. Squeal! As he slides through a convoluted set of intestines and scrapes his fingernails down the sides as he does so. Feel Sick! As he pulls backflips inside a perfectly healthy set of lungs, etc., etc., etc.
Still, this could well be something rather smart. Time marches on, and Sierra has taken the opportunity to spruce up everything worth sprucing. Roger now stumbles about ineptly with the dazzling clarity that only SVGA graphics can provide, and since this latest episode is to be a CD-only release, he speaks, too ("in English, French or German!" it says here, so hey, he may be a thick twat, but at least he's trilingual).
There's also going to be lashings of the by-now-mandatory 3D-rendered graphics as well, just for good measure. At this rate, by the time it arrives on the shelves, it'll no doubt be able to fly; travel between differing planes of reality; and shoot lightning bolts from the tips of its fingers, too.
The Sierra standard
The interface has also undergone a short, sharp shock, leaving it simple and accessible, yet as versatile as you'd expect, nay, demand. Hey, shucks, it doesn't end there. There's even a mini arcade-game nestling away in there somewhere - a tongue-in-cheek version of Street Fighter II (renamed - ho ho - "Stooge Fighter III") by all accounts. So it sounds excellent - and hopefully, it'll be well up to the high standard of another Sierra adventure, which we recently raved about, namely King's Quest VII.
Needless to say this sort of performance comes at a price, and the bad news for many of you will be the minimum 486 with 8mb of memory required to run it. Mind you, these days, unless you don't mind playing endless shareware versions of asteroids until the day you die, upgrading's pretty much essential anyway, and if you haven't got a cd-rom drive yet, well, you'd best get one then, hadn't you? If you can't afford one, I recommend burglary.
So when's It out then?
By now. Space Quest afficionados should have turned the magazine to pulp beneath a river of excited drool. Well, look. This is a preview, and a preview is a preview is a preview, only becoming a review when there's a finished copy of the game in question at hand, and one less "P" at the start of the word. Space Quest 6 is due for release any moment now, and as soon as those nice Sierra people decide to send us a free copy and some cake, we'll give it a good going over with our critical boxing gloves and let you know whether it goes the full ten rounds and knocks us out, or if it simply' runs home crying to its mum with its pants round its ankles and snot dribbling out of its nose. See you then.