Retro Power: Issue 6
Welcome to Issue 6 of your friendly local Retro Power! At my castle, allergens are everywhere… which makes for a perfect excuse to stay inside & play games & talk about games & game game games! Why be allergic to things when you could be gaming instead? I hope you’re all in fine health… but also having excuses to play games.
Now for our responses to last issue’s question:
Is there an aspect of gaming (e.g. grinding) that you think is unfairly criticized?
I think item collecting is unfairly criticized, but only when it’s convenient. People will praise Super Mario 64, and it’s more star and coin collecting than it is platforming. Rayman Origins is a beautiful example of a modern platformer, yet it requires item collecting to progress. It seems like every time I hear about a universally disliked platformer the main complaint will be “it’s a collect-a-thon” (especially early 3D platformers). I think calling a game a collect-a-thon is a lazy way of dismissing the game without exploring why it’s not enjoyable, or even if it’s unenjoyable. Collect-a-thon is such a negative term for something that I enjoy. And I have to think other people enjoy item collecting because it continues to be a staple of the platform game genre.
One thing that I have always had issue with is the excessive criticism of games with violence or adult related themes. Every time a Mortal Kombat game has been released there are media outlets decrying that the game is too violent for children. What? Really? Of course it is..No one said that it wasn’t?
Games have ratings, parents that do not utilize the rating systems need to be the focus of the media onslaught. Just looks books and movies, it is up to the parents to decide what is appropriate for their kids.
Oh..and grinding is cool.
Alex decided to finally complete a game. He even wrote a review of said game.
If you and I have talked video games at any length, then you’ll know that I am quite terrible at completing them. That is changing though starting this month. I intentionally set out to beat a game just to review for Retro Power. Little did I know that the game would prove more difficult than I could have imagined. I didn’t know anything about Space Quest IV when I started it. What I found was a game that was frustrating at times and hilarious at others. It is a point and click adventure game for DOS PCs, a genre I am only marginally familiar with, although it did remind me a bit of a text adventure game. It opens up with the protagonist, Roger Wilco, sizing it up with some locals at a bar. But he is soon interrogated by everyone’s favorite French electronic group.
They’re really a part of the Sequel Police, an organization that exists to search Space Quest games and eliminate Roger. Before I go any further I should say that I will be sparing no spoilers. So consider this your fair warning. Anyways, the policemen are from Space Quest XII. They have come from a time when Vohoul has taken over Roger’s home planet of Xenon. It may seem I was at a disadvantage by not having played the previous games, but in reality it didn’t matter too much. Bad guy wants good guy dead, there’s not too much to think about. Back to the game. Before Roger is eliminated, a mysterious stranger grabs him and tells him to jump into a time portal.
The portal leads to not only another time, not only another planet, but a different game entirely. It’s actually still Space Quest IV, but in-game Roger is in Space Quest XII. It actually bothers me more that portal allowed him to travel in space as well as time. Time travel doesn’t work like that.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s just a minor complaint. The more important issue is the control. With this being a point and click adventure, the mouse is your only means of interaction. To my best recollection, the few other point and click games I have played have a context-sensitive cursor, meaning that when you can click on an object it will change color or shape, otherwise it is used for movement of the player. Games like Putt Putt Saves the Zoo have limited direction in which the player may move. In Space Quest IV you may move in any direction, and must have the walk icon selected to do so. I said earlier this game reminds me of text adventure games, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because of the cursor’s multiple functions. The cursor may be changed to the look, grab, talk, smell, taste, or item icon. These are very similar to text commands from a text adventure. Although I don’t remember using a taste or smell command in Zork or Wishbringer. The look function is imperative to finding clues about what to do in the game. The game gives no hints otherwise.
There were a few things about the controls that bothered me. At the part of the game pictured above, I wanted Roger to go the next screen over to the left. I knew there was an item I needed over there. If I were to click where the cursor is currently, he would actually go the screen above the one I wanted. If they were directions on a compass, I wanted to go west but the game took me northwest. It was only when I placed the cursor in the bottom near the rubble pile that the game let me go directly left. It’s something I had to get used to.
There was one part in which I clicked on one direction and it took me in a completely different direction. It may have been because of the narrow corridor, but it still ticked me off.
The most frustrating part of the game as far as controls go was the burger mini game. You have to make every burger with every ingredient to get money. If you miss enough burgers then it is game over. Every time a burger is made, the conveyor belt speeds up a bit. The clickable window for grabbing and placing each ingredient is pretty small. If you click outside of it the game will pause and the narrator will indicate that you can’t click on that area. I was never able to recover from the pause time as the game went along. If I was not exactly precise with my placement, I might as well just give up on that particular burger. This was definitely the low point of the game. Thankfully it was a small part.
This game is no cakewalk, and there are a few reasons for that. For example there are many ways for Roger to die. You will be very familiar with the above death screen by the end of the game. In some parts of the game you have to sneak past enemies who can cause insta-death. Except for a few parts, your only defense is either hiding or running away. The fate of the galaxy is in the hands of a coward. Because there is no defense, you’ll have to save often. This is imperative if you don’t want to have to retrace your steps over and over.
The other thing that made the game so difficult was collecting all of the items. Almost every item has a use later in the game. Whether it’s killing Roger (Don’t keep the unstable ordinance) or helping him open a door near the end of the game.
The difficulty also lies in the fact that unless you have played the game already you really don’t know what you’ll items you’ll need later. You may come to a point and realize that you should have picked up that box of matches from Space Quest 1. (Btw you travel back to Space Quest 1 and it is easily my favorite part.) Thankfully, when you do something right there is a noise indicating you have done so.
Speaking of Space Quest 1, you’ll find yourself traveling between a few different time periods. If you don’t pay extra careful attention you’ll miss the pertinent information to travel. The first time you go back though is a complete shot in the dark. I typed in two random codes and was successful on the second one. The other time periods aren’t so easy to decipher.
I love the art style of this game. I have huge soft spot for these type of VGA graphics. At times it felt like I was watching a cartoon, which is a good thing. I especially liked when they showed characters close up.
I’m sure the game was graphically intensive for computers back in 1991. I think it holds up today because of just how good the art style is. The graphics lend themselves very well to the atmosphere. The apocalyptic Xenon is creepy. The mountainous region of Estros is lonely. And the mall is bright and fun.
The sound is also great. I’d recommend using the Ad-Lib sound card option for maximum enjoyability. The whole game is narrated, which in my mind really makes this game. The narrator not only provides pertinent information, but will also encourage as well as insult the player. I also found myself humming the game’s main theme long after the credits rolled.
Have I said yet that Space Quest IV is hilarious? Because it is, I found myself chuckling at certain points and laughing out loud at others. That being said, even though the game is rated K-A (the retro predecessor to E for everyone), I don’t think this game is appropriate for kids. Some of the humor is risqué, and some of deaths are a bit graphic. There’s also the whole somber tone to Xenon which may turn away younger players. Not to mention the overall difficulty.
So after all is said and done. After all of the items are collected, and things are pointed and clicked, you will finally come to the end of the game. If you gathered all of the correct items you will spar toe to toe with your foe Vohaul who has taken possession of Roger’s son’s body. Remember the mysterious stranger at the beginning of the game? That was Roger’s son. It turned out that Roger was the only hope for the future. After you best Vohaul, Roger Jr. will spill some beans about the future to Roger, including a picture of his wife-to-be. Now it is up to Roger to preserve the timeline.
Overall I would recommend this game to retro gamers and cartoon enthusiasts alike. There’s enough old school difficulty to satisfy that itch you’ve been feeling. If any of this sounds appealing, then you’re in luck. You can pick up the game (along with Space Quest 5 and 6 which I have not played) for $9.99 over a gog.com. What are you waiting for? Go check it out now!
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget we love hearing from you. Send us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d also love to see your retro-game-related art and game haul pictures. In the mean time why not send us your answer to our question of the month?
This month’s question is “Who is your favorite gaming villain? Why?”
Have your answer in by May 22nd if you want to be in the next issue.