Retro Gaming Column – The Space Quest series

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Three years after Sierra Online Entertainment released Roberta William’s seminal computer adventure title, King’s Quest, onto the PC and Macintosh in 1983, they were about to have another smash hit on their hands with the first in what would become another long running adventure game series, Space Quest.

Sludge Vohaul is a recurring Villain in the series.
Sludge Vohaul is a recurring Villain in the series.

Space Quest tells the story of Roger Wilco, full-time intergalactic janitor and part-time saviour of the universe, as he haphazardly bungles his way through one adventure after another. The funny thing is that no matter how many times he saves the universe, he always ends up as a janitor again. You’d think that the gratitude of billions upon billions of sentient races in the galaxy would set him up for life – but no, he always finds himself, mop in hand, cleaning floors and getting pushed around by everyone.

Through course of the six Space Quest games that were released over the next decade, Roger Wilco manages to halt the attack of hostile alien race; foil the plot of a madman who plans to populate the galaxy with an army of robotic life insurance salesmen; meet his son in the future; become the captain of his own starship (a garbage scow); and even rescues the creators of the Space Quest series from their captors, the evil Scumsoft Corporation, delivering them safely to Sierra Entertainment’s HQ in our universe. The hilarious situations players find themselves in and the witty writing in the series made Space Quest an instant hit. Roger Wilco’s constant, sympathy-inducing predicaments saw him steadily rise in popularity to become one of the most endearing videogame characters of all time, with a massive fan-base that endures to this day.

Space Quest IV introduced quality cartoon graphics to the series.
Space Quest IV introduced quality cartoon graphics to the series.

Like all other computer adventure games, the Space Quest series required players to explore beautifully drawn locations, finding items and clues that would help them solve puzzles in order to advance to the next part of the story. Up until Space Quest IV, this was done with a typing interface. Players would have to guide Roger Wilco around the screen with the cursor keys and enter commands like “open door”, “take keycard”, or “switch on dialect translator” while standing in the appropriate spot. From Space Quest IV onwards, the games adopted a more accessible mouse-driven interface, where players could click on things with a mouse cursor to interact with them.

In adventure games, it was the creativity of the stories and puzzles that determined the success of any given game, and Space Quest featured some of the best. Blowing up horrid creatures with cans of dehydrated water (we kid you not); buying fast food to get the special prizes; shrinking yourself down to a hundredth of your size to sabotage a mad scientists life support system; and even being turned into a fly, Cronenberg style, to determine the inner workings of a mechanical lock – this is just a small taste of what the Space Quest series has to offer.

Being DOS-based games, it would be incredibly difficult to get the games to work on modern PCs, even if you did still have your original floppy or stiffy disks and some means to read them. Luckily, if you’re an old time fan wanting to relive the old memories, or a newcomer who wants to see what the old-timers are raving about, you can get the entire series on one CD as part of the Sierra Classic Collection. This collection brings the entire series, from Space Quest 1: The Sarien Encounter through to Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier, all to the Windows XP platform and is available at almost every good computer store across the country, and ranges in price from about R99 to R120.

Even in Space Quest VI, Roger is shunted back into doing what he does best.
Even in Space Quest VI, Roger is shunted back into doing what he does best.

With its appealing and cartoony designs, hilarious stories, and memorable characters and scenarios, the Space Quest series stands proud as one most iconic and well-loved franchises in gaming history. If you haven’t ever played Space Quest, you really should give this a try – you don’t know what you’re missing.

Last Updated: March 16, 2009

  • Q121

    Did they ever port the series to DS? I would love to play something like this while I am on the move or chilling outside 🙂

    Nice write up 🙂

  • Inferno888

    I absolutely loved the space quest series, the best of all the pc “quest” games!!

  • ewie

    Some Sierra games are now playable with scummvm as well.

    Ic got the whole compilation of space quaet, kings quest etc for R200.

  • spl0it

    SQ rules, I played all the games again about 2 years ago.
    BTW. You can run all your old games using Dosbox

  • Matthew

    Indeed, Space Quest does rule.

    In fact, this Space Quest Collection actually uses DOSbox to run the games itself. The good part is that it sets up all the settings perfectly, first time, so you don’t have to tinker around to get to them to run right. Just put in the disc, install, and play the whole series. No mess, no fuss.

    The other plus point is that it comes with some recent interviews with the creators of Space Quest, talking about their experiences creating the game. It’s quite a hoot actually.

  • Inferno888

    so where is space quest 7 then… bring it!!!!

  • Goose ZA

    All I remember from Space Quest is playing the Astro Chicken minigame OVER AND OVER AND OVER in space quest III 😀

  • Lupus

    Those days are long gone, I remember many a school holiday gone to the Quest games sigh, lovely memories.

  • Matthew

    Nobody wishes it would come more than me. I hear that Sierra doesn’t have the rights to the series any more, and that Vivendi does. So I guess our chances of seeing an official SQ7 are slim. Still, it could happen… some day.

    However, there are a few amateur Space Quest games in the works. Most of them are incomplete, but one guy did make a full game, Space Quest 0: Replicated, using Sierra’s old AGI engine: http://www.wiw.org/~jess/replicated.html

    It’s tiny and it’s free, seeing as how the guy was not legally allowed to profit from the venture. Still, the game has been fans and the creators alike for being as authentic a space quest series as the developers themselves would have made.

    You’ll need DOSbox or something similar to run this.

  • Matthew

    Yeah, that mini-game was damn hard, actually. The whole point of it, if I remember correctly, was to get the secret message from the Two Guys from Andromeda (Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, the creators of Space Quest), and then hurry to their rescue.

  • Matthew

    Hey Fergie.

    I knew you would add your two cents on this issue, being a fan of old school adventure games and all.

    Congrats on your engagement. Sorry I couldn’t make it.

  • Vivendi bought Sierra. Vivendi was then swallowed by a merger with Activison Blizzard. The chances of a SQ game are so ridiculously slim. Activision won’t publish anything these days that they won’t be able to milk till dust exits the nipples.

  • Matthew

    That’s a very disheartening, and charming, story. Still, let’s hope some old-school adventure gamer with some balls lands up in a decision-making position somewhere and buys the rights to give us another Roger Wilco adventure.

  • Matthew

    Thanks. I’m glad you like it.

    This kind of game would be ideal for the DS. But sadly, I don’t think anyone will do it… not officially anyway. But I’ve heard that there are these special carts for DS for which people can program homebrew emulators and the like. So I’ve heard, anyway.

  • Matthew

    I loved the King’s Quest series too, but ultimately Roger Wilco is my favourite adventure game hero of all time.

  • Q121

    But do you really want them to make a new one? There is a 99.995% chance that they will not make it as awesome as you remember the old ones being….

    *All stats are were made up by me*

  • Matthew

    Hey, they pulled it off with some remakes – the Prince of Persia series springs to mind.

    To see more of Roger Wilco, I’d be willing to let some talented studio give it a shot. As long as they kept his character intact and the tone of the story humorous.

  • Lupus

    What you doing using your real name 😛 I got confused there for second :-D. No problems Barbs just says your now not invited to the wedding j/k 😀 what is your email addy

  • Matthew

    It should be here on my profile for the site. I work for LazyGamer now, you know.

    Should be: [email protected]

  • Lupus

    Cool thanks man, okay apparently Zaps have the Collection for R39, really tempted, but with all the other great games out there, it will probably end up like Season 1 of Sam and Max, sittin next to my PC waiting to be installed.
    I wish they would redo Quest for Glory that rocked.

  • ToOkieMoNstZA

    Nice retroview man, brought back some of my first gaming memories… still got vohauls revenge in original box, a single stiffy disk… wuahah, sigh… maybe battletech next ;P

  • Matthew

    I’ve still got a boxed copy of the Secret of Monkey Island lying around somewhere. 4 Floppy disks… and a code wheel, and a newspaper, and all kinds of cool printed content.

    Man, why aren’t games like that any more – not even these so called “special collector’s editions” can measure up to that.

  • Matthew

    The cool thing about this collection is that it’s sooooo quick and easy to do. You don’t even need the CD in the drive to play it afterwards. Just click, click, and play.

  • RivaZA

    Ooooo! That’s quite pricey for games so old.

  • RivaZA

    I remember playing a bit of one of the Space Quests at one of my buddy’s back in the day. He was really into those type of games, I thought they were a little pants though. But I liked getting sucked up by a huge mushroom type thing that made you high then you died.

  • Matthew

    You just stay out of this.

  • Matthew

    Holy Cow, Riva. That was Space Quest II. I’m surprised you can remember that – especially because it was all done in text and not the flashy graphics you seem to like.

  • RivaZA

    Yeah typing part was a bit exhausting. As was the reading part.

  • Lupus

    Hahaha Riva isn’t so much into the GFX anymore, now he is into, wait I lie yeah he still is :-P. There is another Fan made Space Quest, called Space Quest – the Lost Chapters, quite fun and pretty well done if you don’t mind it running in the old Sierra AGI engine.

  • RivaZA

    If a game does not have HDR is it really a game?
    Think about it. 😎

  • Matthew

    This is like one of those, “If a tree falls over and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?” questions, isn’t it?

  • RivaZA

    That is what I was going for.

    But anyway, great article. Pity I only every had chance to play them at a friend’s house. I might have looked at them more fondly.

  • I think it was probably my house that you played them at. You could have played them on “Priceless”. Remember “Priceless”?

    And anyway, there’s no time like the present. You can borrow my collection CD, if you want.

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