Puzzles and Solvability
The puzzles in Space Quest II are a mixed bag. Pretty much every type of puzzle that had appeared in previous Sierra games makes an appearance here in some form. On the positive side, there are some pretty cool scenarios that require logical (and at times quick) thinking, such as the swinging rope in the ravine and the acid pool trap on the asteroid, and there’s only really one puzzle that stands out as being more on the “too difficult” end of the spectrum, which is the retrieval of the glowing gem in the swamp. It’s bad enough that the player has to “take a breath” before swimming through the underwater tunnel, but some players might never cross over the deep part of the swamp in the first place and therefore have no idea of its existence. There are also some pretty illogical solutions, particularly when it comes to the Labion Terror Beast, and others are just downright annoying, like the vine and tunnel mazes. Finally, while I heard talk of multiple solutions to puzzles prior to playing, the second solution to these puzzles in every case seems to be to just avoid them altogether. Still, at least the dead ends in the sequel are nowhere near as painful as in the first one.
Oh of course! I have to blow this whistle so that the Labion Terror Beast I know nothing about will drill a hole in the wall!
I’m not going to spend much time on this category. The interface and inventory hasn’t changed from the previous Sierra games, so the only thing to talk about is how the game makes use of it. Space Quest II does tend to bring out the worst of the movement issues found in the engine, but it actually seems that was intentional to give the player a challenge. Getting through the vine maze is stupidly hard at the faster speeds, as is opening and entering doors while being chased by droids and aliens. Having to type anything during time restricted scenes relies on the player being able to type exactly the right words at the right time (quickly) and then going back to the movement keys before whatever it is that’s chasing you makes contact. I saw no option but the slow the game down, which certainly took away from the intended urgency. On a more positive note, I don’t recall struggling with the parser once during the whole game (unlike Police Quest), but I’m not certain whether that has anything to do with me having played through the game before. I’m afraid I have to stick with the Sierra 5 for this category.
The majority of the second half of the game seems to involve something chasing you through corridors.
Story and Setting
Space Quest II is pretty light on story to be honest. If I tell you what it’s about in a couple of sentences, it’s pretty obvious the thing doesn’t have much in the way of depth. “Roger is kidnapped by Vohaul’s goons while working on a space station and transported to his asteroid fortress. Instead of killing Roger, Vohaul sends him to the mines on Labion, where Roger escapes, avoids a couple of environmental obstacles, and finds a shuttle. His attempt to escape is halted by Vohaul, who transports him back to the asteroid fortress, where Roger is strangely allowed to roam free until he can find a way to the defeat the villain and stop his evil plan.” The whole thing feels pretty contrived and while Vohaul’s stupidity is part of the parody, his laughable attempts at villainy take any plot interest out of the whole thing. Thankfully, Space Quest II is genuinely, and consistently, very funny. It seems that any efforts put into the story were done so to allow constantly hilarious and often self referential bouts of humorous narration. Taken as a light-hearted adventure, I guess Space Quest II succeeds, but there’s so much potential in the series to go the extra mile and have both story and humour. Oh, and while I did come across two endings to the game, one of them was clearly not ideal, and should probably be considered a cherry topped game over.
You can indeed stay as long as you like, but there's nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Sound and Graphics
Space Quest II pretty much reuses music and sound effects from previous Sierra releases. The theme music is exactly the same as the first game and the rare effects that pop up throughout the game will be pretty familiar to anyone that’s played any of the other Quest games on offer. As for the graphics, well they’re also similar to what has gone before them. The game switches between the greens, blues and yellows of the King’s Quest series (when Roger is on Labion) and the blues and pinks you would expect to see in a Space Quest game (when on Vohaul’s asteroid). None of it stands out as being really impressive (although the underwater cavern looks pretty cool) and the game lacks the variety seen in others such as Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. One new feature is the light effects in the tunnels which is caused by the glowing gem, but that’s achieved in the most simplistic of ways and nothing to write home about. All up I have to give Space Quest II the same as I did for the first one, which is yet another 5.
King Graham was searching for a princess to rescue when he saw a bright light in the sky
Environment and AtmosphereAs mentioned above, Space Quest II takes place almost entirely in two environments, Labion and Vohaul’s asteroid compound. Labion does have a pretty organic and open feel to it and it’s actually refreshing that it’s not handled in the repeating grid format that made some of the King’s Quest games seem like they occurred on a planet the size of a football field. The same can’t be said for the asteroid, which is limited to five levels, with only a storage room or a bathroom found on each. There’s also a real lack of personalities in the game, which doesn’t make for particularly thriving environments. The only time you see anyone that isn’t a droid on the asteroid is when you go to the bathroom, and even then you can only see legs coming out of the bottom of cubicles. After the likes of Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry (and even the first Space Quest) had numerous people (or at least lifeforms) that interacted with you, Space Quest feels a bit lacking in character. At least the atmosphere is given a boost by all the scenarios Roger finds himself in, many of which require action rather than dialogue or item application to solve. The atmosphere is given a boost by regular action based threats. It’s a mixed bag, so I’m going with yet another 5.
After you leave the orbital station, all rational life seems to go off the radar
Dialogue and Acting
This is where Space Quest II shines! The game really is very funny, and once again showcases how talented the Two Guys from Andromeda were at making the player laugh while killing them in a plethora of horrible ways, and then mocking them for it. They also proved once again that they can shamelessly plug other Sierra games from within the game itself without coming across as greedy attention seekers, with Roger dreaming of being Leisure Suit Larry while unconscious and held captive by the hunter on Labion. They’re also often self referential, poking fun at their game’s limitations and their own efforts at producing a quality product. The game was short, and not hugely satisfying, but it was entertaining enough to recommend. Despite all this, there’s no improvement in the way dialogue is delivered, and it’s still all just description and narration, so I can’t go higher than 6.
This message is also dripping with self-referential piss-taking and an over-abundance of descriptive narrative.
Space Quest II is the fourth game to get a score of 52 after Below the Root, King's Quest III and Police Quest. I enjoyed Police Quest more to be honest, but that game's rating suffered for the over-emphasis on merely following procedures. I feel having the game on par with King's Quest II is about right. OK, it's time for something a little different! I have no idea what to expect with Captain Blood, but it's time to find out what it's all about. It's French, so it's likely to push the boundaries and break the rules.