I may have had Sierra overload earlier in the year, but I'm thrilled to be back with them again now!
Well I have to say that I’ve been surprised by Space Quest III so far! I was looking forward to a leisurely walk in the park after Manhunter 2, Mean Streets and Neuromancer really tested my stamina, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case (at least not so far). Considering I’d already completed the game within the last decade, and that many of the readers’ comments were predicting I would complete the game in just a couple of hours, the truth is that I underestimated how challenging it would be. The crazy thing is that I think I’m struggling with the same puzzles that I struggled with when I first played it, proving that my memory isn’t as good as I thought it was, and that my way of thinking when approaching puzzles hasn’t changed in the slightest. That’s enough banter though, let us begin! Space Quest III begins where the second game ended; with Roger floating through space in suspended animation after escaping Vohaul’s burning space fortress. This peaceful existence is interrupted when a garbage freighter, controlled by a robot, discovers the escape pod and draws it onboard. The robot cares nothing for organic life, which may or may not be a good thing for our hero, and Roger is awoken when a “sudden shock triggers the Sleep Chamber’s Revive Mode.”
A very good question indeed Roger
Roger stumbles out of the pod, which is now sitting amongst the rest of the trash aboard the huge freighter, and it’s at this stage that I gained control. I couldn’t go back inside the pod, so it was time to explore my surroundings. The only thing in my inventory was the glowing gem I used in the sequel to get through the dark tunnels, but its light had been expended long ago. The first thing I noticed in my new environment was a strange object on the ground, which was described as a warp motivator with a protruding modular plug near its base. I was unable to pick it up (although trying nearly gave me a hernia), remove the plug (it was permanently attached), or seemingly do anything at all with it, and yet I was certain from my previous play through that I was supposed to. This is where I think previous experience in adventure games can actually be a disadvantage to a player at times! My memory wasn’t clear enough to tell me what I needed to do. I just knew I had to do something! After wasting a few minutes typing everything I could, I left the modulator there and travelled east, assuming I would figure it out later.
At first the small size and velocity of my character was off-putting, but then I realised I'd simply got used to the bigger, dawdling characters of the last couple of games
On the next screen I came to a large tube, apparently part of a stripped down space tanker, and I entered it. Reappearing inside the tube, I immediately noticed the exposed wires in the wall. They seemed to be the only thing of note in the screen description, so I typed “get wire”. I was able to, and gained my first points in the game (5 points). I could find nothing else to do in there, so continued east, arriving on a screen with a giant robot head situated in the bottom right. Everything was so familiar, and yet I still had to wander around checking out whether or not I could enter other screens in any direction. This resulted in my first death, as walking off the bottom of the screen caused me to plummet a distance far beyond that which a human can survive (even a computer generated one). Looking at the robot head revealed that it was “an ancient model of a battlebot”. The description made a note of saying that one of the eyes was missing, so I did what any adventurer worth his salt would do. I climbed through it! (5 points)
I immediately knew that this object held more than meets the eye!
Climbing down the interior of the robot head brought me to another scrap-filled area. There were no further screens accessible in any other directions, so I began investigating the two ships that were situated there. The first one was a small white pod with a hatch in it. Looking at it revealed some writing: “For a good time, don’t call HAL!” Clearly this was supposed to be the pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey, making Space Quest III the second game in a row to make reference to Kubrick’s sci-fi classic! It seemed obvious to me that I should be able to climb into the pod, or at least find something hidden inside, but the game kept telling me that the hatch was too small. It certainly didn’t look too small! Once again my memory was playing tricks on me, making me think that I was simply struggling with the parser, but eventually I had to accept that the pod was there for decoration only. I turned my attention to the larger ship, which was half buried in rubbish. I was absolutely one hundred percent certain that I was at some stage going to get into this ship!
The hole certainly looked big enough for me to get into
Looking at the ship only revealed that it had the name Aluminium Mallard etched on each side, and that it had a small hatch on the top. I tried climbing up onto the ship, but was continually told that “the ship is too slick”. I tried climbing up the various giant toys strewn around it, but that didn’t work. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out how I might have reached the hatch when I first played the game, but simply couldn’t do it. By now I was starting to think that my brain might just have a 30 game memory limit (perhaps my deck has a RAM of 30?), and that any games I revisit from now on are going to draw blanks! I once again had to admit temporary defeat and made my way back to the starting screen, stopping to try using the wire on the motivator with no success. I then took the south exit, reappearing on a screen with various spaceships amongst all the junk. One of the crafts was clearly a tie fighter, but the game described it in a rather humorous way: “This bulbous craft looks like it has seen a lot of action in its day. You believe it to be a bowtie fighter dating back to the cologne wars.” Looking over all the other ships and junk turned up nothing, although the metal plate leaning against a typical UFO craft looked suspicious.
Yes, that's blood spurting out of my wrist as I rapidly die!
Luckily I’d just saved my game, as trying to move the plate resulted in me cutting my wrist and then dying in horror with blood literally spurting upwards out of my wrist! I was torn between being horrified that the game would randomly kill me in such a bloody fashion at no fault of my own, and giggling in glee for exactly the same reason! I restored and made my way east to where a bucket conveyor carried trash upwards and offscreen. Once again there was a bunch of oversized bits and pieces on the screen, including a giant arm, but none of it appeared useful. I hopped into the bucket and was carried up to a conveyor belt, then unceremoniously dumped onto it (5 points). Here my memory finally kicked into action, and I knew I would have to firstly “stand”, and then “jump” to avoid being shredded (10 points). I could now walk west or east along a narrow rail, with one wrong move certain to result in my gravitationally assisted death. Walking as far as I could go to the west brought me to a machine hanging from the rail which was located directly in front of a small room. There was a droid in the room, and I had the feeling I didn’t want to hang around to draw its attention!
I waited around once to see what the droid would do if it noticed me. Needless to say, it didn't end well!
I hopped into the machine, which turned out to be a “grabber”. I was then able to move around the oval shaped rail, dropping the claw at the base of the grabber down to the ground beneath. Doing this at different parts of the rail caused the claw to drop down into each of the screens I’d visited previously, but I knew exactly what I was attempting to do. I moved from screen to screen until I was situated above the starting screen, and then dropped the claw directly down onto the motivator I’d spent so long trying to manipulate (15 points). I also figured I knew where to drop the motivator too, so I moved around until I was directly above the space ship (the one I wasn't able to climb onto) and lowered the motivator into the cavity at the back of it (15 points). It fit perfectly, although I didn’t have much idea how this would assist me in the short term. Clearly the motivator was needed to prepare the ship for takeoff, but I still had no idea how I was going to actually get inside it! I continued to ride the grabber around the rail until I noticed a hole just outside the room with the droid. I hopped off, and stepped into the chute...
I think I've got something....yep...I've definitely got something! It's a biggin' too!
I tumbled out the bottom of the chute into a darkened room, lit only by three wire connected lamps (5 points). Three evil looking rats looked on as I explored the area, finding that the lamps and wire connecting them up were the only items on interest. “Some brittle-looking wire runs from lamp to lamp and then disappears into a hole to the left.” Why did the game make such a point of describing the wire as “brittle”? I already had some wire of course, but I tried unsuccessfully to pick up some more. I checked out the “hole to the left”, and inside I discovered a “reactor which seems to be providing power for the lights”. I added it to my inventory (15 points), and since I couldn’t find anything else that I could do down there, ascended the ladder at the end of the room, reappearing amidst the junk on the screen with all the derelict spaceships. I wondered whether I would be able to get back down underground from my new location and found that I could if I typed “climb down” while hidden amongst the rubbish. I took stock at this point, and wondered what I was supposed to do with the wire and reactor.
Roger had always wanted to hold centre stage, yet he hadn't expected such a tough audience!
It seemed likely to me that I was supposed to use the reactor on the motivator somehow, yet I’d already dropped that into the back of the submerged ship. I certainly wasn’t going to be able to use any of the items I had to climb up onto the ship. Confused, I decided to revisit every screen and see if I could find something I’d missed the first time. To my great surprise, when I re-entered the tube where I’d originally collected the wires, a large rat dropped down and mugged me! The damn thing stole my wire and my reactor, causing me to lose 20 points in the process! Why didn’t I remember any of this?! Was I dead ended now? Did I need to do everything in a different order? Was I supposed to use the reactor and wire on the motivator before I slotted it into the ship, and this was the game’s way of telling me? Surely not! I knew that Sierra could do bitchy things like that, but by 1989 they were much better at behaving themselves. Weren't they?! I calmed myself down and thought about the situation rationally. The rat had run off to the right of screen. Where might it have gone? Perhaps I could get my stuff back?
Biff!! Pow!! Ratman wasted little time in taking down the evil janitor!
Long story short, I wasted a fair bit more time trying to climb up onto the ship, and looking for a place that the rat might have put everything, to no avail. I even tried to figure out what might happen if I got the reactor before moving the motivator, in the hope that if I attached it prior to dumping it into the ship something might happen. It was only when I went back underground to where I originally collected the reactor that I found the lights were all back on. The rat had returned the reactor and then turned the lights back on. I gave myself a face-palm, annoyed that I’d not remembered the three evil looking rats that were overlooking that screen from the edges. When I looked at the wires attached to the lamps, I also discovered that they were no longer brittle and cheap! So the rat had stolen back the reactor and replaced their crappy wiring with my SQ approved wiring. There was only one thing to do…I stole it all back! I realised that my downfall so far was that I was trying to remember my way through the game instead of approaching everything with the logic I normally use. I tried to forget everything that was oozing out of my memory banks (or not) and tried to look at my current position with fresh eyes.
It's a little tricky that I couldn't take the wire before but now I could. It's not completely obvious that the rat replaced the wiring with my better quality stuff either.
What was my main obstacle? Getting up onto that bloody ship! Has there been anything on any of the screens that I might be able to use to assist me with climbing? Well, there was a ladder right in front of me. But that was the only way out of the room, so I couldn’t exactly remove it. Was I supposed to pick the ladder up from outside the room, despite the fact I couldn’t even see it from amongst all the scrap metal? How exactly would I carry a ladder around anyway? I climbed up the ladder and out of the underground area, then typed “get ladder”. “You grab the ladder and jam it in your pocket.”(10 points) Why was I surprised? This sort of thing had occurred in other Sierra games in the past! Did others out there struggle with this puzzle as much as I did? Regardless, I took the ladder straight to the ship and used it (10 points), giving me access to the hatch on the top. I opened it up and hopped inside (10 points), delighted that I might finally get off this freighter and into the guts of the game. I’m not blaming the game for my woes so far. The puzzles have been a little bit tricky, but the extent of my struggle has been pretty much self-inflicted. I’ve learnt a couple of valuable lessons: 1. Don’t be overconfident when starting an adventure game, and 2. Don’t rely solely on memory when I replay a game and instead apply logic to every scenario.
Finally I can get outta here...I think!
Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!