Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Game 33: Space Quest III - Final Rating

I'm back! The wife and I had a wonderful short break in Tasmania, with a thick layer of snow covering the beautiful forest surrounding our cabin on Cradle Mountain for most of our stay. A lot of our time was spent reading in front the fire and eating quality cuisine, which is just what we needed after three years of child rearing, working and...well...gaming! Anyway, there are still countless games to play and blog about, so let's finish up Space Quest III and get stuck into game 34!

Puzzles and Solvability
I’m not going to sugar coat things here. Space Quest III is too short and too easy! That being said, it’s true that I was challenged a couple of times (mostly by the ladder puzzle on the freighter), and it’s also true that I’ve played the game before so aren’t in the best position to judge. I do feel though that reader comments have confirmed my overall view of the game, so will run with it. One of the major factors that make things so easy is the fact there are so few items in your inventory throughout the game. Confronting a puzzle when you only have four or five things, three of which you’ve already used, isn’t overly challenging. The trick of course is to figure out what is and what isn’t a puzzle that needs solving, but that’s normally pretty telegraphed. The space combat towards the end was also stupidly easy, as was the giant robot combat in the arena. I would normally criticise unavoidable deaths, but since the death scenes make up some of the game’s highlights, I'll be forgiving there. I’ve been pretty negative here, so why am I still giving the game a 4? Well, there’s nothing overly offensive here, such as dead ends or parser affected puzzles, and readers tell me there are some alternate solutions which deserve credit. In the end, Space Quest III is a fun experience that chooses not to bog the player down with brain testing stuff, but I just can’t give it the same rating as even Larry III or Police Quest II, both of which had more puzzles that were way more satisfying.
Rating: 4

So what is the alternate solution to this?

Interface and Inventory
Let’s start with the inventory, as there’s not a lot to say about it. It’s stock standard stuff, being a list of items the player can scroll through with the keys or select items from with the cursor. Doing so brings up an image and description of the selected item. In other words, it works, without being anything special. The interface is also as you would expect for an SCI0 game. I can’t recall having any movement issues (apart from Astro Chicken but we’ll get to that in a minute) and while the parser tripped me up a couple of times, there were no serious flaws to mention. It’s all professionally done, as you would expect from a 1989 Sierra game, particularly the third one in a popular series. The mini-games are less praiseworthy, although once again I can’t be too harsh. The robot fight and the space combat controls were so simplistic it could hardly go wrong, yet I didn’t find punching in the robot suit particularly responsive. I was going to tear into Astro Chicken, as the controls in that damn thing were incredibly frustrating for me, but I’ve since been informed that I was simply doing it wrong! My immediate tendency was to press the up button over and over again to make the chicken flap its wings, but now I realise pressing up once makes it continually fly! I don’t even know how I got through it the way I was playing it.
Rating: 6

I'm sure I would have seen less of this screen if I'd not been so trigger happy

Story and Setting
I can’t complain about the setting, as it’s perfect for a Space Quest game. Where else should Roger be other than out in space, visiting strange alien worlds!? The story however does leave a fair bit to be desired though. I mean let’s face it! What is the story here? Roger awakes onboard a rubbish freighter and must escape. Everything that happens after that gives the player little actual motivation, unless they're fortunate enough to find and decode the Two Guys from Andromeda’s message on Astro Chicken. It would be very easy to miss that message, meaning many players would reach the climax with no real idea why they’re even there in the first place! However, fans will know that story really isn’t what Space Quest is all about, at least not at this stage of the series. It’s about humour and entertainment, and there are plenty of those qualities to be found in this game. I have to be a little bit harsh on this category here though, as other games had advanced much further down the path of good storytelling by this stage.
Rating: 5

With nothing else to do, I'll set my course to home and leave this adventuring behind me! Or will I!?

Sound and Graphics
I was worried when I saw that Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg was taking on music duties above the tried and tested Mark Seibert, but I think he did a really good job. The Space Quest theme was already memorable, but it received a huge upgrade for game 3 in the series (yes, I checked out the beautiful Roland MT-32 version), improving the end result. There’s even a Monkey Island-sounding version when the player is at Monolith Burger that is very enjoyable too, and the music at World o’ Wonders needs to be heard to be believed. I was also happy to find low-key yet moody pieces of music used throughout most locations, which sure beats the long periods of silence that filled previous games in the series (there’s still quite a bit of silence though it must be said). The sound effects are merely adequate, being irregular and at times a little grating. Let’s talk about the graphics. I really like what Mark Crowe did in this game! Sure, there’s a lot of bright pink, green and blue going around, making it all pretty in your face, but I think Mark did an awesome job with what he had to work with. The environments on the planets look suitably alien and dangerous, the little cut scenes and death images a very cool, and the vehicles and buildings are both convincing and attractive. Compared to Hero’s Quest and Indiana Jones it falls short in both sound and graphics departments, but it’s still worthy of a 6.
Rating: 6

The death scenes...

...are very violent...

...yet still remain...

 ...highly enjoyable!

Environment and Atmosphere
The environments in Space Quest III are varied and graphically striking, ranging from the volcanic Ortega to the suitably named Monolith Burger. Almost all of the locations are highly dangerous, with many screens seemingly there only to kill you. Phleebhut is a good example of this, as the only place you actually need to discover is World o’ Wonders. Every other screen has nothing of use and likely something to cause you a quick and horribly painful death. For this reason I have to say that the planets all feel too small for my liking. In fact, the biggest location of all is the rubbish freighter, which feels massive compared to the restricted environments found elsewhere. The inclusion of the Space Quest headquarters was a very nice touch though, and true to the overall feeling of the series. The resulting atmosphere is a combination of sheer entertainment and wonder, and I’m going to use this category to reward the game for simply keeping a smile on my face for almost the entire (albeit short) running time.
Rating: 6

It gets a bit weird at times, but who says what you can and can't do when designing alien planets!?

Dialogue and Acting
I’ve given healthy 6’s to both Space Quest I and II, due to how damn funny the dialogue was in those games. It’s no different here, with knowing silliness and plenty of references for science fiction geeks (like me) to get their teeth into (this is not the first or last time Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek will be referenced in an adventure game). The self-referential humour seems to irk some, but I think Sierra made that part of their formula right back in King’s Quest I (it used to be limited to advertisements for other Sierra games but it was still there). The Two Guys from Andromeda merely took it to a level not reached previously, topping even Al Lowe's Comedy Club scene in Larry III. Whether that level is high or low probably depends on the sense of humour of the player, but I appreciate it. I think I’ll have to complete the devil’s number here and go with another 6.
Rating: 6

And then there was Kickstarter!

So that's 4 + 6 + 5 + 6 + 6 + 6, which equals 33, divided by 60 equals .55, which means Space Quest III gets 55. That's exactly what the first Space Quest game received, and somehow that seems fitting. The third game is undoubtedly more polished and has less potential for frustration, but the first one was groundbreaking and offered more in the way of actual puzzle solving. I'm going to keep it at 55!

Did anyone predict that score? Yes! In fact, two veterans of the blog got it bang on, being Ilmari and Charles! I'm going to have to use the Random Number Generator to separate them, so if it comes up odd, Ilmari wins. If it's even, Charles wins. And the number is... 85, so Ilmari wins! There's every chance that Ilmari already owns Loom, so I'll leave it up to him as to what he does with the prize (if indeed he does own it). Congratulations and see you all for Colonel's Bequest!

50 CAPs for Lars-Erik
• Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it without assistance
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam

50 CAPs for Aperama
• Discworld Award – 20 CAPs – For solving my Discworld Noir riddle
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it without assistance
• Ren and Stimpy Award – 5 CAPs – For simply knowing it
• Makka Pakka Award – 5 CAPs – He knows why

45 CAPs for Draconius
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it without assistance
• Twin Distraction Award – 10 CAPs – For playing along with screaming twins fighting for his attention
• Haggle Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining how to get more buckazoids and points for the gem
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on GOG

38 CAPs for Jarikith
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it without assistance
• Missing Points Award – 18 CAPs – For telling me that my missing points were just hidden under my seat!

30 CAPS for Canageek
• Kickstarter Roundup Award – 10 CAPs – For a fine Kickstarter wrap
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game on Steam
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam
• Vasectomy Award – 5 CAPs – For having his priorities right

25 CAPs for TBD
• True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game on GOG
• SCUMM Award – 5 CAPs – For letting us know that using SCUMMVM for the game means no audio problems
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on GOG

20 CAPs for Ilmari
• Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For predicting what score I would give Space Quest III
• Space Quest Podcast Award – 10 CAPs – For telling us about a Space Quest related podcast

20 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
• What’s Your Story Award – 20 CAPs – For answering the What’s Your Story questionnaire

20 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it without assistance

20 CAPs for JosephCurwen
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and finishing it without assistance

14 CAPs for Charles
• Psychic Prediction Award – 9 CAPs – For being the second to predict what score I would give Space Quest III
• Child Leverage Award – 5 CAPs – I shouldn’t fall for it, but it was just so heartfelt!

10 CAPs for Laukku
• Techy Award – 10 CAPs – For sharing his vast audio knowledge with us…again

10 CAPs for Josh
• Sierra Article Award – 10 CAPs – For alerting us to a very fitting Sierra article

10 CAPs for Lupus Yonderboy
• Astro Chicken Award – 10 CAPs – For telling me how I was supposed to play Astro Chicken

10 CAPs for The Java Monkey
• Mark Crowe Worship Award – 10 CAPs – For linking to a great Mark Crowe video

5 CAPs for Olivier Galibert
• Anemometer Award – 5 CAPs – For telling me what it is


  1. Welcome home Tricky, seems those days away were well spent!

    I actually stumbled upon the alternate solution to the android puzzle on my playthrough, as I didn't realize you could destroy him in the elevator. I just lured him underneath the grabby plants/pods below the overhang, which gobbled him up and spat out the belt I needed.

  2. Dammit, I should've guessed a point lower! :-P Looking at previous scores, it looked like the scoring system would refuse to round up to exactly 56, but I assumed (for some reason) that the game would get an extra point.

    About self-references: Well, the SQ3 ending does top the Comedy Club scene, but I would consider the whole ending sequence of LSL3 bigger and more awesome.

  3. Welcome back Trickster. I hope you enjoyed the break. I think I might be catching up in number of games played (just started game 17 on my list). It's been a long week without you or Chet posting.

    Here I thought it'd be equal to the second game, guess I should have looked at the score of the first. I'm glad I sat this one out, but I'll join you for the next one. Neuromancer was fun for a new game; hopefully I can get through at least a handful of the upcoming games without assistance, but it's nice knowing so many adventure gamers are here to help if I get too frustrated.

  4. Dang it!! On the verge of my first win ever, only to lose to a bad roll! (although considering my typical boardgaming experience, I shouldn't be too surprised).

    Oh well, I'll happily concede the glory to Ilmari. Cheers to you, good sir!
    And welcome back Trickster!

  5. Delighted to see you are back Trickster! And happy to see also that I finally nailed it! Yes, I won't be needing Loom, so I'll happily donate it to someone. I'd really like to give the prize to Charles, but I have a hunch he might already own it. If he does, I'll figure out some detective-inspired puzzle in honour of the next game.

    1. Very kind of you Ilmari, and you're right: I actually own a VGA version including a Book of Patterns in excellent shape, with just barely visible traces of pencil lines on the staves where I wrote down the notes back in the 90s. Good stuff. I've always loved that cover with the hands, too.

      Thank you and feel free to pass it on! :-)

    2. Alright Loom is back up for graps! I've decided to donate to prize for the first who guesses what three detectives of which writers I am thinking of (no, Sherlock Holmes is not one of them). To make it a bit easier, I've made riddles for each one. The answers should be googlable, if there's no detective story addict here.

      Number One:
      Before Sherlock and other sleuths
      I found in Paris darkest truths
      Mysteries I solved forever,
      Of ape in rage and purloined letter,
      Three cases had and then resigned,
      The detective genre I defined.

      Number Two:
      Black is what I always wear,
      Of souls even crooked I care,
      If a man seems stuck by hammer of God,
      My job it is to know that's fraud,
      And when all went looking Mr. Glass,
      I guessed that he just missed a glass.

      Number Three:
      They say I need a kick in pance
      And Hammet looked at me askance,
      As told in tales by steam ship friend,
      New York Police reach dead end,
      People have like chess pieces fallen,
      Next in line is Gracie Allen,
      Enter scholar of momentous fame,
      I reveal the villain by poker game.

      The game's afoot! (And no, Hercule Poirot is not one of them).

    3. So let me guess...

      1)P. Nhthfgr Qhcva ol Rqtne Nyyna Cbr

      2)Sngure Oebja ol T. X. Purfgregba

      3)Cuvyb Inapr ol F. F. Ina Qvar

    4. Well that was fast: all three in a row! Yes, the prize of Loom will go to Laukku. Now I am just curious - was it googling or do you actually know the genre so well?

    5. The first one I knew instantly, but the other two I had to google. I've mainly read just Holmes and Christie stories, so I'm just somewhat familiar with the genre.

      Nice, now I will have a copy of the Steam version of Loom (although I prefer the EGA floppy version.)

  6. And speaking of next game, since Trickster hasn't really had good experiences with detective adventure games, I wrote a short beginner's guide for detective adventures (it's meant as a general guide, but some of it is specifically helpful in Colonel's Bequest). Here's a link to it (I was trying to make it a bit fancier, but SQ3 was so short that time run out):

    1. Would reading this be considered assistance? If so, then I'll avoid reading it for now. I'd like to eventually get the full 20 points for playing along.

    2. Well, it's not meant to be at least, but instead, I intended it to get the reader into the proper mood for detective adventures, which require more careful observation and information gathering than traditional adventures. There should be no outright spoilers, unless you think revealing some possibilities of the parser is such, although I'd say this is more like an introduction to the interface.

    3. Well, the game's manual has similar hints, so you might want to look at that instead if you're deathly afraid of spoilers.

    4. The manual's pretty essential, because it introduces the characters. Still, I find it leaves some important things of the parser unsaid like the fact that lbh pna nfx naq gryy bs cnvef bs punenpgref.

  7. By the way, final notice for any changes to 1990, when Tricky posts the next post which will be the intro post for The Colonel's Bequest the 1990 playlist will be locked.

    1. Thanks. I've already dumped all the caps I want into the 1990 one. Note that there are several 1991 games that are just a few Mobygames reviews away from moving up a rank (Some to accepted), so if you've played those you should go rank them.

      Also I went over 1991 and checked all of the ones against the wikipedia list, and discovered that a bunch of them had wikipedia pages, but had not been added to the list, so I fixed that. I mean, someone fixed that. I wouldn't be manipulating Trickster like that. >.>

    2. While we are on the topic, someone *other* then me added the X-Files Adventure game to 1998, so you should all update your lists. We wouldn't want to miss it.

    3. The X-Files game is on the master Tricky-list as Borderline, already in my library.

      Going to look through 91 today on Moby and see if there's any known ones there.

    4. There's an X-Files Adventure game????? I have got to find me a copy of that. I bet it's really really really bad and cheap.

    5. It comes on 7 discs, so I'm guessing plenty of video. Haven't tried it yet though, only 280 games to go until we get there!

    6. Here's a speedrun for the X-Files game. Watching this probably won't spoil you since it goes by so fast you can't see what choices are made:

  8. Congrats on finishing it, and I'm glad you didn't get bit by a brown recluse or something and die while in Tasmania! First off, how hard was it to get the Roland MT-32 working? I understand you need to track down some special files?

    Secondly, you need to check your email, I send you a little something that you might enjoy. If not, feel free to use it as a prize on your blog.

  9. I didn't actually realize you could kill him any other way other than luring him under the gobbling, hanging pods until I saw your playthrough!

  10. I believe you've finally lost a bet, Trick!

    Still, not too surprising. I always preferred this to the games I always considered the direct competitor to it from Sierra (PQ2) because it didn't force so much backtracking. I've often wondered whether that same backtracking is the real reason the PQ games take longer, though. (Really I think number of screens and items might make the overall time, with a little variance for the more nonsensical puzzles and dead ends.)

  11. Welcome back, glad you had a great time. I left you a ROT13 message on how to beat the terminator with the pods back on that post. Just goes to prove you really don't read them until the end.
    Bring on the Colonel's Bequest, I'll have to play with DOS Box now and reteach myself how to work it. I haven't used it in years thanks to GOG/Steam etc.

    1. I seriously don't touch anything in ROT13 until after I've finished. It can be tempting when I'm really stuck, but I'd hate myself for it.

  12. Catching up on some maintenance/reposts:

    Project Fedora is now Tesla Effect, should probably be renamed as Broken Age was.

    Precinct has been cancelled:

    Reposting an earlier request since it got lost in time and space: Would it be possible to add an Adjusted Rating-column to the master list? Sometimes I get confused when not recognizing the scores between the blog and the list.

    1. Ahaha, the adjustment column was just added, never mind. :p

    2. I just did it now in response to your reminder. All updated too! :)

    3. Yeah, Google Docs is fun sometimes. By having the document open I could see all the scores being put in in real time as you went down the list. Ah, technology.

    4. And I could see your cursor moving around as well. I feel somewhat closer to you now! ;)

    5. Hey, spreadsheet buddies! ;)

    6. I'll cleaned up the Kickstarter table too. Admin complete! :)

  13. Replies
    1. Aw. I get kicked out of the loop of people who played along with because I finished it during your intro page? I call shenanigans! :)

    2. Ah my bad! I missed that Aperama. I guess I wasn't expecting to find a completed post so close to the start!

      All corrected!

  14. The introduction post for Colonel's Bequest should be up some time tomorrow. That means there are only a matter of hours before the 1990 playlist is locked into place.

    That being said, there are only three currently Disregarded games, being Circuit's Edge, It Came From the Desert and The Oregon Trail.

    1. Um... although I paid for B.A.T., it seems like you forgot to adjust my available CAPs. Shouldn't it read "Laukku - 160 CAPs (30)" now?

    2. It was on my list to do. All sorted now. :)

    3. All right, I got worried because the words "Trade complete" implied to me that it included adjusting my CAPs.

  15. After three failed callouts to three readers that correctly predicted ratings I would give to games and then never collected their prizes, I've decided the games shouldn't go to waste (particularly as Lars-Erik has already paid for them!).

    So, as long as Lars-Erik can confirm that the following games are still uncollected, I will run a few competitions over the next few days to find them a home.

    Quest For Glory 1-5 (reward for Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess prediction)

    Tex Murphy 1+2 (reward for Larry III prediction)

    Tex Murphy 1+2 (reward for Manhunter 2 prediction)

    The great thing is that all of these collections includes games that are still to come on the list, making them of value to those of you that like to play along.

    Now for a word from our most generous sponsor...(hands microphone to Lars-Erik).

    1. Let me check!
      1x QfG still unclaimed.
      2x Tex 1+2 still unclaimed.

      There's also some more unclaimed ones from newer dates, so it seems like it won't be the last time you can have giveaways. ;)

    2. Who would have thought giving games away would be so hard!?

  16. Just discovered your blog, love the writing, you've just got yourself a new regular! :)

    1. Excellent! Welcome to the blog Miguel. Is NRLB your own site?

    2. Thanks for the welcome!
      Yes, working hard on it the last couple of weeks. :)
      You and your readers are of course all invited to visit anytime!

  17. I was kinda hoping it would get a higher score, but I can't fault what you've written. I guess the nostalgia factor puts it higher in my eyes.

    I still enjoyed playing through it, even if I've completed it more times than I can remember.

  18. "My immediate tendency was to press the up button over and over again to make the chicken flap its wings, but now I realise pressing up once makes it continually fly!"

    Isn't that the same walking scheme first introduced in King's Quest 1, leaving the player walking in place when they butt up against an obstacle? (I believe they solved that one by the time the SCI games came around.) One of the eternal quirks of Sierra's navigation -- press the arrow once to start walking in that direction, press it again to stop. (I love how modern console games have the same problem if the player directs an avatar into a wall. OK, then -- keep walking in place! Next year that problem will be 30 years old, and I guess bringing the character's walk animation to a conclusion -- as Prince of Persia did in 1989 -- is still an open question in programming.)

    I don't know if I've posted here or not -- I've caught up with your entire spree, but avoided being sucked in to the comments meta-game. Now that I know there are unclaimed game prizes up for grabs, I'm sticking one foot in the quicksand.

    1. 1) Modern *console* games? Are PC games magically better at this?

      2) Actually the code to do that isn't hard at all. However, I bet most games leave that in to show that it is responding to your input. You never want a situation where a player is questioning why their character isn't moving: Oh, he is walking into a wall, I can't move that way vs is the controller working? I'm pressing the button, why isn't she moving?

    2. @Canageek - I think he meant that *even* something as hardware-conformed and modern would also face the same problem as the PC platform.