Saturday, 30 May 2015

Game 54: Space Quest IV - Back to the Sequel

By Joe Pranevich

Roger Wilco’s Janitorial Log #4 - I have finally escaped the shopping mall! Vohaul’s Sequel Police eventually caught up with me there, but I gave them the slip and nicked one of their time pods to travel back to Space Quest I. There I managed to avoid a biker gang, but not do all that much else. Now I’m on my way back to Space Quest XII to see if there is anything new I can do there. I might be stuck.

This place looks familiar...

At the conclusion of our last post, Roger had just completed a full circuit of the Galaxy Galleria mall, solving a number of puzzles along the way. We had managed to get new pants, get and lose a job at Monolith Burger, and even pick up half-a set of time coordinates hidden in a copy of the Space Quest IV Hintbook. The biggest loose end in the mall (that I know of) is the ATM card as I received a hint that I did not look enough like a woman to use it. With luck, that will make what to do next clear as I am running out of ideas.

The last time, the only store that I did not find anything to do with was the women’s clothing store. That seems as good a place as any to start this week.

Wait. I see what you did there...

This time in the store, I can talk to the robot sales clerk in the store. Roger must have the same plan I do because he immediately starts making up excuses about needing to buy some women’s clothing for a friend that happens to be just about his size and build. Artificial intelligence is pretty great in the future because the robot doesn’t fall for that for one instant, leading to some funny interactions as Roger changes into and pays for his new look. At 60 Buckazoids, it isn’t cheap! But fashion so rarely is. And Roger makes a surprisingly attractive woman! The only drawback is that I am down to 7 Buckazoids, so if I need to buy anything else in the mall, I will need to play the burger-flipping game again. (That is, assuming it will let me, but I have one of those 20-year old thoughts in my head that suggests you can do that multiple times. I doubt the Two Guys would leave you stuck if you were unable to get enough cash in one go.)

But, I need to pause here and get an important thought out of the way: the jokes about transvestism fall a bit flat today, and border on offencive though I do not think they cross the line. Cross-dressing is one of the oldest jokes in comedy. Shakespeare loved a good mistaken identity due to cross-dressing, and the tropes go back all the way to the Greeks. But something here does not sit right with me, like the game is making fun of transvestites rather than the absurdity of Roger himself wearing women’s clothing. I suppose we just live in a different time, one that is perhaps more understanding of sexual choices and less likely to make fun of them. Overall, this is a good sequence and the dialogue is funny, but something felt off and I just can’t put my finger on it.

I make my way back to the ATM and notice that the software store is closed now. I suppose that proves that I will not need to buy any of the fun games after all, but I also am not sure the game wouldn’t dead end me. Admittedly, I do not think I’ve seen any “dead man walking” sections in this game so far as usually the deaths are immediate.

Remember when “2000” sounded futuristic?

Decked out in my resplendent new clothes and wig, the ATM now has no problem believing that I am the woman on the card and I get access to her bank account. Apparently, security in the future is a pretty poor thing if this worked, but perhaps this society is just more trusting. I do not dwell on it very much as I empty the poor woman’s bank account of all 2001 of her saved-up Buckazoids. That gives me 2008 Buckazoids and a hole in my heart. I really hope she wasn’t saving up for something important, like medical treatment or Christmas presents for orphans. This is a life-or-death situation for me, but that is a lot of money!

Now, what can I do with all of this hard-stolen cash? Why, buy a PocketPal Connector, of course! That was 1999 Buckazoids and I cannot believe it is a coincidence that I would be given exactly as much money as I need for it. But back at the “Hertz So Good” store, I run into a bit of an obstacle:

So it’s pretty much like the side of my Mac.

I have no idea which connector to get! With ten options, there is no way I could guess correctly. There are no hints in the manual, either. My only conclusion is that I will need to come back later.

I change back into my janitor outfit in the Sacks dressing room and realize that there is only one place I haven’t gone in the mall: the exit! I sprint back to the mall entrance and head down the escalators. Do you think anyone might have left a time pod just parked in the lot downstairs? A certain famous book series I might name had one in just such a parking lot. Unfortunately, that did not have the outcome that I had hoped for (or expected!): I died.

Especially the exits.

This is the first indication that I have that the Sequel Police have managed to track me here, though that does me no good on its own. With that last brilliant idea out of the way, I realize that I have explored everything and solved every puzzle that I can find here. I must have missed something. I will spare you the next part which consists of my re-exploring the mall, feeling, tasting, and smelling things to find anything that I might have missed. Fortunately, it does not take too long: while I am trying to futz with the machines in the arcade, the Sequel Police arrive in a time pod!

Well, that’s inconspicuous.

Their new time pod arrives on the stage-like area in the far left of the screen, while I am on the right with a bank of arcade cabinets between us. In the words of another famous time traveller, I “make like a tree and get out of there”, but not in time! The Sequel Police shoot me and I suffer the second death of this segment. Oh, this brings back such happy memories of Space Quest XII...

The more you know!

After restoring and not dallying quite as long taking screenshots and such, I manage to leave the arcade without being shot. I am home free! There are no Sequel Police in the hallway and I bolt for the main entrance. Well, that turns out to have been a colossally bad idea as there are guards in front of the escalators leading out of the mall and I manage to get shot again before I can escape. That’s death #3!

Believe it or not, I’m walking on air!

With no escape, the obvious next step is to check out the Skate-O-Rama and I do so first from the east (where I get shot immediately upon entering, death #4), and then from the west (which works). Being in the Skate-O-Rama itself isn’t enough as I manage to get myself shot a few seconds later (death #5), but at least I feel like I’m on the right track. I have a very distant memory that you can fly up in this area to escape the guards (thank you, younger me!), and so do. I still get shot again (#6), but this time I get a message that suggests that I just need to keep moving. When I try that strategy again, this time careful to keep Roger moving and not letting him be an easy target, the Sequel Police follow me up the the second level. That gives me the chance to rush back down and see that the exits to the Skate-O-Rama are now open! I make my way out and can explore the mall again, but I hardly need to because I know what to do: time to steal another time pod!

I use the two partial time codes (in the gum wrapper and hint book) and key them in together and the time machine takes off successfully! Look at that! We’re back in Space Quest I!

The triumphant return of EGA!

Truth be told, I do not remember the real Space Quest I at all. (But you can refresh your memory by reading Trickster’s review.) I have played both the original and the remake, but I do not think I’ve beaten either of them. For me, Space Quest III was the first of the series that I fell in love with and as a result, this whole section is new to me. I get out of the pod and decide to first do some exploring.

Rather than narrate screen-by-screen, here’s a summary of what I found:
  • Droids-B-Us, a closed store that probably sells droids.
  • Tiny’s Used Spaceships, now closed, complete with an impact crater where I landed way back in the first game.

Roger is huge!

  • A bar with some futuristic hover-bikes parked out front.
  • One or two mostly empty screens, one of which contains my time pod. Not much to say about those, but there is some graffiti that vaguely looks like time coordinates, but I can’t really make it out. 

Does this this mean anything? Was this graffiti in Space Quest I?

Unfortunately in all of this exploring, I manage to smack myself into the forcefields twice and die (death #7). Worse, I discover that I forgot to save since landing back in Space Quest I and have to replay the final section with the sequel police in the Skate-O-Rama. That causes me two more deaths (#8 and #9) before I can get back to finish explore the Flats. I guess this is a good lesson in saving more often!

I do not have enough of a brain left to understand this.

William Shakespeare famously said, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” Roger is rapidly closing in on 60 this game.

In the end, I do not find anything to do in any of those areas, nor items to pick up. I bet Roger cleaned the place of all adventure-game items on his past pass through this time period. The only place left to explore is inside the bar. Once there, my eyes are immediately fixated on the blob of white pixels on the bar. A closer inspection reveals that they are matches and I am sure those would come in handy! But when I try to touch them, I am interrupted by a brief cutscene.

That’s racist.

These strange monochrome aliens insult Roger for being in VGA and kick him out of the bar. For my money, they should have been EGA aliens, but I suppose monochrome is pretty good. We are naturally upset about this breach in bar decorum and Roger happily pushes over all of their motorcycles. That doesn’t seem to win me anything except now they are very unhappy. One of them swings his bike around to hit me, but I manage to dodge behind Tiny’s and they leave the town. Whew.


Now that the bikers are gone, I can get back into the bar to get those beautiful matches. Unfortunately, they were not as “gone” as I had hoped and shortly after I arrive, one of them runs me down on his hover-cycle. That makes death #10, if you are keeping score. I certainly am. I play this sequence two more times before I manage to get into the bar (deaths #11 and #12), but I do eventually make it. It’s not that difficult at all once you understand the timing, but that took a couple of deaths to help me understand.

Once back in the bar, I can collect the matches. I try using them on the cigar butt that I found in the mall, but that does not seem to do anything. Talking to the bartender is equally useless as the only thing that I can get out of him is that he is still a bit unhappy that I destroyed his slot machine. Figures. This does confirm however that Roger from the past must have left relatively recently, perhaps no more than a few days ago. It’s so difficult to know!

Unfortunately, a box of matches do not really get me anywhere in the fundamental puzzles of the game and I am not sure where to go next. At least in the mall, I had some time coordinates to work off of. Now, I’m just stuck. On the lighter side, I don’t get a chance to think about that long before I am run down by another biker for death #13.

This screen perfectly sums up my experience with the Space Quest I zone: empty.

Since I do not have any better ideas, I re-explore every screen looking for something that I missed. In the process, I notice that the bikers will randomly come to chase you on every screen, and that you can dodge them on every screen. I get the rather brilliant idea that one of the screens must have something else happen when you dodge, so I try to get the bikers to come after me at least once on every screen. In the process, I get a lot better at dodging, but really not all that good since I suffer deaths #14 through #20 before I complete my circuit of every room.

Want to know what that got me? Absolutely nothing. It was a complete waste of time.

I give up and head back to my time machine. Since I do not have any new areas to explore, I decide to check out some older ones. First stop: Space Quest XII!

I can finally enter the Hobbit hole!

When I get to SQ12, all of the guards are gone and I can not only get out of the time capsule without dying (something that I could not do earlier, if you recall), but that there are no guards anywhere in the hangar areas. The big round door on the far right is also unguarded. That will be what I try to tackle next!

Overall, I’m still pretty happy with this segment. The mall puzzles were good, but the whole Space Quest I experience was a bit of a waste. Why did I go there? Just to get some matches? Really? I’ve done worse, but still not my favorite segment so far.

Deaths: 20 (60 total)
Inventory: Pocket Pal (with battery), Unstable Ordnance, Bunny (sans Battery), Jar of Goo, 7 Buckazoids, Gum Wrapper, a hint book, a cigar, an ATM card, and a matchbook.

Time played: 2:00
Total time: 8:00

Special Bonus Images - Space Quest I

I had given some thought to playing back through Space Quest I to provide some nice comparison shots between this game and the original, but unfortunately the time ran away from me and I did not get to do that. Fortunately, Trickster took two screenshots during this section and I suspect that it is fair game for me to reuse them here.

First, here’s what the outside of the bar looked like, then and now:

Other than aspect ratio differences (this was Trickster’s game #6, after all), the two environments are nearly identical.

Inside the bar show a few more differences:

Notice the writing which I initially suspected might be a timecode is on the wall in both versions, so not something added for SQ4. It looks like the slot machine that Roger had to beat in the previous game is gone, plus there is a different band playing. I believe that Space Quest I had multiple bands in this scene, so it is possible there are “Blues Brothers” in the original as well. The only other difference that I see is the view out the window.

Does anyone else have screenshots from Space Quest I to share and compare with us?

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s 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!

Science Fiction References Contest!

Andy_Panthro has kindly agreed to donate a game to the commenter that posts the most obscure sci-fi reference that they can find in Space Quest IV. Man, this is a game series that just takes and adapts science fiction, so it should be a lot of fun to find the little elements that I suspect I am missing. Is the sea monster from some Japanese monster movie? Are the futuristic zombies adapted from a book? Does Roger’s uniform strongly resemble one from a certain popular series? These answers or similar might win you a game, so I hope you answer.

Ms. Astro Chicken Contest

Yes, it's possible to beat the game and here's a screenshot to prove it!

Want to try your hand in beating the game? If you get a better score than 275, send a picture of it to The one with the best score will win 25 CAPs. Ms. Astro Chicken has also been available as a standalone game, if you don't want to play through SQ4 just for the competition.


  1. I'm fairly sure the band alternates between "ZZ Top" and "The Blues Brothers" in the original SQ1, and it will be interesting to see what they do for the remake (I can't remember off the top of my head).

    As for the Sequel Police at the mall, I found out that they will actually appear before you even have a chance to do anything of note. I had just bought new trousers and decided to go for a wander and play Ms. Astro Chicken, and suddenly was interrupted by those damned cyborgs. After stealing the time pod, and returning back to the mall, I have (so far) seemed to be able to continue as normal.

    What's the highest score everyone has got for Ms Astro Chicken then? I'm going to give it a go today and see how high I can manage.

    1. Just played through the burger section (with talking condiments!), and Ms. Astro Chicken, and my high scores are as follows:

      94 buckazoids for being a burger employee
      238 points at Astro Chicken!

      Beat that if you can...

    2. Umm. Wow. That is far, far more than I did on either of those...

    3. The "burger time" score is achieved mainly by cheating (turn the speed to lowest), but Astro chicken is actually not difficult once you work out your egg-launching timings.

      Alas, I won't be able to get maximum points, because it seems that the women's clothing shop is permanently closed for some reason and I don't really want to go back and replay the whole mall section.

    4. IIRC the SQ1 remake has parodies of Blues Brothers, Madonna and ZZ Top. ZZ top was in later releases censored into some midgets, but it can be reverted by removing a few files from the game directory.

    5. Great score, Andy. Only 12 points and you would have beaten the game (or that's what it allegedly takes)!

      BTW, did either of you see any familiar looking owls flying around?

    6. I did not... but wait, you can "beat" Ms. Astro Chicken?

    7. Yes, I've heard people doing it already when I played the game for the first time in my youth. I've never managed it, but then again, I am lousy at arcade games. Apparently you just have to get enough points and Ms. Chicken flies into her home - and then you get bonus points depending on the number of eggs you have.

    8. What?? I may have to replay it! It's actually relatively simple once you know what you're doing, but you only get points for egging farmers and dogs, so the randomness can make things harder.

      Perhaps I should make a video of it, although I've never done that in dosbox.

    9. It wasn't that hard, when I tried it (look above for a screenshot and a new contest).

  2. My apologies for the larger-than-usual number of typos in this post. I finished writing at 1 AM and apparently my brain was somewhat less functional. On the bright side, we are almost there!

  3. There's actually a very good reason, why the bikers are monochrome - there's an EGA version of the game, and the joke would have been lost, if the bikers had been equally coloured as Roger.

    The hole at Tiny's is not where Roger landed. Instead, it's the place of the ship he used to get out of the planet.

    1. Is there an EGA version of the game? How could I play that?

    2. I've just seen comparison screenshots:

      Apparently the EGA versions of Sierra VGA games were really rare, so I doubt whether you were able to find it

    3. Why not have them EGA in the VGA version and either CGA or Monochrome in the EGA version?

  4. The hole at Tiny's is not where Roger landed. Instead, it's the place of the ship he used to get out of the planet.

    Not 100% sure, but I have a vague recollection that if you bought the WRONG SHIP at Tiny's, you get one that drills down into the planet's crust... and that it leaves a molehill-like pile such as is shown here. But someone who has played SQ1 more recently than I, prove me wrong!

    1. Oh yes, you are probably right! The correct ship was actually to the north of the main screen of Tiny's.

  5. The only other difference that I see is the view out the window.

    The bar's a lot less smokey this time around!

    I'm fairly sure the band alternates between "ZZ Top" and "The Blues Brothers" in the original SQ1

    There is a third, alien band. I know not their name.

    Where is our Space Quest wiki to settle these matters!?

  6. I was also a little disappointed with the lack of stuff to do in the SQ1 section. It was a missed opportunity for a 'Back to the Future style avoid yourself from the past' section

  7. " I doubt the Two Guys would leave you stuck if you were unable to get enough cash in one go."

    Um, have you NOT played a Sierra game before?

    I'm pretty sure that whenever a Sierra employee came up with a new dead-end for a game the rest of the office would give them a high five.

    1. I have tried, and you can do the monolith burger section again! I'm pretty sure this is the most forgiving of Space Quest games, it seems like almost every section can be returned to. The only one that I think would be a problem is the section with the bird's nest on Space Quest X (where you get half of the SQ1 time code).

    2. Ah. So maybe this is the point where Sierra started to learn that more players don't like dead ends. Good stuff.

  8. Have you guys by the way seen this voice cast trailer of the upcoming King's Quest game?

    1. I saw that on RPS a little while ago, I'm still not sure what I think about the new game. Slightly worried it'll have a few too many arcade sequences and not enough puzzling.

    2. At least the cast is of much higher quality than in KQ5. Some big names there.

  9. I've written up a couple of Space Quest IV posts on my blog if anyone was looking for extra stuff to read this weekend:

  10. "Tequila!" ... nice shout out to Pee Wee vs the biker bar!!!

  11. Very topical:

    It looks like they are making face-recognition ATMs!

  12. FWIW, the Questbusters review of SQIV at the time complimented the fact that every single death had a unique joke. The "achievement" of the day was to get *every single death* -- the developers mentioned in any interview how many there were -- and someone accomplished it...