Monday, 8 June 2015

Game 54: Space Quest IV - WON!

By: Joe Pranevich

Roger Wilco’s Janitorial Log #5 - At long last, Vohaul’s evil reign of terror has ended! Or, perhaps it never started? All this time traveling has made me very confused and somewhat hungry. In any event, I infiltrated Vohaul’s fortress, passed a laser trap, purchased a computer accessory, broke into his mainframe, and rescued my son. I didn’t even know that I had a son until right before I rescued him, so that has to count for something when Father's Day comes around. The guy tells me that I won’t remember this later, but that’s why I have this spiffy Janitorial Log.

And now, I’m back! From outer space!

Where we left off last week, Roger had successfully traveled back in time to Space Quest I, but found almost nothing to do there except pick up a book of matches and dodge a couple of under-colored motorcyclists. Without having any better ideas, I traveled back to Space Quest XII, where we started the game, to see if anything had changed. Well, it had! For no readily apparent reason, the Sequel Police guards were not manning their posts when I arrived and I could start to re-explore the future. Is this where I need to go or another dead end? I guess I will find out soon enough!

First things first, I need to re-explore. When I visited this area the first time around, all I could do was run into the Time Pod before I got shot. This time, I can pause to look around the dispatch room a bit. The computer console gives me a cryptic message that I “can’t do this right now”, so I will have to remember to come back. The room just to the right, where Roger arrived by hiding in the wheel-well of a transport ship, also does not seem to have anything new. I consider flying back to the surface, if I even can, but pass on that for now until after I have more thoroughly explored the base.

This is either a doorway, a hamster wheel, or both.

The right-most room is also unguarded. That is the one that has the door that I have called a “Hobbit hole” so many times that you might think I have hobbits on the brain. Well, I do not. (But I have been thinking of doing Melbourne House’s “The Hobbit” (1982) as a Missed Classic. What do you think?) I try to open the door, but I get a message that none of the combinations that I try seem to work. The game doesn’t actually let me enter a combination, so my guess is that you have to solve this some other way. I try the PocketPal first, but that doesn’t do anything. I root through my inventory and see the obvious choice: the acid slime that I picked up back at the beginning of the game. I use that on the door and it melts the lock, opening the way forward. Awesome!

Sadly, I am out of acid slime.

Through the door is a long circular hallway with three suspicious-looking rings and a keypad on the way. When I use the keypad, it seems to be a combination lock of some kind with three separate number entries. I try putting in some numbers, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. Giving up for now, I walk through the first of the rings and get blasted by a force field. That’s death #1, but I feel cheated because it does not even warrant a unique death message. Clearly, the keypad is the way that I need to go. I play around with it some more and find that sometimes, but just sometimes, it causes one of the rings to spin. Does that give me a clue?

Answer: No, it does not. I do not have any brilliant ideas again and head back to my inventory. This time, I try to use the matches on the cigar butt and that works to light the cigar. I then “use” the cigar butt again and Roger uses it to smoke up the room. Just like magic, laser beams appear in each of the three rings! Now, I really do feel like I am in some kind of spy thriller. If only I had some forged orders that would get me past this obstacle, but I digress.

Why can’t Roger just crawl under the lasers?

I play around with the keypad some more and start to notice some patterns: it ignores any number above 360 and below 100. Given the upper bound, it seems very likely that I am dealing with degrees. I confirm that by entering 360 and watching the lasers take a full circle and come back to where they started. I start to punch in numbers that I think will cause the lasers to go vertical so that I can walk through them. The only thing that makes this puzzle a bit harder is that anything you enter below 100 is ignored, but that is easily dealt with by the power of math: just add 180 to any number and it’ll still work out. So if I want to shift the lasers 10 degrees, I either do 170 or 190, depending on which direction I want it to go. Easy as pi.

The first time I think I have them lined up correctly, I die (#2) because Roger is enough of an idiot that he will walk into almost-vertical lasers that he can see. In my next attempt, I make sure that the lasers are properly vertical and successfully pass through. Finally, I can can explore the rest of the fortress!

I do my little turn on the catwalk.

The next section of the base looks to be a strange, open environment with multiple levels of walkways and ominous sci-fi structures looking down at me in ominous ways. Even the music is ominous. For some reason, the mix of futuristic organic and inorganic components here reminds me of the Cylons’ ships in the revived Battlestar Galactica, though this game preceded that by many years.

I notice a terminal off to the left, and another one above me. I try to use the one on this level, but I get a generic failure message. Is this finally where I can use my PocketPal? Yes! Except instead of doing anything useful, it tells me that I am lacking the correct adapter. Fortunately, we know exactly where to get one: the Galaxy Galleria Mall!

Behold, the future of USB!

I take a screen capture and race back to my Time Pod. I punch in the coordinate back to the mall in Space Quest X (thankfully, I took a screenshot of those too before I left the mall) and engage the time machine. The mall does not appear to be crawling with Sequel Police, though several of the stores remain closed. Hertz So Good is open and I have no difficulty finding the correct adapter to buy. That uses up almost all of my hard-stolen cash, but rather than tempt fate by playing more Ms. Astro Chicken, I head straight back.

With the PocketPal and its correct adapter, I access the security system for Vohaul’s evil lair. You would think that he might password protect it or something, but he may imagine that no one will be bringing around dumb terminals while they are strolling through and admiring the scenery. With that, I can start to get a feel for the layout of the base:

I sure hope Roger is a touch-typist.
  • We are right now on level two, the “blue” level. There is a circular something off to the left that I suspect I need to check out, but also a scary-looking purple dot that is coming closer and closer. Something tells me I can’t go that direction yet. It also looks like there are stairs going down to level one.
  • Level one, the sort of orangish level, is the smallest of the levels a consists basically of the section at the bottom of the stairs and an elevator up to level three.
  • That third level is the “red” level with access to another circular something in the far north
Of course, while I was typing up all of this and taking screen shots, the scary-looking purple dot became the murderous purple dot and killed me stone dead. That makes death #3, but at least I have a gameplan.

Can we play duck-duck-goose instead?

Since going west doesn’t seem to be an option, I head north towards the stairs. Along the way, I find another console port and plug in. I am expecting to just use the console ports spread around the base to keep tabs on the killer droids, but this one has an unexpected surprise: Sludge Vohaul. It seems that he knows that I am here. More importantly, he reveals to Roger what we already know because we can see the cut scenes: Sludge Vohaul has captured Roger’s son (OMG!) and is imprisoning him in a pillar of light. I guess I had better rescue him, since he rescued me back in the beginning of the game.

“You realize, Janitor, that my intelligence has surpassed yours.”

What use was kidnapping Roger’s son anyway if Mr. Vohaul did not reveal that until now? Roger is already back in Space Quest XII, so capturing him wasn’t an evil plan to lure him to his doom. Roger would have come back to defeat Sludge Vohaul anyway. This cunning plan might not have been thought all the way through.

As I proceed through the maze of corridors, I look around but do not find much I can interact with. I am continually pressed forward by the two probe droids (my friend the purple dot and another that started on a different level) and end up backtracking and dying twice (#4 and #5) before I get anywhere interesting: the red room at the northern part of the map. And that’s where Roger is finally reunited with his son! Sort of…

Now we know what happened to the “Hall of Doom” after Super Friends was cancelled.

Buddy can you spare a bridge?

Despite appearances, there does not appear to be much to do here, but I do learn one very useless bit of information: Roger’s son is named “Roger Jr.” Seriously. I suppose that is what his name would have to be, but this is the first time in-game that we get told that and I am underwhelmed. Strangely, when you try to talk to him you get the message that “You talk to yourself.” and I suspect that is just some bit of default text poking through rather than a reveal that Junior is actually your clone. But unfortunately, I hang around in that room poking at things too long and get shot by some laser beams for death #6 this session.

I give up on Roger Jr’s room for now and work my way back through the maze toward where I started. This time, there isn’t a menacing purple dot to the west and I am able to go and see what adventure gaming joys that room provides.

Those bio-mechanical bones liven up the area nicely.

The centerpiece of the new room is a complex combination lock, though I do not know the combination. Dead end. Did I miss something back at my son’s prison? Is there anything to find elsewhere in Vohaul’s domain? I backtrack, this time paying more attention to the objects in each room. In the process, I manage to fall off of the ledge in the prison room, leading to a particularly pointless death #7. I consider backtracking to all of the other time zones, when something pings off of my memory. I had thought that the only use of the Hint Book was to travel back to Space Quest I, but there was also a question that matches my current circumstances:

Mrs. Fletcher: Falling and not getting up for almost 30 years.

Here’s the question: “I’m in a strange room inside the Super Computer. Scary eyeball-looking things stare at me. Bio-mechanical bones liven up the area nicely. How do I get the door open?” The third answer doesn’t contain enough digits (and is likely just a reference to Spaceballs), but the fourth answer is correct! I punch in that code and the door opens to an ominous room beyond.

Before I know it, Roger is logged in to the computer’s central mainframe with a rather familiar looking Operating System:

The geek in me needs to point out that while the overall look and feel is of a classic Mac,
the window decorations are from Windows 3.1.

I am greeted with a screen that contains a handful of monochrome application icons and one in the corner resembles a toilet. It stands to reason that the greatest computer on Xenon would run a Macintosh-like Operating System, though everyone knows that Macs don’t get viruses. I’ll ignore this little bit of factual inaccuracy(*) and let’s just look at the icons:

The five icons on the system are:
  • “KQ XLIII”, probably King’s Quest 43.
  • “SQ IV”, almost certainly Space Quest IV, the game we are currently playing. 
  • “LSL IV”, the infamous virus-laden copy of Leisure Suit Larry that was mentioned at the beginning of the game. 
  • A security droid icon. 
  • A brain icon.
I’m sorry, but I need to gripe here for just a moment. I know we’re reaching the endgame and everything is exciting, but this really bothers me: the Two Guys from Andromeda dropped the ball with this King’s Quest joke. This is supposed to be a bit of a “brick joke”, but they screwed it up. This is King’s Quest 43, but the game that we find in the mall in Space Quest X is King’s Quest XXXXVIII, or 48 in human-readable numbers. The whole joke in the mall is that KQ48 takes an amazing amount of disk space-- 12 gigabytes! But as we’re about to find out, KQ43 takes 841 petabytes. That is 841,000,000 gigabytes. It seems almost certain that these two jokes were supposed to connect, but someone dropped the ball somewhere.

It’s just a game. I should really just relax.

Now that I’m done griping about King’s Quest, I love the Leisure Suit Larry reference here for its foresight. The “missing” Leisure Suit Larry IV becomes a plot point in the next Larry game, LSL5, which is released six months after Space Quest IV. I love that it shows up here and is revealed to be the source of the Vohaul virus. No wonder Sierra misplaced those floppies!

Back to business: I dump the Larry game, the droid icon, and the brain icon. I also take the time to flush the King’s Quest game, revealing the insane amount of disk space mentioned above. With the dirty deed done, I get a message that it is “Initiating Formatting Sequence” and I am dumped back to adventuring, but with one critical detail changed: there is a timer in the corner counting down from 5000. I do not want to know what happens when that reaches zero, so I make my way quickly back to Roger Jr’s cell. Now that Vohaul has no brain, I should be able to rescue him.

Not so fast! As soon as I arrive, the beam that is imprisoning Roger Jr. deactivates and drops him to the ground. As he rises, I realize that our worst nightmare has come true: Sludge Vohaul has taken over Roger Jr.’s body.

You’re looking good. Did you lose some weight?

The newly human Sludge Vohaul throws a floppy containing Roger Jr.’s old consciousness down into the pit beside the prison platform. He gives me a brief spiel and then he decides to do something unexpected: wrestle. I honestly have no idea why he thinks this is a good idea, but heck I guess neither of them have any weapons and all of the security systems are offline. So we get into position and prepare to fight.

This is just like that time on Cestus III.

The wrestling bout is a bit of a minigame, though I am not sure if you can lose. You make Roger circle around the platform using the left and right arrow keys, or come into the center to grapple by pressing the up arrow. This initially confused me because the “WAIT” cursor appeared for a very long time at the start of the event and I did not realize that I could move. At some point the cursor did change so perhaps you can also control via the mouse, so I suspect that I may have stumbled on a minor bug. No big deal. After grappling with Vohaul a few times and not really having any clue what I should be doing, I accidentally get him in position to be caught by the prison beam. I won! Now what?

As soon as I regain control, I use the ladder to descend to the bottom of the prison area and return with the floppy that contains Roger Jr’s consciousness. When I look at the disk, I find that it contains three programs. I am almost certain that these are references to other common 90s software, but I honestly have no idea. Any guesses?

The disk contains:
  • Roger Jr. 
  • Brain Tools
  • Stunt Flyer
Well, no matter because I just noticed that a console opened up next to the prison beam. When I use the floppy on that, I am greeted with a simple menu:

Do you want to play a game?

I first press the “Beam Download” button, but that just gives me an error message that the beam already contains someone. I try “Beam Upload” instead and Vohaul’s consciousness is loaded into the computer. From there, I guess that I use “Disk Upload” to get Roger Jr’s data in there and “Disk Download” to put him back in his body. I make sure to use the arrows to select his image rather than Vohaul’s and voila! Roger Jr. is returned to his body and I am now the proud winner of Space Quest IV!

This triggers a beautiful ending scene where the two bumbling fools fail to properly communicate with each other, Roger Jr. decides to reveal a bit too much of the future to our own Roger, but that’s okay because apparently he will forget all this happened anyway. Right. Has there ever been a time travel show where the traveler forgets what he did while traveling? (Please no one mention “Flashpoint”. That’s not time travel, that’s just a bad idea in comic book form.)

Wow. Look how close I cut this victory...

Not a Latex Babe. I am very confused what Roger was up to with Zondra during SQ10.

“Can I have a pony?” “No.”

You’re welcome! Onward to Space Quest V!

My total score for the game is 312 of 315. Does anyone know what I missed? I assume nothing important. Was it because I never beat Ms. Astro Chicken?

Next week is a special post to wrap up a few loose ends before we can reveal the final score.

Deaths: 6 (66 total)
Time played: 1:50
Total time: 9:50

(*) Yes, I know that Macs can and do get viruses, but at a lower rate than PCs. In fact, the Trojan Horse methodology used here (hiding the Vohaul virus in an application that you want, Leisure Suit Larry IV) is perhaps the most common way to infect a Mac.

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 participate.


  1. Awesome job Joe, it's been a long journey!

    Personally I really liked the slighlty Gigerish style of Vohaul's fortress - it's become a constant element of my worst nightmares. The ending is otherwise great, but the last name of Roger's wife sounds too much like a bad joke from American Pie.

    Did you try deleting SQ4 icon? At least in the floppy version that would land you back to DOS-prompt.

    1. I did not try deleting that! But I think I remembered that it did that in the back of my mind. It's something I remark on in the next post.

  2. Roger -Junior- was the culprit in SQX, I believe, Joe - they just look so alike that the pair of them were indistinguishable. (And that note of 'Sadly, I am out of acid slime' reminds me all too much of losing your Magic Rope in QFGII - that was a sad thing indeed! I've always been of the thought that knives, ropes, explosives, corrosives and the like are always the answer in situations like this in adventure games.. which is why it is so rarely the case, I suppose.)

    The end of this game was always the weak part for me. Unlike SQIII's fairly exciting end with infiltrating the alien base, having the oversized match of Rock'em Sock'em Robots and then having a space battle to finish out, this I've always considered a little rushed. (I don't remember, but what happens if you upload 'Stunt Rider' instead of Roger Junior's brain?)

    1. Is this confirmed in-game anyplace? I was imagining that SQX was really "our" Roger. I have some more thoughts on this in the next post.

    2. I believe, by SQX, original Roger would be pretty old by then. It only too 2 KQs for King Graham to sire (heh... sire. Geddit? King? Sire? Er...) a teenage sorceror's apprentice/slave.

      Also, it would explain why the Latex Babe is not Roger's wife but Wankmeister instead.

    3. I think it's the third Monkey Island game that features a literal Magic Wand as an item, which doesn't do very much...and there's a different item that is used to solve a ton of puzzles, making it a figurative magic wand.

  3. Surely there are no longer any Sequel Police at the base because they've all been dispatched to find Roger! Your travels through time have left them stretched too thinly to defend their base (which I suppose they don't consider Roger having the intelligence or ability to break into, let alone defeat Vohaul).

    Secondly, the laser defences can be moved in smaller increments but they require a three digit code. To move them 10 degrees, you have to type 010.

    Also, I think you get to keep your glass jar, and you can visit Xenon again, so you should be able to grab more slime. You could also take the unstable ordinance too, since I think you can get away with collecting it after that first visit to the sewer.

    Anyway, congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the experience, I certainly enjoyed my replay (which is detailed over on my blog)

    1. Three digit code! That makes sense, but I absolutely did not realize. And I thought my solution was pretty clever, too...

  4. The catwalk section here really got on my nerves. The killer robots were too hard to avoid (for me) and even after i gave up trying to navigate myself and had a walkthrough telling me exactly where i needed to go i got killed multiple times.

    Not sure if it's a version timing issue or just my lack of skill or just bad luck. I played the CD version from GOG.

    1. This was the GOG version as well. I had been alternating between the floppy and CD versions, but then I became stuck in the floppy version because I neglected to copy down the time coordinates for SQ12 at the beginning and it was different from the CD version. So I ended up finishing the CD version after all, but more on that next week.

      I did not find this final section all that hard, but I kept the speed turned way up after my lessons earlier in the game.

    2. I played the GOG version and didn't notice any problems with speed. The killer robots in the final section reminded me of the Sariens from Space Quest 1, where you are given a notification that they are nearby (so you better move quickly or get blasted!).

    3. Sounds like I'm just bad at avoiding robots. I can live with that. :)

    4. TBD, on both the DOS and CD versions, I remember having a hell of a time with the droids. Maybe I'm even worse than you at robot-avoiding. Good thing there are no killer droids in my neighborhood. I think.

  5. Complete Telltale Sam & Max (Seasons 1, 2 and 3) for $10.

  6. Hey! They will have 3 1/2 inches floppy disks again in the future. And I threw all my units away.

  7. "Has there eve been a time travel show where the traveler forgets what he did while traveling?"

    Yes, actually. Doctor Who has done four "multi-Doctor" serials (The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors, and Day of the Doctor) in which past regenerations of the Doctor are pulled forward in time to help the current one. The past Doctors always forget what happened after it happened, which is convenient for avoiding paradoxes and occasionally for maintaining character development arcs.

    1. Right! And in those cases, the Doctor only remembers it after the most recent incarnation experiences it.

      But there are two exceptions:

      Time Crash - Ten remembers his encounter with Five *while* they are together and uses that information to save the day.

      Day of the Doctor - While Eleven was the primary Doctor for the episode, he was not the final Doctor-- Twelve was also there. It is unusual that Eleven remembered the events afterwards even though they have not yet happened from Twelve's perspective. There are some rumors that Twelve will be traveling back to the DotD timeline during this upcoming season.

      If you like Doctor Who, I hope to be able to resume my very slow reviews of old Doctor Who episodes on I have thus far though only reviewed the first eleven episodes of the first season of the original Doctor Who. I think I will be quite some time before I get to the "good parts"!

    2. Time Crash is an anomaly. I think this is because it's the only multi-Doctor story that the Time Lord government doesn't know about. Normally they're the ones making sure the memory wipes stick. And in Day of the Doctor, Twelve knows to be there because Eleven remembers it; Eleven is the Doctor in charge of all this, and that's what matters to the Lackeys of Rassilon.

      I would like to see your reviews of more Doctor Who. Maybe you and I together can persuade Canageek to finish watching The Romans with me. I remember the funny parts starting earlier than they do...

    3. Ok, Ok. We can finish that as soon as you get back from your family.

    4. Huh, I guess I have read beyond this point. We still haven't watched more Dr Who though...*feels bad*

    5. This was a long time ago... At this point, I had this bizarre belief that I would alternate between work on my own blog (primarily Doctor Who and Disney reviews) and TAG. And... that didn't happen.

      Right now, I am 100% on TAG. Every time I think I'll have a lull and be able to blog for myself again, I end up working on a "special project" for this site. So, I'm not pretending anymore: I just write for TAG and I'm OK with that.

      Sorry if you hoped for more Doctor Who reviews. I loved doing them! But this is my home right now.

    6. No, I meant: I promised Mara that when she got back from visiting her family, and we haven't watched any in a year and a half. I have however gotten her into Mythbusters and Macross 7, both of which she is quite enjoying.