|Did the Chief Examiner ever save his people?|
I want to stress that the following is the “official” ending to Questprobe, but not the one intended by Scott Adams and his team. Scott has modestly insisted that they did not have an ending planned out, nor was he thinking on the games more than one ahead. I’m not sure that I buy that exactly, but let’s see what Marvel has in store for us.
Part I: Magneto and the X-Men
|Questprobe Featuring the X-Men|
|Al Milgrom, admitting the truth.|
Our story begins as the X-Men relax on an island paradise between missions. Of course, these are not the original X-Men, but rather a team that included Rogue, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Storm, and Wolverine. Professor X, their usual leader, was missing presumed dead and a recently reformed Magneto was leading the team. Rather than describe each of the characters and their powers, let me jump to the only two that matter to this story: Rogue has the ability to temporarily drain the powers of heroes and villains that she comes in contact with, while Magneto has incredible control over the whole electromagnetic spectrum. Without warning, the Greek-style statues on the island come alive and attack the unsuspecting heroes. One by one, each member of the team is defeated and turned to stone. Only Magneto manages to survive the assault, but even he admits that he is defeated. Rogue also missed the battle as she was traveling off the island at the time.
|The Chief Examiner wins!|
|Like the Matrix, but with less Kung-Fu.|
|Not a good sign...|
|As side-effects go, this one isn’t terrible...|
|That was easier than chasing him...|
|And not Professor Xavier’s X-Men anymore.|
Part II: The Mysterious Power of Kayla Ballentine
|Questprobe Featuring the Star Brand|
This plotline was written by Mark Gruenwald, the lead writer on Quasar. He had previously contributed to Questprobe #1 and may have been around for the early story sessions as the overall goals of the series were discussed. Whether or not those ideas were used in this story is less clear, but having been involved with Questprobe since the beginning, he may have felt some responsibility to ending it.
|A very special hug.|
Unknown to either Quasar or Kayla, the Star Brand power was not fully burned out in the trip to our universe. Instead, the tiniest amount of it managed to transfer over to Kayla when Quasar gave her a big hug. Our characters won’t find this out for a little bit yet. It also turns out that a tiny amount of infinity is still quite a lot.
|It’s like that scene in Psycho, but with superpowers.|
A couple of days later, Kayla and her friend Holly head off on a roadtrip to Florida to clear their heads. Along the way she is attacked again, this time by a low-rent villain known as Quagmire. His superpower is to create and control powerful oil slicks. He reveals more about what is going on: like the Angler, he was recently broken out of a maximum security prison by the Chief Examiner. His mission is to force Kayla to pass through the Chief’s portal.
|Swipe left. Seriously.|
|Where is Magneto?|
|The end of an era.|
This is a disappointing end for the Chief Examiner, especially as this subplot seems divorced from the rest of the Questprobe arc so far. There is no reason given why the Chief Examiner needs to utilize D-level supervillains to recruit Kayla, especially as he is seen coming to Earth to free them. Couldn’t he have had the same conversation with Kayla in her living room? His technology is also misrepresented. In previous stories, the Chief is able to scan individuals by having them pass through his portal, but here the portal acts only as a teleportation device. Instead, the Chief now has to touch the individual to take on their abilities. All in all, it was nice for the character to get a last hurrah, but what’s here doesn’t quite mesh well with the story we had so far. Fortunately, it’s not over quite yet.
Part III: The Destruction of the Black Fleet
|Not how I expected this to end...|
|Only mostly dead?|
|Is one of her powers conjuring a shirt?|
|You have to admit: that is awesome. I’m a sucker for giant robots.|
|Is this the end?|
|Goodbye, cosmic afro-man.|
|%#%@ you, then.|
All in all, I have to give it to Mark Gruenwald for coming up with an idea at least of what all those powers would have been used for. The idea of a giant “Chief Exterminator” is a bit silly, but the few visuals that we get of him smashing passing ships to pieces is well worth it. Exactly how all the heroes’ powers helped him do that is less obvious, but at least it’s an ending. Durgan died without ever knowing that his planet would be saved. There is no closure here for the Sacamites; other than a few passing panels with terrified civilians, we never get to see their council chamber again or have any idea what lessons they learned from this. Would they cease their peacenik ways? Did they come to respect the value of force that Durgan espoused? Were there just not enough of them to bother with things other than trying to find food and shelter? We’ll never know.
Part IV: The Last Villain Standing
|Questprobe Featuring… Skrillex? Skeletor? Eugene Skullovich?|
|Not nearly as much fun as a monolith.|
|Infinite cosmic powers, only when convenient to the plot.|
At this point, you might be wondering: who are these heroes on the moon? Who are these heroes that tried to protect Kayla Ballentine from the Starblasters? Honestly, I don’t know where to begin. The whole Starblasters crossover event is littered with characters, all of whom have their entrances and their exits, have battles with their counterparts on the Starblasters, do things that are important to their characterization and development, and then step back off the page. The wiki page for the first issue in the event lists 49 named super heroes and villains with similar numbers in the others. Rather than try to tell the story of the Starblasters crossover, I’m going to limit myself to the plot that involves Skeletron and Kayla Ballentine.
|I’ll trade this one for Howard the Duck. Deal?|
|Mark Gruenwald liked his giant robots.|
|This is literally the next panel.|
One curious thing about the whole Starblasters plotline is that it hardly references Questprobe at all. We learn that Skeletron’s fleet was destroyed by the Star Brand and that he was the last survivor-- we even get a glimpse of his ship at the end of one of the Quasar issues, following Kayla home-- but no one mentions Scadam or the Chief Examiner, nor is Skeletron’s race ever called the “Black Fleet”. The book does not mind throwing dozens of heroes at you with no explanation or backstory, so I do not think they would deliberately avoid making a connection to the previous story. I know I’m making it too obvious, but I didn’t enjoy this final chapter of the story as much as the others. The Black Fleet was interesting in part because of its anonymity; Skeletron is just a cheesy evil robot with no clear motivations. You could have replaced him with any Marvel villain and the story would have worked just as well.
This is the real end of Questprobe. After this, there would be no more mentions (to date) of the Chief Examiner, Durgan the Philosopher, the planet Scadam, or of the Black Fleet. Marvel has an amazing ability to reuse old characters and ideas so they could come back again some day, but my guess is that these guys will be retired from this point on out.
Questprobe Future GamesWe know from our conversations with Scott Adams that he series was not fully-plotted in advance: he did not decide what heroes and villains would appear more than a game in advance. Although the Quasar storyline revealed that Namor and Wolverine would have been future targets, that decision was made years after the Questprobe game series had ended production. So, just on a lark, I came up with a few fun ideas for future games. Do you like these? Have a better favorite hero that would make an interesting game? Let us know in the comments!
Questprobe Featuring Daredevil
Daredevil is a unique Marvel hero and one that is nearly impossible to do justice to in any medium. Despite having excellent reflexes and fighting skills, Daredevil is completely blind. He replies on his “radar sense”, his extremely advanced hearing, to know what is around him and to react to it. In an action game, Daredevil might just be another brawler, but in a Questprobe game it could be so much more: a great opportunity for some unique art and a textual depiction of the radar sense.
Questprobe Featuring Ant-Man
Ant-Man appeared in Questprobe #1 as an ally to the Hulk, but having seen the film I am now completely on board with giving him his own game. Puzzles could have been on multiple levels: you could enter a room as big Ant-Man, but shrinking down would reveal a different face of the area. A room that you could pass through in one screen could be a whole maze in ant-size. This seems like the type of puzzle that Scott Adams could have done very well with.
|You will believe that a Marvel film can bomb.|
Not really gifted with any super powers other than being an anthropomorphic duck in a human’s world, Howard would be a strange choice for the Chief Examiner. I like to imagine his selection as an unhappy accident. But had the series progressed, Marvel may have wanted to cash in on their first ever theatrical film. It bombed at the box office, but I actually liked it quite a bit as a kid.
There are plenty of great ideas here, but I bet we could come up with more. Spider-Woman might have made a great choice because of her TV show, and Kitty Pryde’s phasing ability would have made for some fourth-wall-breaking puzzles. How about a game featuring a dozen different Avengers? I’d play any of those!
ConclusionAnd this is it: we have reached the end of our badly misnamed “Summer of Questprobe” event. We have looked at three completed games, one incomplete one, two interviews, and two dozen comic books, but now it is time to wrap it up. This has been a bit of an experiment for me and for “The Adventure Gamer”, a continuing series on a theme of games rather than just picking them out chronologically. I hope you enjoyed it and please let us know in the comments if you want to see more of these types of special events.
Questprobe is such a missed opportunity. I had a great time with the games that we played and I still have fond memories of playing Spider-Man as a kid. The puzzles were 1980s-difficult, but relatively few of them were unfair. As the fourth game was in development, I can’t help but think the series was just catching its stride. Scott Adams had figured out the puzzle of how to make interesting games with the Marvel characters, the plot with the Bio-gems was thickening nicely, and the engine was improving to support more complex areas and multiple playable characters. If we old had had a few more games, I think we would have seen some absolute classics. What we have here is not unlike the “Canterbury Tales”: a great work that is worth revisiting, but ultimately frustrating because it is left unfinished.
Up next from me will be another “Missed Classic” of a game adaptation. You’ll never guess in a million years which one…