Wednesday 21 April 2021

Space Quest V - Arena of Freedom

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! Last time out, Roger Wilco had his first adventure at the helm of the garbage scow, SCS Eureka. We met our crew, collected three sets of garbage, and rescued a poor face-hugger with a case of indigestion. Thus far, I am loving the Star Trek pastiche. The whole game has been note-perfect with just the right amount of love for the franchise while still ripping apart its conventions. We’ll see whether we can keep it up. After our third pickup, we were assaulted by an android assassin that wants Roger dead. For most people, having a killer robot try to kill you would be a pretty big deal, For Roger, it’s just Wednesday.

Let’s get on with the game!

Arena of Freedom

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Wednesday morning, after my first cup of coffee but before my second. No sooner than my brave crew and I finish our appointed rounds, but we are assaulted by a mechadroid. My dark past has caught up to me and I’m forced to face an assassin on my own or risk the lives of my crew. Will my mistakes doom us all? I’m beaming down. If I don’t return, bring back my overdue library books. 

Looks like a nice place for a picnic.

I’m going to admit this upfront: this sequence was more difficult for me than it probably should have been. I don’t know whether I’m out of practice with graphical adventures or if this game is just slightly obtuse. We’ll just start from the top: I beam down. I try to take Spike with me, but Roger has none of that and puts him back in the tank before energizing. Neither Flo nor Droole have anything pertinent to say, while Cliffy is much more interested in what I could possibly have done to get an Android kill-bot on my tail. (“Did I inhale?” he asks. Oh, timely political humor.) He is mortified when I admit that I committed mail fraud. For the youngins that might be reading this, the “didn’t inhale” joke comes from President Clinton during his 1992 campaign; he was “cool” enough to admit to smoking marijuana, but also “covering his political ass” enough to claim that he didn’t inhale while doing it. In a sign of how much society softened on this issue, Candidate Obama made fun of this sixteen years later by not only admitting that he smoked marijuana, but that he did inhale because “that was the point”. 

I beam into a rocky recess where a waterfall descends into a pool before tumbling further down the mountain. It looks great and a reminder of just how nice hand painted backgrounds can be.  The beaming sequence is 100% Star Trek down to the use of “Energize!”, but using an effect that is much closer to Star Trek IV than either of the TV series. Does knowing that make me a huge nerd? Yes. While I doubt Roger will be saving the whales any time soon, the Android’s ship (and cloaking device) closely resembles the “bird of prey” that Captain Kirk commandeered for that film. Coincidence? Quite likely, but Star Trek IV was the highest grossing Trek film until the 2009 reboot and an easy target for parody. 

That looks like a “bird of prey” to me!

But her personal jetpack screams “Boba Fett”.

We are treated to a brief cutscene where the Android lands on a nearby rocky outcropping before hiding her ship behind a cloak. She flies off after me with her jetpack. 

This is the start of an embarrassing sequence of mistakes. I am out of practice with graphical adventures! When the Android flies in, the game does an amazing job: the trees sway in her wake, the sound design is spot on, and there’s a real feeling of impending dread. It’s also usually followed immediately by my death. Trapped in this small room with a pool, there doesn’t seem to be much that I can do. I run, she fires, and I am dead within three shots. I cannot talk to her. My crew refuses to beam me back up. None of my items seem to be of any use. I try hiding behind the outcropping or forcing her to shoot the wall and cause an avalanche, but nothing works.

It takes me longer than I care to admit to say that I simply missed the exit. If you just move into the dark area in the left hand side of the screen, you’ll escape. Take a look at that screenshot and tell me: does it look like there’s an exit that way? Add to that how slow Roger’s walking pace is (even while being shot at) and it’s not that much of a surprise I didn’t consistently make it to the magic spot in time. Why don’t we have a “run” icon?

Such nice rocky outcroppings!

This planet has some fantastic geology. How does this even form?

By following the caves, we make our way up to the top of the rocky outcropping where water falls into yet another beautiful pool. At the very top is a gap between two spires, but we can jump between them and just barely make it. While we’re doing so, the Android flies into view and then into the cave below. She’ll shoot us if we try to backtrack. When she passes through the waterfall, there is an electrical sputter for a moment. Her cloak doesn’t like water. That has to be a clue of some kind.

At the top of the eastern pillar is a boulder. We can climb up there and it looks like we can push it, but the “hand” icon doesn’t even cause Roger to try. Even so, I’m almost sure this is the solution. The descriptions on the caves clearly state that they are sloped down; the designers wouldn’t be bothering to tell us that if we couldn’t roll a boulder down later, right? Lacking anything else to do, I descend down the eastern cave.

Really nice chase images I love the detail!

Oh no! A dead end!

Roger emerges at the bottom of the cave next to a fallen tree trunk, but the ledge he’s on seems separate from the rest and we cannot get any closer. The Android lands on the tree trunk and shoots us almost immediately. She doesn’t need three shots when we are such sitting ducks! There’s just about no time to explore before we’re dead, so I begrudgingly head back up. 

I am stuck. With four screens to explore, you’d think I could find something, but there is no obvious way to push the boulder or do much of anything else. I asked our commenters for help, but the problem turned out to be even dumber than I realized: I missed another exit. I really must be out of practice! If you read these posts for my adventuring skill, I am sorry to disappoint. There was a way out to the east of the second screen that led to the left hand side of the log screen. It’s not even well-hidden; I just missed it. 

No Android this time.

From the western side of the log, we have more options to explore. We can climb onto the log, climb into the log, or walk out on the tree branch. Before I even think to do much, I get too close to the edge of the tree and break off a branch. I take a tumble into the water below and emerge back at the first pool where I beamed in. My broken branch is there as well so I pocket it. Can you say “lever”?

The Android chases me through the tunnels again as I ascend back to the top of the spires. At this point, I’m standing on the top of the eastern side and she’s over in the cave system from the western one. I use the stick and dislodge the boulder. Somehow (improbably), it leaps across the chasm and into the western spire’s cave system. It crashes unseen into the Android, knocking her out and out of the cave. The narrator informs us that she’s been knocked out and is in the pool below. I head down to investigate. 

The colors! The colors!

Down at the pool, bright colors flash in the water. My relief doesn’t last too long however as the Android (now clearly called “W-D40”; I may have just missed her name before) ascends out of the water. Her cloaking device has been disabled, but otherwise things are exactly the same as before. I re-explore everywhere but there’s almost no differences at all. She still chases me in the same places and the same ways, I can just see her coming now. The boulder was my only brilliant idea. What is a janitor to do?


The key area seems to be the log where I picked up the tree branch. If we use the “hand” icon on the log, we climb on top. If we use the “walk” icon, we climb inside. Climbing inside the log triggers a scene where W-D40 stands just above me on the log, searching. There’s a hole that I can look out of, but I’m not sure what to do. None of my items work on her and a previous hint that I needed to be closer to use the drill is just repeated.

Once again, I take a hint. See those dangling vines on the right side of the screen? The ones that look like all the other plant decorations around this area? Those are “fruit” and, if you stand on the right side of the screen, you can just barely not reach them. If you however hit the fruit with a branch, they rock back and forth and we can collect them. Why does “swinging” the fine make them come any lower? I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader. Regardless of the reason, I now have some fruit. The game compliments the bulge in Roger’s uniform now that he has said fruit in his pocket, but the less said about that, the better. 

Back in the log, I don’t have to wait long for W-D40 to arrive. I stick the fruit into the tailpipe of her jetpack. When she tries to fly off, the unit immediately explodes. Robot parts rain down and we are greeted by victorious fanfare. We survived the attack!

Sticking the fruit in the hole.

And then boom!

The Android’s head fell conveniently where I was standing, so I nab it. The rest of her body parts are near the lower pool. Cliffy beams in as soon as we get there. My crew had seen the explosion and came down to collect my body. Isn’t that nice of them? Cliffy is shocked that I actually won. He volunteers to collect the rest of the pieces and I am beamed back up to my ship. 

I barely make it to the hallway when we hear Cliffy beam in. The game hints that we need to give him the robot's head, so I return to the lab. Cliffy is hard at work repairing the Android and is happy to take possession of her head. In return, he hands me an extra piece that he claims doesn’t seem to fit anywhere.  It looks a bit like a flip phone, but those weren’t invented until 1996 (and popularized much later). Maybe a remote control? I have no idea. The narration also reveals that W-D40 will make a good science officer when she is fixed up. (Star Trek fans might be thinking that this is a reference to Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, but she would not be introduced for several years after this game came out.) 

I’m not done exploring the planet so I beam back down. Surprisingly, Cliffy offers to go with me! Somehow, the transporter is redirected and we both end up at the top of the eastern rocks. Roger suspects that our mystery device somehow affected our beam-down. We arrive in one piece with no swapped body parts, only to realize that we’ve arrived at the eastern crag rather than where we were before. Since we (unlike Roger) watched the “Meanwhile…” a few scenes ago, we know that this is the ledge where W-D40’s ship is parked. 

Could be, Roger. Could be.

If I attempt to leave the screen and explore the other areas, the game gives me a plot spoiler: I’m not allowed to leave until I collect her cloaking device! I use the clicker and it opens the ship. I climb aboard, but Cliffy waits outside because he’s “not gonna make it”. Sure, Cliffy. 

Not as big inside as I thought.

The ship isn’t that big on the inside, just a large open cargo hold and a small cockpit in the front. Attempting to explore is impossible because the whole place is booby trapped. It doesn’t look like I can seize the ship. Against the side wall is a compartment that I can access to reveal a complex locking mechanism.

Looks like a puzzle!

The mechanism consists of four turning things, each of which can be in two possible directions. Two larger handles on the top and bottom can be pulled when the turning things are turned in the correct way to reveal a cloaking device, but even then it remains stuck. The first time I touch it, I trigger an alarm with some sort of countdown. I have no idea how long I have because the countdown is in an alien language. I suspect I’d better just hurry…

Unfortunately, this is much harder than it appears. Nothing that I try allows me to take out the cloaking device. I brute-force all 16 combinations and none of them open it up. I realize later that there are side-levers as well (the vertical strips next to the turning things), but I cannot pull them out either. After a long time, I give up. There’s no way to leave the screen without exiting the game and the horrible-looking countdown never seems to actually go off. For no explicable reason, when I pick up the game a day or two later, I have no problem opening any of the hatches after one or two tries. There’s no need to brute force and no real strategy except “keep clicking”. Why it worked the second time and not the first is a mystery.

I got it open!

I grab the cloaking device and run like hell. When I emerge, the ship is visible. Roger and Cliffy flee just as the whole thing explodes in a dramatic escape! We are beamed back to our ship and Cliffy says that he will install the cloaking device just as soon as he finishes repairing the Android. Roger expresses concern that repairing a robot programmed to kill him may not be such a good idea, but Cliffy is sure that he can get it to only try to maim Roger once in a whole. 

I head to the bridge. Now that our mission is done, both Flo and Droole suggest that we go to the Space Bar for some between-mission R&R. An adventure at a leisure destination? That sounds like a Star Trek plot....


Time Played: 2 hr 50 min
Total Time: 5 hr 05 min
Inventory: Buckazoid, fuse, leftover part from W-D40, laser cutting torch, communicator, hole punch, stick
Score: 1315 of 5000

One final blog-related note: Google has informed us that the “Feedburner” email notification for posts will be retired soon. This is the widget in the lower-left corner of the page. If you currently use that to read posts or to notify you when new posts are available, you may need to find another method. We are investigating other options, but hope that most of you will swing by and check for new posts the old fashioned way once this feature is retired.


  1. Thanks to the magic of "April Vacation" (and my taking some time off of my real job for family time), I have managed to play ahead on Space Quest V *and* I have started on Stationfall. I'm not sure whether I will do a Stationfall intro post at some point or hold it until Space Quest is done, but I am excited to start!

  2. You know flip phones were invented for the original Star Trek series, right?

    1. Of course, you are correct. And Roger even has one of those Star Trek-style communicators in his inventory! The "clicker" that W-D40 had looks like a flip phone more than a Star Trek-style one; the more I think about it, the more likely it's supposed to resemble an old garage door opener or something like that.

  3. Assuming when you say "Feedreader" that you mean "Feedburner" - I received that email myself, but since I haven't used Feedburner in a long time I disregarded it. Do you mean that Blogger/Blogspot is going to stop producing RSS feeds entirely, or just the subscribe-by-email feature is going away?

    1. We have a "Follow by Email" box on the site that is powered by Feedburner (apologies for getting the term wrong; I will correct in the post). Google is retiring that feature. Presumably, other RSS-related features will remain the same, but if you get email notified by that box when new posts are added, that will stop.

      I believe there is a way to see and download the list of all subscribers, but I haven't worked it out yet. I'm not sure if it's worth trying to notify everyone or finding a new email feature. Traffic on the blog isn't huge (and we love our community members!), but I'd hate to lose anyone that reads us in that way even if they rarely comment.

  4. I found the email - if anyone is wondering what is up with Feedburner but didn't receive it themselves, there's an info page here:

  5. I will agree that the exit on the left by the pool seems to be obscured, whether deliberately is up for debate. But the pool clearly runs out on the lower screen suggesting that that way is only water and the upper part of the pool clearly cuts off at the pool too. I would expect Roger to have to swim out of there at least. The exit by the log I cannot say is obscured, not very clear but it is at least open.

    1. The second exit was just me being dumb.

      The first exit was harder only because you have to make a bee-line for that corner so you get there before you get shot. Roger's walking pace is agonizingly slow.

  6. Also, the Android science officer could well be inspired by Data on TNG. He may not have been science officer but did fulfill at least some of the duties.

    1. According to Memory Alpha, Data was the science officer on the Enterprise, as well as ops (hence the gold uniform) and being second officer.

    2. Eh, so it's more on the money than we thought! The Android is basically like a cross between 7 and Data by the looks of it.

  7. WD 40 is a brand of a lubricant, so the designers are kinda raunchy in this chapter of the series seeing how you destroyed her. Guess Al Lowe spirit was lurking around

    1. WD-40 isn't technically a lubricant (though the WD-40 company also makes lubricants now). It's a penetrating oil. It gets things unstuck but doesn't actually reduce friction.

    2. A penetrating oil, eh? :)

  8. Fun fact! The solution to beating WD-40 is foreshadowed by one of the academy's test answers.

  9. Technically speaking, Kirk commandeered the Bird of Prey in Star Trek 3. The crew kept it in the fourth movie because the original Enterprise had been destroyed.

    The Bird of Prey also had the virtue of being able to land in San Francisco, where the Enterprise's ability to land on planets had been written out after the initial draft of the series proposal, well before the ship's design (by Matt Jefferies) or even its name were finalized.