Monday, 12 April 2021

Space Quest V - Encounter At Gangularis

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! Where we last left Space Quest V, I had just passed our Starcon exam and was granted my first ship: the SCS Eureka, a garbage scow. Still, everyone has to start somewhere and I’m sure that I will be working my way up the command ladder to be commanding a mighty starship in no time. Even if it’s small, we have a ship and a crew! 

Now, how should I begin? I know! We’ll have some jaunty theme music followed by one of those “Captain’s Log” things that provide exposition without forcing characters to tell each other things that they already know. Since this isn’t 1990s web design, you’ll have to click here for the soundtrack. The score is credited to Timothy Clarke and Christopher Stevens. We listened to the latter’s work in our previous Dynamix adventures including Willy Beamish, Rise of the Dragon, and Heart of China. It’s a fun score that riffs nicely both the earlier Space Quest games as well as Star Trek. I am completely unqualified to talk about music, so let’s jump straight into:

Encounter at Gangularis

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Tuesday afternoon, just after lunch. Having been granted my first command, I am eager to explore strange new worlds and collect trash where no one has gone before. Not everyone is up for such an important task, but I have the soul of a janitor. Litterbugs beware! My first task will be to get my ship out of spacedock and out into open space. After that, it’ll be the second star to the right and straight on until morning.

 I hope the back of my chair doesn’t really say “Exit”.

I sit and am greeted by a standard Star Trek-style bridge view with our two bridge officers on either side of a large viewscreen. Before we head out, I talk to my two new crewmembers to learn a bit more about them. Flo, the woman on the left, is our communications officer. She is a deeply scarred woman who appears to hate men but still married four of them. Her previous assignment was the Phlegma. She also reveals that the Eureka’s previous captain died when he fell out of the airlock, although she hardly seems sad about this. Here’s a sample of our conversation:

Flo: My life stinks and it’s all your fault. 

Roger: I don’t follow you... 

Flo: You’re a man, right?

Roger: Yes…

Flo: Well, there you go. 

Subcorporal Droole is our navigation officer. He plans for this to be his last tour on the Eureka. His career seems to be stalled and he is disappointed that he’ll spend the latter part of it on a garbage scow. Some of his dialog suggests that he’s older, but who can tell with aliens anyway? He says that Flo is really nice once you get to know her. I guess I’ll have to see about that. Notice that “Subcorporal” is an army/marine rank rather than a naval one. Will that mean anything? Probably not. 

How do we leave Spacedock? That seems easy enough: I ask Flo to “Hail Starcon” and we are cleared to leave. We are assigned our first mission, to pick up garbage at Gangularis, Peeyu, and Kiz Urazgubi. I order Droole to lay in a course and we are prompted to enter coordinates.

Didn’t we have the same thing in Space Quest IV?

We have arrived at the copy protection! To continue in the game, we have to be able to look up the coordinates in the manual. I assume that if I played the game again, we might get a different set of planets. To find the answers, we have to read the manual a bit carefully but it’s not so bad. We can find all of the answers we need in “Gir Draxon’s Predictions for 3010”. In a cheeky side remark, the introduction states that “millions of Space Quest fans will be baffled by the butt-headed copy protection scheme concealed within Gir Draxon’s Predictions”. Score one for being self-aware! 

The names of several star systems and their coordinates are slightly hidden in the background graphic. It doesn’t take me long to find that Gangularis is located at “71552”. 

Libras are the coolest.

I enter the coordinates and order Droole to head out at “Regular Speed”. There was a hint last session that someone had once activated “Lite Speed” inside the station and it didn’t go well. I probably should have done it just to see the death scene, but perhaps another day. We are rewarded with a nice departure animation as our ship flies off. As soon as we leave, an evil-looking warbird decloaks above the Starcon base. The ship is piloted by a scary (and strangely well-endowed) female android. Her orders flash by on her viewscreen: she is to terminate, kill, nuke, hurt, maim, and fry Roger Wilco! Oh no!

A classic Star Trek-style decloaking scene. 


The breasts are a bit overdone, don’t you think?

The cut scene ends and we zoom off towards our destination. While I have a moment, I take stock of the bridge controls. Droole and Flo both have consoles that seem identical to the ones in Star Trek: The Next Generation. For those not deep into Star Trek lore, this user interface is called “LCARS” and was developed by Michael Okuda, an art supervisor on the series. He developed a pattern that both looked like it could be a real operating system while being able to be assembled and mocked up using lights and plexiglass. To his credit, the interface really looks like it would work well on tablet computers; it’s a triumph of Star Trek “futureism” that seems almost mundane now, but it was an amazing prediction at the time. 

I explore to find three buttons on the captain’s chair, a green, orange, and red one:

  • The green button opens a channel to the lead engineer, Cliffy. We can get a status report, cloak or de-cloak the ship, or ask for “more power”. Since we don’t have a cloaking device (yet?), those two options are useless and there isn’t much that we can do yet. I initially thought that he was named for “Clippy”, the Microsoft Office assistant, but that character was not introduced until 1997.
  • The orange button opens a channel to the non-existent science officer. Will we pick up one later?
  • The red button activates self-destruct. Let’s not use that one right now… 

A few moments later, Droole informs us that we are approaching a pickup. I order him to return to regular speed and we slow down to pass a planet with a blinking beacon. Flo confirms that we have arrived. On my first pass, I am too slow and we sail right past. I eventually realize that I need to order Droole to activate the “RRS” (refuse removal system?) when we are close. We are greeted by a brief cut scene where a Husky-brand garbage bag floats by in space to the strains of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Our ship screams past to pick it up.

Zarathustra never enjoyed taking out the trash.


But honestly, it’s probably better that way. He had a lot on his mind.

For our non-American readers, “Husky” is likely a parody of the Hefty-brand of trash bags (produced by a subsidiary of Mobil in 1993). There are “Husky” brand bags today, produced by Poly-America, but the brand appears to be more recent than 1993 and may also be a takeoff of the more well-known “Husky” name. 

Once the garbage is safely onboard, we are informed that a lifeform reading has been discovered in the waste compartment. Something was in the trash! Cliffy calls up that he hears scratching in the bulkheads. We have to head down to investigate ourselves. Time to explore the rest of the ship!

No fancy hallways in this ship.

Captain’s Log, Supplemental. We have a stowaway! First contact situations are amongst the most difficult tasks that a captain can encounter. Will it be friend or foe? Sentient life or just another funny-shaped plant? Does it subscribe to Sprint? We will find out soon enough.

The hallway immediately behind the bridge has Cliffy standing near the door and banging on something. We can hear the plaintive cries of some animal in the bowels of the ship. You will observe that Cliffy just called up to the bridge on the communicator, despite standing less than two feet from the actual door. I guess he just couldn’t be bothered.

The hallway contains a door to a science lab/transporter room, a service tunnel, a door to the waste area, and a lift down to a “pod bay” below. There had better be a “pod bay doors” joke in this game or I will sue. At the end of the hallway is what might be 1980s tabletop video game, but if so I am not certain of which one. More importantly, we can access Cliffy’s toolbox.

A bit messy.

Inside the toolbox are a bunch of things that we can interact with or take. Included in the set is: a hand-held vacuum, a spare fuse, a tool for opening shrink wrap, a turkey baster, a laser cutting torch, a pizza wheel, a spark plug, a small drill, pliers, a hole punch, a hammer, a drill, a screwdriver, and antacid tablets. (There are also some less meaningfully named items like a “doo hickey” and a “space gizmo”.) I try to pocket everything because… this is an adventure game. Of all of those, the only things I can take are the antacid tablets, spare fuse, laser cutting torch, and a hole punch. Naturally, I add them all to my inventory.

That gets me up to 310 points! When I check my inventory, I also discover that I also picked up a Star Trek-style communicator at some point. I more or less know that I will need to open up the trash compartment to free the beastie, but before I do that I want to see what else is on the ship that I need to find or pick up. 

Wouldn’t you want your fusebox to be somewhere more accessible?

My first destination is the Jeffrey’s Tube… er, I mean “service tunnel”. Star Trek was full of these little crawlways, created by (and named after) original series production designer Matt Jeffreys; they were a great way for the show to add tension by putting crewmen and women in tight spots where they needed to work. The Eureka has one of these tubes leading to a fusebox. Since I found a spare fuse, I’ll wager that there will be a fuse-replacement puzzle here eventually. For now, it’s just a great way to see what the side of Roger’s head looks like. 

Science stuff!

The science lab contains the transporter pad, plus a computer playing Pong (1972). The designers really enjoy hiding classic video games in the backgrounds! There’s also a cryogenic cooler, a specimen container, and a seating area for our non-existent science officer. Beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be much to see yet.

There’s an elevator leading down, and I push what I thought was the elevator button but it turned out to open the trash compartment. Oh well! Lots of trash spills out all over and Roger is quickly attacked by a facehugger. I haven’t even seen Alien, but I know what a face-hugger is. Roger falls in love with his new pet and names him “Spike”. The creature flees into the bowels of the ship. 

I need a face hug!

Love at first sight!

I try to clean up the mess, but Roger insists that Cliffy will do it. He’s a janitor no more! Before I head back to the bridge, I figure out which is the correct button for the elevator and ride it down to the “pod bay”. On the bottom, the elevator is labeled as “Turbo” and the description calls it a “lift”. A “turbolift”, get it? From Star Trek? Are you tired of all of the Trek references yet? I suppose we’re in a room that is also a 2001 reference, so maybe it’s excused?

We learn that the pod bay is the least used area of the ship, in part because the previous captain had his “accident” here. Judging by the giant EV suit, I wager that we’ll be doing some out-of-ship explorations at some point. I try to play with it now, but the game tells me that I can only do so in emergency situations. There are also two other spacesuits: one for Cliffy that has a hole in it and one for me that is too small. A panel near the door includes a non-working intercom and controls for the EV suit and elevator. Disappointed, I head back upstairs. Our ship has only four rooms!

Close the pod bay doors, Roger.

When I come back up, spy Spike in the garbage but he runs off. Roger commands him to “heel”, but he doesn’t listen very well. Or at all. I chase after him, but Roger falls into a hole that Spike has somehow chewed (peed?) into the floor. Roger quickly pulls himself up. I don’t seem to find any ways to follow or catch Spike in the southern end of the ship. With nothing left to do, I return to the bridge.

No sooner do I sit down than Cliffy calls up and yells at me for leaving the mess. He also tells us that our new stowaway is leaving holes in the floor (I know!) and that we need to solve this problem before we are going anywhere. I search the ship but do not find Spike anywhere. It takes two passes through before he appears in the lab area and jumps on my face. Roger grabs him this time and stuffs him in his inventory. Since I’m in the lab anyway, I remember seeing a “specimen container” when I was in there earlier and I plop the creature inside. I get 20 points! Since the creature’s pee is acidic, I add the antacid tablets to the mix. That seems to cure the creature of its ills and we are able to proceed on our way. I leave him in the specimen tube for now. (In fact, if I try to take him with me, Roger will just return him to the tube.)

Dr. Wilco, M.D.

With our side trip dealt with, it’s time to continue our original garbage pickup mission. Next stop: Peeyu. We also have new dialog options that opened up with Flo and Droole. I learn that Droole was transferred to the Eureka after patrolling the “Neutral Zone” (another Star Trek reference) in the SCS Stupendous. He was in command and attacked a ship with no provocation. It turned out to be a robotic freighter, but it was enough to permanently sideline his career. He also lets us know that we should head to the “Space Bar” after our mission is done; there are no coordinates for that in the book so it looks like we will need to find our own way. Flo has less new to say, but she is kind enough to remind us to get back on our mission. 

At Peeyu, we have exactly the same process as before and exactly the same animation. This time at least there is no beastie in the trash bag, but we do intercept a communication on Starcon Priority Frequency #2. Flo puts it on screen; it is a somehow intercepted conversation between “Maggot” and “Dung Heap”. Maggot looks like a fly, so at least its name is appropriate. We get a cut scene that appears to be on a Starcon ship. Someone in a purple uniform (Quirk?) answers it as “Dung Heap”. He scolds his partner for using this frequency, but the fly-person doesn’t seem to notice as he has goods that he needs to unload right away. They agree to meet at the “usual place” to discuss it. The transmission ends (with a Sprint logo!) and Flo tells us that she was unable to trace its source. Flo admits that intercepting it was much harder than it looked-- she is actually good at her job! 

Where have we seen this purple tunic before?

With no other options and nothing new on ship, we set a course for Kiz Urazgubi. It’s listed as “KU” on the astrology chart, but the code seems correct. We set off but are attacked mid-route by “Proton Torpedoes'' and are quickly snagged in a tractor beam. Droole tries to escape, but it is no use. A warbird decloaks and the female android appears. She is an enforcer from the Gippazoid Novelty Company, still mad at Roger for his actions in Space Quest II. She’s been sent since the Arndroid (from Space Quest III) failed to bring me in. She orders that I beam down to the planet and surrender immediately or our ship will be destroyed.

By your command?

We have only five “standard time units” to beam down before she blows up the ship. That is where I will leave it for today. It’s time for a new mission!

TO BE CONTINUED...

Time Played: 1 hr 10 min
Total Time: 2 hr 15 min
Inventory: Buckazoid, Fuse, Laser cutting torch, communicator, hole punch
Score: 470 of 5000

20 comments:

  1. In the service tunnel, there's a fuse labelled VGA/EGA Interface, or something like that. If you remove it, you get a cute little joke.

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    1. Also, while you WANT your fusebox in a more accessible place, anyone who has ever worked on a car knows they never ARE in an accessible place. It has been my experience that if you can easily find the fusebox, then what you have found is in fact not the fusebox.

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  2. Ah, this brings back so many memories. I'm not sure that the planets you get assigned to go to change at all, at least I'm pretty sure that "Kiz Urazgubi" (Kiss Your Ass Goodbye) is always the last of the three.

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    1. The first time I played this game (many years ago) I spent a while mentally pronouncing it, meaninglessly, "KIZZ yer-azz-GOB-ee" until I noticed the wordplay. *facepalm*

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    2. I readily admit that I didn't notice the wordplay until... right about now. Thanks!

      My guess was that the first two planets would be random but the third would not. I haven't played again to test that theory, but it's structured as if the first two planets don't matter in any real way so could easily just be another pulled from a list.

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    3. I don't think they're random. I took a quick look at a few walkthroughs and they all said Gangularis, Peeyu, and Kiz Urazgubi, although one described the first two in the other order (I don't know whether that's actually possible to do, or was an error on their part).

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    4. I was also pronouncing it as "Kiz Uras-Goobie". It is the "goobie" that hid the wordplay for me.

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  3. Wait, what? You never seen Alien? Why?
    Also, is that a Dynamix mug in the purple tunic picture?

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    1. In the words of the immortal Pumbaa, "I'm a sensitive soul, though I seem thick skinned."

      I don't do well with horror movies of any kind. I haven't even managed to sit through Gremlins. (Which is unfortunate, because I still have the Scott Adams "Gremlins" game to play some day when I can think of something other than Infocom.)

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    2. I'm not a horror fan either, especially when there's gore or even gross-out and IIRC the first Gremlins had a fair amount of the latter.

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    3. And how do you fare with horror games? You play those? Alone in the Dark and the likes

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    4. I have never played one and have no idea.

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    5. How do you feel about written horror? I am thinking of a game you'll be playing in the near future with the Infocom marathon.

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    6. If Ilmari is referring to "The Lurking Horror", I wouldn't worry about it too much. There's some Lovecraftian cosmic-horror atmosphere, a couple of monsters, maybe a couple kinda gross bits, but I at least wasn't bothered by it at all.

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    7. I'm mostly okay with written horror. I couldn't make it through "IT" for example, but I liked "The Shining". I also have some basic familiarity with writers ranging from Poe to Lovecraft. I'm not worried about Infocom's version of that and am looking forward to playing.

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  4. Looks link Dinc to me, which probably also fits in this game...

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    1. Reply and spelling fail!

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    2. Not sure what you're referring to with "Dinc" (or even if you meant "Dync"). It's definitely the Dynamix logo.

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  5. Dnyc is all you can actually see in the picture, which is an acronym for 'double income no kids' but if spelt with a 'k', is generally considered a derogatory word with juvenile meanings.

    And yes, is is the Dynamix logo - I'm getting too old to try my hand at juvenile humour.

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    1. I guess it doesn't occur to me to read it as a "c" because I know it's a cut-off "a". But in that case I would have said "Dync? what the heck?" and not linked it to DINK (or DINKY, "no kids yet") or to the slang word "dink". I suppose you could say Roger is kind of a dink, but DINK(Y) doesn't really make sense in this context.

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