Monday, 6 September 2021

Space Quest V - Won!

Written by Joe Pranevich

We’ve just about made it to the end of Space Quest V. Roger Wilco’s games have never been known for high stakes, but this game ups the ante. The future mother of our children, Beatrice, has been saved and is resting comfortably. Our crew has not only survived, but thrived despite the low station of the garbage scow that we pilot. And now, we are the galaxy’s last hope against an invasion of mutated goo-monsters, led by the handsome-but-narcissistic Captain Quirk. I’m going to be sad to see this one go: the Star Trek-style jokes and structure has breathed new life into the “road movie” style of the previous Space Quest games. I respect that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I have enjoyed this more than I expected.

All Good Messes...

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! It’s the throwdown of the century as the Eureka and Roger Wilco try to save the Goliath and all of civilization from the horrid goo-zombies! All we need to do now is board the ship, use the transporter trick we stole from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode to cure the crew, and prevent the destruction of StarCon. Can we do it? I have no idea. 


W-D40 has detailed instructions.

Last time out, we ended with W-D40 providing detailed instructions for how to deal with the Goliath: sneak on board using an EVA pod, cure the crew using the transporter trick we just tried on Beatrice, and use the cured crew to regain control over the rest of the ship. She gives us only a 29% chance of winning even with her wonderful plan, but that’s better than a near certainty of dying once the hobbled Goliath finally reaches StarCon. W-D40 is the real hero of this game! Speaking of which, there is little consistency as to how her name is hyphenated as the game will use “W-D40”, “WD-40” and “WD40”. My guess is that they were concerned with being too close to the real product name, but if so they could have cleaned it up better. Returning to the bridge, Roger discovers that our cloaking device (stolen from the android much earlier in the game) is now functional, but we can only use it at sub-light speeds. 

Despite being nearby just a few moments ago, the Goliath is nowhere to be found. As Beatrice sabotaged its engines, it’s heading to StarCon at sub-light speed. Even a garbage scow like the Eureka can catch up to it, but we have to find it first. W-D40 scans and locates it near a planet called “Gingivitis” and we have to consult the manual to get the coordinates again. How the ship even made it that far is unclear, but we’re in “Star Trek physics” territory and so ships move exactly as fast as they need to satisfy the plot. We enter the coordinates and zip to our final encounter.

She’s so full of necessary exposition!

As soon as we arrive in the Gingivitis sector, W-D40 warns us that we will be within visual range in ten seconds, so we activate the cloak. Why could our sensors detect the Goliath before they could detect us? We’ll just call that “plot armor” and move on. With the cloak engaged, we sneak up just off the bow of the larger ship. Cliffy calls up that he has “special” stuff to tell us, so we head down to his lab. 

This is a cool little interface to explore the ship schematics. The Goliath looks a bit like an Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars.

Cliffy must have been feeling insecure next to W-D40’s incredible exposition because he sets up a holographic viewscreen and shows us how it’s done. The engineer displays a schematic of the cruiser and reveals that its mutant crew are not distributed evenly around the ship, rather they are clustered in certain areas. Engineering is nearly completely deserted. We can use this information to plan our attack.

At this point, we can click around to examine individual sections of the Goliath. It appears to be divided into four broad levels:

  • The bridge at the top. Cliffy reveals that there are many “pukoids” there now.
  • Just below the bridge is the crew quarters, also swarming with mutants.
  • A third section has the engines as well as several distinct sections along the hull. From back to front (aft to stern?) are the engines, an empty section, and a weapons storage area. The first will melt us to ash if we get close and the third is well-guarded, but if we manage to land in the middle we should be okay.
  • A bottom level consists of machinery and the wings for the ion emitters, both not suitable for human life.

Clearly, we have to target the small unguarded section in the third level. I might be stretching to find references, but this feels both like the Death Star hologram from Return of the Jedi, mixed with more than a bit of Star Trek-style blueprints. (A 1975 collection of floor plans for the Enterprise had been republished, adapted, and expanded several times by 1993.) Exactly how I will steer to land in that section is unclear, but I expect to find out soon.

Like right now.

I take the lift down to the Pod Bay and launch the EVA pod back out into space. The Goliath looms large in front of me and I expect to have to fly there as before, but the game has a simpler solution: just click where I want to go. I initially was going to joke that rendering the approach Wing Commander-style was a bit much for Dynamix, but they were the publishers behind Skyfox and Red Baron. If anyone could have done a fully-rendered approach sequence, it would have been them! I have no idea how the pod passes through the Goliath’s shields, but we do and fasten our pod to her hull. I open the pod door to reveal… an unbroken wall of metal.

I’m not sure how the shields in this game are supposed to work. They acted like Star Trek shields when we had our battle a few posts ago, but those would also prevent docking maneuvers like this one. Even when the “main” shields are down, Trek ships have “navigational deflectors” which keep the starship's path free of small debris. That alone should have prevented this from working. I am over-thinking this. Where were we? Right, we have a blank bit of starship wall to contend with.

This puzzle is easy: I use my laser torch to cut a hole and climb into the ship.

The pod approaches the Goliath.


Another thing shields would be useful against.

I slice through the hull with my laser torch (picked up from Cliffy’s toolbox at the beginning of the game) and climb through. Good news! I find myself in a deserted room in engineering. Just for giggles, I reload and try to land my pod somewhere else. As soon as the hull is breached, mutants ambush me and I die. I come up from a lower stairwell and have a choice: an exposed hallway to the left or examine some machinery on the right. I don’t get long to think about my options because a guard emerges from the door at the end of the hall and shoots me. 

Space Quest appears to have borrowed some “sneak” animation from Quest for Glory.

I try again, this time being careful to stay out of sight when the guard appears. The machinery on the right is the drive that Beatrice sabotaged on her way out. I have the replacement part, but something tells me that installing it right now wouldn’t be a good idea. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to be anything I can do there.

It takes some luck (and three tries) to make it up the exposed catwalk to the door, but I make it eventually. Once there, just about any move I make results in my getting caught. Although it appears that we can go fore or aft, or just cross to a room on the other side of the hall, all of those options result in my death. It takes a little time to notice that there is a grating in the floor and I climb down into the subflooring. 

It looks like more to explore than there is.


Yippie-kai-yai-yay, Mr. Wilco.

We find ourselves in a maze. Not a fun metaphorical maze, but rather the type that requires us to spend excessive time mapping or just wandering around and hoping for the best. Roger wanders around in the maintenance tunnels until he comes to an intersection. Sometimes we can go any of the cardinal directions, sometimes one or more of the exits are blocked. The art doesn’t do a great job of depicting whether one direction is open and I end up having to click all four options in every location. 

The maze is slow to traverse (I hate the crawling animation) and mostly boring. In this first level (“Level 8”), I discover a section where Roger is chased by a Pac-Man, but that is the only moment of levity in an otherwise boring floor. 

Eventually, I locate an elevator shaft that leads up to a few other floors. While I started out by mapping carefully, each level becomes a bit more complicated. Some of them are also pointless: Level 7, for example, has nothing of interest and I could have just skipped it, if I wasn’t so concerned with missing a key item. By Level 6, my mapping fails. I had started doing a simple grid-style map, but L6 has areas where the hallways cross in impossible ways. (I mapped this twice to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake.) From this point, I give up and take a right-wall approach to getting through and risk missing stuff. I cannot stress enough how long and boring this section is; a good maze should be large enough and with enough interesting things to encourage exploration. Adding to the complexity, I realize partway through that there is also an “up” exit in most or all locations that takes us to a near-identical hallway. In every case, I get killed when I dare to go up there, but it’s more space where I could theoretically miss something. This could be a reference to the interchangeable Star Trek corridors, but I’m going to guess that this area was a bit under-designed.

I gave up mapping after three floors.


Each elevator shaft has multiple exits as well.

The elevator shafts have an aspect of a timing puzzle to them. Depending on when we enter them, the lifts may be in different locations. Sometimes it will be right above and we can only climb down, or sometimes it will be two levels up and we can ascend one only, then have to duck in the utility corridor to wait for it to move. It can also start moving while we are in the shaft, resulting in our immediate death. 

Level 6 is at the top of the first elevator shaft, but I can find a second through exploration. I’m getting annoyed now, so I skip Level 5 entirely and head straight to 4. In this manner, I cross levels and find other lift shafts to eventually emerge onto Level 1. There I discover… absolutely nothing. Level 1 is an empty maze with only a single elevator shaft. I check it twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

At this point, I’m screaming in disgust and resolve to explore every level after all. I climb down to begin with Level 2 and am lucky enough to stumble upon a switch.

Oh, I hate you.


How nicely labeled!

Before I flip the switch, I’m going to pause here. It may be stretching credulity, but this may be a subtle jab at a scene in the original Star Wars that modern fans may not be aware of. In the 1977 release of A New Hope, the tractor beam controls that Obi-Wan deactivates are helpfully well-labeled. The 2004 release makes it unreadable. Is this important? No! But thinking about Star Wars helps to put the memory of the maze sequence behind me. 

Image taken from Marcelo Zuniga’s film comparison video. While he states this change was in 2011, the Wookiepedia claims 2004.

As soon as we turn off the shields, Captain Quirk and his goons reach down and grab me. The switch was right below the bridge! But, doesn’t that mean it should have been on Level 1? Am I thinking about this too hard? 

Quirk and Roger monologue at each other until W-D40 beams in and begins shooting with her newly improved… er… boob blasters? And before anyone wants to forgive the sequence as being a reference to Austin Powers, that film won’t be released for another three years. (Excessive googling suggests that both Powers and this game could have gotten their inspiration from a boob-gun in the 1965 film, The Tenth Victim, but I’m not going to wager much on that theory.) Her blasters freeze the bridge crew and we flee to the transporter room.

I love the “Hero’s Stance” in this shot.


I’m less keen on boob blasters.

Inside the transporter room, Cliffy hides behind the control panel as Roger arrives. We hide behind the bulkhead and await the mutants’ arrival. This turns out to be a small timing puzzle: we have to wait for the mutants to all be standing on the transporter pad before signaling to Cliffy to “Energize!” Why the mutants are that stupid, I have no idea. This is a bit more difficult than it looks and takes me three attempts, but eventually I get them all and Cliffy beams the now-separated “pukoid” material into space. I’m going to assume that Cliffy’s been doing this for a while because otherwise these eight crewmen are the entire crew of a massive starship. He tells us that only Quirk remains unaccounted for. 

Roger rushes to the bridge to discover a bulbous mass outside the ship: all of the beamed-out material has formed into a gigantic sentient blob monster. We watch powerless as the still-possessed Quirk launches a shuttle and plops himself right in the belly of the beast. Moments later, it grows a face and looks towards the Goliath hungrily. 

Is this really the whole crew?


Quirk attempts to rendezvous with the creature.

At this point, Flo contacts us and we are given a choice as to whether we wish to stay on the Goliath or beam back to the Eureka. Staying results in immediate death so that decision is easy enough. Once back on our own ship, we observe that the blob is moving in to attack the Goliath. (If you had “The Immunity Syndrome”, a season two TOS episode, on your reference BINGO card, you can mark that off now.) 

How can we help? We’re on a vacuum ship, so I activate the sucking mechanism! Unfortunately, we are not in range to do it. And then we blow up. Whatever the correct answer is, we have to find it fast. I try evasive action and raising shields, neither of which is the correct choice either. Instead, all we can do is shoot at it!

Droole really likes to shoot things.


Yay, violence!

The volley distracts the blob creature and it turns to attack the Eureka instead. This time, I know what to do: activate the RRS! Our sucking mechanism activates and the blob is placed into the hold, but it is too powerful. We are at 200% capacity and the ship will be ripped apart at the seams in minutes. I do the other classic Star Trek thing and activate the self-destruct (first used in TOS season 3, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”), but in this case it’s shaped like an Astro Chicken. Flo and Droole flee the ship.

I follow them to the transporter room and find Beatrice trapped in the cryopod, banging to get out. I release her (she seems a bit woozy, even calling me “dear”) and stands ready to transport. I also grab Spike. Unfortunately, the transporter breaks down once again. Roger is sure that it just blew a circuit somewhere and we run back to the crawlspace to check. Beatrice just stands on the transporter pad, completely out of it. Back in the corridor, goo leaks out of the trash compartment. We’ve guessed at this puzzle since the beginning of the game: one of the fuses in the crawlspace is broken and we replace it with the one we found in Cliffy’s toolbox. The bad one is marked in red and there’s very little “puzzle” here. I replace it and return to the corridor.

The goo monster has seeped through and blocked the path to the transporter room. This triggers what seems to be a short timing puzzle, but I jump the goo on the first try and make it through. It might not even be a puzzle. 

You don’t look very friendly.

Roger, always the gentleman, transports Beatrice first. (Really, he just wanted to make sure it was working before he got in himself!) We beam back to the Goliath’s engine room. Flo calls down to remind us that the engines are still offline and there’s no way to escape the soon-to-be exploding Eureka. Fortunately, the game is holding our hand on this one since all we have to do is to reinstall the bit from the warp drive. Simple!

Looks slightly evil.


Roger races back to the bridge. We find Flo and Droole in their usual positions, only on a much bigger and better ship. As we speed away, the Eureka explodes. Quirk and the mutants have been defeated! Fanfare plays! We won the game!

Roger looks at home on the bridge of “his” new ship, especially with a still-woozy Beatrice on his arm. Flo and Droole both have the promotions of their dreams. We set course for Starbase 22 at “Heinous Speed” (yet another nod to Spaceballs) to inform Starcon of what happened. The ending text implies that there are more adventures to come for “Roger Wilco and his crew”. While I no longer remember Space Quest VI, I believe that it discards much of the development from this game. If that’s the case, it’s a shame. While I’m not quite ready to rate this adventure, I am more than ready for more Star Trek-style adventuring with a sense of humor. The sequel practically writes itself!

The outer space equivalent of walking away slowly from an explosion.


Enjoy it while you can Roger, your luck never lasts.




THE END… OR IS IT?

Time Played: 2 hr 15 min
Total Time: 12 hr 55 min
Score: 4945 of 5000 (99%)

9 comments:

  1. There's a boob-gun (specifically, a bra-gun) in LSL5, too, where it's called the "Hooter Shooter".

    Are the cases where Cliffy calls them "punkoids" instead of pukoids sic in the game text?

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    1. You are correct! For some reason, I was reading that wrong for weeks. I have corrected the typo.

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  2. Congrats on the win! I'm sure this will score pretty highly, even if the ending puzzles are not the best part.

    There are just so many star trek references (and star wars, although I'd never considered that bit about the switch), them being so obvious at times does take a bit of the shine off for me. (although I did appreciate you pointing them out!)

    I wonder if it's worth covering the Space Quest 6 demo, if I recall correctly it was an entirely separate mini adventure.

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  3. It actually seems a good place to end the series too. Wilco seems to have made a nice progression since SQ1 and is basically at this stage too well developed to continue as the clumsy oaf protagonist, and maybe ending on that high note is better than a sequel that tries to undo all the player's hard work.

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    1. Ummm... https://spacequest.fandom.com/wiki/Space_Quest_6:_The_Spinal_Frontier

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    2. I stand corrected, so all of my fears did indeed come true!

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  4. I have to say I've enjoyed this ending much more than the endings of SQ4 and SQ3, both of which I find anticlimactic.

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  5. But the real question is... did you get your computer's 'R' key fixed?

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  6. The real question is...you didn't leave Spike on the ship, did you?

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