Review by Flashman85

Reviewed: 05/07/08

Worthwhile adventure game for any gamer.

A remarkably true-to-the-original remake of the 1986 EGA game that launched the Space Quest franchise (though some would argue it's not as good as the original), Space Quest I: Roger Wilco in the Sarien Encounter is an excellent choice for both novice and veteran adventure gamers. Creative puzzles, a variety of action sequences, a solid story, a user-friendly point-and-click interface, pretty VGA graphics, a campy sci-fi B-movie feel, rampant humor, and many inventive ways to die make this game so appealing.

You play as Roger Wilco, a clueless space janitor on board the research vessel Arcada. You emerge fom your broom closet, awakening from your on-shift nap to discover that your ship is under attack by the sinister Sariens. The Sariens have stolen the Star Generator, a powerful device that can transform a planet into a sun. The people of Xenon, your home planet, had hoped to see it rescue them from their dying sun. The Sariens, on the other hand, planned to use it as a terrible weapon. Of course, it's up to you foil the plans of the vile Sariens.

The controls are very easy to use. You have a list of commands along the top of the screen: Walk, Look, Touch, Talk, Smell, Taste. You select the command you want and then click on whatever you want to interact with aliens, control panels, electrified force fields, etc. in the manner you have selected. Along the way you'll need to pick up everything that isn't nailed down, giving you a selection of items that you will also be able to use on yourself and your surroundings to solve puzzles and survive action sequences.

Your adventure takes you through a good number of unique locations. The rich backgrounds offer plenty to look at and click on in every screen, and each location has a distinct feel to it. Overall, the graphics are very well done, and you'll more often than not feel like you're looking at an animated sci-fi B-movie and instead of an old PC game.

The music contributes to the atmosphere of each location. From the lonely music of the Kerona desert to the performances by in-game parodies of ZZ Top, Madonna, and the Blues Brothers, everything fits perfectly. And, let's not forget about the amazing Space Quest theme, which quite possibly sounds more epic in this game than in any of the sequels. At least a few of the songs will stick with you after playing, and even the ones that aren't as memorable still fit their locations very well and sound very good. The biggest problem is that a few of the tracks are strange and have squawks and squeaks thrown in to (presumably) add an "alien" feel to the music, but they often border on being downright obnoxious. As far as the sound effects go, I don't have much to say; they're digitized, and they serve their purpose well and aren't at all bad.

The song that you'll probably hear more often than anything else is the death music, which is composed in such a way that when you hear it you'll probably think, "Oh, no! I've just died in a horrible way and have doomed the universe to destruction by the Sariens! ...But it's okay, because it was funny." Whether your solution to a puzzle is incorrect, your reflexes are too slow during an action sequence, or you go out of your way to do something stupid, you'll find that a creative and often-gross death is waiting for you. In fact, I would conjecture that it is possible to die on almost every screen in the game. You can be shot, blown up, eaten, disintegrated, melted by acid, rolled into a basketball, and you can even crash-land in another Sierra game, just to name a few. There are nearly 60 different ways to die in this game, and each one comes with commentary that occasionally gives you a hint of how to avoid dying that way, but more often makes fun of you.

The death messages (and, often, the death themselves) are funny in their own right, but the humor doesn't end there. Clicking on anything and everything yields some silly responses, and I think it goes without saying that the Smell and Taste commands were thrown in exclusively for laughs. One particular example of this is when the very obvious parody of Madonna is performing on stage: clicking on her with the tongue icon yields the gem, "Her taste in clothes is almost as bad as her taste in music." Parodies abound, and the game is even funnier when the player picks up on the many references to other science fiction creations such as Star Trek, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Dr. Who, just to name a few.

Without going into any detail, the plot itself seems to parody or borrow from Star Wars in a number of places; there's nothing wrong with that, but it keeps the game from straying too far from things you've already seen somewhere else. Along those same lines, while there wasn't anything wrong with them, few or none of the characters really stand out as particularly amusing or engaging. In a way, this contributes to the feeling of being alone in your quest and not belonging in any of the places you visit, but it places more responsibility on the other aspects of the game to fill the void of memorable characters.

The puzzles and action sequences seem to fill that void. There are plenty of each: puzzles that range from single-step challenges that can be solved on the same screen to multi-step challenges that require you to go from one place to another, often solving multiple puzzles along the way, to accomplish a greater goal; action sequences range from figuring out how to overcome a single opponent before it kills you to constantly avoiding enemies and obstacles. Just about all of the puzzles make sense, your objective in each situation is generally clear enough to point you in the right direction, and you never need to click on the exact pixel to get something to happen. There is a good mix of challenges involving reflexes, careful timing, smart planning, and using items on the right objects; there's also an optional arcade sequence. Even if you've read a walkthrough or figured out how to get through each section, it can still be tricky to execute everything successfully.

The fact that the game doesn't just consist of collecting items and using them in the right places adds to the replay value, which is surprisingly high for a point-and-click adventure game. Also adding to the replay value are the fact that there are multiple solutions to a few puzzles, a point system--you get points for everything important you do, and there are things you can do to nab points that aren't necessary to complete the game--an alternate ending, countless amusing messages from trying to look at, touch, talk to, smell, and taste everything (and from using your items on everything as well), and the multitude of deaths (if you enjoy watching poor Roger suffer).

Artificially adding to the replay value, unfortunately, is the fact that it is very possible to miss something or do something that keeps you from being able to complete the game. Perhaps the most frustrating example is a puzzle in the middle of the game involving a slot machine that is technically but unrealistically possible to overcome, and would require an unspeakable amount of saving and reloading. There's an easily-missed item found way back at the beginning of the game that makes the puzzle a cinch, but it's painful either to not know about it and try to succeed the honest way, or to learn about the item too late, restart, and play through half the game all over again just to be able to proceed. Sure, it's part of the challenge, but it feels more like a punishment if you mess up in that way.

Despite such potential frustration, the game as a whole is very entertaining, and the ending is very satisfying. The plot isn't anything breathtaking, but the game keeps moving and rarely makes you feel like you've been in one place for too long or have no idea what you should be doing. The puzzles and action sequences are plentiful and offer a good challenge to people of all skill levels. The music has its ups and downs, but the sound is overall an important and enjoyable aspect of the game experience. The visuals are satisfying (though some of the deaths are pretty disgusting), but it shouldn't hurt your eyes to play this game, even if you're accustomed to mind-blowing 3-D. The atmosphere created by the music and visuals is perfect. The controls are simple and effective. The replay value is better than many other adventure games out there. The humor, whether it makes you chuckle, groan, roll your eyes, or burst out laughing, is a large part of what makes the game so endearing in the first place. As an adventure game, it's very good. As a Space Quest game, it's decent; some of the other games have better music, plotlines, characters, and challenges. Either way, the first installment of the adventures of Roger Wilco is a fine example of a well-rounded adventure game that can stand on its own, and it is a gateway into the rest of the stellar Space Quest series.

Rating: 7

Product Release: Space Quest I: Roger Wilco in The Sarien Encounter (VGA Version) (US, 12/31/91)

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