Review by Menbailee
Space Quest gets the Unofficial Finale it Deserves
Over fifteen years after Sierra's last official Space Quest, a series of fan projects finally reached completion. Of these, Space Quest: Incinerations is the game that Sierra needs to acquire and market commercially, and they should reward creator Chris Ushko handsomely for almost singlehandedly providing them with a sequel that rivals the studio's own best work during its glory days.
The game looks terrific. The animated art style looks like a logical evolution from Space Quest 6. Space Quests IV and V looked like graphic novels; Incinerations, with the greater technology available to it, looks like a well-drawn cartoon. The animator does an excellent job of bringing life and expression to the characters.
The backgrounds have a cleaner look than the all the greebles and nurnies (and sometimes clutter) in previous Space Quest games, but there are always enough points of interest to provide plenty of the snarky click-events for which the series is famous. Look at things, poke at things, talk to things that logically should not talk back, and lick every floor just to find out what they taste like. No, really. You get a trophy for that.
The full-motion videos wound up especially gorgeous, and they consistently drive forward the story. It's only a shame that the game is limited to 640x480 resolution.
The orchestrations for the action sequences and set pieces work marvelously and do a good job of matching and punctuating the visuals. Several different composers worked for the game, and they do well at creating a single cohesive style. The in-game music is generally decent, though in a few areas it can get a bit grating and repetitious. The ticking-clock theme for the Aries station is just one example of a track on a very short loop. It's not that the track is necessarily bad, but playing the game would become more enjoyable with a significantly longer and more developed musical track in its place.
The gameplay consists of solving improvisational puzzles based on creative solutions to situations using items you've found along the way. Essentially, it's a classic adventure game done well.
The puzzles consistently relate to the plot in a clear way, and Roger always has some story objective driving all the little objectives involved in solving each puzzle. The puzzles themselves also feel logical to the character, and in a few cases they're specifically character-driven and have more to do with emotions than with object relationships. I completed the game in several days of intense play with no reference to walkthroughs or external hints of any kind, and I found it exactly the right level of challenge for a seasoned adventure gamer.
The only flaws with the gameplay come with the game's engine. Your achievements and all other data are kept within your manual progress saves, meaning that if you restore to an earlier point, you must remember to repeat absolutely everything you did or else miss out on that obscure trophy you previously earned. Toward the end of the game, Roger finally gets a much-deserved sequence as an action hero (well, a comic-action hero), and it's a shame that the engine can't support the player pulling off some of the stunts that happen in the FMVs.
Simply put, as a continuation and perhaps conclusion for the classic Space Quest series, Incinerations is practically perfect. It manages its key characters and plot points with the tautness of a good movie script, and it balances its secondary characters and locations with the humor that earned the series its fame. I believe a newcomer to Space Quest would also enjoy the game, which is no small feat after this many sequels.
You play as Roger Wilco, a space janitor who, despite having risen to heroism in times of crisis, is stuck working on a ship that literally looks like a toilet. Your relationship with your girlfriend Beatrice is on the rocks. Worst, the world you saved is going to die, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Or maybe there is. With ideas of time travel, superweapons, and villains from the future rattling in your head, you plunge headlong into a new adventure. Is this heroism again, or just selfish stupidity? Despite having all the trappings of silliness we know and love from the originals, this is a game that has evolved from the direction of Space Quest IV and V--that is to say, it's a bit darker, and the characters have grown up a little. Not too much, mind you. Just enough.
The plot paces itself well and takes enough interesting turns that I'll refrain from spoiling it. Three different endings are normally available, plus a bonus ending if you achieve all points and trophies, and another bonus ending if you finish with the absolute minimum number of points. Each ending feels rewarding in a different way, and if anything, I'd only argue that two of the main three are too easy to achieve. This may well be the last Space Quest, and if it is, then it's the sending off the series deserves.
This game doesn't just rank among my favorite fan-produced games; it ranks among my favorite Space Quests, which in turn means it ranks among my favorite adventure games of all time. When asked for the high points of the series, I would now respond IV, V, and Incinerations, which for me counts as an unofficial VII.
If you ever played and liked Space Quest, download and play this now. If you haven't, but like adventure games, either play this now, or play the original Space Quests first and then play this one. For goodness sakes, it's free.
But it shouldn't stay that way. Seriously, Sierra. Take a look.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Space Quest: Incinerations (US, 01/31/12)
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