I want you to understand something, if you suddenly discovered time travel, used it to visit twelve year old me and asked him what his favourite game was he would tell you Space Quest IV. If asked why he’d probably shrug his shoulders and say that it’s got an awesome story, it’s really funny and he likes games with puzzles. Twelve year old me was a bit of a jackarse.
The story is thus, the events of Space Quest III have just concluded and Roger Wilco is relaxing at a space bar. Then some Cylon looking mofos attack him. But it’s okay because a rouge squadron wannabe drops in and Deus Ex Machinimas him to safety. Well I say safety, really it’s a post apocalyptic future Space Quest with wandering mutants and kill-bots. For a comedy it’s not exactly the best start. To be fair it’s a better premise than most Mario games but that isn’t saying a lot. It does get better, not in a “the plot gets interesting or makes sense” kind of way but once it starts to throw its wacky scenarios at you and you start hopping between various imaginary Space Quest sequels it does vaguely hit its stride.
But the humour is the nerdiest shit you will ever hear, and not this new hipster nerd thing that’s going around. Listen douche bags, liking Star Wars, using the internet and wearing semi-ironic black thick rimmed glasses does not make you are a nerd. What it makes you is a hipster, jumping on the bandwagon cause you think new media is fashionable or something. Want to check your nerd cred? Play Space Quest IV, if you spend your whole time thinking “what the fuck is this shit” congrats you are a functioning member of the human race. If you laugh then welcome to hell, I hope you are ready for a life of alienation and ridicule.
Honestly I don’t even find this game funny any more, I think that might show some level personal growth on my part. Maybe. I mean it’d be weird if I loved everything from my childhood. We should be glad when we discover old icons are rubbish.
At least the puzzles are well crafted. People complain about how illogical adventure game puzzles are but they’re often wrong. These puzzles were hard as hell when we were twelve, now they’re almost embarrassingly easy. Giving an example would probably count as a spoiler so you will just have to take my word on it.There is one tricky one to do with travelling back to Space Quest XII. But the solution to it is incredibly satisfying because…
(Skip the next section if you don’t want it ruined for you).
…you need the address to Space Quest XII but have no way of getting it where you are. So you reload an old save game from back when you were in Space Quest XII. When you enter the time pod you notice that there’s already a code written in the readout. Hotdog it’s the address for space Quest XII. You then reload your save from the future (actually the past) enter the code and head to back to (the future) Space Quest XII.
This is either terrible design or some seriously Meta-Proto-Braid level shit. Let’s give the designers the benefit of the doubt.
Unlike LucasArts adventure games Space Quest IV does feature player death and some would argue this is a bad thing. But death in an adventure game can work. Yes early on you’ll die a lot but then you man up, pay attention and get to work. The deaths in Space Quest IV never feel cheap, you will know when you’re at risk, so you save accordingly. But why not just do away with death altogether? Because death, at least in Space Quest, is fucking funny. The game is at its best in the few moments you do something stupid, the game knows you did something stupid and you both get a chuckle out of it. Also it means when Roger is in danger you feel it, Monkey Island is great but even the sections that should be tense, like sneaking on board the ghost ship, are not purely because screwing up doesn’t matter. In Space Quest screwing up does matter but at least it’s funny.
Where this all gets heartbreaking is when you need to do the zero gravity skating rink section. In the original disk version it worked fine but when Sierra released the CD-ROM version they screwed the pooch. Due to some hardware and timing issue the section became nearly unplayable. But this was before the internet made patching software a worthwhile proposition so the problem was never fixed. Then they re-released all the old Space Quest games on one convenient disk. Did they take the opportunity to fix the issue? Hell no. Now they’ve re-released it again on Steam, is the problem solved? Nope. For god sakes it’s been 17 years what is the hold up? How can you release and re-release dodgy code?
Bottom line until they fix it, don’t buy it. Not even for nostalgia’s sake. It does contain some sexy 256 colour babes though.