Title Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers Company Sierra Category Adventure Players 1 Compatibility 1 MB required HD Installable Yes (recommended) Submission Joona Palaste (firstname.lastname@example.org) Profiled Reviewer Review First of all, a bit of background. The Space Quest series was an important part in my gaming experience back in my childhood. We had three PCs with CGA/EGA graphics in our school, and when we had free time (or when the teacher wasn't looking!), we would play games with them. Our favourites were the Space Quest games I through III, which we completed in a sequence and played each of them very thoroughly. So it was to be expected that we'd tackle Space Quest IV next. Unfortunately, before the fourth game came out into the market, we had completed the "lower" stage of the Finnish grade school, and our "gang" was broken up as we went to different schools for the "upper" stage. For me the adaptation to a new school was so difficult that I forgot all about getting Space Quest IV. It wasn't until this year, 2003, that I finally decided to get my hands on this game, but this time of course for the Amiga, as I do not (thankfully) have a PC with a Microsoft operating system. So I could finally continue the "Space Quest epic" that had started about a decade and a half ago. So, what is the game like, then? "Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers", to give it its full title, comes on 6 disks and a separate startup disk, so a hard drive is a definite recommendation. I installed the game on to hard drive as the first thing I did. (For comparison, Space Quest I and II both came on a single disk, and Space Quest III took three disks.) Because of this rather great increase in disk space, you'd expect the game to be better, more detailed, and above all, larger than any of its predecessors. So is it? We'll find out... The first thing you see when you boot Space Quest IV is the Sierra logo screen. If you click the mouse button here you can go straight into the game, otherwise you'll be treated to a lengthy animated intro sequence. I watched the intro sequence once, and I'll probably never watch it again. When we last left our hero Roger Wilco at the end of Space Quest III, he had just rescued the Two Guys from Andromeda from the clutches of the evil games corporation ScumSoft, and transported them to the relatively unknown third planet of the Sol system. Then he went into a subspace jump with unknown coordinates and... And nothing. The plot of Space Quest IV does not directly continue from that of Space Quest III. In fact, it seems to have hardly anything to do with it. The plot begins with Roger Wilco boasting about his space heroism in some kind of alien bar, when a group of black-clad soldiers try to kill him. At the last moment, Roger is saved by some weird guy, who shoves him into a time warp, and Roger appears on his homeworld Xenon, many decades in the future. Something has definitely gone wrong, as everything seems to be in ruins. It is your task to find out what has happened and how to get everything back to normal again. There are two major changes in the game after the first three episodes. First, the graphics have been improved. They are no longer drawn in a simple style in 16 colours, now they are in 32 colours with a more realistic look. In my opinion, this only serves to make the graphics uglier. For a truly realistic graphic style, 32 colours is a bit limiting, particularly with the ugly PC-style palette Sierra chose. Even OCS Amigas would have allowed a better choice of colours. If Sierra don't know how to make proper use of the Amiga's graphic capabilities, they should have stuck to the old plain and simple 16-colour look. The second major change is to the actual player interface. In the previous three episodes, you had a text parser that you entered commands through, making the games a mixture of a text adventure and a point-and-click adventure. In this episode, the text parser has vanished without a trace, making the game a full point-and-click adventure. In the place of the text parser you have a group of 9 icons. Six of them are for actual control of your character and three are for more general game options. The control icons are walk, look, use, talk, taste and smell. The first four I can understand, as they are fundamental aspects of interaction with the game world. But the last two? Taste? Smell? Is this some kind of joke? In the entire game, I did not find a single situation where either would have done anything useful. The three remaining icons are inventory, controls and info. The info icon is used to find out what any of the other 8 icons do. The inventory icon brings up your inventory so you can use various objects. The controls icon is for saving or restoring your game position, restarting the game, or quitting back into the Amiga operating system. At first the icon system can take some getting used to. It is quite different from that used in the LucasFilm games such as Zak McKraken or Monkey Island, both of which are very famous point-and-click adventures both on the Amiga and on the PC. In the LucasFilm system, all commands are visible at the bottom of the screen, and the commands are more detailed. In the Sierra system, you have to select commands by either moving your mouse to the top of the screen, where they appear on top of the graphics, or by cycling through them with the right mouse button. I recommend using the menu at the top, as cycling can get confusing, especially when you are in a hurry to find the right icon. The new icon-based system makes the game both easier and more difficult. It makes it easier because you no longer have to find out or guess the proper verbs or nouns to operate your surroundings. On the other hand, it also makes it more difficult, because you lose all detail in the commands. Before you could, for example, enter a specific object for the "look" command so you could look at different things from various positions. Now you just end up clicking the "look" icon at random points of the screen hoping to find something useful. This would not have been such a problem if Sierra had added a command similar to the "What is?" command in the LucasFilm system, but they did not, so you end up doing more guesswork. The plot has a new idea that it is supposed to take place at three different games: "Space Quest XII: Vohaul's Revenge II", "Space Quest X: Latex Babes of Estros" and "Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter". This makes the game seem like a parody of itself. It would have worked better if going to a different game had actually made a fundamental difference in the gameplay, but now they just seem like different places in the game world, just like Space Quest III took place on three different planets. Each of these three "games" is, by itself, too small to a successful adventure on its own, which further detracts from the "feel" of being in three different games. (Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter WAS a complete adventure on its own, but Space Quest IV includes a very small part of it, namely Ulence Flats on Kerona and nothing else.) The overall plot of Space Quest IV feels a bit incoherent. You never get a feel of the big picture, instead you are just going along with the story as it develops. In fact, you might even feel unsure of what your mission in this game actually is. I, for one, did not completely find that out until I completed the game. Perhaps this is on purpose - the game is supposed to be a parody of the continuing development of the Space Quest games rather than being a direct sequel to the previous game - but in my opinion all it did was confuse the player. One of the more interesting things about the plot of Space Quest IV is that one point actually requires going back to a previous position and playing the part in between once over again. The reason for this is that you end up finding out some particular useful information only at a point when you should have already known it in advance. But I found that all this is needless - if you know how you should proceed, you can skip this bit entirely. As well as the incoherent plot, the game also suffers from a technical problem: it is simply too slow. Because of the "upgraded" graphics, on-screen actions can slow up almost unbearably, particularly when there are many moving objects on screen at the same time. A bigger problem are the numerous animated intermissions that you can only watch. It should have been possible to click the mouse button to skip them, but it isn't, and you end up twiddling your thumbs as you watch the same intermissions over and over again. Then there is the sound. The sound consists of the Space Quest theme music and some in-game sound effects. Neither the music or the sound effects are all that good. They show both their age (this is a game from the early 1990s, after all) and Sierra's inexperience with the special features of the Amiga. Space Quest IV on the Amiga sounds only slightly better than Space Quest III did on our school's PC - and all the sound THEY had was the original awful "PC beeper". Even when you complete the game, the same feeling continues. The outro consists of a major character (I'm not telling you who!) informing Roger of the events that led up to the story, and an utterly boring credits display repeating endlessly. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but I seem to remember that Space Quest III had a more interesting outro. Overall, Space Quest IV is a bit of a disappointment. I can only recommend it if you have already completed all three of its predecessors and wish to continue the story. Otherwise, there are many other, more interesting point-and-click adventures to choose from. Back when the game first appeared, pretty much every British Amiga magazine I read gave the game a very bad review. "How dare they so insult a Space Quest game?" I thought then. Now, when I have actually played the game, I have to reluctantly agree with them. There were two more Space Quest games in the series: "Space Quest V: Roger Wilco - The Next Mutation" and "Space Quest VI: The Spinal Frontier". Neither of these (perhaps thankfully!) ever appeared on the Amiga.