Game 54: Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers - Introduction (1991)

By Joe Pranevich

Nearly six months ago, I was asked by this blog about my “favorite” adventure game. I remember thinking about that for a long time and answering that Quest for Glory IV was my favorite game now, but that as a kid I absolutely would have picked Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. I played the hell out of this game as a youngster. I bought the floppy version shortly after it came out, loved it, then bought it again when it came out on CD. I must have played this game through a dozen times before I left for college. So why is it that I can remember almost nothing about it now?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I remember some things about the game. I remember time travel between different games rather than years and that at some point you visit “latex babes”. That is certainly something my teenage self would have latched onto and remembered. I recall a sequence in a futuristic shopping mall where I had to flip burgers to (I think) buy a hint book. I even remember that they changed the name of one of the stores in the CD version. When the latter came out, I remember loving the voice narration. But that’s it. I do not remember how this game starts. I do not remember how the game ends. I do not remember the puzzles. I suspect that I will remember more as playing jogs my memory, but for right now this is it. I am looking forward to rediscovering this game and, perhaps just as importantly, rediscovering what my younger self saw in it. I hope that I had good taste.

Deliberate title confusion? Or just poor box design?

For some fans, Space Quest IV is the last of the real Space Quest games because this is the last of the series to be designed by the Two Guys From Andromeda, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy. They had collaborated on the Space Quest series since 1986, but after this game had some sort of falling out. More recently, they must have had a falling back in because they launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a spiritual successor called SpaceVenture. There would be two more Space Quest games made, but they only featured one “Guy From Andromeda” each: Mark on SQ5 and Scott on SQ6. That can be something that we talk about when we make it to 1993!

I think it is illuminating as we turn the pages of computer gaming history to look at the growing number of people it takes to make a game in 1991 versus just a few years prior. For example, Space Quest III boasted just five programmers (not counting those on the development system, which I assume are the folks creating the engine). SQ4 had nine. Perhaps more illuminating is that SQ3 did not credit any artists or animators, but SQ4 has a whopping fourteen team members just doing the art. There were three credited composers and sound effects artists in SQ4, but only one each in SQ3. I could keep going, but the point is that we have to expect a more polished product with exactly 2.8 times better art and 3 times better music. That is a mathematical fact.

Nice. But still not as cool as a TARDIS.

The manual for Space Quest IV is given to us in the form of a futuristic magazine filled with lots of fun advertisements and a few pertinent features. There is an interview with Roger Wilco as he catches up the reader on the events of Space Quests 1 through 3, a real ad for the SQ4 hint book intermingled with numerous fake ones, and a few other features. With all of that, there isn’t actually that much room for a manual in there. I suspect that some of the fun stuff will be useful in-game (and there is a brief walkthrough for players that are stuck in the first section), but there is nothing like King’s Quest V’s tutorial on how to navigate the new Sierra point-and-click interface here. Either they figured that the player could work that out him or herself (likely) or they just had so much fun coming up with ads for fake products that there wasn’t any room left. For my money, I’m just looking forward to discovering if anything I’ve read for the last fifteen minutes will matter when I’m actually playing the game.

Hoverboards are real!

For this playthrough, I will be using the GOG.com version of the game. After some research, this appears to be a DOS version of the CD-ROM re-release of the game. As that version was initially available only for Windows and has some problems on modern systems, this seems to be the best of both worlds. If you would like to play along with this version, it’s available now for around $10 and the bundle includes the fifth and sixth games as well!

Since I am playing the version that came out in 1992, rather than 1991, I will try not to bump the score too much for the vocal narration. If I have the option to turn it off and return to written captions only, I will do so after my first play post so that I can have a feel for the narration before I turn it off. I suspect that if I leave it on I will get frustrated by the speed: we read a lot faster than we can listen and I am an impatient person.

Enough writing! I am excited to play this game! It’s time to find out of me-from-the-past had better taste in games than he did in clothes.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

Post a Comment