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Space Quest: Chapter I - The Sarien Encounter (DOS)

79
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Jayson Firestorm (153)
Written on  :  Aug 24, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars
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Summary

A true Sierra classic, setting a high standard for the series

The Good

The first adventure in the long-running Space Quest series, and one of the best, as you, as intergalactic janitor Roger Wilco (or your own name, if you chose to enter it) must escape the evil Sariens who have invaded the ship you are on, and eventually stop them from using the powerful Star Generator as a weapon.

For it’s time (and bearing in mind it came on a single floppy, as things did back then), this adventure is MASSIVE, with lots of locations to visit, strange aliens to encounter, and many often crafty puzzles to work out.
Hopping around the cosmos really makes the game feel non-linear (even though it is pretty much), and makes the already big game seem HUGE, not being limited to a single island or countryside as in Sierra’s other big ‘Quest’ series, the King’s Quest adventures.

The game is very humorous. Maybe not as much as later SQ entries, where Roger Wilco would develop into his own personality more, but even so it’s very funny in places, and will no doubt please players not as keen on the more serious, rather sappy King’s Quest games.

There are tons of ideas crammed into this game, making it a stand-out Sierra adventure. With loads to do (such as finding the right one of several ships to buy, and then finding the right piloting droid for it) really making the player feeling involved.

There are different ways to solve some puzzles, which is great. This claim on many a back-of-box blurb for many adventures, is kind of bending the truth, as it usually just means it is possible to complete puzzles in various order. But in this game, it’s genuine - for example, when you’re in the desert on planet Kerona, there is more than one way of killing the spider droid and the orat that you must deal with.

The graphics are typically Sierra looking, but are for the time good looking, and do the job adequately, with some colourful, creative backgrounds.

The sound is no more or no less than can be expected from the era; again, it’s adequate considering the limitations.
The signature tune is great – very suitable, and very catchy (I still often find myself whistling it).

There’s quite a Star Wars feel to much of the game, particularly at one of the locations the adventure takes you to, Ulence Flats, complete with it’s multi-alien-filled bar and dusty old space-ships.
There aren’t as many direct sci-fi parodies as in the latter end of the SQ series, though in some ways it helps make the game more original; in later games, at times, it felt as if whenever the writers got a block, they’d just throw in another half-hearted sci-fi parody.

Overall, this game is just great fun to play, and it’s easy to see why the series became so popular and long-running from this first game. One of the very first PC games I ever played, it still stands as one of the best.

The Bad

It is very easy to miss some things that are absolutely necessary, quite often being impossible to go back and get them, and leaving the game uncompletable as a result – and you as a player just hoping you’ve got a save game far enough back to go back and get whatever you missed!
A cartridge near the beginning of the game, a piece of glass (rather obscurely placed and very dependant on where you are standing as to if you can see it / get it) and a jet-pack, are both vital but are particularly easy to miss; and the game doesn’t even give the player a clue that the items are there in the first place.

In true Sierra style, lots of saving and restoring is not only necessary, but in many cases is the only way of deducting the correct thing to do, as trying something that isn’t the right action often results in your characters demise (often without no pre-warning).

And as with the majority of Sierra games of the era, there is at least one infuriating “arcade style” gaming sequence that is very much random driven, and sees your character dying every other keystroke.
In this case, it is on-board a ‘skimmer’, as it races across the desert, avoiding rocks on the ground that randomly appear and will knock you to your death off if you take too much damage. I found this section of the game rather irritating and annoying, and awkward to get past.

Ah, and the gambling machine. For some reason, Sierra went through a phase where they felt obliged to include some sort of gambling game, usually a slot machine or card game, somewhere in their releases (Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, they all have them…).
Here, it is a slot machine, from which you must win enough money to by a space-craft. It’s best just to play by entering a high bet, randomly playing until you win some money, saving, and so on. Again,
The random “instant death”, where you are zapped if you get three skulls, is harsh, and typically Sierra-ish.

But whilst those points are gripes, there was nothing the could really spoil playing this great adventure.

The Bottom Line

A golden classic, that not only sets a high standard of creativity that would run throughout the SQ series, but one that stands as one of the best entries in the series on it’s own (graphic & sound advancements allowing).
If you’re an adventure game fan and have never played it, then track down a copy as soon as possible!
A top-notch start to an excellent adventure series. (Did I mention “classic”?)