Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (DOS)

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Written by  :  Jayson Firestorm (153)
Written on  :  Jul 28, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars
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Key SQ entry, one of the very best in the series

The Good

Well, where do I start; there are so many good things with this one…

After the somewhat lacklustre Space Quest II, things not only bounced back with SQ3, but also seemed to find a new lease of life along the way. Space Quest 3 is much closer to the original that the comparatively static SQ2, returning to having lots of different planets to visit, and lots of curious characters to meet on them – and of course, lots of ridiculous situations to get into.

Although Roger Wilco's name was given in the literature for the first two games, you could enter your own name, and the computer referred to the hero as "you"; this is the first one where you actually PLAY Roger Wilco (did that make sense? I hope so). And with it, the humour really starts to grow and find it’s footing, and the star of the series gains a ton load more character.

Plot-wise things aren’t quite as driven as the first two instalments, with the real villain not really becoming apparent until quite late on in the game, but in this case it really doesn’t matter, as there are enough puzzles and situations to keep you more than occupied as things slowly uncover themselves.

The game smoothly picks up directly from where Space Quest 2 left off (well, give or take a few light years where Roger was in suspended animation, but anyway…)
A great touch is that the several direct tie-ins from that game. A terminator is after you for not paying for a whistle you obtained in that game, and the illuminous gem found and used in that game plays a part in this one too (though quite what happened to the rest of your inventory from that game is anyone’s guess!)

The text interface is much improved and more intelligent. It’s actually the last SQ game to use text interface – I’m one of the group who believes a great chunk of the interactive appeal was lost when they passed it up for a totally point-and-click driven interface.

Considering the year, the graphics in this one are VERY impressive. Everything it a LOT sharper and more detailed than in the first two. Roger inparticular is a lot better – asides from the standard walk animation, there’s also a number of other animations (climbing in / out, tumbling over, etc) that are used at various points, and even more impressive is that when Roger walks into a dark area on a screen, the character falls into shade. Okay, so the shade falls suddenly, not like the multi-shaded graphics of nowadays, but considering things were still in EGA, it’s impressive to say the least.

And sound – supported sound cards made their entrance into the series with this one. Originally when I played this game many years ago, I only had it on the standard PC speaker, but when re-playing the game recently, I heard it through the speaker for the first time, and (again, considering the age) it was very impressive (and am I overusing “impressive” in this review?!).

To put it simply, this is one of the very best (verging on THE best) in the entire Space Quest series.

The Bad

In the very early stages of the game is quite probably the most ridiculous, over-the-top death in any of the Space Quest games. Coming to a conspicuous piece of scrap metal lying besides a scrap ship, you only have to try and pick it up, to cut yourself open and bleed to death! (LucasArts seemed to pick up on this and indirectly criticise it in some of the literature for their own games).

The ending was met with some criticism from many fans, and I’m not really sure where I stand on it. In one way its quite a intriguing idea trying to blend reality (the writers) with this actual game; but the final scene (I wont spoil it for anyone who hasn’t got that far) doesn’t really work, and ironically is actually one of the few times in the entire series that it actually feels like you’re playing a game (if you see what I mean!)

In a couple of places of the game, limitations become apparent. For example, on one planet, Phleebhut, if you walk too far in one direction, you get eaten by a giant snake; if you walk too far in the other, you get suddenly struck dead by a bolt of lighting! Well, no-one can accuse them of not being creative at least.

Oh, one other thing. Astro Chicken. Grrr. An irritating, awkward-to-play arcade game in the Monolith Burgers restaurant, that is infuriating verging on boring to play, but has to be completed in order to get a secret code from the machine (in fact, I think it’s possible to finish without beating the Astro Chicken game, but you don’t get full points).

The first stage of the game, set in the intergalactic garbage is great (and should be under the “good” section), and in fact may quite possibly be my favourite section in any Space Quest game I’ve played. But it would have been kewl if they had expanded it even more, and made it bigger. Damn, a whole game on it’s own could have been set inside that place.

But that’s about it on the bad side. Normally I’ll pick holes in anything, but there truly wasn’t much I didn’t like about this one.

The Bottom Line

Classic Sierra, Space Quest at it’s very best. One of the best in the entire series (in my opinion, I’d say it about level pegs with SQ4 in as the overall best, as they both have their own strong-points). Although SQ1 is the logical place to start, SQ3 is a good game to start with if you’re new to the series. With – for the time – cutting edge graphics and sound, with some of the series’ strongest humour and ideas, this is one of the very best; one of the finest examples of the heyday of classic Sierra games. If only they made them like this nowadays.