Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (DOS)

78
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Alex Man (32)
Written on  :  Mar 08, 2003
Platform  :  DOS

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Summary

4 hours worth of - get this, FOUR HOURS worth of fun

The Good

Now I'm not going to spend much time writing a review for this game. Which took 4 hours to finish. You know, like I wouldn't want to spend more time writing the review than actually PLAYING THE GAME?!?

It's fun. OK, I admit it. The graphics are good-looking, really, no kidding. You'll even cast a shadow occasionally. Everything's quite colorful, there's a lovely space burger bar to visit, a cool cheesy space-ship, an amazing incredible fantastic load of junk (it's not really that amazing but you'll spend half the game in it, so there must be something special about it, right?), a hot volcano lava planet, a couple of green planets. Empty black space. Diversity. I liked the new menu style, and the text-box style - it immediately looks a lot more professional and thought-out than in the previous game. I even got to use the mouse to point where I want to go and press some buttons! If only game designers today would think of stuff like that.

The sub-games were fun, the best part for me. Astro-chicken, message ring decoding, battlebot fighting game, the space ship simulation. It was actually very cool to have your own ship. It was also cool that you weren't stuck in the same viewing style the whole time - at times it switched to a bigger scale, another time it switched to pseudo-3d as you're walking through a circling hallway, and the spaceship has its own big screen with just your huge static head indicating your presence. It's things like that make you feel appreciated and loved.

The non-existent plot aside, the writing and scenes were good - at one point you even have to play intergalactic James Bond and infiltrate and blow up a big generator, previously viewing it in a telescope left there by some men who were conducting experiments there and can be seen leaving in their own spaceship (see? it's actually explained why a bunch of objects are there!). The initial junk-yard exercise is also very well thought out, with plausible objects and working mechanisms and a quaint plausible atmosphere, with lots of cool broken thingamajigs lying around to be explored. And one of the greener planets has a neat statue of a huge monster in it, and you can actually get inside and ride a big lift up its leg or something.

As for the humor, I thought that the dying messages weren't quite as funny as in the last game, and I kinda generally don't seem to remember all that huge amount of humor that the other reviewers here have noted (and I just finished it an hour ago so I hardly could've forgotten it). The accountants scene at the end is hilarious and very sarcastic, and the terminator that goes after you because of an unpaid bill from the previous game is amusing, and the Astro-chicken is funny of course but aside from that there weren't all that many jokes there. But it was generally tasteful and well-written (the ending aside), and actually I think that the sort of a mild humorous sheen over it all might've very well influenced the Monkey Island series - for example, the way you shove a ladder in your pants. And the way your character comes across as a big fat dope. (Btw, it's probably the Space Quest series that were parodied in Monkey Island 1 the time you fell off the cliff and "died".) And check out the space burger bar - doesn't that visually remind somewhat of Sam and Max Hit the road? Or maybe I'm just imagining things.

The Bad

Ok, the game is just too short. It's also very badly paced (the seemingly "introductory" scene in the dump in fact takes up about half of the game) and - look people, it HAS NO PLOT! This is just the pits - for most of the game you have no idea whatsoever what you are supposed to be doing, and then it turns out that you must save the game's two designers from the clutches of "ScumSoft" and deliver them back to the Earth so that they can make more Space Quest games for Sierra.

As if that wasn't enough, they managed to make the game both linear and unlinear at the same time, incorporating the worst of each approach with admirable grace and stupidity: for most of the game you're free to do whatever you choose with no purpose being thereby provided, but the key location of the game only becomes available when you succesfully beat the Astro-chicken game and a coded message suddenly appears on the screen. The "plot" thus becomes apparent to you, the fact notwithstanding that you most probably have already blown up the huge generator that imprisons the hapless game designers for no other good reason than that it was standing there and you're supposed to "interact" with things in adventure games. Like Max would say, "we just like blowing up huge force field generators".

As for the length issue - I admit that I took the occasional peak in the walkthrough and didn't spend the obligatory 2 weeks trying to figure out which burger bar menu item has the decoder ring in it or that you - thank god for point-and-click interfaces - have to STAND UP before JUMPing to safety whilst being gently nudged into a shredding machine. But - brilliant mind-benders like this just can't compensate for the fact that most of the locations here have at best 2 or 3 things you can interact with (allowing for the fact that interaction with at least one of these will result in the death of your character), and mostly don't have even that. The objects you can have in your inventory probably total under a dozen, and there are virtually no "use this with that" puzzles which IMO is one of the basic ingredients of any adventure game worthy of the name. All the objects in this game have only the most obvious of uses, and unless you count "using invisibility belt when you have to pass a bunch of guards" a challenge, then you're probably bound to start wondering at some point as to whether this isn't some sort of a predecessor to the interactive movie, mini-games and all.

The Bottom Line

A definite improvement over the previous games in terms of graphics and production values (there is even appropriate midi mood music for most of the scenes), but the game still has obvious trouble taking itself seriously (and even humorous games should do that, as Monkey Island proved), and, while some of the seperate locations are involving and very nicely done, as a whole the game doesn't even begin to make any sense. Still, its commitment to being (mildly) humorous and providing various unusual and eye-catching locations was probably quite influential, and can be appreciated even in this day and age.