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SummaryRoger's greatest Space Quest adventure yet
The GoodSierra's fourth instalment in the Space Quest franchise was released in the early Nineties to very positive reception, and I can see why. Having already played the second game, I was glad that my favorite enemy returned. If you have played the second game like I did, let me give you a recap: Roger Wilco, space janitor and hero of the day, managed to shut down Vohaul's life support system and stopped a machine that planned to infest Xenon with genetically-engineered life insurance salesman.
Roger thought that he saw the last of him. But, no. Using a tracking device, Vohaul finds out that Roger is on Magmetheus and sends his Sequel Police to the planet and destroy him. Fortunately for Roger, two guys help Wilco escape by allowing him to enter a Time Rip that sends him forward in time. He ends up being stranded in a post-apocalyptic Xenon, in the Space Quest XII time era, in which the only signs of life are two creatures that roam the surface and will destroy Roger on sight. And so the majority of the game has Roger time-traveling to different places and running away from the Sequel Police.
What I really liked most about Space Quest IV is the time-traveling aspect of it. One of the time periods that he ended up in is a time where Roger's home planet Xenon is nothing but a pile of rubble. There isn't much life here but two creatures that can kill him on sight. The SP headquarters looms in the distance, with lightning striking it every now and then. Both it and the orange sky provides some atmosphere to the whole thing. There are other time periods to explore, including the one from the EGA version of Space Quest.
If you haven't played the VGA remake of Space Quest, you will realize two extra icons in the icon bar: the smell and taste icons. Both of these form most of the humor in the game, as clicking them on most objects in each screen will generate a humorous response. You also go exploring in a shopping mall, after being ditched by the “Latex Babes of Estros”, and reading the product descriptions in Radio Shock (or Hz. So Good in the CD version) and each game title in the software store is amusing.
At the time of its release, VGA cards were becoming popular, so it made sense for Sierra to take advantage of these cards. This means that the game boasts 256 colors, a first for a Space Quest game (not counting the Space Quest remake). Mostly all of the hand-painted backgrounds look fantastic. As I mentioned before, you enter the time era reminiscent of the original version of Space Quest. The graphics have been downgraded AGI-style, and I liked how the dialog boxes have a red and black border to match the original's.
The game also supports a variety of sound cards. Sure, hearing the soundtrack through the Sound Blaster is excellent and beats the PC Speaker hands down, but using the Roland MT-32 is awesome. Even the sound of the player being awarded a point is quite satisfying. Having said that, SQ4 must be the first Space Quest game not to have its theme at the beginning of the game. The music is identical in both versions (disk and CD), but I prefer the sound effects in the Disk version.
The CD-ROM version has the voice of Gary Owens, who was a regular of NBC's “Laugh-In” program years ago, way before my time. He is the narrator, and he provides some witty responses if you do certain meaningless actions in the game. The CD version also contains various tweaks that made sense at the time. Also, when I played the CD version, I wanted to keep dying on purpose just to hear Owens's amusing remarks as he reads out the text.
Removed is the copy protection from the disk version, which requires you to look up some coordinates in the manual. I miss laughing at Roger as he gets out of the time pod and is killed when you get the protection wrong three times.
The puzzles in the game are easy once you figure out what you're supposed to do, and they should take up to five minutes to solve. The most memorable one is near the end of the game, when you have to align the lasers in such a way that Roger won't get fried on his way to the Super Computer. There is also a nice arcade sequence where you have to pack some burgers, but it's much harder than that skimmer sequence from the first game. Apply for a job at Monolith Burger and you will find out why.
The BadGames released by Sierra are often plagued by CPU-related issues, where playing the game on a high-end system causes some sequences to run very fast. Space Quest IV (particularly the CD version) is no exception. When I first played this game on my Pentium 233 mHz machine, I had to mess around with the BIOS, disabling the Level 2 Cache, and play the game as normal. DOSBox didn't exist back then, so this was the norm.