Space Quest: Chapter I - The Sarien Encounter

aka: SQ1, Space Quest, Space Quest 1, Star Quest
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Description official descriptions

Roger Wilco is one of the most important men on the starship Arcada: he is the janitor! Just when he was doing what he does best (dozing off in a closet), the shrill sound of an alarm penetrated the air. Arcada is attacked by the evil Sariens! Before Roger realizes what is going on, he discovers that he is the only survivor. The Sariens have killed the entire crew and stolen the valuable Star Generator. Roger's immediate task is to find a way to leave Arcada, which is about to explode in fifteen minutes. And then he'll have to show the Sariens why they should never mess with brave intergalactic janitors!

Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter is a humorous sci-fi adventure game made with Sierra's AGI engine. The gameplay is similar to that of King's Quest: the player navigates Roger around with arrow keys and interacts with the game world by typing commands. There are puzzles to solve and plenty of situations where the player will have to use his wit to save Roger from death.

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Credits (DOS version)

7 People

Design
By
  • Two Guys From Andromeda
Programming
Interpreter / Development System
Graphics / Artwork

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 69% (based on 13 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 136 ratings with 5 reviews)

Wildly funny, yet frustrating enough to buy a hint book

The Good
Sierra did know how to make good bucks with their technology. They mixed a lot of different themes with their adventure games, and I guess that almost everybody had at least one Quest that they liked. Mine was Space Quest with its wicked sci-fi humor.

The two guys from Andromeda showed us that adventure games didn't need to be serious to be enjoyable. Space Quest, without being a total joke, was funny and refreshing. It was even funnier to play it two at a time, since new jokes popping up could be laughed even louder. Imagine the initial storyline: you're a janitor doing an on-shift nap in a closet and the first thing you know when you wake up is that your ship has been abducted by enemies from another planet. Now, it is time to get the hell out of there and save the world!

Technically, this game didn't have much more than King's Quest I and II. However, the designers managed to program a lame action sequence using Sierra's AGI interpreter. This at least showed that the AGI could be used for more than a graphical text parser and that might have spawned some other projects such as Manhunter. The graphics, while having a really low resolution (I think it was something like 160x200, a PCjr limitation) were colorful and nice for their time.



The Bad
I don't know if Sierra wanted to push the sales of their hint books (which by the way used a special ink that disappeared over the years, making them a less useful collection item), but this game was really hard, at least by my standards of the time. I just can't see how I could have had the patience to finish it without the book.

Until LucasArts got it right with their "adventures in which you could go back and don't die", Space Quest suffered from the lack of flexibility most adventure games had in this era. That means that you ended up dying for stupid reasons without warning, and that could be frustrating. That also means that if you messed something up early in the game, you might not find out about it before hours of gameplay.

For example, if you forget to get a cartridge on the spaceship when the game starts (for which you need to know a password given by scientist who shows up out of pure random luck), you won't be able to use it around the middle of the game and you'll be stuck. Of course, all your saved games until then will be crap, so you then have to replay from the beginning all over again. Ah, well...

One last thing: there is a part in the game in which you need to play slot machine in order to have enough bucks to buy yourself a spacecraft. No, you can't buy the cheapest one, try it out and you'll understand shy. This is the long and boring part of the game, as you have to play a while (and save your game often) in order to win enough. I really would have liked an option to bypass that useless sequence.

The Bottom Line
No matter its problems, this game is worth it.

Space Quest fans must try it out. It started the whole series and while it is certainly not the best, it gives you an idea of what Mark and Scott were up to back when they started. It is also an interesting alternative to those who dislike the medieval theme of King's Quest. Just don't leave the spaceship without the cartridge!

DOS · by Olivier Masse (443) · 2001

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”?)

DOS · by Jayson Firestorm (143) · 2002

The game that started it all for me!

The Good
I was 6 years old in 1986, I didn't know much about computers or computer games. My father had just purchased a Tandy SX. I had little to do with the computer when it first came to my house, the obscure commands (DOS) that my Father, and brother used to interact act with ti confused me. That all changed when my mom brought home this classic. I saw my brother playing it and was instantly mesmorized, unlike the cold environment of DOS, the screeen lite up with color and movement. There was your little charcter walking around and interacting with his environment. I watched my brother play it for hours, I didn't understand much of what was going on but I couldn't pull myself away. I was 7 when iIfirst played it myself, playing the game was more addictive then watching it! It wasn't until I was 9 that I beat the game, but I owe so much to that simple old game. In a way it taught me DOS, as I had to know DOS to run the game, and got me hooked on computers, here it is 13 years later and I'm still playing them! The story is cliche, but that's o.k. as the whole game, as the whole series is a spoof of the science fiction genre! The graphics were simple, but the gameplay was great. To this day I still occasionally pull it out and play it.

The Bad
I was 6, the graphics dazzled me, the theme song catchy, and the story funny, I liked it then, and to this day I can't find fault in it!

The Bottom Line
A classic in adventure, set the path for latter humorous series like Monkey Island.

DOS · by Jonathon Howard (114) · 1999

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Space Quest Collection readme file MerlynKing Feb 28th, 2021
Anyone knows what that plant is for? General Error (4320) May 31st, 2007

Trivia

Vohaul's first name is referred to as "Slash" in Space Quest 1. In subsequent episodes, it was changed to "Sludge".

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Olivier Masse.

Amiga added by POMAH. Apple II added by Guy Chapman. Macintosh added by Servo. Apple IIgs added by Garcia. Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Jayson Firestorm, General Error, Macs Black, henck de beredoder.

Game added May 12th, 1999. Last modified August 14th, 2023.