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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (40065)
Written on  :  Dec 28, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars
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Goodbye, old friend. It's been nice knowing you

The Good

Janitor Roger Wilco had some great adventures over the years. He retrieved the stolen Star Generator from the hands of the Sariens, dealt with Sludge Vohaul twice, rescued the Two Guys from Andromeda, and even commandeered a garbage scow. Now he's back in the sixth and final chapter in the Space Quest series. After being demoted to Janitor Second Class, he is granted shore leave on Polysorbate LX where things get a bit interesting for Roger.

The Spinal Frontier was made at a time when Sierra developed their games using the SCI-2 engine. SCI-2 was capable of delivering high resolutions, and it was the same one that powered Gabriel Knight, King's Quest VII, and Torin's Passage. The graphics are far more colorful than the previous SQ offerings. There are also 3-D renderings of the spaceships which look damn impressive. When the subtitles are turned on, the green text always stand out against the black background. SVGA cards were the norm back in 1995, so the only way to play the game is by getting one.

There is a lot of humor as well as references to popular culture. I enjoyed playing “Stooge Fighter 3” as one of the three characters who perform amusing special attacks. I also liked Roger executing the Vulga Nerve Pinch on a guard so that you can grab his keys and steal his shuttle. Having Roger walk through a virtual Windows 3.1 desktop is also a nice touch.

Death can come to Roger in a variety of ways. Sierra altered the dialog boxes so that instead of the usual three buttons – Restore, Restart, and Quit – you are given the option to go back to the point where you died. This saves you from saving the game before doing a thing that will lead Roger to his death, so there's no excuse not to die when you have the opportunity.

All the characters you meet have their own personalities, and some of them are willing to help you. My favorite characters from Space Quest III make a return. Elmo Pug has gone from controlling attacking robots to selling cheat sheets, while Fester Blatz has set up the same sort of business on Polysorbate LX. I also like the Endodroid, a take on Schwarzenegger.

The music is just great if you use a General MIDI device such as the Roland SC-88, and if you only have a Sound Blaster, you don't know what you're missing out on. There is some good voice acting in the game. Gary Owens returns as the narrator, delivering the same style as in Space Quest IV. Just examining everything on the screen and doing the impossible generates a hilarious response. Actors voice multiple characters, and they did a good job as well.

The Bad

Roger has made a few enemies during his adventures, and the games which introduced them gives an explanation as to why they want to take revenge on him. Vohaul, for example, plans to infest Roger's home planet with life-insurance salesman as Roger thwarted Vohaul's plans to use the Star Generator for his evil purposes. Having said that, Roger is introduced to Sharpei, his main antagonist he meets early in SQ6, but we have no idea why she is out for Roger's blood since the game provides no explanation why.

Some of the puzzles made no sense to me at all, with the worst one being the Datacorder puzzle, in which you need to flip switches and move things around to turn it into a homing beacon. Not only was it an annoyance, but it is also serves as copy protection which has no place in a CD-ROM game of that era.

Major game companies like Sierra did not foresee what would happen if people tried to run the game on a machine higher than those listed on the box. In this case, if you try to play the game on a Pentium machine, you will encounter timer-related issues like the endodroid hunter ignoring you and the crashes in sickbay. Grab yourself a 486 or use DOSBox if you encounter these.

The Bottom Line

SQ6 has it ups and downs, but the game is pure entertainment at its best. It boasts superb graphics and an excellent soundtrack. As mentioned in the introduction of this review, SQ6 is the final installment of the Space Quest series. Every SQ game is very good, and I have some fond memories of all the games. I enjoyed tip-toeing around Vohaul and listening to his life support in SQ2 (the Apple IIGS version); exploring each of the planets in SQ3, SQ4 and SQ5; the way the game encourages cheating in SQ5; and listening to the excellent soundtrack in SQ6. There was going to be a seventh game, which was going to be in 3-D and would feature characters from past adventures. However, by 1998 when this would be released, more and more game companies started to lose interest in the adventure genre, and the game was officially canceled.