ADVENTURES IN THE GALAXY OF FANTABULOUS WONDERMENT / Yahtzee Croshaw / PC
For the DOS oldheads out there - and this game is aimed directly at you and pretty much nobody else - it's fair to call AITGOFW a mishmash of Space Quest III and Wing Commander: Privateer, Space Rogue or Elite (take your pick). It's the basic space mercenary trading-and-fighting structure of those latter games, but with adventure game bits tucked in on various planets and space stations that develop an ongoing story.
I love the setup for it - an unassuming dweeb data entry clerk named Daniel gets shanghaied off of Earth by a redshirt-for-hire squad. He manages to escape the usual redshirt fate when the small mercenary ship that buys him loses their captain unexpectedly, and asks him to step in since they're a bunch of slackers who don't want to take responsibility.
Following the game's plot cues requires you to make money for the fuel, defense measures and other miscellaneous items you need to cruise about the galaxy. The central method is trading. This is a simple "buy low, sell high" affair with every trading post having its own unique prices for commodities. AITGOFW keeps it to four core needs of alien-kind: bacon burgers, chocolate, weapons and porn.
At first, trading is your only avenue to make money, but other stuff opens up as the game unfolds. Combat usually yields some amount of loot, and some factions give rewards for killing certain types of thingies. Once you get your own redshirts, you can also engage in a number of side quests for money as well as using them to explore planet surfaces for bits of salvage.
Combat? In my Yahtzee Adventure Game Studio game? Yes, it's turn-based and very basic, but actually not half-bad. Initially you're just kind of gunning it out with enemies using your lasers and missiles, but eventually you can purchase some extra abilities like a tractor beam and a cloaking device.
Random encounters also only happen in certain areas. You start the game on one side of the galaxy, in the Free Zone. This is run by a sort of libertarian-pirate cartel and there are no random combat encounters, but if you're carrying above a certain amount of money the pirates may randomly stop you and demand 25% of it as tribute. You can opt to fight them, but that locks you in to fighting them for the rest of the game and they gradually bring bigger and badder ships as you off them. You move east from there into the Lifeless Zone, which isn't that exactly because it's where all the random combat with space monsters is. Little in the way of trading, but a bunch of salvage and side quests are found here as well as some of the main plot objectives. East from there and you reach the other side of the galaxy, the Protected Zone. There are no enemies there, but it's heavily monitored by Space Police and any attempts to trade weapons or porn may bring them down on you.
After getting through some initial exposition, you're unleashed on the galaxy to basically do as you please with pretty much all of it immediately available to travel to. The trading routine is rather simple and unexciting, but the real enjoyment of the game is in finding all the new locations you can beam down to. This also highlights the redshirt mechanic, which I thought was clever and original. You only control Daniel in the adventure game portion at the very beginning; after he becomes captain he's told it's too dangerous to beam down to planets in person, and that's what redshirts are for. So you don't have to pussyfoot around as in some adventure games worrying about sudden death; redshirts serve as "lives" basically, and fairly cheap ones at about 20 credits a pop.
The only big knocks against it are that I wish there had been more adventure game bits to beam down to (the game ultimately feels a little thin on that front) and that shoehorning a trading interface into Adventure Game Studio came out a little rough. I guess it was handled about as well as it could be under the circumstances, but the circumstances didn't allow for it to be very good. There are far too many clicks to do everything, and no real in-game way to centrally track market prices.
As tooling about space with a hull full of Baconators and porn might indicate, you can expect a comedic tone and Yahtzee snark which is often quite entertaining. The plot eventually does get a bit more serious and in line with his Chzo Mythos stuff toward the end, but it's mostly a lot of goofing about with comically violent deaths in the vein of Space Quest. Would love to see a remake of this in an engine better suited for it and with some better art / music assets.
* Official download site