SPACE QUEST II / Sierra / PC
Space Quest 2 was the first PC game I ever saw, running on a demo at the local Radio Shack in my youth. A few months later it, along with King's Quest 3, would be both the first PC and first adventure games I would ever play when my dad brought them home with a Tandy 1000.
You'd think there would be a strong nostalgic connection, then, but Space Quest 2 is the only member of the Space Quest series I've felt no desire at all to replay since I first completed it some 20 years ago. What I remember about it was a large, tedious, kind of drab jungle full of cheap deaths and annoying mazes, and when I finally forced myself to push on through it for this review, I found my memory hadn't failed me and my instincts to avoid it had been spot on.
This is just a bad adventure game. If it didn't have Roger Wilco and the Space Quest name to carry it, no one would remember it at all now. Space Quest 1 got away with being a little too cheap, shallow and difficult for a few reasons - for one, it was a pioneer of the genre, but it also had charming characters and environs to carry it, and it wasn't nearly as hard on the player as this game is. I'm guessing with this one, the Two Guys didn't have a fully articulated idea in mind like they did with the first, third and fourth games, but they felt pressured to make some kind of sequel anyway and just scrapped together whatever they could on the fly.
The game sees Roger back in a lowly janitor role after his heroic exploits of the first game. You start out aboard a highly detailed space station, which turns out to be a big tease, because the game soon tosses you onto a jungle planet that just looks like a reworked King's Quest environment. At first not knowing where he is or what to do, Roger eventually makes his way to the outpost of his captor, Sludge Vohaul, to off his nemesis and hitch a ride out on an escape pod.
The game is a mostly linear slog through jungle dangers, a lot of which come out of nowhere at you. Gamers who like this sort of one-way, super-hard challenge may be into this, but there's two really irritating mazes that I think will put off even the most masochistic adventure gamers, especially if you get hung up later in the game and have to restore to an earlier point and go through them all over again. There's little charm to the whole procedure. The whole "dark humor" centering around comical Roger deaths hadn't really found its footing here yet, just being mostly dark. There's a few laughs, main among them Roger being turned into a Smore for a hungry jungle man, but there's actually relatively little humor to this one and what's there kind of falls flat. I honestly don't remember if the idea of an army of life insurance salesman going out to take over the world was funny in the 1980s, but it certainly isn't now, it sounds like a joke that a Saturday morning cartoon would leave on the cutting room floor.
* Gameplay Video