SPACE QUEST III / Sierra / PC
Space Quest 3 really has three major things going for it - the graphics, the soundtrack (strangely by the drummer of 1970s prog-rock band Supertramp), and the frequently funny bits of dark and sarcastic humor. The rest of it is a very much mixed bag, but on the whole enough fun to be at least worth one go-through.
If you will recall from the end of Space Quest 2, Roger had escaped the exploding base of the evil Sludge Vohaul via an emergency escape pod, and put himself into suspended animation until he happened across a ship to pick up his distress signal. Well, Roger finds himself a lift in fairly short order, but unfortunately it is on a fully automated garbage scow, where he is picked up as just more cosmic scrap to be salvaged.
The relatively short adventure begins with you puzzling out an escape from the robot-captained scow. This is actually the lengthiest single sequence of what turns out to be a rather modular and linear game, and also turns out to be the best part despite a lot of backtracking (and one particularly irritating trial-and-error puzzle solve). The fine new graphics (only Sierra's second game with their then-new SCI engine, and already leaps and bounds in art quality ahead of the first, which was King's Quest IV) are on display with a lot of cut-scenes and towering trash heaps containing jokey items like Tinkertoys and the Sputnik satellite. While the art does have the late 80s-early 90s pixeliciousness going on, it is still some nice hand-drawn work, good detail and very colorful, and a pleasant reprieve from today's inescapable polygons and generic animu stylings.
Roger then proceeds to get chased by an Eliminator droid for non-payment of debt, which is a short sequence and a bit frustrating in getting the timing right, but easily the funniest stretch of the game. From here he's sort of left drifting with no real purpose, and already the game has pretty much shot its major load, with only about two hours of gameplay in and maybe two left to go (if you don't already know how to do everything). You next head to the interstellar fast food parody Monolith Burger for a meal simply because it is the only location left available to you that doesn't kill you, and you are expected to play endless rounds of the highly irritating Astro Chicken mini-game simply because there isn't anything else at all to do. It's frustrating as it is necessary to advance the story, yet it isn't obvious at all that you must play for so long to do so, and winning at it multiple times is an incredible chore (back in my old Tandy days I suffered through it, but on my replay for this review I just downloaded someone else's saved game to skip it as it was so annoying).
The final sequence of the game from here is basically a few obvious puzzles sprinkled with some crummy arcade sequences (which, though not skippable, are very easy).
Noteworthy is that this was the game where the series transitioned from more of a goofy tone to a dark and gory one. The dark tone may have been intended from the beginning, but I guess this was the first point at which the graphics caught up to where lovingly-rendered gruesome close-ups of Roger's various demises could be shared with the player in appropriate levels of detail.
It's worth a look for the good bits, but don't expect it to be among the creme of adventure games.
* GamesGone - download (3 MB)
* World O' Downloads - copy protection stuff and goodies
* Quest Studios - MIDI and MP3 music
* Gameplay Video