SPACE QUEST VI / Sierra / PC
Space Quest 6 sees Mark Crowe's departure from the series, and with No Guys From Andromeda left, Josh Mandel (co-writer of Freddy Pharkas and collaborator on numerous other adventure games) steps in to do the bulk of the writing and design. Due to convoluted circumstances, Scott Murphy would be called back in to complete the game, but the amount of work he actually did on this one is apparently pretty minimal.
Mandel's proven he can be really funny, but this game is a lot more hit or miss than stuff like Pharkas was. The dark tone and grim but comical deaths that are the trademark of the series are largely gone here; there's a few but they are pretty few and far between. The game does have more of the dark, gritty feel of Space Quest 3 and 4 however, helped along by Roger being busted back down to janitor in a contrived but wise move (there was no real future in the series for him as a starship captain.)
The puzzles and environments, on the whole, are pretty decent, if not exceptional. The game is hurt more by a sort of meandering story that doesn't develop any kind of real focus until it's more than halfway over. The game starts with Roger simply beaming down to the scummy planet of Polysorbate for some low-grade R&R, and you end up solving a bunch of puzzles just because they happen to be there. It eventually develops a story, and one that surprisingly gets more into character depth than any other Space Quest game, but the whole thing just has a disjointed and kind of cobbled together feel to it that doesn't flow very smoothly.
Gary Owens, former Laugh-In narrator, returns for this one and his casting is really an inspiration that improves the game and makes otherwise mediocre lines a lot more enjoyable. This was also the one and only title to feature voice acting for all characters - Roger isn't really anything special, sounding a lot like Guybrush Threepwood's eventual voice for the later Monkey Island games, but he does have an appropriately milquetoast sort of sound. The rest of the cast seems to pull the usual low-budget trick of getting people from around the office to do miscellaneous voices, and having just one or two actual voice talents perform multiple roles.
Everything is basically solid in this one, but nothing came across as great. There's some good laughs, particularly the Stooge Fighter mini game, the background graphics are for the most part pretty nice, the music is decent, puzzles are generally fairly satisfying if not outstanding. It manages to hit most of the established appeal of the Space Quest series and fans will likely find enough to enjoy here to make it worth a run. It just isn't a great adventure, though, nor a satisfying coda to the Space Quest series. Seems to be selling for a pretty cheap price, though, at a couple of bucks it isn't a bad pickup.
* Gameplay Video