Space Quest & King’s Quest Join The Reunion

By John Walker on July 24th, 2009 at 10:50 am.

I'm amazed too!

I’m stuck at this point. The problem is this: for years and years we had to suffer every mention of an adventure game being accompanied by a phrase somehow relating to adventure games being dead. I mean, I wrote them myself when I was young and stupid. They would go, “The adventure game may be dead, but here’s one last gasp,” or more optimistically, “The adventure game’s not dead, but in a coma,” or whatever. The idiocy of these comments was the frequency. Here’s what happened: adventure games, in their abundance, weren’t very good any more. Apart from the good ones. The point of all this is to say how much I want to respond to the news, that following LucasArts’ releasing classic adventure games on Steam, Activision-Blizzard are putting some classic Sierra adventure games on the download service, by writing, “Adventure games may be dead, but their ghosts are coming back to haunt us.” But I cannot, because I’d be One Of Them. So I won’t.

Hidden amongst that drivel you may have noticed the glimmer of news. Activision have decided to parry LucasArts’ (Oh God, is this going to be a Monkey Island insult fighting reference? Oh please say it isn’t – A Reader) cunning move rejuvenating love and attention when re-releasing some favourite adventure games by doing the same. (Phew, that was close. Although not close to grammar – A Reader).

Today they’ve added (along with Aces of the Galaxy, TimeShift and 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures) the Space Quest and King’s Quest Collection packs. Which is a mixed collection.

My memories of King’s Quest games are an awful lot better than King’s Quest games. The rule tends to be, the earlier the better. But there’s some odd decisions made in this particular box, for instance pretending that King’s Quest VIII didn’t happen, but far stranger, using the pre-VGA versions of games that had since received VGA updates. Anyhow, if you want some super-twee fairytale adventuring, there’s your choice.

Far more interesting, however, is the Space Quest Collection. These are the adventures of hapless space janitor Roger Wilco. The first couple of games are criminally short, but for me the box is all about Space Quest IV. I have a theory that when people start getting dizzy with excitement about LucasArts’ games from 90 to 92, they’re accidentally remembering a lot of what Sierra were doing in that mix. The game packed with details, hundreds of hidden jokes by combining objects incorrectly, and so on – that’s Space Quest IV. It’s astonishing. The volume of gags in that game is just remarkable, with lines written, for instance, for using the mouth icon on just about everything you encounter. It’s also a game that does some wonderful frame-breaking gags, none more smart than travelling back in time to Space Quest I, and its CGA graphics. I have a lot to say about this game, and I will say it somewhere soon. In the meantime, I strongly suggest investing in this pack and checking out what I believe to be one of the most important adventure games ever.

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96 Comments »

  1. Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

    I’ve played SQ IV on GameTap recently… It was fun, but their window mode was somewhat bugged. I really dig all those games packed with gags on each screen (QFG, Gabriel Knight…or Al Emmo and partly Blackwell series from Dave Gilbert), so different from today’s games mostly.

  2. Count Zero says:

    I planned to get some of the Lucas Arts games off Steam for the week-end, but it seems like my list just got a little longer.
    When these games were new, I played games at a neighbor’s house, I did not have a computer at home, and while I saw most of them in action, I barely played any. Funny thing is, as a kid I loved to read the walkthroughs for adventure games I never played, and just imagine what would happen on screen.

  3. JuJuCam says:

    I have a fairly serious confession to make. I was always a bigger fan of the Sierra games than the LucasArts games, mainly because I was exposed to them and their interminable text parser at the most impressionable period of my life, long before I ever clicked a verb and a noun.

    This is joyous. But bring back Quest for Glory!

  4. Carra says:

    The only Sierra adventure I’ve played must be Leisure Sweet Larry. Always wanted to try out Gabriel Knight though. And maybe the Space Quest games…

  5. TeeJay says:

    /clicks on link with mouth

  6. Sinnerman says:

    I would play this but adventure games are dead. It’s true, I read it on Old Man Murray, they died because nobody likes puzzles.

    I did actually play SQIV on the old Amiga a few years ago. A lot of the writing didn’t really connect with me unlike the work of Gilbert and Shafer but it was a generally good game with a few horrible sections. (Galaxy Galleria chase sequence, damn your eyes.) Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father on the other hand is a true classic that should be played by all.

  7. Xercies says:

    Hmm I may pick up some of these, I never really played any Sierra games since i was a Lucasarts boy. But Space Quest sounds very entertaining.

  8. EvaUnit02 says:

    “This item is currently unavailable in your region.” Australasia gets shafted again, F**K.

  9. Flint says:

    Holy hell I might just have to pick up that King’s Quest collection for King’s Quest 7, it was the first adventure game I ever played and the start of my great love affair with the genre. I’ve looked for it all across the net for ages and finally it’s here, easily available. Combined with a bunch of games that aren’t too interesting but hey.

  10. Sol says:

    Genius, I’ve been wanting to play through VI for ages, it was one of the games that slipped by and I was never able to find a copy whenever the nostalgia buzz reminded me.

    Looks like it’s time to pick this up and put TF2 down for a while.

  11. bansama says:

    “This item is currently unavailable in your region.” Australasia gets shafted again, F**K.

    Yeah, but you get one hell of a price on 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures. It’s currently only $0.10! (That erroneous price is only available in AU/NZ)

  12. Markoff Chaney says:

    Let the good times roll! I have all these on floppies and prior CD collections so I probably won’t triple (or quadruple in some cases) dip this time around, but it doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful news. AlleyCat got me started on the PC but King’s Quest the first is the game that cemented my love of my PC over my Atari 2600. I also echo something someone else said in comments a while back: Nothing will teach you to type faster than having to stand somewhere and, with no pausing mind you, have to type in a perfectly parsed and spelled sentence or else meet certain doom. Great times.

  13. M.P. says:

    SQIII wasn’t bad either :)

  14. GC says:

    I got Space Quest 6 for free in a magazine a loooong time ago (when Sierra first announced Half-Life, with screenshots of Freeman looking like that : http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/3789/gordonlx6.jpg).
    SQ6 was really fun, full of crazy puzzle… I admit I had to use a walkthrough for some of them !
    A friend gave me the manual of the game, and I must say the manual alone was better than some AAA games I bought recently :-(

  15. Ozzie says:

    Regarding King’s Quest: The earlier the better?
    Are you crazy??

    I don’t want to question the importance of the first KQ, but playing it today you’ll notice how badly it aged. The second one is basically just a slight variation of the first and is just as bad.
    Didn’t play 3 or 4, just watched Longplays of them, but I got the impression that the series got continually better, up to KQ5 where it plummeted down the quality hill again. Endless amounts of dead ends, sudden deaths and senseless “read the designer’s mind” puzzles ruined the game.
    KQ6 was, imo, the first great KQ game. It doesn’t stand out because of its technological achievements, but because of its quality. No wonder, since Jane Jensen co-wrote it.
    KQ7….well here they basically eliminated a huge potential of interactivity and turned to a look of an animated Disney movie. Great graphics, but I can’t say much about the gameplay because I lost interest at the very beginning. I guess they reduced the interface options the make it more user-friendly, but it’s strangely more irritating.
    KQ8 is a mixed-bag. Great at moments, horrendous at others, overall, I rather liked it, even if it had the most terrible finale ever.

    And SQ4…it’s funny, though never as witty or sharply written as many LA adventures. Gameplay wasn’t very interesting. I thought it was a pretty average game. Still playable today, but there’s not much reason if you don’t already know it from the old days.

  16. SmokinDan says:

    Yes! Minigolf is mine for $0.10!

  17. Jp1138 says:

    I agree with Ozzie regarding the KQ games – from best to worse: KQ6, KQ4, KQ3, KQ5, KQ7, KQ2, KQ1…. didn´t play enough KQVIII to put it in the list.

    Regarding the Space Quest games, I liked them all except VI, which I have hardly played because it didn´t run on my system at the time.

    Let´s hope Activision does something with all this IP someday.

  18. kevlar says:

    I just want to warn everybody that this is just Activision noticing how much hype LucasArts recently got, and they’re essentially just putting the 2006 shovelware treatment collections out on Steam, so they all run in the standard version of DOSBox with little to no tweaking. Don’t expect perfect compatibility or proper emulation on all of them on current systems.

  19. Ozzie says:

    Yeah.
    Really, I would have loved to have a Windows SCI interpreter, but no, apparently they would have to do some work then…
    …I already own all these game and I can configure them on my own for DosBox, so, no thanks.

  20. Grey_Ghost says:

    I liked Space Quest 1-5, but didn’t really care for 6 to be honest. Never played any of the King’s Quests. Wonder if they will add Hero’s Quest to the list… I refuse to call it that other name QFG.

  21. Grey_Ghost says:

    Oh balls! So this is just to make a quick buck eh, just your standard DOSBox fare? What about the Lucas stuff that was released recently, like The Dig etc.?

  22. Alistair says:

    What did you write when you were young and stupid John? Used to be a big adventure fan :)

  23. jackflash says:

    Agreed, SQ IV was probably the best of the series. The graphical leap was huge (not that that’s very important) and it was just hilarious. What a great series. Those were the days.

  24. airtekh says:

    Hmm. Might pick this up after I finish Time Gentlemen, Please!

    Also, I get the feeling that I’m a lot younger than the posters above me; my first adventure game was Grim Fandango and I’ve worked backwards from there!

  25. leederkrenon says:

    adventure games died because books are better.

  26. Quests says:

    Adventure games died because now players are basically oafs who prefer killing rather than thinking.

    -Roberta Williams.

    (and DAMN is she right)

  27. Brulleks says:

    Well, Mr Walker, you’ve just sold Space Quest to me so I hope you’re right…:)

  28. AndrewC says:

    Adventure games died because now players prefer doing rather than triggering.

  29. Hümmelgümpf says:

    @Quests:
    Who cares about Roberta anyway? Space Quest, Gabriel Knight and Quest for Glory are the only good series Sierra created, and Williams wasn’t directly involved in any of them. Games she did design have painfully bad puzzles that defy all logic and simply aren’t fun to solve. She is just a bad designer who chose to blame the audience rather than her own abilities (or lack thereof), and that’s all there is to it.

  30. Frans Coehoorn says:

    The zombie android thing on the streets of Space Quest XII was one of my scariest gameplay experiences ever. My dad installed a Sound Blaster card without telling me, so the game started with awesome music and such. And then came the screaming…

  31. Frans Coehoorn says:

    I can recommend the remakes of KQ1 and 2 in VGA (with voice-acting) by the way. AGD Interactive did a very awesome remake of Quest For Glory 2 as well. Check them out here http://www.agdinteractive.com/games/games.html

  32. NateN says:

    @Frans: That zombie android thing would gave me nightmares as a kid. SQV holds a special part in my heart however since it was the first computer game that I bought with my own money and I had to figure out how to edit autoexec.bat on a boot disk to make it work.

  33. Paul Moloney says:

    “Adventure games died because now players are basically oafs who prefer killing rather than thinking.”

    Roberta Williams should stop smoking the nostalgia crack pipe and be shown a copy of “Research and Development”, “Portal” and the, oh, myriad of non-adventure games that don’t feature killing. The first computer game involved killing stuff, so I’m guessing that gamers have been “oafs” from the very beginning.

    P.

  34. Hermit says:

    I never really got into the Sierra games in the same way I did with Lucasarts offerings. I think it was partly due to the constant punishment for failure being death. Almost as demoralising as Eric Idle’s “That doesn’t work!”, which is a sound burned into the depths of my brain.

    Sorely tempted to pick up the Space Quest series over the weekend, anyway.

  35. Brulleks says:

    Yup, and that’s about what’s doing for me immediately on SQ1, Hermit.

    Jesus H Christ. I mean, landed with a countdown, alien death stalking you on every screen, a puzzle that requires the manual to solve (thanks walkthrough) and dying because you *SPOILER*click too fast when crossing a gangway?

    This is not the best of starts to a series…

  36. Hermit says:

    @Brulleks

    Aye. Death can work in adventure games. Beneath a Steel Sky make use of it, for instance, but it’s used sparingly as a means of adding tension to certain sections.

    Contrast to King’s Quest VII, for instance. We got this free with one of our computers. You start the game in a desert, and you die after wandering more than a few screens. Essentially, you can die by just having a look around until you get a water supply. That’s not adding tension, it’s just annoying.

  37. Paul Moloney says:

    ” I think it was partly due to the constant punishment for failure being death”

    Perhaps Roberta’s quote should be rephrased “Adventure games died because now players are basically oafs who prefer killing rather than dying.”

    P.

  38. JKjoker says:

    i love Space Quest, but they are so goddamned hard, in SQ1, SQ3 and SQ4 there are probably 8 ways to get killed in the first screen, you get killed even if you stand around and dont do anything

    SQ5 was the best one imho

    Quest for glory and Larry had also some of my favorite adventure games (Larry was the king of killing yourself in weird ways : you could die by entering a sauna with a polyester suit, trying to plug in “Larry Jr.” in the electric socket, trying to cross a street, etc), i never got into King’s quest, i played the Sixth one and i had to use a walkthough from the first second because it makes no goddamn sense

  39. Alaric says:

    I always liked Sierra and Westwood adventures more then Lucas Arts ones. So in that sense I am glad that KQ is once again released.

    On the other hand, I hate Steam. =( Yes, it’s been reliable so far, but I hate not owning a CD. And I will hate losing all my games when it closes.

    Yes, it will one day close. Nothing is forever, not even Valve. And yes, I heard that they said they will release all the games should they close, but until I see a legally binding document, I dismiss that as utter BS.

  40. Gilgameeshclone says:

    The VGA remakes of Kings quest 1 and 2 made by AGDInteractive cannot be recommended enough, they are also free to download!

    For me Space quest V is the most fondly remembered of that series, but quest for glory takes the cake as far as sierra games go.

  41. JuJuCam says:

    My favourite example of cruel cruel adventure game death logic comes from “Les Manley in Search for the King”, a game that will happily allow you to carry on past a crucial item on the second screen that only comes into play about half way through the third act, and well beyond several points of no return.

    …I hope that game never sees retail again…

  42. JuJuCam says:

    On the other hand Les Manley also had the unique and interesting quirk of not recognising the verb “use”. Took a bit more wit to determine exactly how each object should be used.

  43. Markoff Chaney says:

    Regarding King’s Quest (the first) I would like to attempt to defend it, if I may. For its time it was something completely new and provided quite a good bit of immersion, 4 colors and PC Speaker sound only be damned. Yes, I had to run it at 4.77 MHZ, unless I was flying across the screen to get somewhere quickly (Which led to more than a few deaths by the witch) but I could walk in a 3 dimensional plane and interact with objects by typing parsed commands, even if I fell off that tree branch more than a few times as well and struggled with figuring out what the hell that blob was supposed to represent some times. I actually had to think about words to use and what objects were without the help of an interactive cursor which really led to a sense of accomplishment that seemed to always lack, for me, in the LucasArts games, great though they are.

    There was one puzzle which I felt was a bit much (the damnable gnome’s name. It was the sole time I actually called the Sierra hint line after being flummoxed a month or so) but most other puzzles were firmly rooted in fantasy tropes that were well known to most any decently versed child. In retrospect, even the gnome’s name is. I still think King’s Quest III was the most brutal of the Sierra games to my young mind but that may have just been the potion making and some of the timing that was needed. SQs were phenomenal, especially with their added humor, except the one that had that wonderful restart the whole damn game and you better well pick that piece of your ship you have no way knowing you need unless it’s your second time through.

    Actually, I’m just going to try to sum it up with an apropos quote from Homer Simpson “Well of course, everything looks bad if you remember it.” Even if you loved it back then it seems archaic and twisted today. Without those rose tinted nostalgic glasses though, the negative can tend to overwhelm.

  44. Gutter says:

    Hero Quest were the best one, and the one with the best chance of succeeding as a remake, and they already have “newer” graphics for them (the VGA clay stop animation version wasn’t so bad looking)

    But lets face it, the Lucasart offerings are closer to “modern” casual games, because you can’t die. The whole save game shuffle of Sierra titles will not be received well by younger gamers. (especially if they remake Manhunter)

  45. LionsPhil says:

    Yay, boxed sets.

    I have to say, though, SQIV wasn’t a patch on I-III. Yes, the voice acting from the narrator (and Vohaul) was perfect. A lot of the jokes were pretty good. The puzzles were OK. But the actual plotting and story was a disconnected mess of bits they wanted to throw in but had no proper way to connect together.

    I recon V could have been better, if it had had IV’s budget, and thus voicework. The less said about VI, the better. (You can’t even die within the first screens!)

  46. Gutter says:

    @Paul Moloney: This should be changed to “Adventure games died because now players are basically oafs who prefer killing rather than suffering insta-death in the 4th act of a game for mistakes they made in the first act”

  47. dingo says:

    Guess I will skip.
    I’m pretty sorted for now

    http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/120/lecsierra.jpg

  48. jonfitt says:

    I was quite excited until I found out it’s the quick zip and dump that was released a few years ago. There’s been no effort put into this “collection”.

    Beware if you run a 64-bit OS, or Vista, some of them reportedly won’t work.