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Space Quest V - Final Rating



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Oct 27, 2021
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Written by Joe Pranevich

For some players, Space Quest IV was the “true” end of the Space Quest saga. With an amazing time-travel plot to hint at Roger’s future exploits, it could have served as a capstone on the series. Roger ended that game knowing that someday he would have a family and be regarded as a hero. Not long after, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy (“The Two Guys From Andromeda”) had a falling out. With their partnership disbanded, the series could (and perhaps should) have ended there. Instead, the following years brought us two further adventures: Space Quest V (1993), by Mark Crowe and David Selle, and Space Quest 6 (1995), by Josh Mandel and Scott Murphy. With only half the creative team on each, would these sequels be able to live up to their predecessors?

When I started playing this one, my first question was about what would be missing; what did Scott Murphy bring to the party and would I be able to detect the absence of his charm? Would a game with 50% less “Andromeda” even feel like Space Quest? I’m not sure that it does, but I’m also pleased by how successful this attempt has been in its own right. Crowe and Selle pulled together a game that had much of what made Space Quest great, while layering on a “Next Generation” of humor and parody. I had a lot of fun and I hope you did too.

Now comes the difficult part where I have to put scores to my thoughts. Is this better or worse than Space Quest IV? Will our tie for 10th place expand to five titles? Let’s get to work.

Trying to lure a fish to land on the communicator was not the best puzzle.

Puzzles and Solvability​

The heart of an adventure game is its puzzles, and while Space Quest V had a good selection of those, few were particularly deep or clever. When I think about the types of puzzles that Space Quest was known for, I think about the “chase sequences” and arcade mini-games. This game had only one chase sequence, the battle with W-D40, and it was executed well. A small number of timing puzzles were trivial. The closest we come this time around to an arcade mini-game is that Battleship clone that Roger plays against Quirk, but that required none of the fast reflexes that previous games required.

The best puzzle in the game, and perhaps one of my favorites for the series, is the laser-powered key slot in the Genetix lab. I love that it plays off Roger being transformed into a fly and that we can pass the beams without understanding what was going on. We might not even pay attention. It’s only later when we have to remember what happened with the lock when as traversed each individual beam, plus work out to use the business card and hole punch together, that the puzzle even comes into focus. Add to it that we actually needed to punch holes in the inverse of where the lasers implied and it’s a work of genius. I really like this puzzle.

The worst puzzle is undoubtedly the maze, although defusing the bomb is an easy second. (The fact that my game bugged and that puzzle became unsolvable didn’t help.) The maze is just overlong, overly boring, and uses the same art assets over and over again for an hour or more. I don’t know if they just wanted to pad out the ending, but this was the low point of the game for me.

My score: 7. Not quite perfect, but one stellar puzzle and only a few weak ones.

The LCARS-like interface is used throughout the game.

Interface and Inventory​

Space Quest V uses the standard Sierra interface of the day, but makes several improvements from the iteration used in Space Quest IV. First, the unnecessary “funny” verbs have been removed. All we have are “walk”, “look”, “use”, “talk”, “order” (more on that in a second), and “inventory”. This is a relief as no matter how funny it might have seemed to have “taste” and “smell”, they ultimately didn’t add much and just served as a distraction from the gameplay. The new “order” verb (a talk icon with an exclamation point) nicely serves to divide up Roger just talking with his crew to Roger issuing a command. Most of the time, that would trigger a separate menu for all of the things you can ask that crew member to do.

Having played (and complained about) Star Trek: 25th Anniversary’s cumbersome and inscrutable interface, Space Quest V does a great job of keeping all of the shipboard activities nicely understandable. We know that Flo will handle all of the communication tasks, while Droole handles the combat and navigation. It’s easy to see that raising shields might be a Droole task and it doesn’t need to have its own icon.

We also have a great set of LCARS-like user interfaces on all of the computer terminals that we use. While we don’t get to use them all that much (the largest set is on the Genetix facility), it’s neat that the game used a consistent interface for the UI-within-a-UI.

Inventory utilization is fairly simple and we don’t get a ton of useful things to interact with, but what we have works well enough.

My score: 6. I should have gone 7 just for the LCARS, but we’ll give credit for that later.

Each planet had an interesting design.

Story and Setting​

The story isn’t original. In fact, the TVTropes page for “Ragtag Bunch of Misfits” sums it up perfectly:

“This mission is important. The fate of the battle, nay, the war, nay, the entire world rests on the outcome. Who has the capability to stick it out, to give the good guys the victory they desperately need? This calls for a special team. The group of experienced, highly-skilled, professional, team-oriented experts? Not them. The assorted group of ex-con lowlife inexperienced cloudcuckoolanders or jerkasses who are trying to off their commander when they aren't going at each other? Yeah, them.”​

And yet, it’s all done very well. The setting clearly evokes Star Trek, but doesn’t forget that Space Quest casts a wide net for its science fiction parody. We cheer as Roger gets to shine and, for once in his life, have friends and teammates that he can count on. The plot is well-done and consistent. The game’s core mystery, although playing liberally with humor, doesn’t cheat on the meat of the story. It makes sense, more or less.

My score: 7. It’s not going to win a prize for literature, but it’s good fun.

No dynamic shadows? Practically unplayable.

Sound and Graphics​

I wish I had the analysis capability to talk about what leitmotifs are riffs on Star Trek or Star Wars, what came from the previous games, and what was developed new. I don’t have the background or the ear for real musical criticism. But what I can say is that I enjoyed the score and that it is never overbearing. The game knows when to have quiet moments and when to have fanfare. The musical direction is good. Sound effects borrow from Star Trek and other genre works, but that’s part of the fun.

Graphics are pretty reasonable for this period. While the spaceship interiors aren’t that interesting, we have a few unique planets to explore, all lovingly hand-painted. Very little of the action is rendered in-engine and major dialog scenes are presented more like a comic book than anything else, giving the game a “pulpy” feeling. The EV pod, for whatever reason, appears to have been partly rendered as 3D polygons, although this may have been pre-rendered rather than “live”.

Special mention should be made of the graphics in the maze: they suck. Identical corridors with a few elements swapping randomly between screens doesn’t make for a good design. There is also no way (or nearly no way) to tell what directions you can go. The game was careful-- much more than its predecessors-- to make it obvious when you can travel in certain directions. It’s a shame they didn’t carry through.

My score: 7. Good 1990s stuff.

A nice bit of David vs Goliath imagery.

Environment and Atmosphere​

Space Quest has always been good for tense chase sequences and funny exploration sections. This is a series where it is normal to be laughing and scared at the same time. Space Quest V raised the stakes and built an atmosphere that worked on multiple levels.

First, Space Quest V is perhaps the best tonally perfect parody of a Star Trek game that I have ever played. Filled with all of the love that we’d later see in works like GalaxyQuest (1999) and The Orville (2017), Space Quest V works both as a loving parody of Star Trek games, but also as a Star Trek-style adventure. We have some great locations, a “StarFleet”-alike bureaucracy, and even (almost) a “badmiral”. The ships echo other series, while still filling a Trek-style mold. We even have Trek-style moralizing with sexism, environmentalism, and the triumph of the human spirit. This game did Trek better than Star Trek: 25th Anniversary in almost every way. I have yet to play a Star Trek game better than this so-called parody. Can you recommend any?

Second, Space Quest V has tense moments and a growing sense of dread. There is atmosphere and pacing that works as horror. This game took the usual chase sequences and made them work in what amounts to a game about space zombies with Super Soakers. I adore what they managed.

My score: 7. I am sorely tempted to go higher.

Heavy handed moralizing… just like Star Trek!

Dialog and Acting​

I wish that they had completed a “talkie” version of this game, because it would have been amazing. I won’t claim that characterization was done perfectly well, but Space Quest V managed to build a consistent story (foreshadowing all the way from the start of the game) with memorable characters. Beatrice, Quirk, Flo, Droole, W-D40, and Cliffy are all written well and each have multiple scenes to establish their characters and show growth.

For all that sexism is a major trope in games of this kind, I also want to highlight that the female characters here kick a surprising amount of ass. Beatrice is assertive and puts up with none of Quirk’s BS, eventually escaping the pukoid menace and sabotaging their ship. While she gets clingy at the end while she is “woozy”, she doesn’t fall for Roger and there is still further growth to be had in their relationship. W-D40 has the boob guns, but she’s also the smartest member of the crew by far and gets some great lines. Only Flo doesn’t come off well. Although she shows a great deal of character growth for someone who is named for a menstruation joke, her development is mostly around whether or not she wants to bang Roger and her jealousy when he likes Beatrice more. Ass-kicking is not limited to the female characters; both Droole and Cliffy have their moments to shine.

Despite some good stuff, it might be said that this game doesn’t pass the Bechdel test: none of the female characters ever talk to each other. That’s a shame, but it’s not even a question that we’ve been able to ask of most games of the era which have looser ensembles.

My Score: 7. They built an ensemble! How many Sierra games do that?

Drumroll please.

Doing The Math​

The suspense is killing me! Let’s look at the scores: (7+6+7+7+7+7)/.6 = 68 points! That’s really good! Before we lock that in, I want to think about this carefully. Is this as good as the #7 games? Is it tied with Quest for Glory I and III? I really want to say “yes”, but Space Quest V doesn’t have the replayability of those games, nor the depth of puzzles. Given that (and my lingering distaste for the maze puzzle at the end of the game), I will deduct one point. That would place it above Space Quest IV and Quest for Glory II. Does that feel right? Yes, it does.

Final Score: 67 points!

With an average guess of 61 points, most of you felt that this would come in well below Space Quest IV. I’m not surprised: while I played this game as a kid, I remembered very little of it. Perhaps it is less memorable than that game, but I cannot help but feel that it is a better constructed game with plot, puzzles, and characterization that exceeds the others in the series. This score makes the game into the 9th highest scoring game so far and that feels just about right. Contributor and community member Will Moczarski commented a few months back that I have a weakness for Sierra games. I don’t believe this score will dissuade him of that notion. Sorry, Will!

Our winner with a spot-on guess is Ziggi! Congratulations! You’ll be getting your CAP award. Speaking of awards, we have a ton of them to give out. Let’s do it!

CAP Distribution​

200 CAPs to Joe Pranevich

  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For playing and blogging about Space Quest 5 for our enjoyment
  • Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about Bureaucracy for our enjoyment
  • Another Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about Adventure Alpha for our enjoyment

120 CAPs for Will Moczarski

  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest score guess for Bureaucracy
  • Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer for our enjoyment
  • Another Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest score guess for The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Katt
  • Another Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about The Palace of Deceit: The Dragon’s Plight for our enjoyment

110 CAPs to Morpheus Kitami

  • Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Katt for our enjoyment
  • Companion Award - 10 CAPs - For trying to play The Palace of Deceit: The Dragon’s Plight with Will
  • Another Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about Weird Island for our enjoyment

57 CAPs to Ilmari

  • Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing and blogging about Knight Orc for our enjoyment
  • Code Cracker Award - 2 CAPs - For solving 1 puzzle of Dr. Kraus
  • Assisting Request Award - 5 CAPs - For giving a hint to Joe’s request for assistance

29 CAPs for Vetinari

  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest score guess for The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer
  • Code Cracker Award - 19 CAPs - For solving 9 and ½ puzzles of Dr. Kraus

28 CAPs for Sabrina LaFey

  • What’s Your Story Award - 25 CAPs - For sending in answers for What’s Your Story questions
  • Battleship Master Award - 3 CAPs - For telling how to get full points for Battleship minigame in SQ5

16 CAPs for ShaddamIVth

  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest score guess for Bureaucracy
  • Physics 101 Award - 3 CAPs - For explaining science behind use of electricity in Knight Orc
  • Black Monolith Award - 3 CAPs - For pointing out a 2001 reference in SQ5

13 CAPs for Leo Vellés

  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest score guess for Knight Orc
  • La Mosca Premio - 3 CAPs - Por recordarnos la película original de Vincent Price

12 CAPs for Laukku

  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest score guess for The Palace of Deceit: The Dragon’s Plight
  • Code Cracker Award - 2 CAPs - For solving 1 puzzle of Dr. Kraus

11 CAPs for Lisa H.

  • Random Award - 3 CAPs - For an explanation for Random Q. Hacker’s name
  • Assisting Request Award - 5 CAPs - For giving a hint to Joe’s request for assistance
  • Historians Are Cool Award - 3 CAPs - For remember that there was a “boob gun” in Leisure Suit Larry V as well.

10 CAPs for Ken Brubaker

  • Code Cracker Award - 10 CAPs - For solving 5 puzzles of Dr. Kraus

10 CAPs for Ziggi

  • Sci-Fi Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For guessing the score to Space Quest V right on the nose.

7 CAPs for Rowan Lipkovits

  • Random Award - 3 CAPs - For an explanation for Random Q. Hacker’s name
  • Invoking Categorical Imperative - 4 CAPs - For sharing details of a game he made

5 CAPs for Radiant

  • True Hacker Award - 5 CAPs - For trying to help Will get through a game crash in The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer

5 CAPs for Kirinn

  • Technical Assistance Award - 5 CAPs - For helping Will with the settings of The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer

4 CAPs for Sam

  • Code Cracker Award - 4 CAPs - For solving 2 puzzles of Dr. Kraus

3 CAPs for Agrivar

  • Spaceship Engineer Award - 3 CAPs - For recognizing classic spaceship designs in SQ5

3 CAPs for The Angry Internet

  • Have It On Betamax Award - 3 CAPs - For discussing the home editions of Star Trek: The Animated Series.

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