A close-up from behind a robots shoulder as he holds up Roger Wilco, an ordinary-looking what man with brown hair, by his shirt. The robots arm is very shiny and reflects the purple of the planet surface. Roger is staring at the hand with a wide-mouthed, horrified expression on his face. The composition is unusually cinematic.

Line on Sierra: Space Quest III

September 19, 2016 - Features / Line On Sierra

Welcome back! The ongoing Police Quest problem notwithstanding, at this point we are firmly within the Golden Age of the text-based Sierra games, and I am prepared to get pretty gushy about Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon.

Title screen that reads "Space Quest III" in a blocky, glowing blue font with "The Pirates of Pestulon" seemingly scrawled across the bottom in dripping pink paint. Fine print below reads "1989 Sierra On-Line, Inc."

One thing about this game is obvious almost right away: compared to previous Sierra games, it looks fantastic. Space Quest III uses the same engine as King’s Quest IV and Police Quest II, Sierra’s Creative Interpreter 0, but the visual design is much more focused and purposeful. A common theme so far is that Space Quest in general has a clearer tone and point of view than the other two series, and in this installment that extends to the visual style as well. Mark Crowe, who along with Scott Murphy makes up developer team Two Guys from Andromeda, is credited with the graphics.

A close-up of Roger Wilco, a short haired white man, lying down on a shiny red surface. He is lit by a blue light from above. He is looking to his right as though wary of something.

Although Space Quest III uses the same 16 colors as every other game on the engine, it spaces those colors out between scenes and locations to make different areas feel distinct. Shots often have one or two dominant colors with a couple of accents; by contrast, both King’s Quest IV and Police Quest II have a certain comic-booky flatness that comes from using whatever’s at hand from a limited color range all at once. It’s a smart way to turn a technical limitation into a creative strength.

Space Quest III starts with protagonist Roger Wilco waking up in the sleeping pod he dramatically reached at the very end of Space Quest II. An indeterminate amount of time has passed, and he’s been picked up by a garbage freighter. This transformation of janitor into trash is, of course, deeply symbolic and important.

Roger emerges, crouching, from his squat gray escape pod. It is sitting askew on a pile of trash in a large, dirty-looking blue warehouse. Spaceship junk lies scattered around.

Now, listen. Loyal fans of Line on Sierra may remember that Roger was nanoseconds away from giving birth to a chestburster when he jumped in his sleeping pod at the end of the last game. Shockingly, the sequel completely ignores this fact, like my choices don’t even matter. How disappointingly linear, Two Guys.

Roger walks through a narrow cylindrical corridor with red walls. Wires dangle from missing panels on the walls. Input text reads: "worry about the baby".

The garbage freighter is the first and largest of several environments in the game that lend themselves to a bit of exploration and item collection in the King’s Quest style. Because it’s a Space Quest game, there are lots of outlandish and comical ways to die while you do this, although I do like to stick to the classics.

A platform filled with machinery. A narrow gray rail enters from the right and curves around the platform in a C-shape. A gray device with a chair hangs from the rail in the foreground. Game text reads: "You stepped off the rail! You're dead again. Way to go. Haven't we taught you anything?"

If there’s one thing I can say confidently about this series, it’s that I’ll never learn anything about how not to fall from great heights.

As I explored the garbage freighter, I started to turn around a certain conundrum in my mind, one which will surely hang over future installments of this series. While I still keep a walkthrough handy to keep myself from getting completely stuck, I found it much easier to navigate the puzzles in this game, as I did to some extent in King’s Quest IV. Which raises the question: is this because Sierra’s puzzle design was getting gradually better as the genre matured, or because I’m subconsciously remembering solutions I played through as a child? I suspect there may be elements of both, which is going to make it a bit tricky for me to talk about the evolution of the puzzle design in these games.

That said, my memory is selective, so the things that are easy are probably going to reflect what interested me as a kid. I’m pretty sure I remembered, for example, that I needed to climb up to the top and use some kind of claw game to move parts into the ship I found. Playing with the claw was fun! But a whole series of shenanigans with a space rat that steals your stuff and hides it left me backtracking and digging through the walkthrough as much as anything from Police Quest.

Roger stands in a section of the garbage freighter with a small, half-buried gray spaceship in the center. Piles of trash block the left and right sides of the screen. A giant set of tinker toys is embedded in the ground in front of the ship. Giant legos are scattered around.

Not to get too far ahead of myself, though. The big point of the garbage freighter is that you find the aforementioned ship, which like all scifi comedy spaceships is named after some variation on “Millennium Falcon” that I forgot as soon as I heard it. This first location fits the pattern of previous Space Quest games, in that all the puzzles in the area are built around the goal of escaping it. In this case, you have to find various spare parts to fix up the ship so you can get it started.

Close shot from behind Roger's head of a small spaceship interior. At the far end is a windowed cockpit with a single chair, facing a wall of garbage outside. The walls are pink and blue and lined with chunky gray bulkheads. Two passenger sits are lined up against the left wall, and a large computer is against the right wall.

After you’re done with that, Roger finally has a crappy little spaceship, like a real scifi videogame hero! I included this particular shot because I’m pretty sure it’s the one that I vividly remember blowing my mind as a kid with its advanced graphics. “I guess this is what videogames are going to look like in the future,” I thought to myself, with a fascinating edge of regret for the waning days of noodle-legged sprites. Roger does kind of look like a really nerdy Doomguy here, I guess, if my prediction was off in various other important ways. It’s good to know I was weirdly specifically fatalist from such a precocious age, though. Don’t worry, 8 year old Line! The noodle legs will return in time, and they’ll bring a lot of symbolic platforming with them.

The flight computer from Roger's spaceship. It has a black background and two rows of green-outlined buttons at the top. At the bottom is a red-outlined information panel that reads: "THRUST GENERATION UNDERWAY. CURRENT SECTOR: 75. NO COURSE SELECTED." The buttons are labelled as follows: "STAND BY." "NAVIGATION SYSTEM." "TAKEOFF." "CRUISE." "LIGHT SPEED." "ATTACK SPEED." "RADAR." "WEAPONS SYSTEM."

Once I got the ship working I was treated to this screen, which immediately filled me with despair. I always suspected the Space Quest designers were just waiting for a chance to break out a fuckin flight sim! Fortunately, my fears were mostly unjustified. Starting up the spaceship is a matter of hitting the right keys in order, and there’s no sudden death punishment for getting the order wrong.

A long shot of the exterior of the freighter, which is blue and extends beyond the camera on the left. There is a small hole in the hull that appears to be blasted outwards. Roger's ship is taking off from the direction of the hole. A purple nebula can be seen in the background.

The one exception is the battle system, about which more later. At this point all you have to do with it is put shields up in front and then blast your way out of the freighter (in another fantastic shot). But! this is really interesting! Because that is a low-stakes tutorial, built into the storyline, that shows you how to do something you’ll be doing under pressure much later in the game. Now, it’s hard to remember the last time I played a long game that didn’t do something similar. For example, the most recent game I played, Style Savvy: Fashion Forward, starts with a character seeing a hat and begging to try it on so I can learn the dress-up interface.

But while that may be game design 101 in 2016, it’s an entirely new thing for a Sierra adventure game, if not any kind of game, in 1989. Police Quest II had the shooting range, which a player could use to practice the keys needed for shootouts later in the game, but the first person view of the shooting range is not a direct (or effective) tutorial for shooting a moving sprite in a third-person view. This is a case where you’re doing the exact same actions you’ll be doing later, and where it’s presented as just another puzzle you need to solve to progress the story. This is shockingly modern game design!

A different view of the flight computer. This has three green buttons on the top labeled "RESUME SCAN," "SET COURSE," and "RETURN." Below is a purple grid overlaying a star map. In the lower right corner is an enlarged grid cell with a red and black planet in the center. Next to it is informational text reading: "Name: Planet Ortega. Sector: 82. Habitants: Unknown. Volcanic crater-strewn surface."

Another modern twist immediately follows. Once you get the ship operational, you can then open up the navigation interface and scan for planets. This reveals three locations to select from. This immediately recalls the “visit three areas in any order, then unlock a plot-advancing area” structure familiar to players of Bioware epics and other semi-linear narrative games. Space Quest III just can’t stop inventing the future of videogames. This technique is still popular because it’s a low-cost way to give the player a sense of free exploration without turning your narrative structure into a big tangled mess. It makes a lot of sense for Space Quest, which used an episodic structure from the start.

That said, the choice of three planets is a bit of an illusion: you can’t immediately go to the fire planet Ortega, since you need an item from another location to survive the heat. From a remove, the structure is not far off from King’s Quest IV: get three items which each unlock the next phase of the plot, then trigger an endgame. To start with, you can either go to the planet Phleebhut or, like me, head straight for the Monolith Burger. Roger’s been in stasis for god knows how long! Dude’s gotta eat!

A close-up of a teal robot face with a square jaw and a frown. The robot's eyes are a black visor with backwards green text reflected on it. The text reads: "Wilco wanted for vending machine fraud. Plaintiff: Gippazoid Novelty Co."

Before we get there, there’s another quick glimpse of the cinematic storytelling style I’m starting to associate with the series. Navigating anywhere triggers a cutscene in which a large Terminator-style robot gets mad at Roger. The backstory explaining this shows up in reverse on the robot’s visor, which is a weird and striking way to dump exposition, if one that might raise accessibility issues. The robot’s quest to destroy Roger over petty theft is unrelated to the main plot of the game, but turns out to be a useful way of gating some of the plot down the line.

A long shot of a small, disc-shaped red space station with a huge yellow M-shaped sign shooting up from the top. There are five docking ports around the perimeter, one of which has an Enterprise-shaped ship docked at it.

The establishing shot of the Monolith Burger is great, and also the strongest evidence yet of how much Space Quest DNA lived on in Futurama. I was drawn to this location not only because it seemed like the wrong place to go first, but also because it exerted a powerful pull of nostalgia on me. Indeed, this image of a weird little rest stop floating lonely in the middle of space would live in the back of my mind for years. My final project in my undergrad graphics course would come out looking quite a lot like a Monolith Burger.

Maybe because of how it implanted itself on my memory, I found myself knowing exactly what I was supposed to do in this scene: walk up to the counter and order a kid’s meal, because the prize was something important. This triggered a little sequence which made me laugh probably as much as it did when I was eight.

A dialogue box labeled "Pushy Counter Clerk." On the left is a portrait of a green alien with big purple eyes and an 80s style fast food uniform. Their dialogue reads: "Would you like something to drink with that?" At the bottom are two buttons labeled "Yes" and "Yes."

Same dialogue box, but the clerks portrait is zoomed in a little closer. Their dialogue reads: "Would you like some Space Spuds with that??" The buttons still both read "Yes."

Same dialogue box. The portrait is zoomed in so you can only see the clerks eyes. Their dialogue reads: "Would you like a Blattfruit Pie with that??" Buttons still both read "Yes."

I love how the dialogue boxes themselves expand in size to fit the increasing zoom levels. It’s such a nice touch.

I was right about the kid’s meal prize. It was a secret decoder ring that I had no immediate use for, but seemed important enough. I hung around the Monolith Burger a bit longer getting in fights with aliens, but I knew in my unsettling memory banks that what I needed to do here next was play the arcade game in the restaurant about a billion times, which meant I needed a lot more money. So: on to planet Phleebhut!

An alien planet. Smooth purple dunes rise and fall against a sky that fades from black to blue at the horizon. Roger is seen walking away in the distance, much smaller than his usual size.

Phleebhut (which is a bad name and I hate typing it) is another space set up for a bit of exploration. It’s still a small area by King’s Quest standards, but it’s big enough that a bit of mapping is necessary, especially since I’ll be racing through it on a time limit later. Most of it is empty, just big purple dunes and smooth green rock formations. The only point of interest is a giant dinosaur-shaped tourist attraction at the top of the map, where the main action of this segment will take place.

The front of a boxy blue store with a wide awning out in front of it. Two huge teal dinosaur feet with green talons rise on either side of it. A green neon sign over the store reads "World O' Wonders," and the light on the first "W" is out. Roger is in front of the store, apparently struggling with a stringy green creature that is wrapped around his face and arms.

(This screenshot depicts Roger dying gruesomely for no good reason, in case you forgot that this is happening constantly in between all the rest of the action.)

This is an unusual use of space for a Sierra adventure game, and it’s pretty cool. The planet could have been designed such that you land your ship right next to the dinosaur. Instead, you wander around a desolate space for a few screens, see either a signpost or the dinosaur in the distance, then arrive at a place that immediately seems noisy and colorful by contrast. There’s a narrative build to it that makes the joke land better. This sequence, more than any other, gives the impression that Roger’s journey in this game is more or less just a road trip across the American Southwest.

The shop interior. The blue walls are a little worn-looking and crowded with odd objects on shelves. In front is an alien merchant with huge eyes, teal skin, five o clock shadow, and suspenders, sitting behind a large glass counter with some scattered gemstones of different colors in it. A large green gem is on the counter, and the merchant stares at it in astonishment with his mouth in an O shape. Items around the shop include: a rotating display of colorful postcards, a large cow-like skull with curved horns, a cat skeleton, a green creature in a jar, and a row of gray and purple robot toys.

Inside the dinosaur is a kitsch shop run by an alien with high-quality facial expressions. He sells various things that sound useful, particularly the thermal underwear that will allow Roger to survive Ortega, as well as a collection of postcards containing references to other Sierra games and beloved science fiction franchises. I was troubled that my quest for money had only found me more things to buy. I had to hit the walkthrough to figure out that I was supposed to sell a gem in my inventory that was left over from the previous game. Nice continuity, but WHERE’S MY BABY, TWO GUYS?

This gave me more than enough money to buy everything in the store and have enough left over for arcade game shenanigans. But as I was leaving, plot twist! The robot shows up!

A close-up from behind the robots shoulder as he holds up Roger by his shirt. The robots arm is very shiny and reflects the purple of the planet surface. Roger is staring at the hand with a wide-mouthed, horrified expression on his face. The composition is unusually cinematic.

The robot gives Roger a head start to get away, which kicks off a fun chase sequence. The robot turns invisible when chasing Roger, so when he shows up in a screen it’s just as some ominous footprints behind you. This is both a neat effect and probably a good way to avoid multiple animated objects on screen while the player is doing something time-sensitive.

An area where curved green rock formations jut out of the purple dunes. One formation forms a wide arch, at the top of which are some dark purple blob-shaped growths. Underneath, Roger lies on his stomach and picks up some object from a metallic pile with a stick.

A cool thing about this sequence is that you can solve the puzzle in two different ways. As one method, you can lead the terminator bot into the upper levels of the dinosaur and knock him down. I went for the second method, which is to lure him under some alien fungus things that ate me several times while I was exploring the planet earlier. I found this very satisfying. Both puzzle solutions are very environment-driven, and depend on the player having sufficiently explored the space prior to triggering the chase. This is one of those cases where I’m not sure whether I subconsciously remembered the solution or the puzzle was just well-designed, but I’m inclined towards the latter. There’s something clever about prompting the player to think about hazards they encountered as something they can turn against an enemy.

Once the robot is taken care of, you can snag its invisibility belt and get the hell off of Phleebhut. Now that I had infinite money, I knew it was time to head back to Monolith Burger and die a billion times in the fucking chicken game.

A closeup of a a classic arcade cabinet screen with blue walls. The screen shows a gray planet surface with green lumps on it. In the center of the surface is a purple rectangle with an A on it. A small white chicken wearing a vest hangs in the air with wings outstretched and beak hanging open. Below the screen is a red panel that reads "Feed: 92" with two chicken-shaped "lives" next to it.

The chicken game! Classic Sierra adventures inspire strong feelings in those who grew up with them: affection for their environments, weird puzzles, and storylines, and pure seething hatred for their minigames. Astro Chicken, a take on Lunar Lander with awful controls and a chirpy soundtrack, is among the most loathed of these. Death is frequent, largely unavoidable, and accompanied by impressively annoying sound design.

To be fair, in the context of the game’s storyline, I think that Astro Chicken is a genuine attempt to come up with the worst possible videogame. After you play it enough times, you unlock a secret message from the game’s developers, which you can translate with the decoder ring from the kid’s meal. It turns out that the Two Guys from Andromeda are being held captive and forced to develop games on Pestulon, a moon of Ortega. Way to break the fourth wall, Two Guys! Which means there’s a sort of low-key joke that Roger (and by extension, the player) is the only person who could ever stand to play Astro Chicken long enough to get the message.

Roger stands on the surface of a volcanic planet. Gray rock outcroppings marked with flowing cooled-lava formations hang over deep red chasms. A huge volcano with an active lava flow is seen in the background, with more rolling mountains behind it.

There’s a lot that’s interesting to me about the storytelling in Space Quest III, not least that they wait until about two-thirds of the way through the game to tell you what the plot is. It turns out that there’s a good reason Ortega was locked until you got through Phleebhut: once you get there, you advance the plot to the final sequence. But here’s something I find even more interesting. The Monolith Burger scene is, technically, totally optional. Getting the secret message tells you what the plot is, and gives you an idea of what you need to do on Ortega, but you can skip it and go straight through if you want. Amusingly, if you do that, the game text reflects that Roger has no idea what he’s doing on Ortega or why.

A view through a telescope. In the distance is a heavily cratered moon, while in the foreground a volcanic peak can be partly seen. Most of the screen is covered with a text box reading: "What is that thing, anyway? Maybe it's a TV transmitter, beaming game shows and championship wrestling to all corners of the globe."

Well, what you’re doing is blowing up a shield generator that prevents you from landing on Pestulon, the moon where the Two Guys are held captive. Once you do that, it shows up in your navigation scans, and the final act can get started.

Roger stands next to his spaceship on another planet. This one has a purple sky and green surface dotted with yellow grass or moss. Large teal spirals rise out of the ground, like strange trees or giant fungi. Rogers ship looks deep blue instead of its normal teal.

Pestulon’s weird spiral fungus-trees are another great design.

It’s at this point that a lot of the narrative gating in the game becomes apparent. Since you had to go to Phleebhut before Ortega, and you absolutely had to kill the robot to get off the planet, that makes it very likely that the player got the invisibility belt right before they left for Ortega. In between, they can optionally stop by Monolith Burger to get information about the plot. The invisibility belt is then necessary to get past the guards on Pestulon. So despite the open-space implications of the opening, there’s an ideal path through the three locations that the player is kind of fluidly guided down by the need to get certain items to get past obstacles. There are definitely possible snags: the player may not see the belt in the robot’s remains, they may (like me) not figure out how to get money, etc. But overall, it’s a pretty nice take on making King’s Quest II‘s hyper-literal “get three keys, open three doors” into a more organic narrative structure.

A close-up of a smaller spiral tree, which seems composed of a bunch of tangled branches. In the background is some kind of gray building, mostly obscured by a dialog box. The box reads: "Decision Time. Do you wish to:" with three buttons reading "Stay Here," "Return to Ship," and "Enter Scumsoft."

And then for some reason, once you get to the building you need to enter, you get a false choice dialogue. This is so silly! If you stay or return to the ship, nothing happens. I think this might be an attempt to make Roger’s infiltration of the base feel more momentous, and I can see where this might work. But I don’t think it’s a great move in an adventure game, where odds are high that Roger will die comically thirty seconds after making his dramatic decision to push forward.

An unusual view of Roger inside a building. In the center of the screen is a first person view of a curving blue corridor with a pink floor. Roger, who looks larger than usual, stands in the near plane of the corridor, running up against the wall.

Or just walk into a wall repeatedly. Once you get inside the base, you’re treated to an interesting and terrible new movement scheme, which sees Roger walking around a donut-shaped hallway and trying to enter doors that are, like, pretty small targets from this camera angle. One is locked by a keycard, which marks it as important, and another is a massive cubicle maze where you get comically killed if you wander into it right away.

A long view of a maze made out of red cubical walls. Scattered around the maze are desks with identical dark-haired white guys with glasses working at them. Next to each desk is a small black wastebasket. Roger is in the lower right corner, encased in a block of green jello. A spiky disc-shaped drone hovers above him.

The last, however, is a janitor’s closet, where Roger can symbolically shed his space adventurer trappings and put on a janitor’s uniform once more. This disguise lets him navigate the cubicle maze, but only if he diligently empties every wastebasket he passes with his new trash vaporizer. Errors will get you noticed and subsequently zapped by a drone, which encases you in a large block of Jell-O. I’m not sure what the point of all the Jell-O encasing is, but it’s definitely a thing. This seems like the kind of attack that would be used to make a game technically nonviolent for family-friendliness, but this is Space Quest, and every other death in the game is rewarded with a closeup of Roger tied up in a knot and bleeding out his eyeballs or something.

A dialogue box titled "Deceleration Trauma." On the left side is a small picture of Rogers legs and arms sticking upside-down out of a splattered pool of blood, as though he fell on his head and most of his body was squished. On the right, text reads: "It wouldnt be so bad, except for the sudden stop at the end. Next time, dont get so close to the edge." Buttons at the bottom read: "Restore," "Restart," and "Quit."

Like so. I guess the green Jell-O just adds a little variety to all the red.

On the left side of the screen are several long rows of exit-less cubicles, each of which contains an identical programmer in front of a small computer screen. Two platforms run between rows of cubicles, with two overseers carrying whips walking along them. On the right side, Roger stands before a desk in a large cubicle where the director sits. The director is a short white guy with large aviator glasses and a green striped shirt. Input text reads: "vaporize trash"

Roger’s stealth mission eventually leads him to the director’s office and a little visualization of game development crunch circa 1989. The Two Guys had some shit they were working out with this game! Here you can steal the director’s keycard and finally break into the secret room. You can also go out on a balcony and see your ship parked next to the building, but you can’t reach it at this point. This is an interesting bit of foreshadowing that will help explain how you get there later. It’s another small way that this game makes the space it takes place in a little more cohesive.

Roger stands in a large cylindrical room with an octagonal platform in the center. On the platform are two green jello blocks with people encased in them. There are four doors entering in the chamber, but only the south door has a ramp extending to the platform. Input text reads: "eat jello"

When you get to the secret room, you find the Two Guys, who are, naturally, encased in Jell-O. You can use your trash vaporizer to free them (sadly the more win-win solution I proposed was not accepted), at which point the ramp retracts and the developers ask Roger what his plan was to escape. Meta! The first time through, I immediately panicked and jumped off the edge. This was not correct. It turns out it’s just an inescapable sequence where the director re-captures you and the Two Guys together. There’s a cute background joke where your score rockets up to the full amount after you free the Two Guys, then plummets back down when you get captured again. This is fitting, given all the fourth wall shenanigans going on, and a neat way to tease the false ending for all the nerds watching their score.

After the director captures you, he subjects you to robot combat for reasons that are unclear to me in retrospect. But you know, someone wanted to get their climactic robot fight in, and that’s fine. That’s fine.

A long shot of a huge circular arena with two giant mechs fighting in the middle, one gray and one red. The red one is punching the gray one, which staggers backwards. There are pilots in the heads of both mechs. At the top are two green bars labeled "Power Level," one for each robot. They are about equal. A huge, indistinct audience rings the arena. A small figure in a red outfit cowers in a corner of the arena.

I’ll tell you this: for all the hate Astro Chicken gets, it’s just a goofy sequence that you can fail your way through without consequence. This robot fighting minigame, done in a Rock-em Sock-em Robots style, is the one that made me truly miserable. The controls are just as janky as Astro Chicken, but slower, without narrative justification, and in a life or death situation. I HATE IT. As is becoming my go-to strategy for life-ruining Sierra minigames, I started cranking the game speed up and down in search of a sweet spot where it didn’t make me cry and kick furniture. I finally managed to beat the fight in ultra-slow-motion, like it was some kind of terrible turn-based fighting game.

A close-up of a computer panel from Rogers ship. It is clearly combat-focused. On the left are two buttons reading "HELP" and "OFF," and a panel labeled "RADAR" that reads "Target: In Front." In the middle is a panel labeled "TRACKING" that contains a targeting reticule and a view of a a green x-shaped spaceship. Below the panel is a button that reads "FIRE. Space Bar." On the left is a panel labeled "SHIELDS," with two buttons reading "F" and "B" for "Front" and "Back." Below is a schematic outline of Rogers ship.

After you win the fight and escape, the space battle tutorial from the beginning finally pays off. You have to shoot down several ships sent after you by the software company, which involves switching around your shields as they approach then chasing them with a cursor until you lock on. It’s finicky and ends in death frequently, but surprisingly I found it pretty fun. That’s the power of an organic tutorial!

After the space battle, there’s a momentary peace in which the Two Guys yammer at Roger for a bit. But then the ship gets sucked into a wormhole… one which lands them all near a mysterious planet on the other side of the galaxy….

A shot of the Earth and the moon from space. Below a caption reads: "You cut the engines to sub-lightspeed as you near a seemingly habitable planet."

The meta shenanigans continue! And what’s this?

A medium shot of the Two Guys from over the shoulder of the man theyre speaking to. The Guys are aliens with pointy ears, red mohawks, and pig noses. The one on the left, who is speaking, wears a visor similar to La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The one on the right has a beard and dark sunglasses. The man theyre talking to has dark brown hair and a mustache, and appears to be Ken Williams. Roger is in the background smiling. There are pine trees along the horizon. A dialog box labeled "Mark" reads: "Greetings Earthling. We are the Two Guys from Andromeda, Universally famous software authors."

Look at these fuckin nerds, writing themselves into their nerd-ass space game. I love everything about this whole situation, from the Two Guys’ lovingly rendered Spacepigsonas, to Ken Williams’s pixel mustache, to Roger looking like a photobomber in his own videogame. I also love the now-archaic phrase “software authors.” When did that go out of fashion? (Very quickly, according to Google Ngram Viewer.) And finally, the implication that these guys loved Roger Wilco so much they went on to make a series of games about him, set in their long-lost space home.

A long view of dark red California ranch-style building. Rogers ship is parked out front next to a large blue sign reading "SIERRA," with Roger visible in the cockpit. Game text reads: "The Two Guys from Andromeda go on to create the Space Quest series of adventure games reaping fame and fortune. They grow fat on their success and soon become burnt out and begin a drunken tailspin into obscurity."

And then: Kickstarter!

A pink title reading "THE END" over a sparkly spiral galaxy.

This whole ending is amazingly self-indulgent, but you know what? These guys earned it. Space Quest III actually feels like it learned lessons from all the games that came before it. Puzzles are tied into the storyline better, there’s variety in the stuff you do and the places you go without feeling random, the jokes are pretty funny and the graphics are great. If you wanted to try one game from this era to get a feel for what Sierra was about, this is the one I’d recommend.

Next time on Line on Sierra: GUESS WHAT NERDS, you can finally stop asking me when I’m doing Quest for Glory!


Robot fight: 17 times
Fell from a great height: 10
Eaten by space fungus: 5
Terminated: 5
Encased in Jell-O: 5
Blown up by enemy ships: 2
Blown up by myself: 2
Picking up everything, as I have been taught: 2
Scorpazoid: 1
Lightning: 1
Antagonized a dude at a fast food restaurant: 1

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  • Line On Sierra: Space Quest ILine On Sierra: Space Quest I King's Quest may have been the flagship franchise of the Sierra adventure games, but as a kid it wasn't my favorite series. That honor went to Space Quest.Probably because gruesome death […]
  • Line on Sierra: Quest for Glory I, Part 2Line on Sierra: Quest for Glory I, Part 2 Last time in Quest for Glory, the brave thief Hamburger Tree arrived in the town of Spielburg and settled into a life of aimless destitution. As we left our hero, he had just discovered […]

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