Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers
First posted on 01 November 2011. Last updated on 01 November 2011.
The Space Quest series emanated from the wacky minds of Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, affectionately known as the "Two guys from Andromeda". Crowe created the music and visual art, whereas Murphy programmed the script and logic. After releasing a trio of successful games earlier, Crowe and Murphy embarked on their most ambitious game yet for the series—Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. The game was meant to be a parody of both Star Trek and Star Wars, filled with obvious clichés and homage paid to both series throughout. The game even made a parody of itself, by including references to nonexistent games in the series that supposedly would be released in the future. Sadly, the release of this game spelt the end of a creative partnership forged by Crowe and Murphy, as they parted ways soon after. Crowe eventually left Sierra On-Line, while Murphy stayed behind at the company to continue development of the series on his own.
In Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, you again play as the anti-hero Roger Wilco. This time, he has been ripped from the fabric of time itself into both the past and the future and must now save himself and his home planet of Xenon. The game begins with a long cinematic cut scene, where Roger (in Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon) has just saved the "Two guys from Andromeda" from a nefarious video game company known as ScumSoft run by the Pirates of Pestulon. Still in his old space cruiser (Aluminum Mallard), Roger is now returning home to Xenon. It has been many years since Roger has seen his home planet. Needing a holiday and a drink or more, Roger drops off on the planet Magmetheus at his favorite seedy Space Bar before heading for home.
Suddenly, the Sequel Police (time travelling robots created by Sludge Vohaul) arrive at the Space Bar to seize Roger and to take him outside for extermination. They play to him a hologram message from Sludge Vohaul, who declares his intention to exact revenge on Roger. It appears that the Sequel Police have been sent back in time to eliminate Roger before the rebels can find Roger and get Roger to prevent the rebirth of Sludge Vohaul and his dastardly deeds. Supposedly, Roger has killed off Sludge Vohaul (back in Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge) by pulling out his life support system. Unbeknown to Roger at the time, Sludge Vohaul had created a deadly virus before his death and loaded the virus onto an old floppy disk for a Leisure Suit Larry game. Once the disk is found and placed into Xenon's super computer, the virus takes over and decimates the planet.
Just then, the rebel fighters arrive in the nick of time and save Roger. Roger's only way of escape, however, lies in entering a time rip created by the rebels. Roger reappears on Xenon, but way into the future—to Space Quest XII: Vohaul's Revenge II, to be exact. In this new timeline, Roger sees that the landscape is now barren with total destruction of a once mighty planet. Further, the deserted streets are now patrolled by Cyborg zombies, who are once former rebel warriors, and security droids (Droid-O-Death), that will kill any intruder instantly on site.
After avoiding these and many other dangers, Roger escapes from Xenon and travels back in time—to Space Quest X: Latex Babes of Estros, this time—on the planet Estros. Once again, Roger has to outsmart the many local inhabitants of the planet, including a pterodactyl, the Latex Babes, and a giant sea slug. Roger also has a crazy time at the Galaxy Galleria, a 24th century shopping complex in outer space.
After Roger escapes from Estros by stealing a Sequel Police spaceship (the Timebuster 2000 SUX), he travels back in time once more—back to Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge—to Ulence Flats on the planet Kerona. Thereafter, a few more well-timed trips to both past and future Space Quest games finally enable Roger to get all the materials and gadgets needed to once again defeat Sludge Vohaul, though not before he learns of the identities of his future son and wife.
The release of Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers heralds many innovative changes to the Space Quest series. The original Floppy Disk version of the game, released in 1991, does not include digitized speech. It is not until the release of the CD-ROM version in 1992 that the game supports digitized speech, which features Gary Owens (of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) as the voice of the narrator. It is also the first game in the series to feature full voice acting. In the Options Menu, a choice is given to either listening to the dialog or reading it but not both.
The previous games in the series support only EGA graphics with 16 colors at either 320x200 or 640x200 pixels. Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers is the first game in the series to support VGA graphics with 16 colors at 640x480 pixels or 256 colors at 320x200 pixels. The extra colors in the palette enable clearer artworks as well as improved textures. The game also makes a transition to the new SCI1 (Sierra's Creative Interpreter) game engine from the older SCI0 and AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) game engines used to develop previous games in the series. With the support of higher color graphics, the new engine uses a digitized painting process for all background artworks, rather than the pixel by pixel process used by the older engines. When comparing these processes, the improved quality is readily notable. As well, the SCI1 engine introduces an icon based interface that is completely mouse driven. This supersedes the tedious text parser used in previous games. There are icons for Walking, Looking, Pick-up/Using, Talking, Smelling, and Tasting. Icons are also used to access the Main Menu as well as the Inventory.
The artworks in the game are all hand painted. The game is amongst the first games to use motion capture animation. An example of this in the game is where Roger Wilco gets captured by a pterodactyl when he time travels to Space Quest X. Roger is seen in the claws of the pterodactyl, while the background is moving, giving the impression of movement.
The game has a maximum of 315 points that are scored over 46 designated tasks. The game makes use of a small inventory, with only 14 items needed to be procured or found. During Roger's time ripping escapades, he will need to visit 4 planets, some of them a few times.
In sum, Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers is arguably the best game in the Space Quest series. The game is innovative in both its design and its production. Like previous games in the series, this game is very short, with only around 8-10 hours of playing time. Looking back, in the past decades since the original release of the game, I have probably played it a dozen or so times, each time with the same enthusiasm and enjoyment. If you have not played Space Quest before, I suggest you give it a try. You will laugh, die a thousand times, and enjoy every moment of it.