Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier

Posted by Peter Lamberton.
First posted on 24 August 1998. Last updated on 01 November 2011.
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Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier
Roger is getting a demotion!
Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier
Roger meets his old friend Fester.
Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier
Stooge Fighters 3!
Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier
There are many choices for Roger's flying pleasure.
Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier
Prepare for docking sequence!

Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier is the first made for CD game in the long running Space Quest series. Each game in the series has taken advantage of the newest technology available at the time. This latest sequel is no exception. It is a full multimedia extravaganza, complete with original music and digitized voices. This is also the first game in which the player can hear Roger Wilco speak.

Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier begins where the last game leaves off. In the intro, our hero Roger Wilco gets a thorough dressing-down (literally) by the Starcon Admiral. After being demoted from Captain to Janitor Second Class, Roger is assigned to the Deepship 86. Shortly after, he finds himself on shore leave on a recreational planet but, as we all know too well, this is not going to be a vacation for our broom jockey. Once again, we accompany Roger on another wild and wacky fun filled quest that takes us through the far reaches of outer space and to another frontier that no man has gone to before—inner space; hence, the subtitle of this latest sequel!

Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier is co-written by Scott Murphy and Josh Mandel. Murphy is also known as one half of "The Two Guys From Andromeda" (the other is Mark Crowe). Mandel is well known for his work in many of the previous adventure games from Sierra On-Line. Unfortunately, he has left the company before the completion of the title. This latest sequel takes full advantage of SVGA graphics. The characters are animated in the style akin to those in King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride, though not quite up to that title's high standard. The characters can use more details but they all look decent enough. The backgrounds are well done with nice mixture of colors that blend in for a more natural look. For me, the vocal works in this game have mixed results. First, I have a hard time getting used to Roger's new voice. Initially I am not too fond of the voice, but as I play the game it starts to grow on me. What remain troubles with me are the other characters' voices. It is clear that several of the same actors furnish vocals for more than one character in the game. It really annoys me when the Commander of Star Con sounds exactly the same as the mad scientist. Where is Denny Delk when you need him? One simply cannot beat LucasArts when it comes to the vocal talents the company employs. It is obvious this is a cost saving move on the part of Sierra On-Line to limit the production budget of this title.

On a positive note, Sierra On-Line is smart to employ the talented Gary Owens of LAUGH IN fame to be the voice of the obnoxious narrator. He is first heard in the CD-ROM version of Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and The Time Rippers. Owens' presence is definitely a highlight in this game. The game also features numerous digitized sound effects that are all well done. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is not really anything to write home about. It is your standard MIDI themes that change from locations to locations. Roger even whistles the series theme song if let standing idle. Another highlight in the game is the shuttle sequences that make up some of the cut scenes. They are computer modeled and rendered in extremely lifelike fashion.

Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier is another game that uses the tried and true formula of inventory based puzzles. Here, the difference lies in the difficulty of some of the puzzles. While most of them are easy to moderately difficult, there are a couple of hidden brainteasers. Both of these puzzles occur in the earlier section of the game. Both are logic puzzles that fit well into the context of the story. You need to refer to the humorous Popular Janitronics insert that comes with the game to get clues on how to solve these puzzles. There is only 1 arcade sequence in this game. Getting past it does not require reflexes, but you can be bypass it by simply solving another puzzle instead.

Of course, what really stands out in the Space Quest series is the humor. This game continues with that tradition in grand style. Throughout the game you see and hear spoofs on just about anything in the pop, tech, and sci-fi cultures. Everything from Star War to poor old Mr. Gates' enterprise is a target. Among the well known sci-fi flicks to which this game makes parody are Star Trek, Star Wars, Innerspace, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The game even has a Street Fighter action arcade game parody called "Stooge Fighters 3" that stars The Three Stooges. You can play this game through and still miss a lot of hidden jokes put into this game.

The interface in this game is easy to manipulate and very functional. A handy help button explains the function of each action Roger can do. There is no hotspot or highlighting cursor, so this game can become a pixel hunt in a hurry. This can be aggravating in certain locations where the lighting is poor and an object you need to find is hidden in darkness. The reason for the lack of hotspot becomes obvious when nearly every object in each scene can elicit a response from the narrator when it is examined or manipulated. Most of these objects are just eye candy. Still, it is funny to hear Owens' twisted commentaries. Unfortunately, should his voice start to get on your nerves after a while you do not have the option to turn him off, unless you disable all the speeches that includes other characters in the game.

This sequel is undoubtly the best game in the Space Quest series yet! Its multimedia enhancements add immensely to the enjoyment of the game. The story is intriguing and entertaining. You get to explore the inside of the human body. How cool! Some of the puzzles are very inventive. Owens as the narrator is hilarious and he has something to say about nearly everything in the game. Even the most inane actions are usually met with some witty remarks from him. Characters and themes from the previous titles in the Space Quest series also make a number of cameo appearances in this title. While Roger can still die in this game, you can easily restore him to full health with the push of a button after his demise. He dies in many different ways during the game. It is all part of the fun to make him perform those insane actions just to see and hear the consequences, all the while you can learn about the human anatomy.

There are a few shortcomings in this game. The voices of the all the characters except for Roger need work. This game is a definite a "pixel" hunt and a hotspot function should be made available to alleviate this dreaded task. The game is somewhat linear in design and a little on the short side. There is a point in the game that can cause your computer to crash if you are playing on a fast system. It occurs when you are trying to leave sickbay for the first time. The reason this occurs may be because the game is originally designed for 486 systems. Pentium systems mess with the timing function in the game that causes the game to crash. A fix is to use third-party software to slow down your computer to get past this point. Once I pass this point, I restore my computer to its normal operating speed and I am able to finish the game without any further problems.

The game has also received numerous heavy criticisms from fans of the series. Some criticisms have focused on the tired but sarcastic jokes and parodies that are now overdone and bordering on the annoying. Some fans argue that the comedy is so forced into the story that the whole storyline itself is disjointed. This weakness is most evident by the fact that you are completely unaware of the ultimate goal of the game (to travel inside the body of Stellar to defeat the evil Sharpei) until late into the game. Other criticisms fall on the crude graphics and the poor voice acting. The unoriginal MIDI music has mixing problem when it is played concurrently with speech.

This game may be the final sequel in the celebrated series. In December 1997, Leslie Balfour and Scott Murphy of the Space Quest design team make public their decision to put the development of the next Space Quest game on hold indefinitely. When Sierra On-Line announces in 1999 the shutdown of its development studio Yosemite Entertainment in where the Space Quest series is born, the final blow on the series is struck. On a historical note, the tentative title for the next game is rumored to be Space Quest VII: Return to Roman Numerals.

Despite a few notable design flaws, Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier is still a fun game for both long-time series fans and novice adventure gamers. The game is so full of content that it requires several replays to hear all the humorous jokes and witty dialogs. If Owens gets paid for every word he utters in this game, he probably can retire from showbiz after this gig. In other words, if you enjoy lots of laughter to go with your puzzle solving, then you owe it to yourself to pick up this title.

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