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Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge

Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge

 

Developer: Sierra On-Line The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 1987.11.14
Genre: SciFi / Comedy
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Parser



 

 

 

 

 

 





 

 


 

Space Quest is back. And Vohaul, the unseen antagonist from the previous game, is back with his revenge. From hero to zero, Roger Wilco is back too, and working as a janitor on a space ship, just like last time around. Released a year later, Vohaul's Revenge is trying repeat the successful formula from the first game as much as possible, but is it a hit or miss, is the protagonist going to be a hero or remain as zero?

Anyone who played the first game is immediately from the first scene going to feel like coming back. Not much has changed, except that the game is looking better with more detailed graphics, and also sounding better with more refined sound effects. There are quite a few comedic references to Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, Planet of the Apes, and other science fiction franchises, so knowing all that is certainly a key factor in how the game is going to feel like.

Vohaul makes his entrance.Vohaul makes his entrance.
The story goes something like this, Vohaul is back and wants to send an army of door-to-door salesmen to harass people in the universe, and also capture Roger Wilco to witness it all. Of course somewhere along the line the protagonist starts to interfere with those plans. It feels a bit forced, but the developers probably just tried to get the same characters and situations involved in the game without making too much effort to see that it flows that well. Being a comedy allows some loose reasoning plotwise, but in all honesty, they could have done a better job with that.

While there are many amusing situations in the game for sure, for those who dare to experiment with things even more than for more rational players, the game just doesn't have as much impact as the first one did. The story was structured better in the previous game, and had many funny things to laugh at. Having a parody version of Mos Eisley with ZZ Top performing, to give an example, was hilarious, and is amusing to think back even long after finishing the game. Such things are sadly absent in this sequel. While a player who knows science fiction genre well will find much more references than he has fingers to count with, the whole package isn't as well organised as it was before.

In a deadly maze.In a deadly maze.
To aggravate this, the game is not as good as an adventure either. The game is very unforgiving in many ways. First, there are deaths in practically speaking every scene - if there is one that doesn't have potential deaths, then the one after that will have double amount. So much of the gameplay isn't as much about solving puzzles, as it is about trying to avoid deaths, which sometimes are immediate and unexpected, but in some other cases can be triggered 30 minutes later as a result of some previous action which shouldn't have been done. There are also many dead-ends in the game. Basically the protagonist has to take every item possible and carry it, the failure to do so will inevitably lead to a situation where the game can't be completed.

It wouldn't be that bad if there was some sense and logic behind it all. But there's no way to reason why some items are needed, until they are needed. So the only way is to take everything that is not bolted down, carry it around trying to avoid death, waiting for a situation where that item might be useful in some way. Of course some of the puzzles and their solutions are extremely bizarre. This is a good thing, as some of them are amusing, but it is also a bad thing, because there really isn't a way to understand how the game actually works. Some solutions are not even hinted at in any way, so trying everything randomly is really the best course of action.

About to ride a shuttle.About to ride a shuttle.
The game isn't very long if one types the whole thing out as a walkthrough, but much time is spent on the aforementioned issues. To add to that, the game has a couple of mazes, all of which have deaths lurking inside them. For players who enjoy these kind of challenges the game will be a rewarding experience for sure, but players who like to have something more relaxed and relaxing are probably not going to be that enthusiastic about it. There probably aren't any players who have managed to complete the game without dying, without coming to a dead-end, and without having to look a walkthrough or some hintbook. The parser fortunately understands quite a decent number of synonyms, so hunting the right action word inside one's mind isn't a likely problem to occur.

So the overall feeling is that the game has progressed in technical aspects, being more impressive than the first one, whereas in the fields of story-telling and playability it has regressed somewhat. A large part of the problem is undoubtedly the horizon of expectation. Players who loved the first game want a repeat of the formula, and that the game indeed is, but at the cost of not being such a fresh and amusing take on science fiction. Vohaul's Revenge certainly isn't a bad game in its own league, but it can't better its predecessor either.

After the game has reached the end, which really is as much a starting point to another sequel as it is a conclusion to the second chapter, there are a bit of mixed feelings. You have just played a well produced adventure, for sure. It has given more of what the first game did, undoubtedly. One wants to see the third installment, no doubt. But at the same time it left wanting not only for more, but also better. A winning formula could be to keep advancing the technological side, which this game did, but also to go back to the core of the first game and see why it was such a fun game to play. But as was the case with the first game, it is always amusing to see another day in space janitor's life. And who wouldn't want to keep coming back to that?

The door is locked.The door is locked.

 


 

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