Space Quest 2: Vohaul's Revenge (1987)

Before anything else, I'm only talking about the original Space Quest 2 here. There is a fantastic fan-made remake of the game done by Infamous Adventures, which adds pretty decent voice acting, graphics with more colours, a proper soundtrack and even some expanded plot elements, taken from the original manual to the game. But, as it is a fan made game, I'm not including it here. You should still play it, as it's free and a pretty decent improvement over the original.

So, Space Quest 2. For the full disclosure of what really happened to the hapless janitor Roger Wilco between the games, you should really read the comic book that was provided with the original game. This might be a tad hard, as not every digital version of the game comes with the said comic, as some collections have only a half-assed manual with the game that pretty much just summarises the controls, copy protection stuff and what not. Luckily enough the comic itself can be read here.

Basically what it all boils down to is, that Roger's 15 minutes of fame have come to an end. After doing the talk show circuit and even a movie based on his heroics, the great public loses its interest and Roger Wilco has again gained the only job he's good at, being a janitor on a space station. Meanwhile, the comic also tells us, how Sludge Vohaul learns, from those same talk shows Wilco toured, that it was Wilco who placed spokes to his wheels when he was using Sariens to do his dirty work in getting the Star Generator in Space Quest 1. Some of this is also mentioned in the short opening blurb, but the manual comic does it with a more colourful manner.

Now, the Sariens should be a familiar name, as they were the titular bad guys of the first game, but Vohaul might be a different story. The name was mentioned in the game, but it was in fact in the form of Slash Vohaul and he was identified as the creator of the generator. Apparently, Sludge is an evil clone of Slash, though I'm pretty sure that is never actually mentioned in the game itself nor in the accompanying comic book. In the game Sludge actually states, that the whole Star Generator thing was his idea. The clone part was later on retconned to explain the Slash/Sludge thing, but you could just as well assume, that he was using an alias for some reason not explained. Or that Slash was his real name and Sludge his villain name, because why not?

Roger Wilco, space janitor, after his 15 minutes of fame is up

 But anyhow, transitioning from the comic to the game, we'll find Wilco doing his duty as a janitor. sweeping away star trash from a station deck, when he gets a call from his boss. There's been a horrible case of space puking in a space vessel and it's Roger's job to take care of it. As he's about to do his thing, a group of ape-like creatures jump him and render him unconscious. When he comes to, he sees the grinning face of Vohaul, who's about to wreak vengeance upon him because of the previously mentioned Sarien debacle: Roger Wilco is to spend the rest of his days in a Labion labour mines. Before he gets there, the hovercraft he's on runs out of fuel thanks to the incompetence of the ape goons.

After a quick crash, of which Roger is the sole survivor of, our janitor hero finds himself from a Labion forest. The goal here is pretty obvious: getting out from there and preferably on a spaceship, so off he goes. Some tentacle monsters, swamp diving, alien hunters and dark caves later, Roger finally stands in the front of a landing pad. It's guarded, obviously, so he needs to distract the goons, who luckily aren't as smart as he is, or the player, as Roger isn't described as the brightest bulb in the ceiling if you catch my drift, and he finally gets to a spaceship and you've won the game. Not (I'm old enough for this reference, I swear I'm not just hipstering around or whatever people do these days).

Vohaul's ape goons are taking Wilco to a ride he doesn't appreciate

From some reason, Sludge Vohaul decides to haul Roger back to his asteroid base where, again, from some reason, he gives his mortal nemesis a free range all over the base. It takes some effort and combining different kinds of crap, but Wilco finally confronts the lard master, only to find himself trapped. But not for long.

Anticlimactic death scene later Roger finds himself in a need of an escape vessel, as the asteroid base is about to go KABOOM.  Some mandatory trial and error later he finally finds himself from one, but in a good twist fashion the vessel is running out of the air, so he does what Ripley did at the end of Alien, not by undressing to his skimpy underwear, but by jumping in a stasis pod, and cue end credits.

The lard master himself.

If you've read my take on SQ1, you'll know that I don't find the first part of the series to be particularly funny. I like the game, but it is more like an action adventure with some humour in it. On SQ2 the humour starts pouring out more: there's no question if the game was meant to be a comedy or not. It's also more clearly a parody, riffing on Alien(s) and Star Wars among other notable sci-fi movies.

Just like SQ1, SQ2 is a very linear game. The only way to progress is forwards and it really plays out in a similar area by area fashion: you start out in the orbital station, go to the woods/swamp, progress to caves after which you get to the Vohaul's station. You can't return to the previous areas, so again, if you forgot to take something important, you're out of luck. Saving often and in multiple slots is advisable.

You'd fully expect to die in a scene like this, especially on a Sierra game.

Space Quest 2 gives the protagonist a little, but not much, more personality than he had previously. Of course, the VGA remake of SQ1 uses the already known lazy space slacker personality for Roger, but in the original game, the main character did feel more like a blank slate. This was underlined and even is present in SQ2 as well, by the fact that you can give the main character any name you want. Only by leaving the name blank do the games use the stock name Roger Wilco. But that doesn't really make him a huge personality in either of the games.

I've never been a huge fan of Space Quest 2.  While there's good stuff in it, like the art design, I've never really loved it. The Labion jungle isn't very interesting as a game area, but a big bulk of the game does take place there. The puzzles are, very often, solvable with a trial and error method and dying is an essential part of solving puzzles as well. As said, I like the visual design of the game, but at the same time, it's also a big, empty place. In Vohaul's station for an example, you need to tramp corridor after corridor and look for items you'll need in order to get to Vohaul. There are some areas of interactivity here and there and the parser does understand a good bit of words, by which you can get additional jokes, but as a whole, the game just feels desolate. On the same note though, I do need to add, that structurally and game wise, the Labion forest is designed better than the main bulk of the Vohaul base.

Alone at last, in the base of your nemesis you didn't even know you had before he kidnapped you.

Obviously, a lot of the design issues do stem from the fact, that the 80's was a different kind of time what comes to games. What does constitute as good design was even more lost than it is today, as the industry was just forming up and obviously in an era when there wasn't a lot of games around, people wanted more bang for their buck, so even a bit unfair design could have been a positive thing, as that adds to the overall length of the game. And then there as the hint book market, which was pretty viable for Sierra as well. But still, I do think, that even if I'd be able to overlook some clunky design, I can't look past that I do find the game as such a bit boring, especially what comes to the locations.

As a whole, the more overflowing humour in SQ2 makes it feel a bit of a different kind of a game that SQ1 is. It's definitely easier to see the first game as an adventure with a sense of humour whereas SQ2 is more of a comedy adventure and things that happen in it do so more in the terms of what the Guys from Andromeda though was funny. In a sense, it also feels like a game where the Guys were trying to find the right design formula for the series. This experimentation does come out pretty well in SQ3, which manages to balance things better, but we'll get to that later.

Space Quest series is available through Steam and GOG.