Space Quest 4: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991)

The next two Space Quest's, SQ4 and SQ5, are the best two in the series. This, despite SQ5, was already down to one Guy from Andromeda instead of two, as SQ4 was the game after which the two co-developers, Crowe and Murphy, parted ways.

Space Quest 4 begins with Roger Wilco wanting some well-deserved R&R after his 3 epic adventures, so he takes a detour on his way back home to Xenon and hits the bar scene at Magmetheus. Just as he's bragging to a lucky group of volunteers, who are there as long as Roger's paying the tab, two sequel police officers come and detain him.

Roger is entertaining locals with the tales of his heroics. Luckily for them, a sequel police is on his way to pick Roger up.

These cops carry a message. A message from Sludge Vohaul. He's pissed and for once and for all he's determined to put an end to Roger's meddling in his plans. But just as Roger's about to go and meet the golden mop of the sky, a group of rebels come to his aid. Not having time to explain, one of the rebels shoots a time rip on the wall and Roger jumps through it only to end up in Space Quest XII. Yeah, Space Quest 4 is an adventure in time (if the title didn't give that away yet).

So, Roger has landed in SQ12. He's in Xenon and boy, has it changed. Sludge Vohaul, as Roger later learns, has conquered the home planet of his nemesis, with a help of Leisure Suit Larry virus. Roger's old stomping grounds have turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland... well city ruins wasteland, where only deadly cyborgs and Duracell battery bunnies roam.

Xenon at the end of SQ1 looked much cleaner than this. And perhaps not as much destroyed. Then again, there's no place like home.

After escaping the deadly clutches of his former home, Roger ends up manning a smoking time machine, in which he escapes SQ12 to SQ10. But nothing is too easy for our space age hero, as in SQ10 he meets the Latex Babes of Estros, whom Roger has managed to piss off in a previous adventure he has no knowledge of, as he hasn't been through it yet. Just as the ladies are about to torture Roger, a giant sea slug attacks the base. Roger, being tied to a chair, seems as good of a lunch as anyone else, so the monster picks him to be the lucky winner. But luckily for Roger, the player is on his side and figures the solution before he sees the insides of the slimy bugger.

Roger is again a hero and the women of Estros find in their hearts to forgive him for things he's totally unaware of and to thank him, they take him shopping to Galaxy Galleria. The sequel police are, however, on his tail and again Roger finds himself running away fast. Roger steal an another time ship and this time around he ends up further into the past, all the way to Space Quest 1.

The titular Latex Babes aren't in this picture.

Ulence Flats is a fun little detour. It's presented in the graphical glory of the original AGI version, albeit in a little higher resolution. There's not much to do in this time period, but after Roger has done all that's necessary, it's back to SQ12.

On this last half of the game, you can move between time periods pretty freely, if you've missed something important. There's also a possibility to get back in the city of Xenon if you've missed something there, but if all that's important has been done, it's now time to whip Vohaul's ass once again.

Dodging robots, flushing viruses and a wrestling match later, Roger finally manages to beat his nemesis yet again. Before being sent back in SQ4, which we actually never got to play, as we spent the whole time jumping in past and the future, Wilco hears some exposition of his future life. There are things to look forward to, but that's an entirely different story, some of which will be told in SQ5.

Ulence Flats, it almost feels like home. Almost. Sadly enough Tiny isn't around to sell new used ships to Roger

Just like Space Quest 3, SQ4 balances more in the line of comedy and serious adventure. What makes the game funnier is the excellent narration done by voice acting legend Gary Owens, who is putting his best leg forward in making the sarcastic tone of SQ humour making even more of an impact. The rest of the voice acting is more hit and miss, some roles being manned with Sierra employees, but Owens really is the one who really makes it all worth it, as he is the actor with most of the lines. He is the narrator after all.

Graphically SQ4 is solid work. Between SQ3 and SQ4 Sierra made a jump from text parser run 16 coloured EGA games to mouse-driven 256 colour VGA games and the difference is clear. From the post-apocalyptic cityscapes to the Galaxy Galleria, SQ4 still is a sight, despite its nowadays low resolution. All the background graphics are hand painted and even in the low resolution, the game looks stunning. I really wouldn't mind a high-resolution remake, but only if Activision, the current rights holder of many things Sierra would be able to track down at least the original voice recording of Gary Owens and the original background graphics for a new round of higher resolution scanning.

The leader of the Latex Babes isn't happy to see you. Or Roger that is, as he's messed up, despite not knowing it yet on the grounds of that he hasn't gone through any of the games between X and IV yet.

Does SQ4 has its own share of issues? Dead ends? You bet. Sudden deaths? Definitely so. But it also is a solid sci-fi adventure. Space Quest 3 made me like the series, like for real. Space Quest 4 made me love it.

After Space Quest 4 comes, surprisingly enough, Space Quest 5, the last actually good game in the series. There's still Space Quest 6, but that is more of a disappointing affair more than anything else. Sure, that one has its fans, but personally, I'm not among them. But more of those later. Now go and play Space Quest 4. Thank or curse me later.

Space Quest series is available through Steam and GOG.

Roger does clean up nicely.