Space Quest 5: The Next Mutation



Space Quest 5 was a bit of a surprise for me during my replay of it. When it originally came out, I didn't really care for it much, maybe because it's getting its jokes mostly from a single well, which in this case is Star Trek. I actually don't remember if I even found the game funny back in the days. I didn't think it was bad, but back in the 90's, the humour just didn't resonate with me. Now, after my replay session, I've come to a conclusion that it is the funniest game in the series.

Roger Wilco, the hapless janitor/space hero, has decided to enrol into StarCon academy after his 4 grand adventures. Eager to leave the life as a 2nd class janitor behind him, Wilco now stomps the floors of the academy, hoping to find himself as a captain of a ship as well as finding the answer to where will he actually lay his eyes upon the beautiful Beatrice Wankmeister, the woman he saw as a hologram in the end of SQ4. The woman he's supposed to marry and have children with.

And here she is. The one of the right. The jaw is captain Quark (guess who he's a parody of)
Well, that laying eyes upon thing happens quite soon at the beginning of the game, but not as smoothly as Roger would have hoped. But none the less, he lays his eyes on her. And then he cheats in the tests and that tied into a lucky test computer malfunction let Roger pass with flying colours, ensuring him the captaincy of SCS Eureka, the mightiest garbage freighter in the galaxy. So once a janitor, always a janitor, sometimes just with a bigger mop.

At the same time, Beatrice Wankmeister is trying to find a solution to a "sludge bandit" problem that is going on elsewhere in the galaxy, but at least for now Roger is fully unaware of those matters. So while Roger is off to mop up the trash of the galaxy, Beatrice is off with captain Quark to take out the trash.

The crew of Eureka is more or less a parody of Star Trek. There's an engineer Cliffy, who's constantly repairing the ship, navigation officers Droole, who also is pretty trigger happy and a communications officer Flo, who's grouchy and mad at men in general. And then there's Roger, a young captain with a shine in his eyes, just so proud to be at the helm at last.

Captain at the deck.
So the first missions for Roger aren't anything special. They're just basic garbage pickups, which play out as 2001: A Space Odyssey parody. But then, after Eureka doesn't find a garbage beacon from where it should have been, Roger beams to a planet only to find a base there deserted. During his investigations, Roger is attacked by a slimy mutant, but thanks to Droole's trigger finger he escapes unscratched. Something fishy is going on in the galaxy.

Some twists and turns later, which include a prison break and defeating a female Arnoid droid counterpart WD-40, and saving Beatrice from slimy mutants, Roger finds himself from a deserted research base. Sadly his investigations are hampered by a little fact of being mutated as half fly because of a freak transporter accident, but never the less, Roger is after some clues. Some reverse engineering later Roger is back in his body as well as he has found the truth about galaxy threatening mutant problem, caused by the sludge bandits, obviously.

Another day, another tight spot
SCS Goliath, a flagship of StarCon, has been overrun by mutants. Armed with a cure Wilco and his crew penetrate their defences in order to save the day, which they do after a bit of annoying maze navigation. After a not so smooth start with Beatrice, Roger finds himself again a hero of the galaxy and this time he got the captain's helm and the girl as well. So it all went much better than expected.

What is very noticeable about Space Quest 5: The Next Mutation is the style of comedy it uses. The design responsibilities were taken by Mark Crowe, who was a half of the two original ”guys from Andromeda”. In his lead Space Quest went definitely in more of a comedic direction, as that's what SQ5 feels like: a comedy. It's constantly riffing jokes at the expense of Star Trek, The Fly and other sci-fi franchises. In SQ4 there was similar riffing, but the tone of the comedy was more sarcastic and a bit nastier, even meaner, which was most likely brought in by the other half of the group, Scott Murphy.

There's something familiar about that guy. And those guys in the back.
SQ5 does work though. As a game, it's also a retread into a more linear narrative and isn't nearly as ambitious in story structure as SQ4 is. Graphically speaking SQ5 looks pretty damned nice and this time around it also is more colourful than the previous chapter was, but that's probably because it's not set in a post-apocalyptic future. Or maybe it's because it has a bit of a more comic book-like style in the art, especially in character art.

Sadly enough Sierra never did produce a CD-version of the game, so this time around there's no voice acted version of it around. This is a shame really, as it would have been awesome to hear Gary Owens utter out the narrative lines and solid voice acting could have enhanced already fun game further. The soundtrack is okay. Not spectacular, but pretty serviceable.

As I said, I didn't really care for the humour of the game when I was younger, but now it did open up to me. Despite some clunky design, the style of humour SQ5 has makes the game a winner in my book. I'd even go as far as to claim that it's the second best game in the series. Some would even claim that it's the best in the series.

Either way, it's a good game to play. Better yet, it's a great game to play after finishing Space Quest 4.

Space Quest series is available through Steam and GOG.

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