Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier (1995)


Space Quest 6. Space Quest 6, what to say about it. What indeed.

Well, it was a difficult project, if the tales of its production are true. It was started by Josh Mandel, who already had done some writing and design for the previous SQ titles as well as stuff for Larry series and lesser known, but still great, Al Lowe game Freddy Pharkas. But he never finished his design and left the project before it was done, so Sierra brought in Scott Murphy to hammer down the nails despite he knew that the work wasn't done.

Murphy probably did his best with the time and budget at his disposal,  but it must be difficult to jump in other designer's shoes and try to figure out what the design really is about,  especially if it lacks some important stuff. And that is visible in the final game.

Inquest of Roger Wilco. The comedy in the intro is pretty different from anything else shown in Space Quest series before. It's much more like Leslie Nielsen type of screwball comedy than sarcastic parody.
So in SQ6 Roger is stripped of his rank in Starcon thanks to the damage he caused to the equipment. Only because he stopped the sludge bandits is he given back his rank as janitor 2nd class. And then he is given the position to work in Deepship. Yeah, that's the level of puns in this one.

The script feels very much incomplete. This starts to kick in more after the introduction on Stellar Santiago,  a new love interest for Roger, whom we are supposed to care despite we know nothing about her and learn even less during the game  All we really know is, that she has the hots for Roger. But that's about it.

The story tries to build some sort of tension in a possible love triangle between Roger, Beatrice, the future wife of Roger's from SQ4 and SQ5, and Stellar,  but that's pretty hard considering Beatrice isn't even in the game. And again,  not that we know much more about Beatrice, we don't know that much about Stellar either.  So hard to care.

Teleporting to shore leave
So in any case, there's this evil woman named Sharpei, who lives in a retiree home of sorts in space. Deepship is called there and Roger is tasked to clean Sharpei's room when things start to happen. It all ends up Stellar rescuing Roger again, but she seemingly kicks the bucket. Until it's revealed that she didn't and Roger needs to rescue here.

After Roger learns a thing or two about something called project immortality, he enlists help from Sharpei's lover/henchman/doctor, who injects Roger in Stellar's body in order to prevent Sharpei's nanobots taking over her body so that Sharpei could be able to inhabit her. This whole thing to this point is pretty sloppily stitched together. Overall it's been just a cavalcade of attempts at writing something and punch of comedy that didn't do a thing for me.

The final part of the game is, what the subtitle of the game already promises: it's the Spinal Frontier because the last part takes place inside the human body. Inside Roger does his thing and the game ends up with the biggest anti-climax I've ever seen in a game. Or in any other media for the matter. The ending and the final puzzle made me feel like the game itself is just a bad practical joke.

Hey, it's Fester from  SQ3.
So here be spoilers, so don't read if you plan to play the game: Roger has entered Stellar's brains and finds Sharpei controlling a nanobot there. The first thing Roger does is zapping Sharpei with a stream of electricity from Stellar's brain, which causes Sharpei's nanobot suit to disintegrate, but Sharpei is not done yet. No, she attacks again and Roger tosses a piece of rotting fish bones, a useless object Roger has carried through the game, at her. Sharpei catches the bones, exclaims "Brain food" and eats it, ending up dead. I mean that's just... yeah.

So does SQ6 have anything going for it? Of course, while it is a badly written and designed game, I do like the art direction it has. It's more cartoony in presentation, but it mostly works pretty well.  And Gary Owens as the narrator is awesome as always, as he's going all in even with less than stellar lines. But the rest of the cast, including Roger himself, is just either bland or has a sound of indifference in them. The last half of the game has some pretty decent design and puzzle work, while nothing about the game overall is superb mind you.

Local arcade. No Astro Chicken this time around though. There's Mortal Kombat parody Stooge Fighter though. And yes, it's stooges as in the Three Stooges.
SQ6 ended up as being the last entry to the Space Quest series. There were plans for SQ7, but that one was quietly buried. And thus ends the saga of Wilco, coming from the funniest game of the series to the blandest, that might just as well have been left unpublished. At least that would have made the game end up in something else than a "you'll have to guess where we'll end up next" cliffhanger.

But yeah, no matter how I look at it, it's a mess of a game that I can't really recommend

Space Quest series is available through Steam and GOG.

Maybe, this time around, it would have been better for Roger to just stay in this bar and drink for the rest of the game. Not that drunken Roger would have made the game more bearable, but it could have been at least fun.


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