When most people think back to Space Quest III they remember a grand space adventure, filled with hilarious sci-fi and pop culture references. I, on the other hand remember a game about walking around a rubbish dump and getting shot in the head by the same f***ing
robot over and over again.
Ever since I first played Space Quest 3 on my shiny new XT way back in in 1989, I never once made it past the opening section in a junk freighter. It's not that I hated it or anything, quite the contrary in fact. I LOVE this game. It's great atmosphere and excellent writing have stuck with me to this day. it's just that the game is so bloody brutal.
Death lurks around the corner of every pixel, often arriving without warning, or with a single misplaced step. Death is so common in fact, that it's become an intrinsic part of the experience, and one of the main things the game is remembered for is the joy of discovering which "fun new way to die" you will discover next.
It's not just the cheap death that makes Space Quest 3 so infuriatingly difficult. The interface and design of the game were major setbacks in my progression. I had the same problem with The Secret of Monkey Island, when I used to play it, in that it took me years before I finally finished the game, the point is though I COULD finish the game on my own. In Monkey Island, you could just click around on everything and anything you could do was governed by the verbs you could select at the bottom of the screen, and most of the puzzles had some sort of logic or explanation to them (no matter how twisted). In SQ3 however, to do anything, you had to type in exactly
the right phrase AND be standing in exactly the right spot for things to work. For example.. say you wanted to use the claw on this grabbing machine, you couldn't just type in "use claw" or "use grabber", you had to type in "push button", whilst sitting in the machine, whilst being positioned in the exact point above the random, unexplained object you had to grab.
It's as if some sort of psychic connection to the developer was required to complete the game. These were the days before the internet, when walkthroughs and hint systems were something I'd never imagined in my wildest dreams. Every time you worded something incorrectly or wasn't standing in the right spot, either nothing would happen, or it would just tell you to "try something else" causing me to think I was doing something completely wrong and move on to a a different area or puzzle, probably dieing in the process.
All in all, it was too much for my poor pre-adolescent brain to handle. I loved the humor, the Sci fi references, and the style, but after five years of wandering around a junk freighter, cursing in frustration, I finally gave up, and it has haunted me ever since. Now, 20 years later, armed with my trusty DOSBOX and the power of the internet I plan on facing my inner demons and finally finish Space Quest 3!
Stay tuned for my report from beyond the void, and wish me luck... if I make it out alive.