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Video Game / Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter

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A janitor's adventure begins.
"You serve as a member of the crew of the Arcada as a janitor."
"That's right, a janitor. And not a very good one."

Space Quest: Chapter I – The Sarien Encounter (also simply known as Space Quest 1) is the first game in the Space Quest series. It was released in 1986 and followed a lot of the same gameplay formulas as the first two King's Quest games, but in space! It's not the hardest sci-fi, but it's still epic in scope when it comes to space travel and a variety of alien creatures.

You play as hapless janitor Roger Wilco, who discovers that the vessel he's on, the Arcada, has been overrun by the Sariens, who plan to use the ship's star generator to destroy the planet Xenon. Roger must find a way off the Arcada, recuperate for a while on an alien planet, and get up to the Sariens' mothership to foil their plot.

There was a remake with a new interface, updated graphics, and sound effects in the style of Space Quest IV released in 1991 by Sierra.


This video game provides examples of:

  • Apocalypse How: The Earnon system was exposed to the threat of a Class X-2 by freezing to death following the death of its Sun. The eponymous Sariens with a functional Star Generator on their hands can dish out a Class X at will.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The beginning of the game. Those Sariens don't fool around!
  • Almighty Janitor: Roger Wilco, though not at all Almighty in many cases, he still has his moments of player-controlled heroism, countered with his own natural stupidity.
  • Always Close: In the VGA version, once you escape the Arcada and the Deltaur, it immediately explodes regardless of how much time is left.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The remake added a new item that lets you rig the Slots-o-Death machine. It also made the skimmer sequence optional.
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  • Anvil on Head: How the armory droid kills you in the VGA remake if he isn't carrying the pulseray he retrieves for you.
  • Betting Mini Game: The slot machine on Kerona. Be careful you don't roll three skulls, or you're toast... literally.
  • Book-Ends: The game begins and ends with a Timed Mission caused by a Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • The Chosen Zero: Roger, a loser janitor that is forced to save the world.
  • Continuity Nod: A nod to future continuity no less, where in the VGA remake as Roger takes off from Kerona he re-arrives in a time machine from the fourth game.
  • Copy Protection: In the remake, the data cassette title, destruct code and Deltaur coordinates are randomized in each playthrough, the first and third requiring you to reference the manual to find the correct code that corresponds to them. Attempting to brute force the first one results in you being left with five minutes before the Arcada self-destructs while doing so for the Deltaur coordinates causes a ship-to-asteroid collision, resulting in your physical rearrangement that resembles a Ghiblistian Mosquito on the windshield of a landspeeder.
  • Deadly Euphemism: The game is not shy about showing dead bodies or gruesome deaths, but if you look at them, they're all described in such colorful terms as "blasted from the roster of the living" or "having ceased all bodily functions short of decay" rather than "dead".
  • Early Game Hell: While Sierra games are quite hard, this one is rather notorious, especially in the original version. After you leave your janitorial closet, you need to find two things before you escape: A data cartridge, fairly easy to find... and a keycard, found on only one of the many dead bodies in the vast maze-like Arcada. All while avoiding Sariens that will appear on nearly any screen and kill you with very little warning. Worst of all? The whole thing is timed. You have 15 minutes (less in the original version) to do all of this and escape.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Star Generator in the first game, in itself a subtle take on the more famous Death Star. Of course, as originally envisioned, the Star Generator would do just that: generate stars. It was designed ( actually cribbed from a weapon designed by Vohaul) to save Xenon, as the planet's sun was burning out.
  • Easter Egg: In the remake, as you take off from Ulence Flats, Roger from the future in Space Quest IV appears in the Sequel Police ship.
  • Edge Gravity: A rather odd example in the Space Quest I remake in which attempting to walk off a cliff after getting out of the escape pod on Kerona results in the game warning you about it before Roger automatically walks away from it. This is odd because Sierra games are notorious for their lack of edge gravity.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The rest of the crew was already dead thanks to Sarien laser perforation even before the ship blew up.
  • Expressive Health Bar: The Updated Re-release includes an arcade-style driving section tasking the player with avoiding rocks as they speed along. Unlike the One-Hit Point Wonder segments of the rest of the game, the player only dies if they hit five rocks (or if they hit a big rock, which kills them instantly). Their current health is represented by an odometer, which starts to crack after the third hit and shatters if the player dies.
  • Feelies: The original game came with two physical coupons that can be respectively used at the Rocket Bar and Droids-B-Us (there's no code or anything, just typing in ">use coupon" will work). This is reworked in the remake as an extra reward alongside the jetpack you're offered.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Hilariously, when you buy the right ship off him (naturally it's the most expensive) and figure out how to get it to take off, you then find out that he sold you some other guy's ship.
    • Even MORE hilariously, if you pay close attention during the takeoff, the guy who comes screaming at you for taking his ship is also a man who will mug you if you follow him earlier. Enjoy some intergalactic karma!
  • Last Lousy Point: There's a few points that are more difficult to get than you'd expect, but the easiest one to miss is actually one you will get on your first playthrough: to get the data cartridge, you need to type in "Astral Body" on the cartridge computer. You can only learn this from the dying scientist that collapses in the cartridge room on the second time you enter the room, but it doesn't change on subsequent playthroughs. If you already know the answer, you'll skip the scientist conversation to save time, only to realize later that talking to him gets you two points.
  • Luck-Based Mission: To get off Kerona, you need a spaceship. To get enough money for a spaceship, you have to clean out the slot machine in the bar. Not only is it easy to lose money instead of making it (which might be the worse of the alternatives), you can actually die playing the slot machine. Thankfully, you can cheat in certain versions of the original by typing ">holy [your favorite expletive here]" to let you select the payout, including skulls. The remake adds an in-game item that lets you cheat in a similar manner.
  • Missing Secret: In the VGA remake, when you take off (in the spaceship you purchased just above), something appears just as you leave. You might replay and replay to figure out what you're supposed to do with it. But you only find out in Space Quest IV that the appearing thing is your timepod returning you to Space Quest I.
  • Multiple Endings:
  • Non Standard Game Over: When you take your ship to the Deltaur, your navigation robot suggests you get outta there. If you agree, you run away and leave the galaxy to fend for itself against the Sariens.
  • Raygun Gothic: The background graphics in the '90s remake deliberately evoke this design aesthetic.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: The alien menace aboard the Arcada wants to use the mechanism as part of their plan.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Unwinnable by Design: Oh so much.
    • Most notably, when someone offers to buy your hovercraft, if you accept his first offer, you'll miss out on a jetpack needed to maneuver in zero-gravity later in the game. And if you forget to take the ignition key from your skimmer after declining the man's first offer, he'll simply steal it from you.
      • And if you reject his second offer, it turns out that it was his final offer.
    • Similar to King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne, there is a rock bridge on Kerona that must be crossed repeatedly, but will break if you cross it one too many times. (Unlike in King's Quest II, however, this bridge cracks a bit every time you cross it. So at least you get a warning.)
    • On Kerona, the Sarians release a robotic spider that will explode if it gets near you. You have to destroy it by dropping a rock on it. You have one chance, so it you miss, you can't proceed. It is technically possible to get past the spider, but extremely difficult. note 
    • When your escape pod crashes, a piece of glass breaks off of the windshield. If you don't pick it up, you can't get past a laser beam puzzle.
  • Updated Re-release: Got a VGA remake in 1991.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kicking the corpses of your fellow crewmen will decrease your score and the Two Guys will chew you out for this.
  • What You Are in the Dark: One of the ways you can lose is to simply decide not to take on the Sariens and leave Xenon to its destruction.

Alternative Title(s): Space Quest I


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