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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 few touches that made some of the harder aspects of the original less trying.
    • There's a new item that lets you rig the Slots-o-Death machine.
    • The skimmer arcade sequence was made optional. You still have to play it to get a perfect score.
    • The remake calls specific attention to the items you need from the escape pod's wreckage, whereas in the original game you specifically had to look around while still in the seat after crashing to even know they were there.
    • The original game only allowed you to read the cartridge right before boarding the skimmer. The remake added a compatible reader to the Deltaur.
  • 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.
  • Border Patrol: Heading north into the desert after you crash-land on Kerona is obviously a bad idea. If you decide to do it anyway, the game doesn't waste time letting you slowly die of dehydration and heatstroke — you get eaten on the first screen by a worm thing that bursts out of the sand.
  • Bringing Back Proof: In Kerona, Roger meets an underground alien who is willing to provide him a form of transportation if Roger deals with a surface beast known as the Orat, as long as he brings back proof of the Orat's demise. It's enough for Roger to bring back an unidentified piece of flesh of the beast after the Orat ends up becoming Ludicrous Gibs.
  • 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 Keronian 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 before the ship explodes.
  • 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: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers 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 and the game happily let you throw Roger to his death in the escape pod launch bay a few minutes earlier.
  • 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!
  • Idiot Ball: At one point later in the game, Roger trips and loses the helmet of his Sarien disguise. The player has to find a way to avoid the Sariens without it.
  • I'm Melting!: Getting hit by a drop of acid in the Keronian Underground results in this in the remake. If you have a SoundBlaster card then Roger will even cry out "I'm meeeelting!~" as it happens.
  • 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.
  • The Most Dangerous Video Game: Slots-O-Deathnote  slot machine that burns Roger to ashes when he gets three skulls with crossbones.
    YOU LOSE, HOMEBOY!!! (shoots laser)
  • 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:
  • Spoofs "R" Us: Roger Wilco visits a store called Droids B Us (originally Droids R Us, but that was changed in later versions after a lawsuit) to buy a navigation droid.
  • Stealth Pun: The name of the town you visits, Ulence Flats. note 
  • Stock Scream: If you have a SoundBlaster or similar card in the remake, Roger will give voice to the Goofy Holler when falling to his death or losing his arm to the pool of acid.
  • 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 Happened to the Mouse?: In the original game, Roger's pilot droid is shown attending the award ceremony at the end with him. In the remake, his ship and the droid just fly away, never to be referenced again.
  • 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