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Video Game / The Space Bar

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Yeah, if that human was me, I'd have that expression on my face too.
The Space Bar is an adventure game co-developed by Boffo Games, written by Steve Meretzky (of A Mind Forever Voyaging fame), and published by Rocket Science Games and SegaSoft in 1997. The game featured a 3-D environment which allowed the player to rotate (as opposed to Rocket Science's earlier production Obsidian, in which the camera was usually fixed), and a humorous cast of aliens in the framework of a mystery. The player fills the role of a detective, interacting with characters and objects via a first-person interface. The name itself is a pun, as the game takes place in a bar in outer space—literally a "space bar" rather than the space bar found on a computer's keyboard.

An intergalactic PI named Maksh has been kidnapped. Also, an evil shape-shifter is hunting for a special data storage unit. His partner, Alias Node, has been assigned to track him down. As Alias Node, you track down the shape-shifter to a bar, much like the Mos Eisley cantina, where your goal is to find the fate of your partner, and the alien who is disguising as the shape-shifter.

You, however, have a special ability, the ability to form a mind meld with beings. You can inhabit the patrons of the bar in an effort to locate your partner and the shape-shifter. With this special ability, the game is divided into six mini-games as you search each alien for an explanation. A unique twist is that you view each game as that alien would see the world, whether as an insect, a potato, or a being with three sexes. You're able to tackle each part of the game separately, and come and go as you please in this 360-degree panorama adventure game.

After languishing as abandonware for several years, this game has received a re-release on Zoom Platform in 2022.

This game contain examples of:

  • Amazon Chaser: Alias seems to be one. He has the major hots for Cilia, a dancer in the bar who's a member of a species where the females are the dominant and strongest sex. Further, if he tries to kiss her she'll knock him to the ground with an uppercut and he'll whistle after picking himself up and be even more interested in possibly asking her for a date (though Zelda talks him out of it).
  • Anti-Frustration Features: As infamously difficult as the game is, there are a few of these. The biggest is that your PDA keeps track of the important bits of information you get from completing flashbacks, so you don't need to play through them again. Flashbacks also don't take up time in the bar, and if you fail in one you're free to trigger it again and start over until you succeed (although you're better off just saving within a flashback and restoring). Finally, the manual tells you how to copy the files from the CD to your computer (hey, it was The '90s), which eliminates the disc swapping and makes play immensely smoother.
  • Bar Full of Aliens: The premise.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: If you spend too many turns getting things done, you'll start getting calls from your kidnapped partner or your Chief to hurry up, already, or creepy taunts and threats from the Big Bad.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Big Bad, Ni'Dopal.
  • The Exotic Detective: Alias, who has the ability to read and explore other people's memories as an interrogation method.
  • Future Imperfect: One of the areas in the game is a historical museum in the form of a Wild West bar, with Entertainingly Wrong descriptions for everything. (Did you know, for instance, that diving helmets were used by cowboys to help defend against Indians and Nazis?) Alias even lampshades it at one point, snarkily noting he thinks the bar's creators did about fifteen minutes of research.
  • Hero of Another Story: Most obvious with Cilia, a Crusading Widow fighting to liberate her home planet from an occupying army, and Soldier 714-Z-367, an Almighty Janitor tasked to escort his queen's new egg to a new home.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The opening cutscenes and various flashbacks strongly suggest Alias and Maksh are this, though Maksh also has a wife and kidlets.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Justified. Your PDA is actually partly a digital storage device, which the on-board AI Zelda digitizes inventory into and out of as you need it.
  • I Have Your Partner: The main character's motivation for chasing the criminal into the bar.
  • I Owe You My Life: Taken to hilariously ludicrous degrees. Every time your partner contacts you to beg you to hurry up and rescue him before the Big Bad does something horrible to him, you get a flashback about how he risked his life to save/help you or your mother, as a guilt trip to motivate you. Which ends up easily equaling over 10 different times he's done so. And it turns out that there's actually even more times beyond that, and Alias and Maksh can't even agree on which ones actually "count".
  • Is It Something You Eat?: In the segment with the memories of the rather intellectually-challenged alien Thud, you describe most objects by their edibility. For instance the bazooka is "Long. Heavy. Not edible." Despite this description, you can attempt to eat it.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Apparently all aliens in the galaxy love Jerry Lewis, for no immediately apparent reason.
  • Let's Play: Watch one here. Considering how hard the game is to find and install on modern hardware, it's a pretty good way to experience it.
  • Meaningful Name: The main character, Alias Node. In computing terminology, "node" refers to a connection point for sending and receiving information, while "alias" refers to symbolic alternate names for information. Put it together, and it's essentially a descriptor of Alias' interrogation technique.
  • Mood Whiplash: Overall the game is a comedy and has a number of hilarious parts and flashbacks... but it also has some rather serious parts (especially one flashback which is a trading simulation and another which involves helping out La Résistance), and then there's the creepy parts when the genuinely scary Big Bad taunts you over your PA and some of the death scenes you can experience.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Gus possesses organic beings until they rot, then moves onto the next one. Alias finds this disgusting, but Gus points out that the human practice of killing animals for meat isn't very different.
  • Painting the Medium: Some of the characters you play as will change the screen, such as fractal vision for a giant insect or the monitor of a robot.
  • Plant Aliens: The Vedj. Gets a little creepy when one of the puzzles involves you having to eat a few of the fruits of a member of the species... as in, her children.
  • Planet of Hats: Aliens tend to conform to various stereotypes, with the exception of humans (who are described as the "vanilla" species) and the betentacled aliens that inhabit this planet.
  • Sassy Secretary: Alias' PDA's AI Zelda gives off this vibe when interacting with him.
  • Timed Mission: The entire game, as one of the only modern graphic adventures with a turn limit. Certain sections of the game also have their own self-contained limits, where you have to solve a section within a certain number of time/turns. Most notably when Alias gets hit with a poisoned dart and has to find an antidote.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: One puzzle revolves around predicting the assignments of queeps. The game implies that it's possible to figure it out through logic, but it's a thousand times easier and more reliable to just reload.
  • Video Game Remake: Gained one released in October 2022
  • Vocal Dissonance: The Big Bad has a deep, creepy voice whenever he taunts you. But when at the end of the game you finally see his true form, he turns out to be this utterly adorable-looking little blue alien thing.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fates of most of the characters you play as in the flashbacks are never revealed. Specifically, we never find out what happens to the new Zzazzl Queen or the Trisecks rebellion.