Space Quest 6: The Spinal Frontier

Developer/Publisher:  Sierra
Year Released:  1995

Review by Gordon Aplin (August, 1995)
sq6.jpgRoger Wilco returns in this latest episode from Sierra complete with bad puns and tongue-in-cheek references to earlier Space Quest games and popular science fiction films and TV shows. To name just the most obvious, Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens, Indiana Jones and even Asimov's Fantastic Voyage, all are parodied lovingly, if unmercifully. Those of you who delight in identifying obscure references will have a fun time with this game. For example, one character is Dr Hayden Beleauxs -- how many will remember that Hayden Rourke played Dr Bellows in the TV series I Dream Of Jeannie? On a similar note, the CD ROM version of the game is narrated by Gary Owens whom some mature players may remember from the 1960s comedy show Laugh-In.

Action-arcade games also cop a serve, notably More Dull Kombat and a clever send up of Super Street Fighter which is lampooned as Stooge Fighter 3 featuring Larry, Moe and Curly and which puts these particularly mindless fighting games very firmly in their place. A perfect tonic for those poor souls who actually play such games seriously.

Despite the humour -- some might say because of it -- the game has some disappointing aspects. It has only the flimsiest of storylines and the plot does not become apparent until well into the game. On the other hand, Space Quest fans might argue that storyline has always been of secondary, even negligible, importance to this long running and very popular series.

Episodic gameplay
For me, though, the lack of a strong plot only served to highlight the rather episodic nature of the game. Broken up, as it was, into individual sections that couldn't really be called Acts, it resulted in limited room for exploration and a feeling that movement was restricted to relatively few screens. This lack of plot was most noticeable in the first section where you wander around trying to do things without really knowing why you are doing them. Although, this did serve to make some of the earlier puzzles seem more difficult than they really were.

The puzzles themselves ranged from the ridiculously easy to the deliberately obscure, but overall most of them were a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed the send up of the Windows environment in one sequence where you could tinker with the system and actually beat it. Though, for me, the most satisfying puzzle involved converting my Datacorder to a Homing Beacon. Sure it may have been a poorly disguised old-fashioned copy protection based on information found in the copy of Popular Janitronics, but it required a process of elimination that held some challenge. On the downside, though, I couldn't work out why the code needed to access the Holodeck program should have been hidden in a database of species characteristics. Perhaps I simply missed the clue.

Fans of Sierra games who have recently played King's Quest 7 can breathe a sigh of relief with this game for three very good reasons. Firstly, you can choose to install the game to DOS or Windows. Secondly, the more familiar Sierra Icon-based interface has been retained, thus giving the player a greater sense of control than was possible with the one-click-does-all King's Quest game. Thirdly, you can save your game wherever and whenever you choose.

Overall, Space Quest 6 is a predictable but, nevertheless, fairly enjoyable romp that provides lots of things for the adventurer to do and many interesting and amusing references for the trivia buffs to track down.

See the Space Quest 6 walkthrough. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1995. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486/25, 8MB RAM, 5MB hard drive space, 2xCD-ROM, DOS 5.0 or higher, Win 3.1, mouse