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Ever since the two guys from Andromeda discovered and punched upon galactic dustman Roger Wilco, he hasn't had a minute to himself. Dragged from his mortally safe and boring freighter-cleaning routine into conspiracies beyond Captain Kirk's wildest imagination, Roger now just wants to wind down. Hoping to use his fourth graphic adventure to return to his home planet, Xenon, for a foam bath and some good company. Roger finds his plans thwarted yet again. Sierra's cult game designers Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy relentlessly thrust him into an odyssey through time and space.

Into the time warp
A year after its spectacular appearance on the PC, Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers is now ready to land on the Amiga. Keyboard fans have succumbed to the admittedly easy-to-use, point-and-click interface. Few will miss the sparklingly witty exchanges with the parser. An icon bar across the top of the screen shows all the possible modes and menus, chosen by right mouse clicks and executed by left ones.

You can walk, talk, examine or manipulate objects. The inventory is pictorial, too, unlike the smug messages you get after meeting your timely demise - gently hinting at what might have convinced fate to turn at the doorstep.

Where does our involuntary hero set out, then? On his way home to Xenon, arch-rival and ultimate baddie Vohaul (of earlier sequels' fame) has unsuspecting Roger caught and, very nearly executed. Only nearly, as members of a resistance force are at hand to wrest our hero from the killers' iron grip. With encouraging comments, they shove him through a time rip - straight into Space Quest XII: Volhaul's Revenge II.

Xenon seems to have taken too much of a megablast sometime in the future. Eerie ruins and paranoid androids welcome Roger (or, the in case of the androids, out of) this brave new world. Soon, however, entrances to the glitzy underworld are found. A fast and furious race against time, the infamous Sequel Police and a lot of ill-mannered aliens ensues. Will you be able to rescue Roger from the unforgiving Vohaul? Will the pink rabbit he caught and the latex babes of Estros successfully visited?

Almost certainly so. While the beautifully absurd encounters, puzzles and cross-references send science fiction fans whooping, they will all too soon find that they have solved it all. The past, the future and, more specifically, Roger's lfe and sanity do not even take beginners long to restore. Hardly a headache is caused by the trials and tribulations of our hero.

While the story amuses, but leaves seasoned players dissatisfied, the listless conversion of sound and graphics does injustice to the Amiga. Admittedly, metallic minimalism has a certain sci-fi appeal that might be lost on, say, a Larry or King's Quest player. Still, there is no excuse. What could decent programming have done to the Monolith Burger Bar scenes or to the irritably well-stocked software shop (look at some of the games, you'll crack up!). As it were, you'd better turn down the volume, ignore the dreary backdrops and indistinguishable objects as far as possible and get on with the game.

Unlike lovesick Larry, Roger Wilco definitely has all our sympathy. Watch the poor chap stumble from one acid trap into the next huntress poised to strike - girls must simply fall for this innocent (if slightly prone to swaggering) blonde dummy. Yet they must be strong-willed to put up with this deficiencies...

So you want to be a hero
Grit your teeth and hang on to your mouse... or fall asleep while Roger drags himself across the screen. Seven disks provide you with lots of installation time to study the technical manual and the more colourful Space Piston magazine. Beginners' tips and something close to Infocom humour temporarily distract from the simple, if wickedly-funny game itself.

Asking £35 for an absurdly fat package with less game than even two years ago is simply asking a bit too much. Surely, Sierra can do better than that?


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Ein knappes Jahr hat es gedauert, bis der vierte Teil der intergalaktischen Hausmeister-Saga den Weg vom PC zu unserer "Freundin" gefunden hat: Die ersten Vorzugsexemplare verteilte man auf dem Planeten Xenon, anschließend wurden die US-Terraner bedient, und jetzt endlich sind auch wir an der Reihe!

Aber was bedeuten schon Raum und Zeit, wenn man nur seinen Lieblings-Saubermann wieder zwischen die Maustasten nehmen kann! Und das geht hier eleganter denn je, da die bereits von anderen Sierra-Games her bekannte Steuerungs-Revolution nun auch auf die beliebte Raumreiniger-Reihe übergeschwappt ist. Ihr Markenzeichen ist diese praktische Icon-Leiste am oberen Bildschirmrand, die neben den obligaten Langweiler-Kommandos (Gehen, Sehen, Nehmen...) auch jeweils von Spiel zu Spiel unterschiedliche Spezialbefehle enthält. Bei Larry war das standesgemäß ein Reißverschluß-Icon, bei Roger findet man überraschenderweise ein Nasen - (Schnüffeln) und ein Zungen-Icon (Schmecken) vor. Nach dem tieferen Sinn fragt man besser nicht, dieses Feature gehört eher in die Rubrik "Humor ist, wenn man Space Quest ernst nimmt". Das haben wir hiermit getan, dafür dürfen wir uns jetzt auch hemmungslos auf die Story stürzen:

Endlich zuhause - Roger ist im Zeitrafferbetrieb wieder auf seinem geliebten Xenon gelandet. Und hier sollte wirklich mal ein Hausmeister nach dem Rechten sehen, besser noch eine ganze Putzkolonne: Überall liegt Unrat herum, offen gesagt ist die ganze Gegend ein einziger Schutthaufen. Verständlicherweise haben sich die normalen Bewohner von dieser Stätte des Verfalls zurückgezogen, stattdessen hoppeln nun z.B. mechanische Hasen in den Ruinen herum. Doch bald schon trübt das Auftauchen längst besiegt geglaubter Gegner aus früheren Teilen der Serie die heruntergekommene Idylle. Der Cyborg aus "Space Quest III" macht plötzlich wieder Jagd auf Roger, und sogar der Erzschurke Vohaul ist erneut auf Helden-Pirsch!

Aber es kommt noch schlimmer - allem Anschein nach befinden wir uns hier gar nicht in der vierten, sondern bereits in der zwölften Folge dieser unendlichen Space Opera! Und das ist erst der Anfang, die Raum- und Zeitverschiebungen werden ständig mysteriöser; Kurz darauf (oder danach?!) schippert der saubere Roger zu den "Latex Babes of Estros", und dort ist er angeblich erst (oder schon?!) in der zehnten Folge seiner abenteuerlichen Weltraum-Odyssee angelangt...

Irgendwann gibt man es dann auf, die logischen Zusammenhänge in diesem Gespinst der unbekümmerten Sinnlosigkeit aufdecken zu wollen. Was soll's auch, Hauptsache, es gibt was zu lachen! Und davon gibt es hier mehr als in jedem anderen Sierra-Adventure: Einmal darf Roger Transvestit spielen, dann wieder eine Runde am "Astrochicken"-Automaten; es wird Reklame für "It came from the Dessert" und "King's Quest 53 - Quest for Disk Space" gemacht und von Star Wars über Alien bis zum Terminator überhaupt alles durch den kakao gezogen, was dem Computer- und Kino-Freak heilig ist. Nein, dieses (schwarz-) humorige Zwerchfelltraining läßt wirklich keine Anspielung auf Konkurrenz - wie auch hauseigene Produkte aus! Man muß nur aufpassen, daß man dabei nicht vergißt, daß es hier auch das eine oder andere Rätsel zu knacken gibt. Denn trotz der ganzen Ulkereien ist Space Quest IV ja immer noch ein normales Adventure. Naja, ein halbwegs normales. Oder sagen wir, beinahe ein nicht ganz unnormales Adventure...

Gut, jetzt wißt Ihr, daß in diesem Game gelegentlich der eine oder andere Witz gerissen wird, aber Ihr wollt mit Sicherheit auch noch erfahren, wie es um die technischen Qualitäten von Rogers viertem Weltraum-Bummel bestellt ist, simmt's? Kein Problem, beginnen wir mit den optischen Darbietungen: Unter VGA sah's auf PC etwas schöner, vor allem farbenprächtiger aus, aber trotzdem ist die Grafik am Amiga immer noch standesgemäß, "Larry V" hatte diesbezüglich zwar die Nase vorne, doch sind hier die Animationen und schrägen Perspektiven allemal sehenswert.

Daneben hat man natürlich auch das Intro, die eingestreuten Filmsequenzen und vor allem das neu eingeführte Scrolling von der MS-Dose übernommen. Deutlich schleppender als auf einem Hochleistungs-486er geht's auf der "Freundin" schon voran, aber das kennt man ja bereits von diversen "Multi-MB-Spielen". Ja, im direkten Vergleich mit den Adventures der Schwestercompany Dynamix zieht sich "Space Quest IV" sogar ganz anständig aus der Affaire, wenn auch die eine oder andere Sache sicher hätte noch besser gelöst werden können.

Dasselbe in Blaßlila gilt auch für die Handhabung: Als alte Sierra-Fans habt Ihr doch garantiert schon eine Festplatte nebst Turbokarte in Eurem Amiga installiert, oder?! Schlecht wäre es jedenfalls nicht, denn ansonsten kämpft man sich etwas mühsam durch die zahlreichen Actionszenen des Games. Leicht getrübte Freude herrscht auch bei der durchwachsenen Sounduntermalung, Sphärenmusik und Effekte kommen nicht immer über gehobenes Mittelmaß hinaus, im Gegenzug erhalten Comuputermusikanten mit Roland-Karte hier sogar mal die seltene Gelegenheit, sie bei einem Spiel benutzen zu können! Schließlich und endlich soll nicht verschweigen werden, daß man "Space Quest IV" aufgrund seines eher niedrigen Schwierigkeitsgrades relativ schnell durchgespielt hat. Doch dafür hat man sich in dieser Zeit besser amüsiert als mit drei "normalen" Adventures! (mm)


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After reaching new heights with Heart of China, Sierra seem to have taken a wrong step somewhere along the line, and this is the sorry result...

Let us just come out and say it, shall we? When reading the documentation is more fun than playing the game, you know that you are on to a loser. In the packaging that comes with Space Quest IV is a fun little mock magazine called 'Space Pistol' that introduces the character Roger Wilco, ex-janitor, space hero, and star of the three previous Space Quest adventures, as well as providing other info which is handy to know when playing the game. It is colourful, well put together and quite humorous in places, three things the game miserably fails to be.

Having read the magazine, and indeed, having looked at the similarly jokey packaging, you might reasonably expect the game to be a jolly little number with lots happening and loads of great characters. If so, you are going to be disappointed. Space Quest IV is a very dry, slow affair which seems to ignore all the encouraging advanced made in the adventure genre over the last couple of years.

The story concerns Roger being plucked from his own time and dumped back on his home planet Xenon far into the future. The place is looking a bit worse for wear and zombies wander the street. As it turns out this is the result of a super computer having gone mad after being infected by a virus caught from a pirate copy of Leisure Suit Larry (and if you think that is a hoot, then the humour is just about on your level - it never gets any better). Somehow the computer has also developed time travel facilities which some rebels have got hold of, and that is how Roger has been transported here. Roger has to capture a time vessel, do a lot of whizzing around in time and space and generally put everything bang to rights.


And the humour... how sad it is

THE SLOWEST FORM OF TIME TRAVEL
Sure, it sounds like there is a lot of scope for fun here, and, indeed, that could have been the case if all the opportunities had not been so roundly missed. Instead the game plods along, and is not helped by the fact that each screen takes an eternity to load - there are some set sequences, such as the shuttle flying you from the ruined city to the time machine base, that take a good few minutes to unravel, filled mainly with static pictures and music that sounds as if it were composed on comb and paper. It is not as if there is anything worth looking at while you are waiting either - the old-fashioned 16-bit graphics are, to put it politely, hideous, and the animation, such as there is, makes Roobarb And Custard look like a Disney classic.

The other big problem is with the gameplay itself - there is very little interaction with other characters. For the first quarter of the game, if you try to talk to anyone, you end up dead seconds later - hardly an incentive to continue. This is the kind of lame plotting you were unlucky to find even In the bad old days of text only adventures.

The problems you are faced with are slightly better, but only slightly - most are pretty straightforward and should not really challenge any halfway experienced adventurer. The only thing that will stop most people from completing the game in a couple of hours is the fact that it is so damned slow.


Space Quest IV is a very slow, dry affair

CURSOR AND CURSE AGAIN
Want to know more? Okay, well the control system is far from friendly too. By clicking the mouse button you can change the cursor from a walk icon to pick up, look, taste, smell or talk. When you collect something you can also select that using the cursor.

There is also a menu bar which appears whenever the cursor goes to the top of the screen - a decent enough idea, but in practice annoying, as it always appears when you merely want to make Roger walk that way, but it is slow and awkward to use, as there is always a pause between your click and anything happening.

REACHING THE END OF THE LINE?
And the humour! How sad it is - full of in-jokes and irritating ' well what did you expect?'-type captions. In no time at all it gets wearing and does little to lighten the overall leaden atmosphere of the game. The main joke, since the plot concerns time travel, is that the bar at the top of the screen chances to show various supposed future sequels in the series, such as Space Quest XII. They are hoping! If this one is anything to go by they will be lucky (and we will almost certainly be unlucky) if there is ever a Space Quest V


THERE YOU ARE, MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS...
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...when suddenly your plucked out of time and space and dumped on some crumbling old planet. Grim, isn't it? (And I'm not just talking about the graphics here, either).
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Hang on! This place looks familiar. It is Xenon, Roger Wilco's home planet, but years into the future. (Don't worry about the bar at the top - it is just the program's idea of humour).
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That is where you want to be. How do you know? 'Cos the lights are on! You have got to be eagle-eyed to tell tho' (specially with these graphics!).
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Doesn't look healthy, does he? What's been going on here? That is something for you to find out. And find out you will (if you can stand waiting for each new screen to load in, that is).
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OK, so this game really plumbs the depths at times, but getting into the sewers this early is taking things a bit too far (and all concept of perspective seems to have gone by-the-by too).
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This chap helps fill you in on the story - a load of nonsense about time travel. Why he has to dance like Bobby Gillespie the whole time remains a mystery to me, though...
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That is handy - a way out of the sewer. Now I can reach that big red building (What am I talking about? That brown splodge is actually a spaceship!).
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Right, you are now in the red building and that shoe-horn on a stand is actually a time vehicle. Hint: don't walk to it, just use the grabbing tool.
AS FAST AS SPEEDING TORTOISE
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OK, so adventures are never exactly full of action at the best of kinds, but Space Quest IV gives the word 'slow' a totally new dimension. Not only does the plot plod worse than an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but you could write a thesis on why Whoopi Goldberg wears such stupid hats in the time it takes each screen to update, and that is when you are using a hard drive...
THE GRAPHICS
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Why have Sierra decided to go back to using 16 colours after their last few releases have all been in 32 colours? And that aside, it is not as they are particularly well done either. At best they are grainy. At worst they hinder the game because you cannot work out what is what on screen. Dear oh dear.
THE HUMOUR
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Appalling. Absolutely appalling. As if in-jokes about Leisure Suit Larry were not enough to have to put up with, there is that annoying, "Now that was a silly thing to do, wasn't it?" attitude all the time. It is made even worse by the fact that the same jokes keep cropping up again and again (and again). Dismal.
THE SOUND
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Have you been watching the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who repeats recently? Caught that dreadful early '70s synth music? It sounds like someone burping in an echoey tunnel. Well, the music here is even worse. (Indeed, the soundtrack that accompanies the little green blob in the sewers is much funnier than any of the intentional so-called humour).
THE TIME MACHINE CONTROLS
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Put simply, they are next to impossible to use. You try and control Roger's hand with the mouse, but it is more difficult than trying to land an aircraft in a flight sim. And since this is a pretty major part of the game - you have to do an awful lot of travelling - things can easily become more than a little tiresome.

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Yet again, Sierra is concentrating on the exploits of a space travelling hero from the sewers. Sarah Hibbert asks if it's really a giant leap for mankind...

MILKY WAY
Hey, dudes! It's time to get wacky and weird with two guys from Andromeda and a freelance intergalactic sanitation engineer called Roger Wilco. They joy in this sort of game is essentially one of exploration, puzzle solving, and entering into conversations with total strangers. Wilco's home planet of Xenon has been decimated by unknown forces, zombies and droids are wandering the streets, and the Sequel Police from Space Quest X are after Roger's butt. Does the mysterious alien building in the distance hold the solution to these troubled times? There's only one way to find out...

GALAXY
Sierra's Creative Interpreter has been running the firm's adventures for years now. Of course, it has been refined and enhanced in the never ending march of progress. Nevertheless, somebody in cryogenic suspension since playing the original Space Quest could still tackle the latest installment of Roger Wilco if you unplugged their freezer and thawed them out in the microwave.
Perhaps the most startling difference for them will be the easy control over their hero, where they can interact with any characters or objects located in their immediate surrounding with two clicks of the Amiga's mouse controller. Pitfalls and puzzles can be overcome through the initiation of classic adventure game commands - walk, examine, talk, even smell. Additionally, these functions can be accessed from a series of icons. Previously, adventurers either had to type out the commands or use a keyboard shortcut.

MARS
Over the past few years, Sierra has employed a cluster of professional artists to produce attractive 'rotoscoped' sprites and hand-painted backdrops in every adventure. IN the rotoscoping method, an artist uses video footage of people moving around as a reference. Hopefully, this results in life-like images with a twist. Tried and tested movie and comic book techniques, including varying angles of view and close-ups, are also used to heighten the tension and increase your level of attention.

Sadly, the pixel painters at Sierra do a far better job on the IBM PC where they can fall back on the luxury of 256 hues and a larger colour palette. The stuff on show in this Amiga adaptation is crude and oddly-coloured by comparison. Furthermore, the display frantically jerks around when the programmers make their first, embarrassing attempts to scroll certain scenes for dramatic effect. These notable graphical deficiencies are accompanied by a dreary soundtrack and the occasional spot effect.

Is this game written in Amiga BASIC or something? No, it's almost certainly a product, in large part, of the aging 'C' much-loved by our American cousins. Sadly, this programming language is easy to use but can't handle speedy operations like scrolling. That's why titles like Wing Commander 2 and Space Quest VI require the power of a fast PC to function properly. After the miserable conversions of Willy Beamish and Heart of China, more proficient coders should have been contracted for transferring games over to the Amiga.

SNICKERS
Sierra has built up a loyal band of adventurers over the years who, if this release is anything to judge by, must be a bunch of masochists. Although it can be played from two floppy disk drives, you definitely need a hard disk to get the most out of Space Quest IV. The new version of Kickstart can also help cut the awkward periods of waiting. I rapidly fire of seeing the watch icon as this means the game is doing something other than fulfill my every whim and desire. It's just not good enough.

In comparison with earlier Space Quest games this is a definite step backwards, both in terms of speed and gameplay. Basically, it reuses Larry V's control system, and simply reworks new graphics and plots into it. OK, so it's obviously a good system, but it hardly offers variety for Joe Public. Additionally, I found it rather easy to die and quickly get fed up waiting for the game to let me get back into the fray. It's dripping in zany American humour with no style or substance, and for that fact alone, should probably be avoided. If this is all Sierra got to offer, give me Lucasfilm every time.


THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Ken and Roberta Williams formed Sierra in early 1980 with high hopes and little money. Their premier game, Mystery House, was released on the Apple II. A number of forgettable games followed until Sierra cultured a magic formula with the 1984 release of King's Quest I, one of the first animated graphic adventures. The most famous Sierra character, Leisure Suit Larry, appeared a couple of years later. In those innocent days, this publisher (and many others) were happy to support the VIC-20, Atari 400, Texas Instruments TI-99 4A and Coleco Adam! Perhaps you've got one of these classic home computers collecting dust in the loft?

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Sierra On-Line/£34.99/Amiga/Out Now

The first thing which strikes you about Space Ouest IV is that it is BIG. We're talking massive here - this is a game which spans a multitude of worlds throuqhout space and even time itself.

The subtitle of this game is Roger Wilco And The Time Rippers, which means that our hero from the previous three games gets to visit the future in Space Cuest XII and the past in Space Quest I, in the battle against his old enemy, Vohaul. The old stoat has sent his black android guards through time to destroy Wilco in all his previous incarnations. He might succeed, unless you can guide Roger through all the hazards that the universe can throw at him.

First he's abducted and sent through time by some mysterious helpers, next he's chased around a devastated future version of his home planet Xenon by the black guards. And finally he has to hop through time in a stolen time machine to find away to escape Vohaul, and put the mockers on his galactic domination plans. Along the way, he has to dress up in women's clothes, dodge laser blasts in a zero-G environment, play a Ms Astro Chicken arcade machine and work for hours on end in the kitchen of a Monolith Burgers restaurant.

Amiga reviewPhil:In this game, you (as Roger) visit a number of alien worlds, solve myriad different puzzles, travel to many different time zones and... oh yes, you die a lot too. It's not an easy stone, and saving as you go along isn't just a good idea, it may just save your sanity. The plot comes pre-thickened with in-jokes (like the bad low-res graphics in the Space Quest I time Zone) and puns run throughout. The jokes are added for fun, and none of the game or it's story are just an excuse for the stupid joke. The humour is gentle, unusual for on American game, and has just enough personality to keep you playing.

Although this is a very excellent game in itself, this conversion of it verges on the annoying. Sierra games are written on a single, generic system, which makes porting to different computers a breeze, and Sierra says proudly that each game is the same on every computer. Not so.

The PC version on a 286 VGA PC and Roland sound card is fast and very enjoyable. The Amiga version is slow to the brink of criminal insanity - even the smallest area of graphics moves like its covered in golden syrup. Unless you 're playing it on a really hot set-up, you're not really seeing this game at its best on the Amiga, which is a real shame. The PC version was given a ZERO Hero and rightly so. But this is no Hero.

The gameplay is very, very good, and the game itself very absorbing and addictive once you get into it. But the problem is you may be put off at the start by the nigglingly tepid speed and grey, contrast-free graphics that you might want to kick it into touch before you start. If you do persevere, the inconsistent synchronisation of sound effects with action could well dempen your enthusiasm.

If you like adventure games a lot, buy this game and ignore the graphics for the first two areas of the game - you'll love it. If long and involved games leave you cold, or you've played PC versions of previous Sierra products, forget you even heard the name Wilco - you'll probably be disappointed. Stop