8. Space Quest 4
Roger Wilko is the hapless Janitor-turned-intergalactic-hero of Sierra’s classic Space Quest series. The series was always laden with bountiful helpings of black humour, and this was never more evident in the ways Wilko could die. Space Quest 4 was particularly sardonic. A cheery announcer would always be on hand to smugly berate you for your stupidity in attempting to drink some of bubbling acid, or getting out of your spaceship without your helmet on.
One death that particularly stuck out in my mind was when you encounter a brainwashed inhabitant of a future Earth (conquered by the evil Vohaul). Attempting some form of communication with him, you see his face is a dried out husk, his eyes and teeth yellowed with decay, some sort of feakish Clockwork Orange-esque device attached to his head. He opens his mouth and gives a high-pitched scream as he points at you accusingly (just like the horrible ending of Revenge of the Body Snatchers). A drone casually hovers over and zaps you, draining the life from your body as you collapse to the ground.
And how does the announcer react to this horrific death? He cheerfully says “Thanks for playing Space Quest 4! You’ve been a real pantload!” So there we have it: Space Quest 4 won’t just scar you for life, it’ll smugly imply you’re a piece of shit to boot! Brilliant!
7. Blue Force
Blue Force was the spiritual successor to Sierra’s Police Quest series – a point n’ click adventure casting you as a boy-in-blue on the beat. The series was the brainchild of former real life cop: Jim Walls. Though television is filled with daredevil cowboy cops managing to survive despite playing fast and loose with the rules, Blue Force is always quick to remind you that sort of thing doesn’t fly in reality. Usually, this reminder would come in the form of a horrible fate for rookie cop protagonist Jake Ryan if you fail to follow standard police procedure.
Game overs would be humiliating at best and absoloutely savage at worst. Forget to turn in some evidence or leave the scene of a crime prematurely and you’d be fired – doomed to seek out a new career as a finger-wagging mall cop. If you tried to be a hero and shoot a no-good-nik holding an innocent woman hostage; you’d end up shooting her instead, allowing the bandit the chance to gun you down as you look on in horror. If you equivocate about throwing an unpinned grenade; the next screen will show a pair of smoking shoes, with the text noting the authorities couldn’t even find enough pieces of you for the funeral. The worst death would be when you choose to try and clean your pistol without unloading it first. Jake looks down the barrel, starts cleaning inside, then BOOM! Poor Jake’s head explodes like a ripe melon filled with red pixels.
If Dirty Harry ever played Blue Force, he’d come out of it vowing to stop his cowboy antics and swearing to follow protocol to the letter!
6. Castles Siege and Conquest
Castles: Siege and Conquest was a medieval-based strategy game set in France gripped by civil war. You play the head of one of the noble families fueding for the recently vacated throne. The struggle for feudal dominance is a hard one indeed, requiring careful management of your resources, and it’s easy to get overextended. Should you lose all your territories to a rival lord, you’ll be captured and faced with the imposing sight of a staggeringly buff executioner (evidently on ye olde steroids) about to eagerly lop your head off.
The accompanying text makes sure to remind you that your attempt to gain the throne of Bretagne was so pitifully inept that the new king would have contemptuously let you live on in shame – if not for you being an annoying loose end. It rubs salt and lemon juice in the wound a bit more by giving you a withering rating on your performance. Since this will probably be quite poor given your defeat, it’ll usually be something like “Ratcatcher”. This is actually rather reminiscent of the original Civilization where – if you’d achieved the lowest possible score – you’d have your leadership abilities ranked on the level of Dan Quayle (the famously dim vice president who couldn’t spell “potato”).
And hey, what’s that at the bottom of the screen when you’re watching the credits? Oh hello there, Brian Fargo! You sure like creating games that really rub it in when you fail, don’t you? Speaking of which…