It seems like Roger just can’t catch a break. Ever after saving the galaxy from the Sariens, he’s once again reassigned to his old janitorial position on a space station. Things just get worse when he’s kidnapped by Sludge Vohaul, the secret mastermind behind the Sarien attack. Sludge was none too happy to have his plans foiled, and he’s at it again – his next plan consists of flooding the population of Earth with cloned insurance salesmen. Of course, he doesn’t want Roger mucking it up, so he sentences him to a life of slavery, working in the cruel mines of Labion. In the course of being transported, the incompetent guards end up crashing their vehicle, leaving Roger free from their grasp, but trapped in a deadly jungle.
The planet of Labion is infested with all kinds of flora and fauna that would be happy to have Roger for lunch. In one aggravating section, you need to carefully navigate through the tentacles of a particularly ravenous beast. It’s an extremely narrow path, and if one of your feet so much as touches one of its pixels, you’ll be devoured. Just be prepared to save every few steps. Later, you need to crawl through a series of tunnels, almost completely in the dark, within a time limit, only aided by a glowing gem that illuminates your immediate area. (Assuming, of course, that you had explored the swamp enough to find that one tiny area that was deeper than the others, and had the foresight to dive underwater and find said gem.) Also, you had better made sure that you’d searched the locker right at the beginning of the game, or else you’ll miss the Rubik’s Cube-like puzzle and jockstrap that are necessary in the later stages. And remember to order the Labion Terror Beast Mating Whistle in the jungle, a pivotal moment in Space Quest canon. (In successive games, the manufacturer of this whistle tries to hunt down Roger, since he didn’t pay for it. This is particularly odd because the mail order form specifically mentions that it’s free. Whether this is commentary on the entangled bureaucracy of the corporate world or simply an oversight by the developers, is up to you to decide. The Two Guys have admitted to the mistake, but the former explanation is funnier.)
If you manage to do all of this properly, you’ll find yourself on Vohaul’s secret base inside an asteroid. The only way to beat him is by raiding all of the janitor’s closets (and the bathroom) for various household items, then using them to scheme your way through Vohaul’s devious traps. Along the way, you encounter an Alien-like creature whom you briefly make out with (against your will), essentially putting an invisible timer on the final stages of the game. (Assuming you’ve seen the movies, you can probably guess what happens if you take too long.)
Space Quest II really isn’t much of an improvement of the original – it uses the same AGI engine, and the puzzles are just as aggravating, if not more so. It does, however, have some pretty creative death messages, which halfway excuses the huge amount of pain you’ll have to put Roger through. It’s a bit comforting to know that the monster that just ate you will have gastrointestinal distress for rest of the evening and make itself unpopular amongst the rest of its friends.
In 2001, a fanmade remake was released by Infamous Adventures, the guys who released the first Kings Quest III remake. Many of the other Sierra remakes have cleaned up some of the more archaic elements of these older games, but the Space Quest II remake is not one of them. Pretty much every ridiculous death and dead end is preserved, which is maddening in one way. But in another way, fixing any of this would changed the entire fabric of the game to the point of pointlessness, so from a certain perspective, there’s really no other way they could’ve done it.
A couple new things have been added, including a longer intro with Roger starring on an acceptably dated Letterman-type talk show. The vine maze, the excruciating one where you needed to weave through extremely narrow tentacles lest you be eaten by the beast they were connected to, has been changed. If you successfully complete it, you’re actually killed – instead, there’s a totally different solution. Subversively clever or extremely obnoxious? It’s hard to say. The hunter has also been changed to look like the Predator.
The graphics are done in the style of the VGA games with full voiceovers. Since there are barely any characters, most of the acting is supplied by the typically snarky narrator, whose voice is so weird and deep it sounds like it may have been run through a modulator. It does technically make the game easier to navigate at least, and there’s enough detail in the environment to make some new area descriptions and commentary worthwhile. At the end of it day, it’s still Space Quest II, and therefore the worst games in the series, but it succeeds in making it slightly less annoying, so mission accomplished on that.