June 20th, 2010

Strange Stupid Puzzle in Space Quest III

Okay, so here's something that's been bugging me since about say, I don't know, 1989.

So in Space Quest III, you fall down a chute and land safely in a pile of garbage. As soon as this happens, creepy rat heads appear in the foreground, watching you:

Space Quest 3 screenshot rat

So see those ceiling lights with a power cable stretching between them? By tracing the cable back to its source, you locate a battery that you can take with you. (The lights then go out.) You climb up that ladder, and then a bit later you're walking through this red corridor:

Space Quest 3 screenshot

When you're in the middle of the screen, a burly rat comes running up, beats the crap out of you, and steals your battery.

Your first thought might be that the rat has taken the battery off to some rat hole or something where it'll be safe from your meddling, and you'll have to locate the rat hole and maybe make friends with the rat by giving it some cheese, or scare it off by playing a recording of a cat, or whatever. But there's no rat hole. Eventually you wander back to the room where you found the battery and ...

Yeah, I know that's the same picture. So you get back to this room and everything looks exactly the same as before, and the battery is right back where you found it. You can take it again, but the rats are all still watching you, and if you've played any adventure games before you start to realize that ... aha! Every time I walk through that red corridor, that rat is going to beat me up and take back his battery. I have to find some way to get through that corridor while maintaining possession of the battery. Maybe I'll superglue it to my body. Maybe I'll stick it in a hole in the wall, get beaten up by the rat, and then retrieve it. Who knows?

So you go back to the corridor ...

... and this time, no rat. Problem solved. Rat never shows up again in the whole game. All you have to do is pick up the battery once, have it stolen, go back and pick it up again, and then go on your merry way.

So I guess the thing that's been bugging me is ... WHAT IS THE POINT OF ANY OF THAT? I don't get it. Why are there rats in this game at all? Who designed this thing? What the hell? And also, what the hell?

Does anyone have an explanation for this?

More Comments on My Short Story "Cats in Victory"

A few more comments on "Cats in Victory."

On the StarShipSofa forum, subgenre says, "I liked the idea of taking a childhood fantasy with moral simplicity and racist undertones and re-envisioning it as a morally complex post-apocalyptic tale." Dinsdale says, "I liked both stories this week, especially 'Cats in Victory.' Great stuff, kind of reminded me of Planet of the Apes. I like that type of story. I wish the monkeyman would've protected his amulet better. I wonder if the author has considered a sequel?" And Talia says, "'Cats in Victory' was just great. Made me think of Thundercats, which made me wonder if that was one of the cartoons that inspired the author."

Over at Lightspeed, Non Believer writes, "I think the 'Cats in Victory' story is a likely outcome of genetically enhanced intelligence in animals. Not the apocalyptic background, but the creation of those animals to be used as soldiers, slaves, servants. Our pets are our slaves, despite how awful it sounds. They are pampered, loved, and well cared for, but they are not free to leave. Even when they are free to leave, we have created a learned captivity behavior in them, so they don’t leave. I don’t say it's bad. I am not one of those over-the-top PETA folks. I am saying that if we converted them into a more intelligent and interactive being, they would likely still be in the position of pet/food/slave. I hope we never go down that road."