Space Quest III Review

Screenshot from Space Quest III of Fester Blatz
Fester Blatz... he really likes gems
  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Sierra On-Line
  • Publisher: Sierra On-Line
  • Release Date: 24 March 1989
  • Time played: 3 hours

What is it

Every adventure gamer or gamer that played games in the 80s and 90s, would've heard of the company Sierra On-Line and if they played one of their "Quest" games during that period, they probably played one of the Space Quest games, sci-fi adventures developed by "the Two Guys from Andromeda": Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe.

Released in 1989, Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon follows the events of Space Quest II: Chapter II - Vohaul's Revenge, where janitor-turned-hero Roger Wilco awakens from stasis to find he and his escape pod in a giant garbage scow. In this chapter of the Space Quest series, Roger focuses half of his adventure attempting to escape an android that looks very similar to the Terminator called "Arnoid" and the rest of his adventure trying to stop a devious company called ScumSoft who have imprisoned the designers of Space Quest, the Two Guys from Andromeda!

This was the first Space Quest to be developed using the Sierra Creative Interpreter (SCI) engine but since it was an earlier version, moving your character could still be performed using the keyboard as well as using the mouse. Interacting with the world is still done by typing commands in a text parser.

The entire Space Quest series sold 1.2 million copies by 1996 so it was quite the commercial success back in the day; it ended up spanning six games from 1986's Space Quest: Chapter I - The Sarien Encounter to 1995's Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier.

Space Quest III received positive reviews from the press, back in the day, with 4 out of 5 stars from Dragon magazine and an 83% score for the Atari ST version of the game from UK magazine CVG.

How I got it

As I played quite a few Sierra adventure games back in the day it only made sense for me to acquire the entire Space Quest and King's Quest collection when they went on sale on GOG (which was back in April 2011).

The games sat dormant for a while until recently when Choona suggested I revisit all the Sierra adventure games as part of my Pile of Shame Initiative. I've already reviewed quite a few Sierra adventures over the past few months and considering I completed Police Quest II not that long ago, it's time to visit another SCI0 adventure: Space Quest III.

Screenshot of Monolith Burger and the Starship Enterprise in Space Quest III
The game is filled with pop culture references

What I like:

Flippant yet funny

The Space Quest series has never taken itself too seriously, but this one has probably one of its most ridiculous plots and isn't afraid to let everybody know that Space Quest is a comedy adventure first, sci-fi adventure second. While there is plenty of humour in the first two games, to me they were sci-fi adventures where even a humble janitor could be the saviour of the galaxy. The baddies in the original two games seemed more sinister as well, such as the Sariens and even Sludge Vohaul (although his harebrained scheme in Space Quest II to infest the world of Xenon with insurance salesmen, sounds like the plot out of a Bond movie). In Space Quest III, the silliness goes up a notch with a software company CEO playing the villain, goons that use Jello guns as their weapon of choice and the Space Quest developers themselves even making an appearance as their alter egos, the Two Guys from Andromeda (they often break the fourth wall whenever they get a chance too).

Some would find its flippant nature cheapens the experience but I for one find it hilarious and it's a good reason I love these old Sierra adventures.

Pop Culture References

It wouldn't be a proper Space Quest game without references to other sci-fi franchises and there are plenty in this game such as the game's first antagonist which takes inspiration from James Cameron's Terminator or a postcard that promotes the planet Arrakis from Frank Herbert's Dune.


The game definitely looks better than its AGI predecessors and the animations as well as the cinematics have been ramped up too making Space Quest III one of the best looking Sierra adventures of the 1980s.


Sierra brought out the big guns when it came to Space Quest III's soundtrack and hired Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg to compose the music. If you haven't heard of the band you would've heard of their 1979 hit "The Logical Song" and the late 70s and early 80s were their heyday.

Siebenberg creates a memorable theme used in the game's introduction cinematic and then borrows parts of the theme to use as leitmotifs in other locations in the game such as when Roger visits Monolith Burger or when he's scoping out ScumSoft headquarters.

Sound effects

While Sierra stalwart Mark Seibert is often credited with composing music for many Sierra adventures, this time he was involved with sound effects, and one of the special things about Space Quest III is that you're actually able to hear Roger Wilco speak for the first time: this is all thanks to the introduction of digital audio samples and while they're used sparingly, they're a welcome addition to the game.

Puzzles aren't as tricky

I did have to resort to reading up hints using the Universal Hint System (UHS) but it turns out both puzzle solutions were logical in retrospect (one of them was me not realising the item wasn't pinned down and the other was me being impatient and not waiting an extra minute).

This means that despite its age, Space Quest III is one of the least masochistic Sierra adventures of its era and is probably quite accessible for a modern point 'n' click adventure audience, which isn't a bad thing if you're a newcomer to these classic adventures and are too afraid to give them a go.

Screenshot of Arnoid and Roger Wilco in Space Quest III
The game is rather short and half of it is spent avoiding this fearsome chap

What I dislike:

It's still old

There's really not much I can fault about this game besides saying that it looks a bit dated. Not as dated as the AGI adventures of the early to mid 80s mind you, but low-resolution graphics, a lack of colour depth and MIDI-quality music means that even indie adventure games of today seem like technological marvels when compared to Space Quest III; although without Space Quest III to inspire the current generation of game developers, there'd probably be a whole lot less indie adventure games today, so I'm definitely glad it does exist.

It's also worth mentioning that Space Quest III was released over 30 years ago… that's a long time ago in the world of computing.


I had to retrace my steps at one point so in reality, this game could easily be finished in only a couple of hours, although I don't consider this a bad thing since a lot of the older Sierra adventures inflated playtime figures by making you wait for something to happen or forcing you to keep restoring the game until it offered you a more favourable outcome.

Score – 7/10 (Good)

If you thought Space Quest II was a silly game, then wait till you've played Space Quest III! While some might baulk at its flippant, irreverent nature, this is perhaps one of the funniest games in the series and it makes it all the more endearing. What's better is that there are plenty of pop culture references to keep a sci-fi fan happy and the game has surprisingly logical puzzles for a Sierra adventure, meaning I'd even recommend this particular title to a modern adventure gaming audience. The only hurdle is that the game is over 30 years old so it might not compare favourably to contemporary adventure games, but if you can appreciate the retro 16 colour graphics and MIDI soundtrack by Supertramp's Bob Siebenberg, then you're in for a treat.

(I've placed the following disclaimer when reviewing Sierra games before and I'll say it again: before I get burned at the stake by the Sierra fans, I'm trying to judge this game on its own merits, playing it today in 2020. No doubt the game was highly regarded by fans in the 1980s, but nowadays, things have evolved and, in my humble opinion, generally for the better).

Is the game worth $14.59 AUD?: No. Although it really depends if you're an old fan (so you've probably already got a copy anyway) and what price you would put on retro games in general. The $14.59 is not only for the Space Quest III: it also gets you Space Quest 1 and Space Quest II so when you think of it as about $5 per adventure, it doesn't seem as bad.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Space Quest 1+2+3 @ GOG ]