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Akril

So...what about THAT game?

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I'm speaking, of course, about Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender.

 

For those of you who haven't heard of the game, it's a sci-fi comedy adventure game by Microprose with a bumbling male protagonist that can die in numerous violent (and comical) ways.

 

This description might lead one to believe that it's just a Space Quest knockoff, but upon closer examination, one may find that it's more of a Space Quest knockoff with a bit of a Leisure Suit Larry flavor and a bit of Microprose's own "unique" brand of humor thrown in. (It's no wonder that Sierra made a jab at this game in the beta version of SQ5.)

 

I played the game a while ago and while it's not a bad game per se, it's certainly...weird. It's like the artists purposefully threw a bunch of weird things on the various screens (there's a fireplace on Rex's spaceship, for example) in the hopes that some of it might be interpreted as humorous. The humor tends to operate on the same principle (although what happens when Rex fails to cooperate with the doctor one too many times is pretty amusing, I'll admit). The backgrounds are gorgeous, and while the video used for the characters' walk cycles is incredibly smooth and lifelike, some of the FMV closeups may make you cringe and turn away.

 

As for the bulk of the game itself, it's somewhat like what would have happened if the SQ4 designers had decided to delve deeper into the culture of the Latex Babes and attempted to answer the question of how a planet populated entirely by women would keep their population going.

 

Well, that question is answered in Rex Nebular: they use a machine that changes the user's gender (title drop!) and the newly created "male" is used to impregnate one of a number of women designated as breeding stock. Inevitably, our hero becomes female for a short period of time (who interestingly, looks a bit like Roberta Williams). Unfortunately, this means that Rex Nebular beat Space Quest to the gender-swapping plot device (I don't think the drag sequence in SQ4 really counts). Still, it makes me wonder...is it justified to rip off a rip-off?

 

You can view some footage of the game (complete with commentary from some of the guys on ThatGuyWithTheGlasses) here (and yes -- those arrows are actually in the game).

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Rex Nebular...yours?

 

 

 

(Oddly, while Microprose's only other (and far superior, in my view) adventure game, Dragonsphere, is available to download for free from GOG.com, Rex Nebular isn't.)

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I played through Rex and loved it. It got a bit stale towards the end, when you were traipsing around an abandoned city with just yourself for company. But then i watched Serenity, the Firefly movie, and got immediate Rex flashbacks ... so it must've struck some chord.

 

To me, it was more like a Leisure Suit Larry in space -- something Al Lowe had threatened to do with the never-made Larry 8. It even has a "filthy" setting. :) And I thought the interface was quite good. I wish Microprose had done more space games; I tried playing their other adventure games, Dragonsphere and Phantom of the Opera, but they just didn't stick -- Phantom was one of their earliest games, so it didn't play very well, and while Dragonsphere was a beauty to look at, I immediately hit the King's Quest wall and couldn't get past the first few screens.

 

Anyway. Even though Rex has a bumbling protagonist and an ever-present, almost oppressive air of solitude, especially towards the end, I didn't think it encroached on any territories, so to speak.

 

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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I wonder if MicroProse intentionally set out to make a game "inspired" by the Space Quest series, or if the similarities are primarily a result of the shared genre of sci-fi comedy adventure.

 

At least we can rest assured that Space Quest is the only adventure game starring a space janitor.

 

Jess

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I have Rex but I haven't played it yet. I have a bunch of adventures I need to play, actually. They do have one other adventure game you missed, though. Return of the Phantom.

 

Ah, right -- that game never grabbed my interest enough to play it.

 

I wonder if MicroProse intentionally set out to make a game "inspired" by the Space Quest series, or if the similarities are primarily a result of the shared genre of sci-fi comedy adventure.

 

At least we can rest assured that Space Quest is the only adventure game starring a space janitor.

 

Jess

 

Egh...we'll never live that one down (though I think Future Wars comes a bit close to meeting those criteria as well).

 

Interestingly, Rex Nebular does make a blatant jab at Sierra at one point, which almost makes it seem like they're deliberately thumbing their noses at them.

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Ah yes, Future Wars ... If there was ever a game that deserved a bullet in the head for the dreaded sin of "multiple punishment deaths," that's the friggin' one! I have had many a drunken altercation with a fellow adventure game fan from university who has actually beaten Future Wars on his own; the crux of which usually revolving around me saying, "What the fuck possessed you to finish that game?!"

 

I'm pretty sure there is no CD-ROM version of Rex Nebular. At least, not one with a speech pack. It is a pity, though, because, really, I enjoyed the hell out of Rex Nebular, and really wish there was more of it. And thumbs up to them thumbing their nose at Space Quest -- that's the attitude I loved about Space Quest in the first place! :)

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Just beat Rex, fairly unsatisfying ending. DIdn't really get attached to any of the characters either. Some humor, but rather underwhelming generally.

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Supposedly there's voice acting and digitized sound in the game, though I've never played a version that contains either of these.

 

I think the only voice acting in the entire game is in the intro, and it makes the sound quality in SQ4 seem pristine by comparison.

 

Ah yes, Future Wars ... If there was ever a game that deserved a bullet in the head for the dreaded sin of "multiple punishment deaths," that's the friggin' one! I have had many a drunken altercation with a fellow adventure game fan from university who has actually beaten Future Wars on his own; the crux of which usually revolving around me saying, "What the fuck possessed you to finish that game?!"

 

I'm pretty sure there is no CD-ROM version of Rex Nebular. At least, not one with a speech pack. It is a pity, though, because, really, I enjoyed the hell out of Rex Nebular, and really wish there was more of it. And thumbs up to them thumbing their nose at Space Quest -- that's the attitude I loved about Space Quest in the first place! :)

 

I played that game a while ago for "research purposes", and I think I've blocked out most of the worst memories of it by now. However, I still remember how they included two of the most maligned elements of adventure games and made them even more painful: a shooting sequence where a single hit meant death, and a timed maze sequence.

 

But yeah, the graphics in Rex Nebular were pretty good.

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The graphics in all three Microprose adventure games were fantastic. Especially the animations. Very smooth and fluid. Prisoner of Ice also had very smooth animation like this (though that was prerendered, actually the Microprose games may have been pre-rendered as well, I don't know, but it didn't look like it).

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I got a copy of Rex years ago, and it's always been one of my favorite adventure games outside of the big Sierra and Lucasarts series. The graphics are impressive, the noun-centric interface applied to inventory items has a lot of fun with useless comedic verb actions (always a plus), and the humor overall is a hoot, if somewhat less cutting than SQ's sense of humor. Rex himself is a neat protagonist; he's like what we'd get if Han Solo had Roger's overall lucklessness. ;) There's also some funny gender-based comedy, particularly at the expense of males. One particular exchange I remember fairly well - Rex talks to a native woman and tries to prove he's a genuine male (rather than one of the trans-gendered Keepers):

 

"What's a torque wrench?"

"A tool for measuring the angular force applied to a bolt."

"Okay...what's the proper placement of silverware when setting the table?"

"Wherever they land when I throw them from the kitchen."

*gasp* "You *are* real!"

I'm pretty sure the "girl Rex looks like Roberta" bit was intentional - I seem to recall reading that somewhere.

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The graphics in all three Microprose adventure games were fantastic. Especially the animations. Very smooth and fluid. Prisoner of Ice also had very smooth animation like this (though that was prerendered, actually the Microprose games may have been pre-rendered as well, I don't know, but it didn't look like it).

 

I think the characters' animation was rotoscoped (much like the animation in SQ5, but it does seem much smoother and fluid than animation from most other games around that time. It's pretty detailed, and sometimes the hand-drawn animation doesn't quite mesh with the rotoscoped animation or the pre-rendered 3D, but overall, it is pretty impressive.

 

One particular exchange I remember fairly well - Rex talks to a native woman and tries to prove he's a genuine male (rather than one of the trans-gendered Keepers):

 

"What's a torque wrench?"

"A tool for measuring the angular force applied to a bolt."

"Okay...what's the proper placement of silverware when setting the table?"

"Wherever they land when I throw them from the kitchen."

*gasp* "You *are* real!"

That was one of my favorite parts too -- I'm not sure if I've encountered a "puzzle" like that anywhere else.

 

I'm pretty sure the "girl Rex looks like Roberta" bit was intentional - I seem to recall reading that somewhere.

I first saw that mentioned on a review on MobyGames, but I've never seen it alluded that it was intentional.

 

 

Oh yeah -- and I highly recommend Dragonsphere. Though it may have been an attempt to cash in on the popularity of King's Quest, it has a completely different feel (not to mention one of the biggest plot twists I've ever encountered in an adventure game).

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I LOVED Dragonsphere! The graphics and animations rival Sierra on their best day, and the voice acting is pretty great too :) I liked the puzzles, but I did find the interface to be a bit frustrating. Gran Callahach is a bit similar to Daventry, but darker in my opinion.

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I saw Rex Nebular mentioned in a "Saturday Crapshoot" article on PC Gamer's Web site a while back and was intrigued. If this game is, indeed, abandonware, then where can I download it to try it out? It sounds...interesting.

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Kind of a late contribution to this thread, but I just recently realized that the mad doctor/scientist you encounter in the game is named Dr. Slache.

 

And here I thought I'd cataloged everything I felt this game had to qualify it as a SQ knockoff...

 

(It's still not a bad game at all, but sheesh, could the "Hey, Sierra! We're making fun of your franchise!" message be any more obvious?)

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