Sunday, 23 July 2017

Police Quest 1 VGA - A Considerable Amount of Paperwork

Police Quest, one of the classic Sierra adventure game series. As the title suggests, it's about being a cop, something which is quite a good fit for an adventure game. This was first released in 1987, but remade in glorious 256 colour VGA in 1992 with Sierra's then-new icon-based point-and-click interface.

For those that were put off by the text-based interface of Sierra's older games, this remake makes the game look and feel very similar to Police Quest 3, which was the latest game in the series at that point. Unfortunately, Sierra stopped remaking their old titles not long after this, so we never got a remake of the second game in the series. But if you're a fan of older games, I'm sure you can get used to the text-based interface for Police Quest 2.

We begin by getting to know our hero, Officer Sonny Bonds of the Lytton Police Department. You start as a humble patrol officer, and the early puzzles involve a day of police work, including having to deal with traffic accidents, drunk drivers and the like. To do so, you are scored by how well you follow official police procedure, as the game was designed with the help of a former police officer. Some errors with procedure will just result in a lower score, others may cost you your job - or your life!

As usual, I've been playing this alongside those at The Adventure Gamer blog, and would recommend anyone to head over there for more in-depth information about this game. I began the game full of optimism, as it wasn't that long ago I'd played the original EGA version, and I've played both versions of this game more than once over the years. It's been a while though, and it might not live up to my memories.

I like that the game begins by giving you a selection of events that could be encountered by any police officer during a normal day. First, you have to deal with a road traffic accident, then a speeding driver, and a quick break for a coffee and a chat with a fellow cop. So far so easy, but mistakes here are possible although not too much of a problem. Your first real tests are having to deal with a drunk driver, even having to go so far as to take him to the local jail and book him (checking the manual for the appropriate arrest codes!).

Your next move is a bit more of a controversial one. You are informed of a complaint by the coffee shop owner about motorbikes parked in the street. Your character actually states that they're parked legally, but goes to ask them to be moved anyway. The game sets up the bikers as brutish and cop-hating, so naturally you get to show-off your self-defence skills with your trusty nightstick.

There's also the option of a conversation with a sex worker, Marie, who gives you useful information about a local drug dealer. There's a slow drip feed of information as you go about your day concerning the "Death Angel" and the flow of drugs into otherwise sleepy Lytton. This sets you up for a temporary transfer to the Narcotics department, and you get out of those blues and instead work as a plain-clothes detective.

The drugs work moves up a notch here, first with a minor drugs bust in a local park, before you get roped in to an undercover operation. There's no real sense of time passing here, so it kinda feels like you're doing all this in a single day since you never end up going home. Still, with the help of the previously mentioned Marie, you find yourself undercover at an illegal gambling operation, and have to play poker against some shady criminal types.

The game gives you the option to skip the poker section, but I quite enjoyed it, even if it was basic five card poker. The computer opponents seemed pretty fair, and after quite a lot of hands I ended up doing well enough. This was only part one though, as you get invited back for a high stakes game later on.

Completing the high stakes game (with more than a little luck, it is gambling after all), and you get an invite up to the Death Angel's penthouse suite. All that's left is to call for backup and get the commendations for all your hard work. It's the backup that does almost everything right at the end though, which is a bit unsatisfying.

The best parts of the game for me are oddly enough the ones where you have to follow proper procedure, as they are the one thing that really make the Police Quest games unique. You're not a hard boiled private detective, or a vigilante, you're a police officer and so you have to follow the rules. The game occasionally veers towards having to read the manual a lot though, but I'm sure there's a happy medium to find.

The game hasn't aged particularly well, and it's characters leave a lot to be desired. It's hard to get a lot of plot detail and characterisation into those indistinct sprites and short conversations, and I feel like the game could have used the close-up facial animations more often for more characters, as well as sorting out a better structure for the game where it feels like all this doesn't happen in the matter of a few hours.

I think I was more willing to overlook some of the flaws with the 1987 version, and perhaps I'm being a little unfair against this 1992 remake, but a fresh coat of paint can only compensate for so much.


  1. I enjoyed it overall, but felt it really needed a "Drive to command, especially after you're no longer a traffic cop and the driving becomes mindless busywork that takes way too much time.

    1. Yeah, perhaps when you're not on patrol as a traffic cop, there should be a different point-and-click map to take you to various places.

      The driving wasn't terrible, but got tedious after a while.