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SummaryInteresting Police simulation, a different kind of adventure
The GoodAlthough I had played nearly all of Sierra’s "big" titles – the 'Space Quest's, the 'King’s Quest's, the 'Leisure Suit Larry's, etc. back in their heyday, 'Police Quest' was one title that for whatever reason, I didn’t get to play for some years. Having only got to finally play it only in more recent years, it’s interesting to see how this game holds up without the nostalgic tint that somewhat biases so many reviews, including my own. Whilst the majority of other Quests from Sierra concentrated more on fantasy elements, the sometimes over-looked 'Police Quest' deals in real-life Police procedure, with the only way to win being doing things “by the book”, step-by-step, as if you were a genuine cop. The fact that it was written by Jim Walls, a former real-life cop in California helps give the game it's more "realistic" approach, as opposed to the glamorous, not-stop-shootout image of policing given in so many other games, and movies…
This adventure sees you as law officer Sonny Bonds, starting off as an “on the beat” cop responding to routine calls. As the adventure develops, you find yourself climbing the promotion ladder as you set off in pursuit of the murderous, drug running “Death Angel”. This is most probably Sierra’s most down-to-earth and realistic adventure game ever. Most of it is quite serious, with just the odd line of humour thrown in here or there.
While LucasArts generally surpassed Sierra’s adventure games in later years, PQ shows that when Sierra tried, they could come up with something really original. A shame this creativity waned slightly in later releases, but that’s another story.
The graphics… hard to decide whether this should be under “good” or “bad”; a little of both, really. They are adequate for their time, looking typically Sierra-ish of the era – anyone who’s ever played a couple of Sierra adventure games will know what I mean; they all have a very similar design look. While looking very dated and hardly pushing the limits of EGA gaming forward, the graphics do the job, I guess.
The realism and insistence of getting every little thing right and “by the book” can be awkward to get to grips with at first, but once I’d got into the early stages of play, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself drawn into it much, much more than I had at first expected.
I found part of the game's appeal was for it's variety of situations and places to visit in the course of your day-to-day Police work, giving the game a far less linear feel that in many other adventure games.
The BadThe game insists you follow Police procedure (as described in the game manual) to the letter, and is VERY harsh in insisting on this. Many, MANY times during play, if you forget to do one small thing, the game is over. For example, if you forget to check over your squad car EVERY TIME before going out on patrol… you loose.
I consider myself a hardened adventure gamer, eventually being able to find my way through most situations that present themselves in adventures, but I must confess that I consulted hint and walk-though guides quite a few times when playing this game! I defy anyone to get maximum points on this game without playing through at least a dozen times! Even with aid of walk-through I was some points short of a perfect score at the end.
But the game's meanness doesn’t end there. It’s really HARSH at times. For example, at some points in the game, you must shower before changing clothes - if you forget to turn the shower off after you, the game docks you a point!!
Driving around the city of Lytton with little coloured lines representing cars - it’s very awkward, and even for the era, it looks pretty tacky! What’s more, driving badly (wrong side of the road, etc.) is fine, but jump a red light (in normal drive mode, not pursuit) and you’re scolded for breaking procedure and have to restore.
It’s very easy to miss something vital or to mess things up, so a LOT of saving and restoring, with a long back-list of saves, is needed (even by Sierra’s standards!)
All this can make the game a little hard to get into, and it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste.
The graphics, whilst they do they job and are actually quite good in places, are a little unimaginative in others, and are just so very Sierra-ish! Sonny looks practically identical to Gwydion, the lead in ‘King’s Quest III’, not to mention a passing resemblance to early renderings of 'Leisure Suit Larry', and several other Sierra game characters
The early text interface doesn’t ease matters any, either. Whereas later games’ interfaces would, for example, open doors for you automatically, here you have to manually type “open door” every time, making play seem a little long-winded sometimes. (Oh, and one trivial thing that niggled me: The text cursor at the bottom of the screen. Normally the text input line begins with a >, but for this adventure is was <, back to front. A teeny thing, but it bugged me none-the-less!)
Personally, I found the game's ending was a little flat, and almost an anti-climax after some of the scenes earlier in the game. The last few actions are done on "autopilot", which I found rather disappointing; I would have liked to have been more involved.
Oh, and the Poker game. For some reason, Sierra went through a long phase where they for some reason felt obliged to stick in some sort of gambling game as part of there adventures, and here is no exception. Having to play the damned game once is enough, but to have to play it twice… grrr! All-in-all, things really did feel like they began to run out of creativity towards the end of the game, a few more ideas would have been welcome.
While I believe that some of Sierra’s later VGA remakes were pointless, this game is one that does benefit in many ways, with some of the more obscure, over-picky bits toned down for that release, though the lack of text interface does take away from a lot of the feeling of involvement.