Experience what it's like to be a cop
Back in the Eighties, Sierra was on a role with many of their high-profile adventure games becoming successful. In 1987, they hired Jim Walls
, a retired California patrol officer who was asked to create a new game based on everyday police life. Hence, it wasn't going to be like any other game that Sierra released, where everything in the game is make believe. Furthermore, the game was used by real police officers as a way to improve their skills.
In this game, you play Officer Sonny Bonds, a cop of the Lytton Police Department who starts his day doing normal police work. Later, he gets promoted to Detective and does bigger things like breaking up a major drug ring and stopping someone nicknamed "The Death Angel". It is nice to play a police officer for once, as you are given an insight of how things operate; and although the cop himself and the city is fictitious, how you go about doing things is not. The game provides plenty of fun and lots of adventuring as you spend your time issuing tickets, arresting criminals, and dealing with biker scum, among other things.
While patrolling the streets, you get to meet a variety of characters. Some characters are good and may help you get through the game, while some are dangerous. Only a few of them have ridiculous names like Morris Fudley, Helen Hots, Hoochie Coochie Hannah, Whipplestick, and Fuddrucker. For a game that focuses on the real world, you would think Sierra made up real names for these characters. Helen Hots, the girl you pull over, lives up to her name. You can get a close-up view of her, and you can see the top of her blouse is unbuttoned. This is a nod to Leisure Suit Larry
There are quite a few locations you need to drive to. As soon as you start the engine, you are presented with a map that occupies more than one screen. Even under the low resolution Sierra's old engine was capable of, the map is well laid out and each section of it still looks good. Each location you visit is beautifully drawn, and I liked exploring each one.
The game encourages you to perform certain tasks such as inspecting your squad car to make sure there are no flat tires, obeying normal road rules, and locking your gun up before you enter the jail. The game ends if you don't do these things. Most of the reviews I read on here criticize these, but that's real life. If there is a red light blocking my way, I managed to bypass it by leaving the screen then coming back. Simple as that.
You can die in this game, in each situation you are faced with. Death is mainly caused by doing something foolish. Some of the actions you can perform are quite amusing, and so far I have managed to remove my clothes any time during the game, walk out of the locker room wearing nothing but a towel, and call up the girl I just pulled over.
The sound is PC speaker only, which means that you will only hear one voice for the music. That is what sound was like back then, at a time before soundcards were invented. If you have a Tandy computer, the music and sound effects are much better as they have three voices instead of one.
I didn't have a problem with the parser in other Sierra adventures, but I found the parser used in Police Quest
very strict. Many times did I try to execute an action, only to have the game respond with "How can you do that?" or "You can't do that -- at least, not now". There are no alternate command. You need to type in a specific command to perform the action you want.
Sierra went through a time where they just had to put a poker game here and there, and the player is forced to play them to progress through the game. Police Quest
is no different, and in this case, it's a poker game that happens near the very end of the game. I would rather skip and lose points for doing so, which is what you can do in the SCI remake of the game.
The Bottom Line
As I said before, playing Police Quest
showed me the day to day operations of a police officer. You spent half of the game patrolling the streets, arresting anyone breaking the law and having a coffee break with one of your colleagues, but eventually you get promoted to Detective where you eventually nab "The Death Angel". I would play this game again because I found situations and other bits about the game interesting. The graphics and sound are okay, but they are better if you happen to have a Tandy computer. The only real turn-off is the poker game that you are forced to play near the end of the game.