Showing off my incredible powers of deduction!
I’m just over an hour through Police Quest and so far it’s pretty easy going. Many readers have suggested that the game is more about following protocol than solving puzzles, and so far that seems to be totally correct. The game has really been about taking cues from what’s happening on screen, looking up the manual to see what the correct response procedure should be, and then following it using basic text parser commands. That’s not to say that I haven’t run into any trouble on the way. In fact, I had a game over message within the first three or four minutes of play, apparently not attending the briefing on time. I had another shortly after when, despite knowing that I had to check my car prior to driving it, I obviously didn’t do it thoroughly enough and got a flat tire within a few seconds (turns out you have to do one full circle of the car and not just “check car” on each side like the manual suggests). While these sorts of things might seem overly pedantic, at least Police Quest has the courtesy to end your game shortly after the mistake, rather than making you play on before ending abruptly hours later (I’m looking at you Space Quest!).
Insert Police Academy quote here
I haven’t really needed to use much logic yet. The manual tells you exactly what equipment you will need before you’re ready for a day in the field (including a gun, handcuffs, briefcase, notebook, ticket book, pen, ammunition etc.), it tells you to check your car before driving it, it tells you what rules to follow on the road and under what circumstances, it tells you what actions to take depending on what type of felony you have witnessed. If you follow the manual, you really can’t go wrong, at least not so far anyway. In a way, Police Quest feels a bit like an entire game based around piracy protection. It was only a few games ago that I was criticising the way a third of the points in King’s Quest III were awarded to the player for entering the spell recipes found in the manual correctly. Well that could very well be all there is to Police Quest! On top of this, the game itself also holds your hand throughout most of the proceedings, letting you know what it is you’re supposed to do next. When I pulled over Helen Hots, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to do or say. I tried checking her breath, thinking she may have had alcohol, but the game responded with “you haven’t asked for her license yet”. I asked for her license and then tried to write her a ticket, only for the game to respond with “your briefcase is in your car”. So, I got my ticket book and pen out of my briefcase in the car and wrote the ticket, then tried to give it to Helen. The game responded with “she hasn’t signed it yet”. Get the picture?!
Helen Hots: A test many teenage boys failed!
However, despite all of this, Police Quest is somehow managing to be fairly entertaining. Maybe it’s just that I spent all of last week struggling through the incredibly nonsensical and frustrating Mortville Manor. In comparison, spending time in another Sierra sandbox, with all its predictable behaviour and humour, is simply a joy. It also has one particular feature that makes it feel different to the other games on the list so far. You spend quite a bit of time driving around Lytton, either waiting for something to come through on the radio or looking for some form of trouble that you can follow up. This is handled with a top-down perspective and while it’s by no means riveting, it gives the game a level of freshness and unpredictability that the AGI formula might otherwise have struggled to achieve. I look forward to getting back to the game, and I really hope it offers some real challenges at some point to take it from being merely a police procedure training simulator and into the realm of Maniac Mansion and Leisure Suit Larry, with their clever puzzles and/or witty dialogue. Given the amount of procedures listed in the manual that I haven’t yet put into action, I have my doubts that it’s going to be able to compete.
Top-Down Perspective: A first for adventure games!