Thursday, 15 March 2012

Game 13: Police Quest I - Gunshots and Helen Hots

Sonny Bonds Journal Entry 1: “Just another day of protecting and serving the community really. We had a briefing at 13:00 sharp where Sergeant Dooley gave us the rundown of recent events. We’re to look out for a black 1983 Cadillac, license number LOP1238, which was reported stolen last week, and he also informed us of a recent spate of drug related arrests for teenagers from Jefferson High School. As soon as he’d finished, I collected my stuff, checked my car, and hit the road! It didn’t take long for some drama to come through over the radio, with a nasty crash reported on the corner of Fourth and Fig. As soon as I got there I knew this was no ordinary accident. The driver was dead, with a bullet hole to the head! A witness informed me that he saw a light blue Cadillac racing alongside the vehicle and then heard a gunshot, with the now deceased driver immediately swerving off the road and crashing into a wall. I called it in and let the homicide team take over before heading back out on patrol. Not too long later I witnessed a red sports car run a red light and took pursuit. The driver, suitably named Helen Hots, clearly thought that pouting her lips and showing off her assets would get her out of receiving a ticket. I’ve been doing this long enough not to fall for that crap and gave her one anyway. The people of this city need to learn to respect the law!”


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!

29 comments:

  1. Huh. I remember that it wasn't entirely a hard game, but I don't remember it guiding you so much. I'm going to have to play through it again, just to make sure.)

    Don't fear, Trickster the story does get more interesting than police traffic work! (At least I remember it does. Oh play through, don't prove me wrong...)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember spending a lot of time driving around, getting bored because my car was slow, typing the "fast" prompt and then dying in a horrible car accident half a second later. I recall it was just too slow or too fast, but then again maybe I just had terrible reflexes...

    ReplyDelete
  3. You're exactly right, the first game is the purest Police Quest experience you'll get. Despite all the quips I made about procedure and stuff, it does tell a pretty good story that will show itself shortly and is, for the most part, fair. Glad you're enjoying it, especially after the steamer you played before. Just buckle up for Police Quest 2 (literally) because it WILL screw you with rug pullers like Space Quest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People keep warning me about Police Quest 2, Space Quest II and Leisure Suit Larry II. What is it about Sierra sequels and their dead ends!

      Delete
  4. Hey, we're basically at the same point in the game. The only thing I'm finding grievous so far is the driving - I keep crashing into stuff, grrrr....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm running the game at normal speed and don't have any issue with driving. As soon as I set it to Fast or press F8 to drive faster I crash all the time. I'm afraid patience is the key!

      Progress Update: I played for a another hour and a half last night and made good progress. I have about 90 points now and have just submitted my memo to join the Narcotics team and am about to go out with the boys to The Blue Room.

      Delete
    2. We're still in synch! I think I have roughly the same points and in my last save I'm leaving the Blue Room. Police procedures aside, the game's been fairly easy and brisk so far except for a few guess-the-verb moments. Oh, and finding that darned nightstick...

      Delete
    3. Haha...the nightstick has by far been the biggest challenge. I got beaten into a pulp numerous times before I finally figured out where it must be.

      Delete
    4. Have you tried turning up the emulation speed a little?

      Delete
  5. Huzzah for Helen Hots! Who must be about 50 by now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Am I the only one that thinks Helen has a man face?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. Helen Hots is not particularly hot I'm afraid. They did a better job with the women in Leisure Suit Larry.

      Delete
    2. Well, at least the picture is in colors. I remember seeing her in monochrome, and that definitely didn't help her to get rid of the ticket :).

      Delete
  7. But did you try to fail the test and let Helen Hots go scot-free?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, but I have a save game waiting to be experimented with. I'm assuming it doesn't end up the way young players were hoping?

      Delete
    2. Let's just say that it isn't immediately fatal, but the final result was probably a disappointment to the boys.

      Delete
  8. Police Quest has a certain charm to it, even though it does hold your hand through some of the game. It might have been a bit too hard if it hadn't though.

    It was also a bit harder for those of us outside the US, the police in the UK were quite different. My only knowledge of the US police/justice system were a few TV shows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean. I'm in Australia so most of the terms the game uses are completely unknown to me. It's for that reason that the game was pretty much impossible to get through without the manual as a kid. In particular, you have to give an FST to the drunk driver. We call it an RBT (random breath test) over here.

      Delete
  9. I agree with you that one of the nice things about this first PQ is the car map. Obviously it could be better implemented (I hate it when I get the speed too fast and I end up stamped against a wall), but it really feels like you were a policeman patrolling the streets waiting for things to happen. When you finally receive a radio call and begin to follow the "bad" citizen, it feels really good.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A Police Academy game would've been awesome! Create sound effects like Larvell Jones. Flirt like Mahoney. Don't forget to yell at criminals like Hooks to get them to surrender. "Freeze, dirtbag!"

    Well, we can pretend with Police Quest. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This should have been the briefing in Police Quest:

      "Now this first SLIIIDE... shows a very, very interesting thing: our main building. On slide... TWO! We see another view... of... IT! Oh, my God, you wouldn't believe it!"

      ;)

      Delete
    2. Cut and pasted from IMDB? ;)

      Delete
    3. Oh, Trickster, you wanted to know if someone was still getting Capcha verifications. *raises hand*

      Delete
    4. Thanks Amy. Can you (or anyone else) help me to disable it? I'm looking under Settings and then Posts and Comments, but I can't see any mention of it. I thought it might be the Comment Moderation option but obviously not as that's set to Never.

      Delete
    5. Settings -> Comments -> Show word verification for comments?

      It should be the next fill-in-the-circle option after the Comment Moderation that you mentioned. No # 2 pencil needed. :P :)

      Delete
    6. The difference between comment moderation and word verification, is that with moderation only, comments are passed through without a Captcha, and they are held in your comments section for approval. They also send you an email to let you know that you have a comment to either approve or delete... or do nothing with, I suppose.

      I use comment moderation on my blog. Nothing gets through until I approve it. I hate the Captchas, and I get some spam that doesn't hit the filter for some reason. Of course, if you disable the word verification, those spams might start posting to your blog... those that the filter doesn't catch. Just so you know what to expect. :)

      Delete
    7. There it was in front of me all along! I've disabled it now and will keep it that way unless I start getting spammed.

      Thanks Amy! 10 Points!

      Oh, and I apologise to Alfred. I told him how annoying his CAPTCHA was, not knowing that my blog had one too! Embarrassment much!

      Delete
    8. Oh, awesome! Thanks! I was wondering if I would get points for that. It seemed a bit meta to me. :)

      Delete
    9. I noticed the captchas were gone this morning. Didn't realize they were a problem. :D

      Delete