POLICE QUEST VGA / Sierra / PC


I'll admit up front I'm predisposed to be very biased towards Police Quest. On a social level, I don't much care for the "Cult of the Cop"; the flood of police-based entertainment that has great capacity to brainwash the population into fear and obedience to arbitrary authority. On a personal level, I really just don't much like cops; say what you will about them putting their asses on the line, the fact is that in my twenty-odd years of existence in America I've been protected/served zero times, but hassled without justification or provocation by them more than ten times, and I'm a whole lot more worried than I am reassured when I see one. I also don't like the conservative, right-wing Christian moralist sensibility, and that is clearly where the writer of these games is coming from, and he's not shy about imposing that perspective on the narrative.

Nevertheless, I always found the first two Police Quest games interesting, even liked them to some degree. And this is in spite of the fact that the first game is one of the most anal and finicky adventure games ever created, requiring you to hew to a complex set of careful steps of "police procedure" at all times. The VGA remake removes a great deal of that finickiness - the puzzles are still solved in the same way, and you still have to follow the same procedures, but not having to type out line after line of complex commands does make the game smoother and more appealing. Still, on the whole, this winds up only being a marginal improvement over the original.

The plot progression is the same as in the original game, as are the puzzles - no real bonus content here. Though the VGA graphics are certainly more appealing than the blocky EGAness of the original, there's still a drabness and a soullessness to them as compared to better Sierra adventures of the time. The Lytton map is fleshed out with a lot of extraneous scenery, yet I still don't buy it as a real town - your interaction with it is just too limited, and there are too few living, dynamic details in what bits of it you do get to see. Rob Atesalp turns in a 100% original soundtrack that is very Miami Vice-y; I guess if you don't mind wailing butt rock guitars, it isn't bad, and certainly suits the 1980s cop show ambience of the game.



The driving interface was a bit trying in the original game, and here it has been reduced from free control to a simplistic menu system, but it really should have been eliminated altogether and replaced with some kind of system like Police Quest 2 where you are just sent to the destination location instantly. The new system eliminates a lot of the irritating deaths, like hitting other cars or running stop lights, but it also makes navigating the city painfully slow and tedious.

What's good about this particular game is that it gives you a taste of what it is like to actually be a beat patrol officer; designer Jim Walls draws on his own experiences as a veteran officer, and the early going of the game has you making traffic stops, quelling rowdy disturbances and even taking a little time off for the de rigeur cheap coffee. Paradoxically, this is the best part of the game, and when Sonny gets transferred to the Narcotics department as a detective the game is much less compelling. The touches of realism in the early going are part of this; after Bonds (rather suddenly and swiftly) becomes a detective, Walls moves out of his depth and starts trying to write a stereotypical Hollywood action movie plot (complete with unbelievable "hooker with a heart of gold" romantic interest), and it just doesn't work right, which I suspect is primarily due to his not being a writer. The game isn't overtly racist (or otherwise culturally offensive) like later entries in the series would be, but it definitely takes a very oversimplified, black-and-white view of the world; Lytton would be the ideal little slice of Americana, if it weren't for The Drugs, which is the only real social problem, and The Drugs are all stereotypically peddled by the Wild Man Drug Dealers who are crazed sociopaths who want to rape and kill constantly just for the fun of it.

As an adventure game, the unique setting makes it worth a look, but it's pretty clunky in a lot of ways (like it's stereotypical clean-cut conservative hero, the game really isn't big on feedback and communication, leading to a lot of head-scratching about what steps you missed).



Videos :

* Driving segment
* lol deaths
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