POLICE QUEST 2 / Sierra / PC
Police Quest 2 scales back on the "police procedure" a little bit as compared to the first game, and the overall narrative flow is better. There's still plenty of annoying and cumbersome gameplay sequences, unfortunately, and on the whole it doesn't come out as a much better adventure.
After busting "The Death Angel" Jesse Bains in the first game, Sonny Bonds has been promoted to detective in the Homicide division, and he's happily dating hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Marie. Things seem to be going well for our clean-cut, conservative hero, until Jesse Bains breaks free while being moved for his re-trial and takes a prison guard as a hostage.
So we plunge once again into the California cop world of the early 80's, when all the bad guys looked like hippies gone mean and extra scruffy. PQ2 at least manages to avoid racial stereotypes for the most part this time out, save one gratuitously inserted (and over-the-top stereotypical) Italian officer who might possibly be Mario Mario before he began his plumbing career.
The "cop procedure" annoyances of the first game have eased up quite a bit but are not entirely gone. The game will actually let you miss evidence at crime scenes and proceed with no detriment save loss of possible points, but it also has the same communication and feedback problems that the first one did. This makes the initial section of the game really annoying, as you try to guess all the things you need to do at police HQ before rolling out, and being jerked automatically back (with a cut-scene reaming from The Chief) if you fail to do any of them. There's a field evidence kit hidden (literally) in a box that looks like a non-interactive part of the background, and not knowing that it even exists will likely befuddle many non-walkthrough-using players just minutes into the game. There's also a tedious process of aligning the sights on your pistol via a slow-moving, repetitive target-shooting sequence that takes at least a good ten minutes; not only are you given no indication by the game that you need to do this, you'll be forced to do it again later (and again given no indication that it needs to be done again, which is even more unfair and irritating.)
The first half of the game, as you follow Bains' trail of mayhem through Lytton and gather evidence, flows along smoothly and mostly has a decent, fair level of challenge. After an impromptu date with Marie, however, the game shifts into a second half that requires far too many blind intuitive leaps based on far too little information. It's very easy at this point to screw yourself irrevocably and not know it until much later; a fairly long (and bizarre) plane ride interrupted by a terrorist hijacking leads to an abrupt end after the flight if you've missed one of a number of optional things back in Lytton.
I guess the plot is believable enough, and passable for a cop drama, but the game suffers from a major lack of dialogue, and what you do get is mostly poorly written. Your buffoon partner Keith is a major drag on the game; he not only takes potential emotional impact right out of many scenes, he also makes the game more illogical and frustrating than it needs to be. The parser is also an odd mix of flexible and obtuse. It lets you enter a greater range of police-related commands, and yet it also seems to fail at understanding basic general instructions and becomes needlessly finicky quite often.
Not to say the game is bad, really. The hang-ups aren't as bad as they are in other, more enjoyable Sierra games, and the cut-down on maddening police procedure combined with the removal of the driving sequences (you go automatically from one location to another) help the game flow much better. Mark Seibert also contributes a sparse but enjoyable musical score.
It's-a me, walking stereotype!
* Inept Reviews
* Making Of the Police Quest Series