Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Adventure of the Week: Police Quest (1987 AGI version)

I had some time during the holidays to tackle a more substantial adventure game, so I opted to play Sierra's classic Police Quest in its original 1987 incarnation.  The Police Quest series was a relatively late addition to Sierra's series, and only this first game used the AGI system; the second game would use SCI, and a 256-color VGA remake of this game would see release in 1992.  I missed the original and have only played the remake myself; for this post, I'm finally playing the original version, still commercially available via Good Old Games.

This was Sierra's first attempt to apply the AGI "3-D" animated adventure game engine to a more serious subject, though the company wasn't quite willing to abandon the Quest naming convention.  Retired police officer Jim Walls was recruited to design the game, lending a veneer of authenticity to the proceedings, although the game's focus on by-the-book police work is often let down by simplistic writing and characterization.

Interested adventurers are encouraged to experience Police Quest firsthand before reading my playthrough notes below -- although the game is fairly linear, so you may not miss too much if you opt to proceed into the...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

We are cast as an experienced Lytton USA police officer named Sonny Bonds, and we begin standing in the police station.  There's a key board on the left side of the screen, and we can TAKE KEYS (after walking over to it) to get the keys to our patrol car.  I spend some time trying to READ or GET the white note on the door, until I give up and LOOK AROUND to learn that it's not significant.  This command is very useful, saving us some attempts to identify a table with radio extenders toward the back of the room, next to the barred window of the evidence lockup.

The photograph on the wall is of Lytton's Chief of Police, one Randolph "B.N." Whipplestick, whom we gather is not well respected by his team.  We'll grab a radio extender; if we approach the evidence window, Russ the lockup keeper arrives to tell us there's nothing here with our name on it.

We can visit several other parts of the police station.  A computer room to the north (I'll assume these locations are depicted with the viewer facing north) contains an outdated but functional terminal.  As I'm looking around, Laura Watts from Narcotics enters and greets Sonny.  I try to TALK TO LAURA but she just urges us to get out of here and get to work, warning us we're going to be late for briefing.  These games have a real-time element to them, but I'm just exploring right now.  We can TURN ON COMPUTER and use the simple text-based search interface, but I have no keywords worth searching on at this early stage.  We can EXIT to return to the room perspective.

The western (left-hand) end of the station contains Lieutenant Morgan's office, a door to the parking lot, and the Narcotics Office.  A table features an inbox for use in submitting reports and memos, with a pad of blank memos handy.  We can't TAKE BLANKS at this time, so it looks like we'll just have to come back here to file any reports we need to take care of.

I try stepping outside, but at this point I have missed too many briefings, and I get placed on administrative leave without pay for five days.  Whoops!  I'm not being one of Lytton's finest at this point, that's for sure.  And this temporary setback actually ends the game, as we apparently have no hope of covering the police work we were supposed to be handling.

After a restart, I grab the car keys and go straight into the briefing room, where I can read this morning's edition of the Lytton Tribune before the 1:00 briefing.  The paper features a headline reading, "DOPE IN THE CITY," which talks about the increasing local crime rate and mentions a local drug lord known as "The Death Angel."  We also learn that a female prisoner escaped last night, and that the Kingdom of Daventry is under attack by a 3-headed dragon (for all the King's Quest fans out there.)  It's also noted that Sonny and his fellow officer Joe Walters have been nominated for the "Officer of the Year Award" by the police chief.

Other officers soon file into the room, and I learn I'm standing at the wrong table, finding Sonny's assigned spot at the front of the room.  Sergeant Dooley's briefing assigns Sonny to seek out a stolen black 1983 Cadillac, license plate number LOP1238, with VIN C03456218.  We also learn that cocaine was found on two of three high schoolers arrested for drunk driving last night, and should probably note that Sonny's call number is 83-32.  After the briefing, we see that Sonny's assigned pigeonhole on the wall has a note from a fellow officer named Steve -- "How's about a 11-98 at Carol's Caffeine Castle later in the shift?"

South of the briefing room, off of the main station hallway, is a locker room, where the custodian is mopping up.  R.J. Jefferson is a person of color and spouts stereotyped dialogue like "Saaaaay, fool!"  He also tells us that somebody filled a pair of pantyhose full of cotton balls and stuffed them into Sergeant Dooley's pigeonhole while Sonny was off duty.  Okay.

There's another officer using one of the bathroom stalls -- this always seems to be the case here -- and we can open Sonny's locker to find our weapon and gun belt, an ammunition speed loader, our briefcase, and the keys to Sonny's Corvette -- apparently Lytton pays its officers very well.  We also see a towel and our civilian clothes, as well as a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.  The briefcase contains a pen, notebook, and Official Lytton P.D. ticket book, so we'd better take it, along with the gun and ammo.

Before I go out on patrol, I still want to check out the rest of the offices here.  The Narcotics Office is where Laura hangs out, and has two desks (one currently unassigned), a filing cabinet, and a bookcase.  A clipboard hanging on the wall lists the stolen Cadillac, as well as a Yamamama motorcycle, M65789 / VIN M09876543.

Lieutenant Morgan has no time to talk, and Chief Whipplestick more or less evicts Sonny from his office.  So it's time to go out on patrol.  I mistake another moving blip for Sonny's patrol car on the keyboard-based overhead view driving screen, and manage to crash the car a mere block into my patrol.

After a restore, I am more careful.  I even think to WEAR SEATBELT before I START CAR.  But it still takes me several crashes and restores to get the hang of driving this way -- the car responds to the keys as target directions, rather than steering wheel inputs, and can turn on a dime, but we have to hit the same direction again to stop, which makes just backing out of the crowded police station parking lot a bit of a trick.

Once I get moving, I discover that I'm being penalized for missing a required safety inspection before leaving the station yard, and am now stuck with a flat tire.  I can't even GET OUT and walk back half a block for an embarrassing bit of assistance-seeking; we're "dead" as far as the game is concerned, and it's time to RESTORE.

This time, I INSPECT CAR to find a nightstick in a holder on the driver's door panel, which should come in handy.  But I'm not sure I'm doing the rest of this right -- I try to get out and INSPECT CAR, but the parser doesn't recognize HOOD or TIRES or TRUNK.  I finally try to INSPECT SAFETY, which just does a room-level look.  But while doing all of this, I stumble on the real solution -- we have to simply walk around all four sides of the car, or close enough to trigger the successful inspection message.

Now I can navigate the streets, though I manage to run a stop sign and end the game again -- Lytton doesn't stand for any law-bending by its officers unless we're in hot pursuit.  On the next try, I manage to survive long enough to get an incoming radio call: "Respond to 11-83, SW corner of Fig and 4th."  Looks like I need to reference the PDF manual included with this release -- except I'm not finding it?  It seems we can't turn right on red here, either, due to the way the interface interprets the intersections.

We can't SPEED UP or TURN ON SIREN, it seems, so I'll just have to meander along until I find the location of the 11-83... whatever that is.  I decide I need to find some documentation, and find it at http://www.sierrahelp.com/Documents/Manuals/Police_Quest_1_AGI_-_Manual.pdf and http://www.sierrahelp.com/Documents/Maps/PoliceQuest/Police_Quest_1_-_Map.gif -- it looks like I should find Fig and 4th around map segment A1 / B2.

It soon becomes clear that an accident has occurred -- a green sedan has plowed into the side of a brick building here.  The male driver is slumped over the steering wheel, with a serious head injury.  I try to USE RADIO, but we're told we have nothing to report and must investigate first.  A closer look at the car reveals a bullet hole in the window.  And -- dang it! -- on this try I forgot to bring a radio extender with me, so I have to go back to the car to report the apparent homicide to dispatch.

LOOK AROUND suggests that the crowd of rubberneckers includes one very anxious young man, but when I try to TALK MAN the game doesn't think I'm close enough.  I finally realize I have to TALK CROWD, at which point the young man comes up and says, "I saw what happened! I saw everything!!"  He says the crashed car and a light blue Cadillac were racing down the street side-by-side, and he heard a bang that he thought was a blowout.  He caught part of the license plate number, maybe -- L964.  So this isn't a great match for the black Cadillac reported stolen, but is definitely of interest to the LPD.

My attempts to investigate further suggest that "This is a job for the coroner," and the victim's license plate has gone missing.  I try to TAKE NOTES, but can't because I don't have my notepad handy; I am also not allowed to OPEN BRIEFCASE and retrieve it at this time.  So I decide to CLOSE DOOR and START CAR, and see if I learn what I may have missed doing.  As soon as I leave the accident scene, the game suggests I'm leaving prematurely, and then of course I crash into something.

This time, I restore to the police station and retrieve my pen, notebook and ticket book from the briefcase before setting out on patrol.  I take notes about the car, and when I use the radio after talking to the witness, I report more information back to the office.  I try to GET IN the car, but am advised to wait until the homicide detectives arrive.

Soon Homicide Detective Oscar Hamilton arrives with Sergeant Dooley, and we are dismissed -- nay, ordered! -- to try to find the light blue Cadillac believed to be involved in the murder.  While I'm driving around with my eyes peeled, Steve radios to interrupt my work for an 11-98 at Caffeine Castle, and I manage to find my way there.

There's a certain look to these early AGI Sierra games that this image captures well -- the PCJr./EGA palette was limited to 16 specific colors, and Sierra made pretty good use of them despite the 1980s influence of teal and pink.  (Why any self-respecting cocktail lounge like the one next door would name itself "Wino Willy's" is a mystery we will not be exploring in this game.)

There's a telephone on the wall here -- with our 2015 glasses on we note that this was an era before cell phones, and two of the coffee shop's patrons are sitting at the bar smoking -- as well as a menu and a restroom.  Steve is here -- we can SIT DOWN and TALK STEVE, but he just chats about the weather and asks about the accident scene.  We can't ASK STEVE or talk to him about anything specific.  We can TALK CAROL, but only about the coffee, and there's not really much we can do until Detective Hamilton calls on the shop's phone.  (Police Quest's plot tends to be driven by external events like this -- there's quite a bit of waiting for something to happen, and not much Sonny can usually do to drive the plot forward.)

Hamilton tells us the driver was Lonny West, a small-time drug dealer, and this appears to be the second such murder in two weeks.  I'll check out the restroom near the phone, and even though Leisure Suite Larry designer Al Lowe was involved in the programming, USE RESTROOM yields only, "What would you do with it?"

We'd better get back out on patrol, and maybe look into this Lonny West if that's not work reserved to the detectives.  I stop into Wino Willy's before getting back on the road, but aside from the drink-pushing bartender there's nobody around, and Sonny is on duty.

I go back to the station to search for information on Lonny West, but come up empty-handed.  I do find something about the Death Angel -- just that he's wanted for murder, drug and prostitution crimes and was last seen near Chicago.  I'll also pick up a radio extender here, it's bound to come in handy.

Driving around on patrol again, I learn that we can USE RADIO at any time to check in with our present location, which makes navigating a little easier.  The game mentions that we are aching to write a ticket, so maybe we need to keep our eyes open.  I start watching the stop lights but so far everyone seems to be pretty law-abiding.

Ah!  I see a red car run a red light, and the game mentions this too.  How do we pull this scofflaw over?  I end up running one light myself in the attempt, and after a restore I manage to run into the violator head on, another way to end the game without accomplishing the desired result. 

It seems we have to observe the violation and make the stop within the same screen.  Since we can't TURN ON SIREN, I'm not sure how to stop the violator.  Eventually I realize that the red car is just itching to commit violations, and I have better luck camping out by an intersection until he or she runs the red light.  Then can I STOP CAR?  I am still having issues.  Finally I USE RADIO to report I'm in pursuit...  and now it seems I just have to get very close to the suspect vehicle, at which point it stops automatically.  Whew!

The driver is an attractive young woman, and resisting temptation while executing appropriate procedure is apparently what this scene is all about.  We have to ASK FOR LICENSE -- is her name really Helen Hots? -- and WRITE TICKET.  We need her to sign it, but if we GIVE PEN then we can't get it back.  Hmmmm.  Trying again, we GET SIGNATURE instead, then RETURN LICENSE and GIVE TICKET

Now we can resume patrolling, until a complaint comes in at Carol's Caffeine Castle.  We find four biker gang motorcycles parked out front, probably not a good sign (the morality in Police Quest tends to be black-and-white -- the bad guys always look like bad guys.)

It turns out the bikers are not harassing Carol directly, but they've parked in her spaces to patronize Wino Willy's and she just wants them to move their bikes.  When I come outside, I see that I left my car door open -- and my patrol car has been stolen!  Restore time again. 

We can't talk directly to the bikers, as they hurl colorful insults at our hero; TALK LEADER, TALK BIKERS, and TALK GANG all seem to elude the parser.  The bartender retires to the back room to avoid any violence that might be directed his way, leaving Sonny to his own devices.  Some of the motorcycle enthusiasts are playing darts, but we can't join the game.  TALK MAN at least seems to be the right term to use to engage the leader, but directing him to MOVE BIKES doesn't go well -- trying to force the issue gets us beaten up.  On the next try, I run into the bikes with my car and knock them over.  That probably won't help the situation.  I try to LOAD GUN and DRAW GUN, or SHOW GUN, but I still get beat up, ending the adventure.

Maybe I should try a less dramatic threat, like the nightstick.  SHOW NIGHTSTICK just gives us some inventory detail, but USE NIGHTSTICK proves sufficient; we'll have none of that liberal community-engagement policing here!  After the bikers leave, we talk to a "working girl" who has been hanging around the bar.  Sweet Cheeks Marie seems to know Sonny -- from high school, it appears, when we LOOK MARIE.  I try to ASK MARIE ABOUT BIKERS and ASK MARIE ABOUT DEATH ANGEL to no avail.  But ASK FOR INFORMATION works better -- she spills her guts about the Death Angel.  His name is Coffman, or Hoffman, something like that, with a flower tattoo above his left nipple, and she confirms he's trying to take over the drug trade in Lytton.

I start to go back to the police station to see if the Narcotics office can use any of this information, but spot a pink car driving erratically along the way.  I learn that I have a much easier time pulling a car over if I can get slightly in front of it, then back up so it's forced to almost run into me and pull over (though sometimes a crash results, so this game mechanic remains hard to pull off with the available control scheme.)

The driver is clearly a bit inebriated.  I SMELL BREATH and detect alcohol.  But I can't ASK DRIVER TO GET OUT or REMOVE DRIVER or OPEN DOOR so I can ADMINISTER TESTUSE RADIO establishes that his registration is valid, and that he's had two DUI convictions.  Ah -- while DRIVER, GET OUT fails, GET OUT does the trick.  I ADMINISTER TEST and then try to get him into the car, but after asking him to FOLLOW ME I get behind, and while I try to open the back door of the patrol car, he clocks Sonny on the head.  Next time, I CUFF PRISONER, after learning that USE HANDCUFFS isn't so good as he asks to be cuffed in front and can still strike out; we have to explicitly CUFF PRISONER IN BACK to make sure he's properly secured.

I attempt to take the prisoner back to the police station before I realize that the jail is elsewhere in town.  More police procedure comes into play here, as we need to carefully escort the prisoner in for booking.  I forget to put my gun in lockup before uncuffing the prisoner, unfortunately, ending the game with a fatal jailhouse shooting.  On a retry, I OPEN LOCKER outside the jail and PUT GUN IN LOCKER before I PUSH BUTTON to buzz in.

After we put the prisoner in a cell, Laura from Narcotics arrives to personally inform Sonny that there's an opening in the Narcotics Division.  She recommends we submit a memo to Lieutenant Morgan.  And now Dooley wants us back at the office on the double?  And crap, I've left my patrol car door open again, forcing yet another restore to maintain integrity of our policing resources.

Before seeing Dooley, I WRITE MEMO and SUBMIT MEMO requesting transfer to the Narcotics Division.  Now let's see what the boss wants... he's apparently up in arms because someone put a live chicken on his desk, and is yammering on about Internal Affairs.

There doesn't seem to be anything we can do in Dooley's office, but when we exit we're invited by our fellow officers to attend a retirement party at the Blue Room after we get our clothes changed.  Police Quest's emphasis on the mundane becomes a little bit tiresome here -- regulations require we shower before changing, so we have to REMOVE UNIFORM, CLOSE LOCKER, and walk over to the facilities so we can actually shower.  Only the shower on the right side of the screen is working, due to the animation budget, and then we have to walk back, reasonably close to our locker, OPEN LOCKER, WEAR CIVILIAN CLOTHES, and TAKE the KEYS to our Corvette.

We can't leave the station with the radio extender, so I'll put it back along with the patrol car keys.  We drive to the Blue Room -- it takes some doing to find, but LOOK AROUND in the right section of the map indicates the Blue Room is here and unlike most of the buildings in Lytton it clearly has a parking area in front.  The joint looks like one of Leisure Suit Larry's dives from the outside, and even more like one on the inside.

There's a jukebox against the left wall, which we can use to play Al Lowe-esque tunes like, "I Shoulda Bought A Monkey To Take Your Place."  The lo-fi AGI PC speaker beeps aren't tremendously impressive, but it's a tune at least in what is otherwise a remarkably silent game.  There are different song titles available, but all play the same melody, so the novelty wears off quickly. 

The Blue Room is owned by retired Lytton PD officer Bobby Lopez, but our main goal appears to be to SIT DOWN in the chair indicated by our coworker, Jack Cobb.  He's upset because his teenage daughter is doing drugs, and he wants help fingering the dealer.  He's also drinking a lot and his marriage is in trouble.  He breaks down sobbing as a few more officers join us to sing "Happy Birthday" and bring in a dancer named Hoochy Coochy Hannah, all at the most inappropriate time in this poor man's life.

Of course, the game has to keep us moving, so as the celebration winds down, Keith reminds Sonny that we've swapped shifts and we're due for swing shift briefing in fifteen minutes.  Dang it!  We have to quickly drive back to the station, shower, change, and get into the briefing room.

We're admonished about punctuality for briefings -- I must have been a little bit slow -- and the briefing informs us of a Missing Persons report filed this morning.  One Jose Martinez was last seen getting into a late-model light blue Cadillac, two days ago.  There's also a black Cadillac involved, perhaps the same one involved in Lonny West's murder, partial license plate L964.  Sonny's call number is 83-32 again.  I check Sonny's pigeonhole on the wall, and find a sealed envelope with a tip about illegal gambling in the back room of the Hotel Delphoria Cocktail Lounge.  Hmmmmm.  Might as well check that out.

It is not easy to park in front of the Hotel Delphoria -- we have to negotiate a diagonal parkway that's tricky with keyboard controls -- and I wonder if going in the front door, in uniform, is really the best plan.  I try to TIP DOORMAN, but that doesn't appear to be an option, and the lobby is strangely deserted, with nobody at the front desk.  I RING BELL and a clerk comes out of the office; while I can't TALK CLERK or ASK FOR ROOM, I can GET ROOM for $100... if I had $100 to spend.  So we can't get a room.

We can still wander around the dilapidated hotel, though, and visit the cocktail lounge, which sports a suspicious red padded door... locked, of course.  I try to ASK FOR ACTION from Woody the bartender, but the parser doesn't get my drift.  There's a storage room off to the left, and another door, with a sliding panel that has "easyspeak" written all over it.  KNOCK DOOR produces only "Go away!" or silence, and of course the door is locked; even the sliding window can't be opened from this side.

I decide Sonny should drink while he's on duty to try to earn the barkeep's trust, but simply ordering a BEER is enough to end the game.  Mr. Walls is very strict!  Trying again, I ask for GAMBLING but Woody claims ignorance.  Can we go up to the hotel's second floor?  Nope -- there are buttons marked Two, Three, and Four, but trying to use them only suggests that we get back to crime stopping.

So we should get back to patrolling and waiting for some kind of call to come in on the radio.  It isn't long before we get a possible stolen vehicle call, reported in our vicinity.  Is it one of the Cadillacs?  Yes!  The light blue one was seen near Jefferson High, and is suspected of drug involvement.

The first time I spot the car, I try to pull it over but the driver speeds up and pulls away.  Then I try to head him off and end up in a head-on collision, not a successful stop either, but a retry allows me to get close enough that he pulls over.  When I get out, dark music starts to play, and sure enough, the driver pulls a gun and shoots Sonny dead.  Guess I should have called for backup on this one!  On the retry, I radio for backup, Code-3.  Another officer arrives shortly, and this time... I get out of the car too soon, and get shot, though at least the bad guy gets shot too.  Still, we're dead and need to retry.

This time, I get out of the car and DRAW GUN before going anywhere -- but this punk just walks right up and shoots Sonny after I order him out of his vehicle.  On the next try, I tell him to GET OUT, then HALT and put his HANDS UP before he gets too close.  DROP WEAPON doesn't produce the desired result, but while his hands are up we can... no, he shoots us again while we're walking up to him.  What am I missing?  Well, I should probably LOAD my own WEAPON, that might help.   Attempts to order the alleged perp to PUT HANDS ON CAR and TURN AROUND don't do anything useful.  SHOOT MAN works, but the game is over; not exactly the right approach for general purposes, foreknowledge aside.  DROP PANTS, surprisingly, does something, though Sonny is the one who takes the order and ends up being shot naked in the street.

GET DOWN helps, and now we can CUFF MAN and SEARCH MAN to find some pocket change and a loaded handgun.  Jack takes the gun to check it into evidence, and he also radios in a Code-4 to clear the situation.  LOOK PLATE reveals the blue Cadillac's license number as UL6942, matching the partial plate reported by the witness to West's murder.  LOOK CAR reveals nothing immediate, but suggests we OPEN GLOVE COMPARTMENT.

Aha!  Here we find a black notebook and two driver's licenses.  The notebook looks like an illegal gambling to-do list -- "set up H.D. gambling" might refer to the Hotel Delphoria.  It also mentions "meet J.M. and L.W.", which might refer to Jose Martinez and the late Mr. West.  "2000 col R.G." and "initiate plan for dealer R.O." are more cryptic, and "Cindy $100.00" is also not particularly clear.  Only the $2000 and H.D. gambling items appear to be undone at this time.  The licenses belong to Marvin Hoffman of Chicago and Leroy Pierson of Newport Beach, but both photos resemble our perp at hand so these are likely fake IDs.

We have to go through the same procedure-heavy trip to jail with this more interesting prisoner, putting our weapon in the lockup, etc.  I try to SEARCH PRISONER one more time in case I missed something, but I'm advised that I should have done that while I had him on his belly earlier so I'll assume there's nothing more to find.

The jailer asks me what I'm booking him on, and I try MURDER, but that doesn't work. SUSPICION OF MURDER and HIT AND RUN don't work either.  But DRUGS will do, it seems.  He insists on being booked under one of his aliases, Marvin Hoffman, and claims he'll be out of here in no time.  After we put him in a cell, another officer stops by -- we've been summoned once more to Dooley's office.

After a long but uneventful drive back, we enter Dooley's domain -- he has a memo to read concerning Sonny, but the troublesome office "gremlin" has sprayed it with mace and his eyes are watering as he runs out of the office.  Sonny can read it, without touching it -- we have to stand behind Dooley's desk to do so, as apparently our hero is unable to read upside down -- and we learn that Sonny's transfer to Narcotics has been approved!  We need to report to Lt. Morgan's office in street clothes, which of course means we need to shower again.  I try the t-shirt and jeans as "suitable street clothes," rather than Sonny's normal civilian outfit, and I take the gun and briefcase; I don't think we'll be writing any tickets but we'll see what happens.

Morgan puts us on the Hoffman case, partnered with Detective Laura Watts.  We then check out our new Narcotics desk, where Laura shows us the file cabinet, the keyboard for unmarked cars available.  Our new Radio Call number is 83-Nora-10.  We're no longer assigned a pigeonhole in the briefing room, as we now have our own desk.  We also learn that Hoffman has a hotshot lawyer from out of town, and has bail set at only $500,000.  We need to show cause to justify a No Bail Warrant, as soon as possible.

Maybe we should try to visit the person to whom the car is registered -- one Malcolm Washington at 234 W. Center street in Lytton.  And looking up Hoffman's other alias, Leroy Pierson, places him in room #334 at the Delphoria Hotel.  We also find an FBI Most Wanted listing on the narcotics clipboard for a Jason Taselli, known to use the last names Harris and Hoffman, wanted for murder of a drug courier, and learn that he has a tattoo of a flower above his left nipple, matching Marie's description earlier.  Taselli is wanted for arrest under FED Warrant #123-1985, which ought to be enough to keep him locked up.

We'll go back to the Hotel Delphoria and check out "Hoffman's" room.  Do we need a warrant?  While I'm thinking about that, I forget to do a proper inspection of the car again and get stuck with a flat tire again, requiring a restore.  I stop by the courthouse, but end up interrupting court in session and being thrown out by the bailiff; clearly we are not in an emergency situation just yet, so I'll restore again and see what I can learn at the Delphoria without a legal search.

I learn... not much, as it turns out; we're not allowed to go to the third floor by the game, this is apparently  not considered vital police work.  Restoring again, I try to phone the courthouse to bring up the warrant for Hoffman/Taselli, but I don't have the courthouse number.  I do note that the Narcotics office clipboard cites a slightly different warrant for Taselli's arrest - #219293-1985.

Can we wait for Judge Palmer's court to end its session?  Can we do anything at the jail?  I stop in there, and the jailer tells me that Hoffman's lawyer is in the process of bailing him out in the front reception area.  Hoffman seems to respond to the name "Taselli," anyway, so we're on the right track.  Trying to talk to the jailer produces "I bet you wish you had a No Bail Warrant!"  So I guess we need to get that worked out.

I restore and poke around the office a little bit more, as Laura returns to urge Sonny to get to the courthouse and obtain a No Bail Warrant.  What are we missing?  I try to use the notepad but I don't think this is recognized by the game.  And I still get thrown out of the courtroom.

I probably need some evidence.  I can't seem to take the clipboard with me, but I can TAKE POSTER while looking at it (TAKE WANTED only notes that the clipboard must remain here in the office.)  And I can TAKE HOFFMAN ('s information folder) from the cabinet.

Now we have more luck -- though I had to look at a walkthrough to learn that we must also tell the courthouse clerk that this is an EMERGENCY before we can talk to the judge.  We also have to wait a moment for acknowledgment before we can productively walk into the courtroom.  But I'm short some evidence -- I don't have the crucial nipple information?  Ah, I have to cite the TATTOO and not the NIPPLE it adorns.  And then the female Judge jovially echoes a memorable Watergate-era line: "It appears your friend has his tit caught in the wringer!"

We have our warrant, but there's no time to lose as we rush across the street to the jail.  We SHOW WARRANT to the jailer, and Taselli is now our guest for the foreseeable future.  But he still won't talk, so we'll have to go back to the station I guess.

When we arrive, Laura is waiting outside.  She gets in the car and we're off to Lytton City Park for a stakeout, anticipating a drug deal rumored to be imminent.  The park is on the west side of town. We park, and get out of the car -- well, Sonny does, Laura's job is to move the car out of sight and provide backup at a distance.  We hide behind a bush, where we can see a suspiciously prominently placed picnic table while some criminally-inclined music plays.  Eventually a young guy in dark clothes shows up, looking paranoid, and then a man in sunglasses arrives.  Cash is exchanged for a bag containing a white substance -- we're definitely not in Daventry here:

The two men get into an argument, and while they are distracted, we can DRAW GUN and sneak up.  The drug dealer is armed, of course.  We should also LOAD GUN, as I learn on my first fatal, failed attempt, and it's useful to RADIO LAURA to keep her apprised and ready to take down anyone who runs.  Actually, DRAW GUN seems to raise fatal suspicions from the dealer, so maybe that isn't such a good idea.  But if I don't draw it soon enough, both guys run off.

I try to type fast enough to SAY HALT three times and then SHOOT PUSHER, but he escapes too quickly.  Does he always flee to the right?  I'm staking out the scene on the left side of the screen.  The only bush on the right that's tall enough is the topmost one, so let's try it there instead.  Nope, the pusher still flees, running off screen left this time?  Ah, I forgot to DRAW GUN so my HALT commands were taken as empty threats.

Even with the gun drawn, I am still having problems.  I USE RADIO to alert Laura to grab the pusher, but the buyer runs away instead of halting as I have seen him do before.  After a few more attempts, I realize that I don't have the gun drawn even though I think I do; DRAW GUN operates as a toggle, and while I'm hiding behind the bush I can't see which state Sonny is in, so after each restore I've been holstering it when I try to draw it a second time.  With the gun drawn, HALT gets the buyer to stop, and USE RADIO gets Laura to intercept the dealer.  Whew!

Now I have to put the gun away, CUFF MAN, and... well, I make a fatal error when I immediately try to TALK MAN.  We have to READ RIGHTS before we're allowed to question him.  The young man still cooperates -- his name is Simms, and he's been the drug connection at Jefferson High School.  When we return to the patrol car, Laura has the dealer under control.  Simms tells us the dealer's name is Don Colby, and he replaced Jose Martinez as his connection.  Colby refuses to answer any questions.

We take the participants in this transaction to jail; Laura keeps an eye on them while we go through the usual routine, booking them on DRUGS.  Laura gives Sonny kudos as we get back in the car and return to the station.  She says she'll take care of the arrest paperwork, and suggests Sonny go to the Blue Room and tell Jack we've arrested the dealer who was supplying his daughter.  We do so, telling him that Victor Simms is under arrest.  But we may be too late -- Kathy is in a coma from a drug overdose.  He feels hopeless and is very drunk, so the bartender has called him a cab.

Jack leaves with the bartender, but I seem to be stuck here -- I can't LEAVE TABLE or GET UP or STAND or GET OUT.  After a delay, it turns out there's just some storytelling going on -- fellow officer Keith shows up with some bad news.  Taselli has escaped from jail, jumping a guard and climbing over the exercise fence.  Morgan needs Sonny back in the office ASAP!

Lt. Morgan advises us to take a look at the black book impounded with Taselli's other evidence; we did so earlier, but it appears we can now take some action at the Hotel Delphoria.  We GET BOOK from the evidence lockup, and this time I think to turn the pages and see some other details I missed earlier -- "meet N/W boss" and "3:00 lunch Robert G." are potentially interesting.  There are also to-dos for "discipline pimp 1" and "pimp 2" as well as the completed terminations of L.W. and J.M. suggested earlier.  There's also something going on with an organization from the East Coast, a reference to someone known as the Gutless Wonder, and something about a "Plan 3" to be initiated.

Returning to Morgan, we learn that our friend "Sweet Cheeks" may  know something, and she's currently in jail, so she may be able to help us with cover at the Hotel Delphoria.  Maybe we're going to be Pimp 1!

Sonny gets into his undercover car (we still have to walk around it for a safety check) and drives to the jail.  Marie's dialogue leaves something to be desired here; she comes off not so much as a hardened, adult prostitute, but a lost and manipulative puppy, with lines like, "Oh, Precious! I'm so happy to see you!"  and "Oh, Sonny! If only I had someone like you to call my own!"  Sonny's isn't much better after she kisses him through the bars: "Wow, Sweet Lips!  Was that hot, or what?!"  Suddenly we're watching Grease, it appears, and I can't help but note that she's a prostitute, Sonny.  If she can't even kiss well, she's surely in the wrong line of work.

All Marie will say after all this drama is, "Oh please, get me out of this place!"  So I try to leave the jail, but the game ends abruptly because I failed to "enlist Sweet Cheeks."  We must have to do something specific to get the undercover operation set up, but I can't seem to ASK MARIE ABOUT DELPHORIA or ENLIST SWEET CHEEKSTELL MARIE ABOUT OPERATION doesn't work either, but ASK MARIE FOR HELP does.  Well, it does, if we enter HELP WITH OPERATION after that; I needed a walkthrough to get there.  We don't need a meeting with the District Attorney or anything; it appears Sonny has the power to release her.  We tell Marie to meet with Lieutenant Morgan after she is released, and the jailer informs us that Morgan is sending a car to pick her up.

On the way back to the station, Sonny's radio requests ID of a 187 victim at Cotton Cove.  This is the park area in the lower right-hand corner of the map -- we can see a couple of patrol cars parked there in the overhead driving view, and when we GET OUT we see two uniformed officers and a body covered by a sheet.

We're asked to ID the body -- "Is this the dude you arrested?" -- and though I LOOK MAN and LOOK UNDER SHEET to no avail, when I throw all respect to the winds and GET SHEET I see a swollen body resembling Jason Taselli.  I have to LOOK AT TASELLI to peel back the shirt and find the all-important nipple tattoo.  I RETURN SHEET and Steve asks, "Are you going to inform Dispatch?"; duly reminded, I USE RADIO to do so and now the coroner is on his way.

Do I wait around?  The game doesn't seem to stop me from leaving, so I'll go back to the station and report to Lieutentant Morgan.  We find him talking to Marie and Detective Laura -- the plan is that Sonny will check into the Hotel Delphoria as "Jimmy Lee Banksten" and meet Sweet Cheeks in the hotel cocktail lounge.  We have to order a drink; she'll recognize us as "Whitey," an ex-con, and introduce us to the bartender Woody Roberts, who we correctly surmised is the contact for the back room gambling operation.  We'll have ample cash in marked bills, and Laura is providing a disguise -- a white suit and bleached hair, with a cane incorporating a detachable Derringer and a voice transmitter disguised as a pen (Lytton apparently has quite the budget for investigative spy gadgetry.)

Morgan dismisses the others, and tells Sonny to report back to him after getting into disguise.  Sergeant Dooley enters to report that Jack Cobb's daughter Kathy has died, just to raise the stakes a little as we prepare to nab these miscreants.

We go to the locker room, OPEN LOCKER, REMOVE CLOTHES, TURN ON SHOWER, USE BLEACH, RINSE HAIR, etc. and finally WEAR SUIT (it's apparently a "pimp suit" according to the ensuing description.) 

Morgan tells us to contact him after we infiltrate the gambling activities, and provides one thousand dollars in marked bills.  Then Homicide detective Oscar Hamilton radios in to tell us that Taselli was murdered execution-style.  We have to return the radio extender before we head out, as it doesn't really go with the rest of our costume.

We pull up to the Hotel Delphoria and visit the bar as planned.  We ORDER DRINK, responding BOURBON to the bartender's query, and Marie shamelessly overacts as she recognizes us.  We pay with a marked hundred, and the bartender makes change.  Marie excuses herself while we tell the bartender we're looking for a good time.  But he's not forthcoming about the back room.  I try to TALK BARTENDER and TIP BARTENDER and TIP 20 and TIP TWENTY and just say ACTION, but I get nowhere.  Finally I try to PAY BARTENDER, even though I already did, and with the additional incentive he asks what we're looking for in the way of a good time.  Ahem.

Woody tells us it will cost 200 just to get in the back-room card game, and we tell him we'll be back after we finish with Sweet Cheeks.  We walk out to the elevator, with Marie following.

I'm not quite sure what to do now, so I PUSH THREE in the elevator to go to the third floor and snoop around.  All four rooms here are locked, so we'll go back down to the second floor, with the same result.  Maybe we need to actually get a room from the clerk in the lobby -- this works, now that we have $100 to spend, and we obtain the key to room 204.  I try to KISS MARIE after we get into the room, but she knows we're on duty now.

I OPEN DRESSER to find nothing of interest, explore the bathroom (which doesn't get its own display, it's just an alcove off of the main room), and USE PHONE, though the random number I try is disconnected.  Dialing 411 actually works -- I get the number and dial Lt. Morgan at 555-7764 -- but there's no answer?  I can't get the number for Lytton Police, and dialing 911 isn't allowed by members of the force.  So I restore to an older save and check the phone on Morgan's desk -- the number there is 555-6674, so there must be an error in the phone book!  Returning to the present, Morgan asks who's speaking, so I answer WHITEY just to stay in character.  He directs me to send Marie back to the station via cab, so I attempt to use 411 to get the number for the CAB COMPANY -- this works, and I dial 555-9222 to call a car.  DELPHORIA as an answer for the pickup doesn't work, but HOTEL does; apparently Lytton only has one such establishment.

Now I'll see if the bartender will accept our 200 dollars to provide access to the card game.  We PAY 200 in the bar, and Woody escorts Whitey to the game behind the speakeasy door we checked out earlier.  The bartender says he needs to frisk Whitey, but GET FRISKED and ALLOW FRISK don't seem to do anything.  We just have to walk up and stand near him, and then we're allowed into the game.

Two tables are full, but one has two empty seats -- we SIT DOWN and are allowed to join the game with Gene and Otto, but we are waiting for a fourth player to return.  We can't GET UP or STAND, but number four, Frank, comes back soon enough.

This is yet another early Sierra game that requires us to actually gamble successfully in order to progress.  We have $665 to start with, and can bet in $10 chips.  The first round ends -- I am not the winner -- and while a parser prompt appears I can't seem to produce any reaction.  I try to QUIT, but this quits the entire game.

Trying again, I win with a straight and have $825.  Then I figure out I have to ANTE UP, putting down a chip to start another round.  It takes me several rounds, restoring to better status when I lose a hand and saving after a gain.  I end up benefiting from a few odd situations where everyone else folds right away, and end up with $1005 in winnings, at which point the poker game ends and we return to the back room.

We're congratulated and told that a higher-stakes game will be played later tonight; the password "Frank sent you!" will get us into the private room.  I return to Sonny's hotel room and try calling Lieutenant Morgan, but there's no answer.

Suddenly, there's a knock and three men enter.  Fortunately, these are our fellow detectives, ready to assist in cracking the gambling ring.  I try to TALK DETECTIVE but I'm never close enough, it seems -- I think this room only wants to let us TALK on the telephone -- so we'll just try the password out and see what happens.

FRANK SENT YOU doesn't work, but inverting the grammar so that FRANK SENT ME (which makes more sense anyway) works.  Woody escorts us to a back room, and Sonny now realizes that "Frank" is Jessie Bains, the Death Angel!

We have to play some more poker, and when I get to $1300+ the gambling ends again (I don't know what is supposed to be "high stakes" about this second game, as we are still working with ten dollar chips.)  This time we are invited to discuss business elsewhere, if we'll just answer YES to a couple of questions and then follow "Frank."  This is a bit tricky on a laptop without a numeric keypad, I discover, as we have to take the back stairs, requiring a lot of diagonal movement, and I get completely stuck trying to move from the third floor to the fourth, where an actual diagonal is needed and alternating up/right keys won't work at all.  But leaving the stairwell and taking the elevator instead isn't an option -- the game ends if we lose sight of our suspect.  I finally figure out that my PgUp key works as an upper-right diagonal move, and manage to get stubborn Sonny Bonds up the stairs!

"Frank" leads me to room 404 and invites me to fix a drink.  Then he draws a gun, saying one of his underlings recognized Sonny -- and shoots us!  DEAD!  Drat!!!  I was supposed to transmit my location to the detectives, I learn posthumously.  And of course I can't USE TRANSMITTER just before entering the room, because I don't have it on me!  Morgan didn't give me such a device, or else I have left it lying somewhere in my travels.

Fortunately, I restore and am able to GET TRANSMITTER from Detective Angland before leaving Sonny's room for the second poker game.  I USE TRANSMITTER just before entering the room, and cross my fingers as Bains pulls a gun once again.  A knock on the door diverts his attention, as we (non-interactively) pull our gun off the cane and join the detectives to take Bains down in a "barrage of gunfire."  Nothing succeeds like excess!

Bains survives all the shooting -- for drama's sake, only one of the four officers aims well enough to hit him in the belly, with lots of shots flying wide to hit the large picture window behind him.  And now the Death Angel can be brought to justice, prosecuted on illegal gambling, drug trafficking, attempted murder, and first degree murder charges, and convicted of the same by a jury.  He threatens Bonds with the de rigeur threat etiquette requires in these situations, whispering, "Bonds, you're a dead man!" before being taken off to prison. 

Victory is ours!  A ticker-tape parade is held, and Sonny is officially recognized on the courthouse steps, as Sierra congratulates us and pushes a few other Quests we might want to try.

I'm short some points, but am satisfied that the story has been told.  Mostly I find myself wondering why Bains isn't being prosecuted on any prostitution charges, mentioned on his rap sheet earlier, but my confusion is cleared up as "Sweet Cheeks" Marie shows up on the courthouse steps to kiss Sonny in full view of everybody, including the Mayor and the Chief of Police.  This suggests that the good folks of Lytton are A-OK with prostitution, although when we try to KISS MARIE back, we get an indignant "How can you do that?" from the parser.

Police Quest's more realistic setting is also more mundane than its companion AGI Sierra 3-D adventures, and the game's design is very linear -- while we can occasionally check out an area before the plot requires it, we are very much at the mercy of external events and strict procedural limitations.  I'm glad most of the things we can do wrong get flagged quickly, avoiding a lot of end-game dead-ends I might otherwise have run into, but the way the game treats any minor misstep as a fatal, game-ending error is clumsy and gets tiresome after a while.  I still enjoyed playing Police Quest and am glad I finally got to experience the original version; I may replay the 1992 VGA remake in the near future, just to compare.


  1. Hello. Just a couple of things: you seem to have played the entire game without changing your driving speed; I didn't even think that was possible. :) There are keyboard shortcuts to change the speed (not the speed of the game, though that's also available, just the speed of your car), and at the fastest speed the car siren is turned on, and you can legally drive through red lights. I imagine it's also easier to stop other cars when doing it.

    Also, you mentioned PC speaker sound. It's not a *huge* improvement, but all AGI games can be played with PCjr / Tandy sound, which has 3 channels and a noise generator. On DOSbox, you have to select "tandy" as the machine type; on ScummVM I think it's the default (but you can make sure by choosing PCjr sound manually).

    One other thing: while I was able to beat the game by using trial and error on the police procedures back in the day, that was because I had a manual-less pirate copy (at the time you couldn't get original games in Portugal even if you wanted to, believe it or not). Most of that stuff (like how to handle dangerous suspects) is in there. Did you want to increase the challenge by ignoring the manual? :)

    1. LOL -- well, now that I've gone looking, I've realized that the GOG.com downloader actually puts the more substantial documentation, map, etc. in a separate location from the game itself. So the only manual I had to work with when I started the game was the manual PDF file included with the executables -- and it has NONE of the important details. I didn't go looking for a reference card until I got stuck on the stairwell near the very end and was trying to figure out how to walk diagonally, and at that point all the driving was in the past. So yes, it is possible to putter around at the default speed and still finish the game!

      I'm aware that the AGI era had three-voice music using the Amiga interpreter, so I figured the data had to be in there somewhere. This game just has almost NO score at all -- music plays in just a few key areas, so I guessed I wasn't missing much.

      Lots of room for variation in the experience on this one! :)

  2. This is incredible. Your writing style is amazing. As a 32 year old who grew up playing Police Quest, I was immediately transported back. Reading your observations and witticisms helped me see things in a completely new light. Well done, man!