The original Police Quest game...the one that made me love computer games.
In 1987, capitalizing on the success of their King's Quest adventure
game, Sierra released Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (usually
known just as Police Quest) using the same AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter)
interface engine. With EGA graphics and text interface, it sure
isn't pretty to look at--but that ain't the point. The beauty of
the game lies in its incredible realism and captivating story. Sierra
used retired LAPD police officer Jim Walls as a consultant on the
game, and it was well worth their while...you truly feel
like a police officer in the game. Failure to follow proper police
procedure is a bad idea, and usually deadly: Forget to check for flat
tires before you get in your squad car? Unholster your sidearm
in a situation that doesn't call for it? Arrest someone without a
warrant? Run a red light without your siren on? You'll be
seeing "GAME OVER" on the screen before you can say due process. The game comes with an extensive "City of Lytton Police Officer's Operations Manual", and you'll need to become familiar with it to be successful at the game. You'll also want to take a long look at the gigantic map of Lytton included in the game box (unless you want to drive around for weeks on end stopping at random buildings).
In the game you play as Sonny Bonds, a common police officer in the
ficticious citty of Lytton, California. Drug dealing is on the
rise, and no one seems to know why--only murmurs of one name, the "Death
Angel". You start off just doing your beat on the streets of Lytton
when you discover that an apparent car accident in your area was in fact
a murder. Tracing that murder back to a scumbag named Jason Taselli--and
finding out that he has connections to Jessie Bains, AKA the Death Angel--puts
you on your way to being transferred to the Narcotics Division and eventually
unravelling the heart of the mystery. With some help from Sweet
Cheeks Marie, a hooker you meet during the game who ends up working for
the police department, you end up going undercover in the Hotel Delphoria
to infiltrate the Death Angel's inner circle and take him down.
What made this game remarkable for me is how much freedom the game allowed
you--while you certainly do die often, there were almost no restrictions
on what you could try. You can go absolutely anywhere in the city
in your squad car at any time, interacting with the various characters
and searching for clues. There are lots of funny bits of dialogue
interspersed, so even if you're complete off the beaten path, you'll
probably get a laugh or two at what you discover. While this does
occasionally lead to the "revisit-all-5000-locations-and-figure-out-what-I-missed" problem, more often than not it just adds to the police atmosphere of the game. You get points whenever you advance the storyline a little bit, and that's just about your only way of knowing just how far you are in the game.
There's only one near-impossible puzzle in the game, and it's right
near the end. While you're undercover at the Hotel Delphoria, the
bartender suggests that you "ditch your girlfriend" and then come back
downstairs to finish up business. Marie is your "girlfriend" at this
point, and she follows your character around inside the Delphoria.
When I was originally playing this game at age 9, I spent months
walking around the hotel trying in vain to find a way to get her to stop
following me. Somehow, from "ditch your girlfriend" you're supposed
to deduce that you should go up to your hotel room, dial 411 on the telephone,
find out the number to a taxi service, and then call a taxi for Marie to
driver her away for the hotel. I mean, what the fuck?! I had to order the freakin' hint book to get past this (this was before online walkthroughs, kids).
But really, aside from that one minor boggle, Police Quest really
is an amazing game and one of the landmarks of the entire industry.
A VGA re-release version with an "improved" interface system was made in
1992, but for the full experience I strongly recommend you find a copy
of the original and spend an afternoon immersing yourself in the first
(and arguably the last) truly great police classic.