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 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.