Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Game 13: Police Quest I - Won!

Sonny Bonds Journal Entry 3: “It seems my day from hell has ended in the most unexpected way. I, Sonny Bonds, have taken out Jessie Bains (aka The Death Angel)! Not without a fair share of drama I’ll add, which when combined would probably be enough to write a book about one day. At the end of my last entry, I was trying to find a way to make sure Jason Taselli stayed behind bars. After trying and failing to figure out how to use the station printer, I ended up ripping off the FBI Most Wanted List I’d seen on the narcotics clipboard, hoping it would be enough to convince Judge Palmer. It was! With Taselli behind bars, Laura and I responded to a drug deal tipoff in the city park. It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience, but we arrested the dealer that’s been causing so much trouble at the local High School, along with some stupid kid that will probably get a slap on the wrist. It’s at this point where my day took a dramatic turn for the worse!


Another fine enactment of crime fighting that sadly involves merely following instructions to complete

Taselli had escaped prison just hours after I’d put him there, and a short while later, I was identifying his body down at Cotton Cove. Someone obviously wasn’t happy with the way the bust went down, and I soon found out whom that someone was! My next task was to go undercover and infiltrate the gambling scene at the Delphoria Hotel. I died my hair blonde and dressed up in the most ridiculous suit, but it obviously worked as I was in the secret back room playing poker in no time. Not only that, I won my way into a higher stake game later in the evening, where I was once again victorious. One of the players I beat turned out to be Jessie Bains, the number one most wanted man around, and he invited me up to his penthouse suite to discuss a business opportunity. I took the opportunity and thankfully I had back up, as someone tipped him off that I was a cop! I took him down before he could do any damage and The Death Angel will be spending a significant amount of time (as in the rest of his life) behind bars!”


The Death Angel goes down, the ultra-violent way! (First person to get my little joke gets 10 points, and it has nothing to do with Clockwork Orange)

Sorry for the long intro, but I’ve got through a heck of a lot in the last two nights leading up to the completion of Police Quest. In total, it’s taken me eight and a half hours to finish, and I’ll say straight up (before I make a bunch of criticisms) that I enjoyed the experience overall. It’s not going to top the leader board when all is said and done, but it won’t be a long way off either. I won’t spend too much time in this post giving overall impressions though and will leave that to the Final Rating post tomorrow. There’s still plenty to talk about that came out of the last third of the game, and I’ll start with where I left off last time. The downside of having a blog like this one is that a growing number of people watch me making mistakes and struggling through sections of games that are really quite easy. There are undoubtedly going to be times, if there haven’t already been some (the cell in Maniac Mansion for example), where you guys just can’t believe that I haven’t been able to solve something when the solution is right there in front of me. This has to be expected though as regardless of how simple things appear, one misunderstanding or one wrong command in adventure games can lead to misdirection and confusion. My printer woes in Police Quest are a perfect case in point!


The clipboard that made me look like a fool in front of all my friends! :(

You see, you don’t need to print anything in Police Quest. Nor do you need the computer that I found the warrant for Jason Taselli on. In fact, there’s absolutely no reason to ever go into the computer room in the police station in the first place. This begs the question of course…why is it there? Developers of adventure games have a bit of a balancing act to perform. On the one hand that want to create an environment that feels real and that has great depth, but on the other hand, they want to avoid drawing the player’s attention to irrelevant information and unintentional red herrings. Would a police station have a computer room? Sure...why not! But there’s not a single other room in the whole game where something doesn’t happen, so I don’t think I can be blamed for spending time in there trying to achieve something out of nothing. However, this red herring is not really the issue at heart when it comes to this particular puzzle. The issue is that all I needed to take with me to Judge Palmer, to convince him not let the suspect go free on bail, was the file from the cabinet, which I had, and the FBI Most Wanted List on the clipboard, which I’d read many times over. When I first read the FBI List, it seemed an obvious item to take to convince the judge, but my command “take page” was met with “take it where?”. I then tried to take the clipboard itself, but my command was met with “the clipboard cannot leave the narcotics office”. These two responses led me to believe that the evidence I needed was elsewhere, and when I found the Federal Warrant on the computer, that seemed to be the logical answer. Well, we all know how that went!


The first room I checked out in the game and the only one where I didn't do anything.

The answer in the end was to “take list” instead of “take page”, but it took some hints from Alfred and Tk for me to even try that (10 points to Alfred for getting in first, 10 points to Tk for such a spoiler free hint). All of this could have been avoided if the developers had been a little less finicky with what commands players could use in certain instances. I don’t recall other Sierra games being as painfully pedantic as Police Quest is when it comes to getting the words exactly right, and I’ll briefly jump ahead to another important section of the game to give another example of the pain it caused me. After cleaning up at the poker table for the first time, Jessie Bains told me to come back later and join him for a more private game where the stakes would be higher. I headed back up to my room, as there didn’t seem to be any other apparent thing to do in the meantime. Once I arrived, my backup team entered the room and told me they would have my back when I met up with Jessie again later on. Before leaving them, I took a look over the earlier screenshots where the undercover plan is first discussed, to see if there was anything else I needed to do. There was mention of two items I would need, the first being a gun hidden within my cane, and the second being a pen with a transmitter in it. I had the cane on me, but I couldn’t see the pen in my inventory. I thought I should ask the backup team whether they had the pen, so I typed “ask about pen”. The response was “how can you do that?”


Man, I just love to dance! Just gotta move my body you know! Ooohhhh... By the way, does anyone have a pen!?

Having at least asked the question and thinking that perhaps the pen was on me already (just not showing in my inventory), I went back downstairs and spent another twenty minutes playing poker, winning poker, following Jessie up to his penthouse, and then getting shot and killed because I didn’t have any way of telling my backup team where I was. Reloading back to when my backup and I are standing in my room, I tried “ask about transmitter” instead of “ask about pen”, and was subsequently given the device! I had to go and win numerous hands of poker all over again due to the game not accepting the word “pen” when describing a transmitter in the shape of a pen. You could argue that in these instances I should have spent more time asking the question in a different way, but the game gives you no indication that asking in any way might result in anything other than “how can you do that?” It doesn’t say “Bob doesn’t have a pen” or “you don’t need a pen”. Neither does the game make it clear as to whether the pen is something you need to get from the backup team. You’re told you will need it at some point, but not where to get it, who to get it from, or even if you already have it (why wouldn’t they just give it to me with the rest of the attire?). I can only describe it as lazy writing, which is surprising given how incredibly thorough Al Lowe in particular was for Leisure Suit Larry.


The two rules of poker success: 1) Never tell everything you know.

Thankfully, given that I had to spend a lot of time playing poker to finish the game, it’s fairly well implemented in Police Quest. I really enjoy poker and fancy myself to win a few hands here or there, and I think for the most part it plays ok here. I did notice that the opponents tended to fold more often than not when I had a good hand, suggesting some cheating AI, but overall I was able to apply the same tactics I would in real life with good results. A word of warning for anyone hoping to play the game down the track, make sure you set the game speed to fastest before sitting down at the table. The amount of time you spend waiting for cards to be dealt, for chips to be put down, and for decisions to be made is absolutely mind numbingly long if you have it on normal or even fast. Regardless of how good the poker minigame is, I did find it a little unusual to spend the last hour of an adventure game playing cards. Everything wraps up extremely quickly once you leave the table and in fact, there is absolutely no action needed by the player other than walking from the card room to the penthouse. The rest unfolds without user interaction, making the big climax feel less than satisfying in my opinion. I’ll save the rest of my ranting (and add some positives) to the Final Rating post, which I should be able to write tomorrow. For now, I’m going to prepare a little bit for one of the more daunting projects I’ve had since...well...since Mortville Manor. It’s nearly time for Shadowgate! I’m scared...really scared!


Nothing says victory like pashing a prostitute called Sweet Cheeks in front of the whole town. Living the dream!

24 comments:

  1. Uh oh, you beat me here Trickster. Congratulations! I still haven't figured out how to get rid of a certain person in the hotel, so I won't read the entry until I've given it a few more tries. :-)

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    1. I had a fair amount of trouble getting rid of Sweet Cheeks too! It really does appear that we've been stuck at similar positions throughout the game, which tells me my criticisms are valid.

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  2. Considering how realistic the game is supposed to be, it's surprising that all this could take place during one single day. I would suppose that in real life even the transfer from traffic to drug department might take a while.

    By the way, you can use the computer to gain some more information: you can search the code of Hoffman's gun in the computer, which will give you a number to Chicago PD and by phoning there you can learn that Hoffman has previously worked with drug lord Jesse Bains.

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    1. Yeah, I think we have to be a little forgiving on that front. I mean, I've played plenty of "realistic" RPGs, but I don't find myself having to look after my characters personal hygiene. We just assume that certain things happen. Making Sonny go home and sleep every few tasks just to keep the realism level high would not have had any positive affect on the outcome.

      So it appears there is a use for the computer after all, but my experience suggests it makes no difference other than for your score. Still, worth taking into account before I apply the PISSED rating. Thanks!

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    2. It's just interesting, because later PQ games do have clear day-night cycles. In one particular instance, Officer Bonds apparently spends a whole day in questioning one witness - and then it's time to hit the bed (those witnesses can be so tiresome).

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  3. I've noticed the ending seems to be where a lot of games fall down; I guess wrapping things up is hard. The rest is fine as long as you have good puzzles, but the ending? That takes good writing, which is much harder.

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  4. As far as the "pen" thing: Parser issues are forgivable for that time period, but lazy writing... not so much.

    Oooh, Shadowgate. I'm looking forward to seeing you tackle that one.

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  5. Another blow at the realism in this game is the chicken scene. I still remember how silly it was in a game with such a heavy emphasis on realism... and I agree with Ilmari that going from writing tickets to drunk drivers to an undercover operation to catch a drug lord in one day is one hell of a carrier jump! Look at this example, kids, if you work as hard as Sonny, you can become the best detective in the force in about a week!

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    1. Actually, now that I think of it, what the hell did all that have to do with anything anyway? Did I miss something or is the "gremlin" subplot never resolved?

      To explain a bit more: someone (known as the gremlin) is playing practical jokes on Officer Dooley. Mace on a memo, a chicken in his office, stuffing things in his pigeon hole etc., but from what I can tell, the culprit is never discovered.

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    2. You can find out who the gremlin is in PQ2.

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    3. Although the info is pretty well hidden.

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  6. Many congratulations, Officer Trickster - you're a credit to the force!

    Enjoy this while it lasts, because I notice Space Quest II is coming up, and it has some properly awful puzzles. I completed it (yet again) back in December, and followed up with the Infamous Adventures remake earlier this year. I will have hints at the ready!

    Don't think I ever played Shadowgate though, so I'm interested to see what that's like.

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    1. Well, I'm pleased to tell you that I've already played through Space Quest II previously, so as long as my memory functions properly, I should be ok with that one.

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  7. Ok, finished the game myself and I basically agree with all your points, Officer Trickster. I also feel a bit dirty, having had to peek at a walkthrough in two occasions to get unstuck (I'm not counting the little help I got here for getting to see Judge Palmer :-)). Some spoilers follow...

    I have some consolation for my first lapse, as I knew exactly how to get rid of the girl at the hotel, but I was at a complete loss as to which number to dial and 411 means nothing here. I should have at least thought of '0' though...

    But the pen thing? Awful. Not to mention that I realized something was missing only when I had already won the two poker games - with quite a bit of time and effort I must say, as I'm not too fond of or good at poker, and the sequence is slow and unskippable. The poor parser performance and textual feedback drove me nuts throughout the game, but this one instance was just unacceptable. I've looked around and apparently both issues were addressed later in the VGA remake.

    It's a shame that the negatives tended to pile up towards the end, but still I share your assessment that it was a good experience overall. On to Shadowgate!

    PS. Finished with 206 points

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    1. Well, I may have beaten you in time, but you beat me in points. I got 196.

      There's nothing more annoying than being clever enough to figure out the correct way to achieve something, but then being punished for not doing it in the exact way the game demands. It happened to me three times in Police Quest, with the pen thing having the biggest consequences.

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  8. Yay! Shadowgate next. I've only played the NES version, and I know some things weren't quite clear. I've heard it's a little better in the original (with longer descriptions). I think I'll check out the DOS version when you start up. It's one of my favorite adventure games, probably because it was the first one I was able to complete on my own--through much trial and error.

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    1. I'm petrified about playing the game. My experience with Uninvited was fairly traumatic!

      I've got a couple of days to man up and face my demons (and I assume some demons in the game too)!

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    3. Like most Icom games, prepare to die, a lot! Still, compared to Uninvited, this game is a masterpiece.

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  9. For anyone interested, I noticed GOG has added Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time to it's adventure catalogue. I haven't played the game, but it's on the list.

    http://www.gog.com/en/news/release_journeyman_project_3_the_legacy_of_time

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  10. Trickster, seeing as no one has taken a shot (hah) at your joke, could it be that you're referring to "The Ultra-violence", a 1987 album released by the band "Death Angel"?

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    1. Yes indeed! That's 10 points to you Charles!

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    2. Cool, more points! I want to take this moment to thank Wikipedia, which made this triumph possible. :-)

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  11. I'm sorry Trickster. I have to come clean, I haven't told you the truth.

    Well, not the whole truth. You see when I was playing this as a kid I finished it a couple of times, and not once did I ever get that no bail warrant. Yes, you don't actually need it to carry on the game. Whether Taselli walks free or escapes prison, he still gets gunned down and dumped into the river.

    Yes in one of the only times in a Sierra game where if you don't solve the puzzle you don't die (immediately or later), they put such a great emphasis on you must get that warrant or else.


    Also playing through again with you, I didn't get stuck on the transmitter. I remember the pain of that when now years later. The one which always get me stuck is administering the DUI test the drunk. I agree the parser in PQ1 is quite picky at times.

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