Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Game 21: Police Quest 2 - Final Rating

Well, this should be interesting. I’ll skip the standard pre-PISSED pondering and jump in to see just how far up the leader board Police Quest 2 can go...

Puzzles and Solvability
It’s strange really. Whenever I read any of the short blurbs about Police Quest 2 on the net, they always seem to mention how the game placed even more importance on following exact police protocol to succeed than the original. Those comments are actually very misleading, as while there is a much stronger focus on finding evidence in crime scenes and more points are given to the player for following protocol, more often than not success can be achieved without paying any attention to that stuff at all. I missed heaps of evidence in the game, and I only needed to open the manual about twice during the whole game, a marked improvement on the first game. Rewarding extremely thorough players while giving some leeway for those players looking more for entertainment was certainly pioneering (I can’t think of any earlier games that did this to anywhere near the same extent).


Pixel hunting with the parser actually requires using your brain

Just as in Manhunter, a fair bit of time was spent going through all the little bits of evidence I’d collected to find a way forward, yet unlike that game, the puzzles in Police Quest 2 appear to be created to fit in with the story rather than the other way around. But, as usual, it’s not all good! The beginning scenes of the game are extremely difficult, and gaining the first thirty points and getting out of the police station was harder than anything that followed. In particular, finding the business card in the car is not very easy, and finding the code on the back of it even harder. Don’t get me started on the storage bin positioning either. I’m sure that puzzle ended the game for many players over the years. More annoying than all of these those was the invisible five minute timer to get out of the station, and I'm dropping a whole point off the game for that alone. I also can’t ignore the presence of intentional endgame delayers, such as the gun sight adjustment drama that pops up during the plane hijacking, so I can’t go higher than a 5, despite being thoroughly impressed.
Rating: 5


Not the right wire?

Interface and Inventory
The interface of Police Quest 2 is more than adequate when it comes to movement. There were very few climbing and obstacle issues to be dealt with, and while I did have a couple of minor incidents that required restores with Sonny getting stuck (if I stood in a spot that Keith wanted to move to when control was temporarily taken away from me, he would walk around the screen endlessly), I can’t recall any other dramas. There were however a few parser issues. Nowhere near to the extent I’d found in Larry 2, but I had significant trouble getting the code off the business card despite figuring it was there early on, and I also seemed to have problems whenever I tried to discuss mug shots with pretty much anyone. One surprising negative in the game was the inventory. After stacks of Sierra adventure games had very similar yet entirely functional inventory systems, all of a sudden Police Quest decided not to have one at all. Pressing tab brought up a “You are carrying...” message, but actually finding what I wanted in it became more and more difficult as the amount of items I had increased.
Rating: 5


Why yes, I have one of those right here! It's just...um...hang on a second...oh it's here somewhere!

Story and Setting
There are two things I should say up front here. Firstly, I don’t have a lot of interest in police or detective stories. I’m much more a Game of Thrones / Walking Dead type of guy than a CSI / 24 fan. Secondly, I wanted Bains dead! Despite my genre preferences, the guys in charge of the Police Quest 2 story did a good job of making me hate the guy, and they even managed to make me care somewhat for Marie despite my reservations over her past profession. Yes, the whole thing is entirely shallow and cliché, following a similar plot to endless movies on DVD shelves, but it actually worked very well within the limitations of the adventure game trappings, and beats the majority of other efforts of the time hands down. The fact that I actually got the opportunity to kill the guy at the end, and that the event itself (and those that followed) were handled seriously, only added to the satisfaction. I even enjoyed the hijacking scene, despite how out of place and contrived it felt in an already action packed couple of days.
Rating: 6


Well since you asked, I guess you can come up with a half convincing reason why I need to assist you scuba diving.

Sound and Graphics
For the most part I didn't really notice the sound when playing Police Quest 2. I was going to write something about how it was pretty much devoid of effects and music, apart from during the intro, the driving scenes and the short tunes that celebrate the gaining of points. But when I went back to a few scenes to make sure, I realised that wasn't entirely correct! There's probably no less sound than other Sierra games of the time, but it's really very subtle in this one, with effects only used to emphasise certain actions and a fair amount of moody background music during the darker scenes. When the theme music does kick in…well, it's of the distinctly eighties symphonic variety. It’s pretty awful, but I don’t really know whether it was intentionally awful, or whether it's just aged very badly. It could very well be a take-off of the many cop shows that were on TV during that time. Considering the quality of Mark Seibert's other work, I'm thinking it might have been.


I don't know why I needed these ear protectors. The gun sounds like a breaking stick.

The graphics are far better than in the original Police Quest and probably on par with those found in Leisure Suit Larry 2, but once again I don’t think they quite meet the standard set by King’s Quest IV (nor does the sound for that matter). On the positive side, despite the shift from the AGI engine to the SCI one, the creators still managed to keep the game visually consistent. In hindsight, I was pretty generous with Larry 2 when I gave it the same mark as King’s Quest IV, but I can’t continue to be that liberal. Then again it seems a bit harsh to give the game the same rating as Gold Rush for this category. I’m starting to realise that this category is going to become quite difficult to score down the track. In all other categories I can compare new games to old ones without being unreasonable, but not this one. If I could give it 5.5 I would, so I'll round it up.
Rating: 6


The graphics team didn't skimp on the detail, but why do they keep resorting to that horrible light blue!

Environment and Atmosphere
All up, Lytton is a fairly convincing place. Just as in the first game, Sonny ventures to many different locations in the city, giving the impression of a large, thriving community. The developers did miss an opportunity to increase this feeling by not having “extras” in very many scenes though. Sure, there are some other people standing around in the airport and seated on the plane, but pretty much none of them move or appear to be living their own life. Compare Police Quest 2 to Gold Rush (or even Manhunter to a lesser extent) and the difference is apparent. As much as I don’t think the omission of the top-down driving scenes from the first game damages the sequel, those sections also added to the overall feel of the original. But I’m nit-picking! The cinematic scenes (shootout by the river, scuba diving, plane hijack, motel booby trap) really pack a punch and raise the stakes, as does the story, with Bains always just one step ahead.
Rating: 6


It's no action game, but Police Quest 2 has it's fair share of pulse-raising drama

Dialogue and Acting
While there are a few attempts at humour in the dialogue, the majority of Police Quest 2 contains the same police jargon heavy talk that was found in the first game of the series. There are lots of codes used while driving around that you can look up if you want to, but it’s not really necessary as it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. I can’t say anything stood out as exceptional or terrible, but I can’t discuss dialogue without mentioning the dodgy accents that pop up from time to time, particularly Officer Gelepsi. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing necessarily, and I have to admit to chuckling a little bit, but I have to wonder whether anyone would use such racially stereotypical devices today. I guess the reality is they don’t have to, as voice acting just seems far less offensive, unless it’s clearly a non-local slaughtering a country’s language and accent. In the end, the dialogue found throughout the game is fairly realistic, but in an entertaining way.
Rating: 6


It'a almost made'a me bring'a up my spaghetti'a!


Shocked? So am I! Who would have thought that Leisure Suit Larry’s position as top Sierra game would be equalled by a Police Quest game? When I held the poll for which classic Sierra series was everyone’s favourite, the Police Quest series came in last with 5% of the votes. The reader-predicted scores for this particular sequel were all in the fifties, so I knew it wasn’t going to be terrible, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I don’t have any reservations about giving Police Quest 2 a higher score than the previous two SCI games. It’s a better game, with a much more satisfying story, and some great, thought provoking puzzles. Well worth your time if you can just get through the infuriating opening scenes.

Companion Assist Points for Police Quest 2: The Vengeance
It’s time to dish out (and perhaps deduct) some points for those that predicted things and assisted me along the way.

115 CAPs for MacDuff
* 10 CAPs for motivating me through session one
* 5 CAPs for passing Ilmari's Gremlin challenge
* 10 CAPs for answering my question regarding the timer
* 20 CAPs for being a true companion and playing the game with me
* 50 CAPs for being the 100000th visitor to The Adventure Gamer
* 20 CAPs for celebrating the 100000 hits milestone

55 CAPs for Canageek
* 20 CAPs for being the closest score predictor two games in a row
* 10 CAPs from a CAP trade with Zenic Reverie
* 5 CAPs for a GOG release announcement
* 20 CAPs for celebrating the 100000 hits milestone

40 CAPs for Charles
* 20 CAPs for being a true companion and playing the game with me
* 10 CAPs for highlighting missed evidence
* 10 CAPs for correctly solving the Donnie Darko riddle

30 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
* 20 CAPs for being a true companion and playing the game with me
* 10 CAPs for highlighting missed evidence

25 CAPs for Ilmari
* -5 CAPs for the Gremlin challenge
* 10 CAPs for highlighting missed evidence
* 20 CAPs for celebrating the 100000 hits milestone

23 CAPs for TBD
* 13 CAPs for correctly solving the Jason Vorhees riddle
* 5 CAPs for answering my oxygen tank question
* 5 CAPs for explaining the bomb disarming solution

20 CAPs for Alfred n the Fettuc
* 20 CAPs for celebrating the 100000 hits milestone

10 CAPs for rotgrub
* 10 CAPs for his superb Sims related joke

10 CAPs for Zenic
* -10 CAPs for a CAP trade with Canageek
* 20 CAPs for celebrating the 100000 hits milestone

-5 CAPs to Tk
* -10 CAPs for incorrectly betting against me
* 5 CAPs for highlighting missed evidence

-30 CAPs to Lars-Erik
* -50 CAPs for adding Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess to the playlist
* 20 CAPs for celebrating the 100000 hits milestone

That's a lot of CAPs! I hope you spend them wisely!

Canageek and Ilmari: I'll spend a bit of time tomorrow figuring out how many CAPs Ilmari has earned since your arrangement. I totally forgot about that!

29 comments:

  1. For anyone that saw my initial score of 58, I've dropped it back down to 57 after further consideration.

    I just couldn't ignore how frustrating the invisible five minute timer was!

    Just figuring out CAP distribution now.

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  2. Biggest surprise of the tournament so far, definitely! :-)
    Can't say I disagree with the score. What's funny is that LSL1 holds a dear place in my memories (and it is a very different game after all), yet I can plainly see how PQ2 can overtake it in the sheer adventuring department, if just by a small margin. It's not all rosy nostalgia glasses!

    That's the second time in a row we've been pleasantly surprised by a game who entered the arena with low expectations. Will Psycho break the streak?

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    1. Pretty sure it will. But I'm a sucker for punishment...obviously!

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  3. If anyone is still planning to celebrate the big 100000 (details in the PQ2 - Won post), it will likely be two days until I post an intro for Psycho. 20 CAPs reward on offer!

    Tomorrow will be a What's Your Story post.

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    Replies
    1. Had been busy so thought I'd missed out on those points, will crack open a beer when I get home from work!

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    2. 20 CAPs coming your way. :)

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  4. Wow, I'm in the lead on CAPs. Finally, I have enough for Fatty Bear, at least until we get together enough for Emanuelle.

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  5. Well, the CAPs system is becoming more and more complex, but more and more interesting at the same time. Way to make an entrance, MacDuff! Congrats on exploding in the top five in one time!

    Anyway, I'm quite surprised by the score as well, but not by the leaderboard. If I can make a long-term bet, it would be that in a few months, every leading seats will be taken by Lucasarts games (it's already the case), followed probably by a few of the Sierra masterpieces.

    Regarding the Graphics grade, if I can suggest, you could always note the game only compared to games released the same year. I scratched my head equally when I tried to figure out a way in my blog to be fair with games from different eras regarding this category. I think the style should be more important than the graphic quality. IMHO, Loom would deserve a much better grade than Runaway or Ceville, for example. The former has a fascinating art style, while the latters, even if they have high-quality hi-res graphics, have a kind of ugly art style.

    Then again, it's only my opinion.

    Anyway congrats on completing your 21st game! Your blog has now legal drinking age! Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, it's an Australian blog, so it was allowed to drink after King's Quest IV.

      But it was probably trying to get older kids to buy it alcohol around about Space Quest II.

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    2. Too true TBD! In fact, I suspect the blog may have raided its father's liquor stash around Shadowgate. It learnt about the effects of alcohol the hard way, but then I can hardly blame it with the difficulty level of that game.

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    3. What is the drinking age where everyone is? 19 here, but 18 in some parts of Canada.

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    4. In Finland 18 for drinking anything in bars and for buying beer and wine from a store, 20 for buying heavy liquors from a store.

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    5. 18 in France for everything, but you'll always find a friendly bartender ready to sell you anything when you're around 15 (or a total scumbag ready to sell you anything when you're 12)

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    6. NZ is 18, but they've tried to put it back up to 20.

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  6. If I was a maths nazi I'd point out that putting minus signs in front of a list of numbers is confusing, but I'm not so I won't.

    But I will point out that I seem to be the only one with CAPs that aren't divisible by 5. That makes me feel special.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was looking at the same thing as well. It took me a moment to figure out what that there was a - for each list item. Trickster maybe you could change them to an *?

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    2. I'm a maths nazi myself and regretted the decision about half way through last night. It was getting late though!

      I'll change them now...

      Delete
  7. Oh wow, I knew it would score well, but didn't see it ending up quite that high!
    And I better step up my CAP earnings, if this continues I'll be falling way behind in no time at all. :p

    Also I see that you got Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess into the game list at 24, good stuff!

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  8. A score well deserved, I think, although I didn't guess it would go that high.

    I'd agree with Alfred that graphics/sound would be best compared with games of same era, because otherwise the old games would suffer from the technical limitations of their time - Da Vinci wouldn't have made as pretty paintings, if he could have used only sixteen colours.

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  9. My decision to guess 52 was based mainly on me not enjoying it when I was younger. Not really sure why I didn't (although it's probably because I ignored it in favour of other Sierra games).

    Replaying it was a bit of an eye opener really, and I look forward to playing the next two PQ games, although they have a bit of a change in style.

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    Replies
    1. You probably shouldn't have high expectations for the fourth PQ which has a silly plot that begins by mixing all sorts of extreme events stolen from cliched police movies and ends with an exceptionally mindless adventure game resolution. Blue Force is much better and the true spiritual sequel of earlier PQs.

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    2. As with PQ2 (and many other sierra games), I've played them, but it's been so long I can't really remember what they're like. Haven't played Blue Force though (saw it a while back on Abandonia, was tempted to check it out but never did, I expect we'll get to it on here soon enough!).

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    3. I have to second Ilmari once again. PQ4 is among the very few Sierra games I have not completed. I was so bored with it, that I did not bother trying to continue when I got stuck in it for a while.

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  10. Some catching up because of my holidays - seems also like I've missed a lot of potential CAPs :)

    I am really glad you enjoyed PQ2 despite your initial challenges. It is definitely the best PQ, and ranks highly among my favorite Sierra games.

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  11. I am very interested to see PQ2 do so well. Since I missed the entire line of PQ games back during their actual heydays, I have no conception of them, their atmosphere, their difficulty, etc. I have been pretty impressed so far.

    However, I have frequented adventure game forums for years now, and Sierra ones specifically, and have definitely seen numerous mentions of PQ4 being the black sheep of the family...

    That said, I'm incredibly curious about Blue Force. I looked it up on Moby Games and noted that the man who founded its maker, Tsunami Media, was the former CFO of Sierra. How far from the tree did the apple fall...?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Tsunami was founded by previous Sierra employees, and Blue Force was actually designed by Jim Walls, the guy behind first three PQs.

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