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!