Tuesday 6 October 2015

Police Quest III – Administrative Affairs

Written by Alex

Firing up Police Quest III, we get a rather high-quality intro that features all the tropes of cheesy yet awesome cop movie and TV shows: Scenes showing car chases and officers dramatically pointing their weapons towards the camera set to a pulse-pounding score. And what’s this? The music is done by none other than Jan Hammer, keyboard and compositional whiz known best for the soundtrack to the television show Miami Vice, so you know exactly the vibe that this game is going for, at least musically: Minor key and driving, with a lot of Latin percussion and horns. Fun fact: Frank Zappa played a villain named Mario Fuente on an episode of Miami Vice called “Payback.” But lest you think Mr. Hammer only does TV work, he’s also an accomplished prog rocker, having, among other things, been an original member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin and playing with Jeff Beck on some classic albums. If none of this means anything to you, don’t worry: This is a blog about computer games. Let’s just say that having Jan Hammer work on your computer game is a pretty big “get.”

After this flashy intro, game designer Jim Walls appears and, after some heavy-handed prose explaining that YOU will be in a police officer’s shoes and YOU will need to think the way a REAL police officer thinks, proceeds to fill us in on what has happened since we last saw Detective Sonny Bonds in Police Quest II: After successfully rescuing his soon-to-be-wife, Marie Wilkans, from the clutches of his arch-enemy Jessie “The Death Angel” Bains, Sonny has been promoted to Detective Sergeant, and, having recently completed his training, has been assigned to the Traffic Division. This seems like a downgrade from homicide, the department Sonny worked in in the last game, but what do I know? I’m not the realism expert here.

Sounds idyllic. But Walls also warns us that crime has been growing in Lytton along with its population and industry, and that Sonny Bonds is in for one heck of a day.

The day begins. Note the time in the upper-left. Also, I like how Sierra eventually re-uses this police station picture in the Police Quest I remake.

When we finally get to control Sonny, we’re standing on the second floor of the Lytton Police Department. I do what all good adventuregamers do and take stock of my inventory.

I’m currently carrying a gun—presumably loaded, handcuffs, and a wallet containing $10.00. The inventory screen isn’t very interactive; clicking “Eye” gives a basic description such as, “A gun,” and “You have $10.00.” The only way to interact with inventory objects is to click the “Arrow” icon on one and drag it on another. We’ll see if I have to do that later.

One thing that becomes apparent as I click around the police station is that this is one of those early Sierra point-and-click affairs where clicking on something that you’re not “supposed” to gives a red X instead of an actual message. This smacks of a lack of effort, but so far only annoyed me in one spot I’ll get to later.

This hallway’s two doors lead left into Sonny’s office and right to the Homicide department. Walking around the hallway to the next screen reveals three more doors: The one at the bottom leads to the Vice department, the one on the right to the Criminal Psychologist’s office, and open door to the left to the briefing room.

So I don’t get to visit Crockett and Tubbs. Or Frank Zappa.

With no real clue as to what to do, I figure Sonny’s office is a good a place as any to start. Sonny’s desk up on the right wall has a computer, a telephone, drawers the game won’t let you open, and an In/Out basket for memos. There is currently something in the tray.

It’s a “Disciplinary Action Form” from Sonny’s Lieutenant, explaining that there has been a complaint lodged against Officer Pat Morales by someone she performed a traffic stop on. The complaint alleges that Officer Morales was verbally abusive and used profanity during the stop. The Lieutenant tasks Sonny with interviewing Morales after he gives the briefing, and wants a memo on his desk recommending a course of action. This sounds like a puzzle, and a somewhat unconventional one. But then again, this is a Police Quest game. Realism is its bread and butter!

Sonny’s office also has a shelf full of law books, but he quickly lets us know what he thinks of it:

I’ll show you where you can cram that Constitution!

Well, it seems from the memo that Sonny’s the one giving the briefing. Cool! You get to play as the boss! But I want to explore the station a bit, so I take Sonny into the elevator and up to the third floor, the tech center which also houses dispatch. There, I meet a surly IT guy named Mike who can’t help me with anything, just tells me that if I want a computer access card, I’ll have to give him the proper Requisition form. Apparently, Sonny’s computer needs an access card to run, so maybe this guy Mike did serve a useful purpose after all.

Then again, he is in IT . . .

I try to do more in here, but an announcement on the loudspeaker calls Sonny to the briefing room. So to the briefing room I go.

The four officers in here are impatiently waiting for Sonny to get on with the briefing, and mouth off to him when he tries to talk to them. Shouldn’t they respect their superiors just a little bit more? Morales is sitting at the front table between the two other officers. I click “Talk” on her, and Sonny asks her to see him in his office after the briefing. She takes it pretty well.

Isn’t that EXACTLY what somebody guilty of police brutality would say?

To begin the briefing, you have to click “Hand” on the small clipboard hanging on the side of the podium. Sonny does so and, with an air of commanding authority, says . . .

This has to be another hint, Chekov’s gun style. I’ll keep it in mind for the game’s inevitable car stop.

Back in Sonny’s office, Morales is sitting next to his desk like a schoolgirl visiting the principal. When Sonny asks her what the story was, she claims that the jerk she pulled over for doing 75 or 80 in a 55 zone started eyeing her and saying lewd things, and that while she doesn’t remember exactly what she said, anything she did say was well-deserved.

Morales raises some good points, but unfortunately Sonny has a decision to make, which leads us to our first puzzle: Sonny has to determine whether the complainant’s grievance was Unfounded, whether Morales should be Exonerated, whether the grievance should be Sustained and disciplinary action taken, or whether the complaint is Undetermined based on a lack of evidence.

This might be one of the first administrative puzzles in an adventure game! Congratulations Jim Walls and company, you really bring the paperwork to life. Police Quest! It’s REALISM!

Doing what all players of a REALISTIC game do, I check the manual. There, under Section III: Traffic Officer, Part 4, it explains that, during a stop, officers must “Be professional. Remember that you are representing the department. Violators should be treated firmly but with courtesy.”

Hm. As much as the violator in this case had it coming, Morales certainly did not act professionally and with courtesy. And since she pretty much admitted to using profanity and yelling at the complainant, I feel Sonny can make a determination, and that determination is SUSTAINED. I think I made the right choice, since the game made its little “YOU GET POINTS!” fanfare. Sonny automatically puts the completed form on his Lieutenant’s desk.

I get up, but what’s this? Another paper in the In/Out basket? Look here, it’s a Requisition form for a computer access card! I need to bring this up to Mike! Two administrative puzzles in a row! Gee, this game is so much more real than real life! It’s like, why get an office job, when you can play a game where you have an office job?!

All kidding aside, I know that this is the point: Police Quest games tend to start out slow and then ramp up to more interesting scenarios. Police Quest III has been pretty fun so far.

Up on the third floor, Mike gives Sonny the card, and then starts complaining about a missing tracking device. A helpful dispatcher replies that Officer Banks has it for the next three days. Mike is none too happy about this.

Finished here, I go visit Captain Tate in the Homicide room, which is not where people go to get brutally murdered. It’s where they work on catching brutal murderers.

Captain Tate is busy with an Internal Affairs report, but Sonny gets another call on the loudspeaker, commanding him to call dispatch immediately. Back to his office!

Sonny’s needed at the Aspen Falls recreation area. Good. Enough of Office Quest, I want to do some policing! I’ll check out the Criminal Psychologist’s office later.

Before leaving the station, I want to check out the first floor. The only rooms of note there are a Men’s and Women’s locker rooms, and a storage closet. Since Lytton is in California, I assume that the locker rooms are gender-neutral and stroll right into the ladies’ room. It does not go well.

What a regressive rube! Get with the times, lady! Nothing left to do but go to the Men’s locker room.

Here we find the game’s first bit of copy protection. Sonny wrote his locker combination on the inside cover of his Police Manual, i.e., the game manual. And sure enough, there, written under “Cadet Sonny Bonds June 1976” are the numbers “776.”

What do you know? It worked. And here we have the third Police Quest game in a row with a locker screen. This time, Sonny gets his flashlight, notebook, and nightstick. I shut it and leave. Sonny can’t use the toilet, so there’s nothing left to do but open up that storage closet before heading down to the ground floor.

There is nothing inside Sonny can take but the batteries on the top shelf and some road flares below. The batteries make me think of Sonny’s flashlight, and sure enough, I can click the batteries on the flashlight, ensuring that the flashlight is now ready for action. Was I supposed to know it didn’t have batteries before opening the closet, or did I just leapfrog a puzzle?

The ground floor is L.P.D.’s underground parking garage, where an unmarked car and a patrol cruiser are waiting for Sonny. Clicking “Eye” on the doors reveals that the one right next to the elevator leads to the Evidence Lock-up and Crime Lab, while the sliding go to Booking and L.P.D.’s Jail; next to the jail door are some firearms storage lockers.

But these doors can wait. Sonny is needed! I don’t need to perform some wimpy vehicle inspection like in Police Quest I; here, Sonny can just get in and go. He doesn’t even need keys, as they’re already in the car. Sounds stupid, but again, what do I know? I’m not the cop here.

Next time, we’ll see what’s going on at Aspen Falls and discuss Police Quest III’s driving mechanics.

Points: 54 out of 460.
Inventory: Gun, handcuffs, flashlight, road flares, nightstick, wallet with $10.00, computer access card, notebook.

Session Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. I kind of miss the feeling of a small town police from the first two games - the new police head quarters look huge in comparison with the original.

    1. Very true Ilmari. The intro talks about how much Lytton has been growing though, so that might explain things. It still doesn't explain why Cotton Cove got a name change and expanded in size by about 300%, though.

  2. Your comment about the Homocide Room reminds me of this video by Canadian sketch comedy group Loading Ready Run. http://loadingreadyrun.com/videos/view/415/Crime-and-Punishment

    1. Possibly just me, but I couldn't get the video to play :(

    2. I'll have to check that link out when work is done.

    3. Several years later, I had the exact same thought reading that section.

      For anyone coming after me, LRR put the sketch up on youtube some time ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnIOZj7oTNM

  3. Just what I need after sorting out the archives at work all days, the idea of Office Quest were every employee gets punished for putting a file in the wrong order so the poor archivist has to sort it out. To make it even better each archive contains a different filing system that then must be logged onto the digital archive with a digital back-up copy. And I almost forgot the second digital archive in which you have an overlook of all archives and the position of the folders which you must cross-run with the other archive to pin-point the exact location of the file... if not someone else placed the file in the wrong folder which means its lost until someone goes through several hundred folders from the 1970's to today. And yet I love this, order within chaos. I really should get back playing Warhammer 40k, the administrator class was a perfect match.

    Also, just gotta say, really like Jan Hammer's "Crockett's Theme" and as we all know, Crockett's nickname is Sonny... or was that discussed in some earlier Police Quest posting?

    1. Man, I would love it if someone made a Sierra-style game called Office Quest...

      And no. I don't think anyone referenced Crockett's nickname being Sonny in an earlier post. CAPs for you, I say!

    2. Alright, I might suck at guessing scores, but trivia seems to be the way!

  4. I've officially decided not to play along. I've played it too recently and remember the bits that annoyed me.

    I like the way the female cop leaves the locker room in her underwear to berate him by shaking her fist a him - welcome to Benny Hill Quest!

    1. Oh boy TBD. This does not bode well for me. Where I am, I have not hit a frustration point yet, but I'm waiting for it to come...

      Agreed on the female cop and Benny Hill. Another game I wish someone would make.

  5. I do love a nice bit of properly completed paperwork to begin an adventure game!

    I haven't started playing along yet, will probably start when I get some time at the weekend.

    1. Can't wait to see what you think of it!

  6. I'm going to try and stick up for this game. Why, you ask? Because I like a challenge! Everything you raise is fair - but I think there is a degree of reason to Sonny heading Traffic here. He's been promoted, but they can't have the Homicide division (a largely autonomous section by nature) run by someone who is in his first command - instead, they've shifted him into the wider arm of the police force so they can see whether or not he can command respect from his peers - I'm imagining that he's volunteered for this as it likely means more money for his wife.

    Depending on how much you focus on the driving in your next post, I'm going to have a REALLY tough time. :)

    1. Agreed. Homicide can't be any cop's first command job - it's way too important. I only want the best/most experienced on Homicide and am quite happy for people to learn while dealing with drivers who go a bit too fast.

    2. Good points all. Can't have a homicide detective with no leadership experience running the department from the get-go.

      And regarding the driving, not to spoil the upcoming posts, but I haven't found it painful, just a bit boring.

  7. Good start so far! I kind of miss the small-town feel too in this one, actually.

    1. Thanks Kirinn! Lytton is bigger as explained in the intro, but I never thought it was particularly small, even in the first two games.


Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of the reviewer requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game...unless they really obviously need the help...or they specifically request assistance.

If this is a game introduction post: This is your opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that the reviewer won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return.
It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All score votes and puzzle bets must be placed before the next gameplay post appears. The winner will be awarded 10 CAPs.