Tuesday 13 October 2015

Police Quest III – Crazy by the Water

Written by Alex

Sonny Bonds is in his car and ready to hit the streets, accompanied by that totally awesome Jan Hammer soundtrack. I would seriously love this track to play every time I got into my car.

Let’s talk about the driving interface here as Sonny heads off to Aspen Falls to do whatever dispatch wants him to do. As an aside, wouldn’t a dispatcher give a police officer a little heads-up as to what to expect on the scene? Something like, “Gunshots fired,” or “Kitten stuck in tree,” or “Crazy naked man doing rude things to passersby”? This could have only help so that the arriving officer doesn’t jump into a dispute over a bridge game guns blazing, or stroll into a gang war with no weapon other than his disarming smile. For a game that’s supposed to be so realistic pertaining to police procedure—and, in fact, is very procedurally accurate, as far as I can tell—this strikes me as a little odd.

But first, before we can find more stuff to complain about, we have to get to the scene. Let’s check out the car first. The dashboard contains a speedometer, and there are four things Sonny can interact with in the car: The red button, which activates the car’s flashers; the key which starts and stops the car; the beige computer, which lets Sonny run plate and ID checks; and the black box, which is a tracker. Sonny does not have a tracking device; if you remember from last post, Officer Banks has it, and will for the next three days. Lastly, whenever the car is shut off and the driving interface disappears, Sonny can also open up the glove compartment and check out his radar gun’s calibration.

Here’s the spot I alluded to last post where the cursor showing a red X on objects you can’t interact with bugged me. See that radio in the middle of the screenshot? You can’t click on it, and I wanted to know why. Unfortunately, the big red X wasn’t forthcoming with much information. I couldn’t even figure out what exactly it is, or if I can use it later, or anything like that. Since the manual makes several references to calling for backup, I figured it’d be nice to know how to do that. But then, after clicking furiously for a bit, I noticed Section III, Traffic Officer, Part 10, in the manual: “Use the radio sparingly.” So I stopped worrying about it.

And then there’s the driving window, that small rectangular representation of Sonny’s patrol car on the mean streets of Lytton. Remember that map I showed in the introduction post? It turns out that you actually do need this to figure out where to go. Aspen Falls is a recreation area that dominates the southeastern portion of Lytton. I figure I’ll drive south from the station until I hit River Street and go west from there.

When the mouse cursor is placed in that rectangular window, it changes depending on its relation to Sonny’s car. Placing it in front of the car and clicking makes Sonny speed up by 5 mph, and doing the same behind the car makes Sonny slow down. Placing the cursor ahead of the car, but to the left will make Sonny change lanes. Doing this at a turn, though, will make Sonny take that road, either left or right. Windows pop up telling Sonny the name of the street or the location (e.g., “Rose Street,” “10th Street,” “Oak Tree Mall”). Be careful not to take those turns too fast, though, or you’ll turn into roadkill and fly right off of the map.

It’s pretty hilarious, actually. Not hilarious was trying to play this game sans DOSBox or any other way to slow down your computer’s speed. In those dark days, Sonny’s car would be stuck on maximum overdrive, careening off into the ditches and embankments of Lytton with alarming speed and making the game nearly impossible to play. Luckily, I don’t have that problem here and, minus a few SNAFUs, including failing to stop at a stop sign, made it to Aspen Falls with a minimum of frustration. It’s not bad, just kind of tedious, sort of like driving in real life.

Aspen Falls, as Ilmari pointed out in the comments, had been called Cotton Cove in the first two Police Quest games, and took up far less map real estate than it does in this game. Why that change, and why Sonny’s switching from brunette to blonde to brunette again, I do not understand. In any event, once at Aspen Falls Sonny notices a bunch of concerned picnickers, including one frantic lady carrying her child. The game’s manual, in Section VIII, Investigative Procedure, Part 1, Scene Investigation, a. Scene assessment, I am advised to “(1). Use extreme caution during initial approach. (2). Watch out for possible life-threatening situations. (3). Remain alert and prepared to take appropriate action,” and “(4). Make good use of your notebook.” By this, I think the manual means “Save early and often.” It’s almost as if cops are adventure gamers!

I do all this, but don’t think I have much to fear from this lady. I proceed to follow the procedure I Part b. Interviewing of witnesses: “(1). Identify yourself. (2). Listen attentively. (3). Follow up all possible leads.” So in other words, click “Talk” on people.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” --Mark Twain

Officer Bonds, however, was not able to calm the witness down.

So some crazy dude is causing a ruckus at the park. Who ever said the life of a cop was glamorous? Not Jim Walls, that’s for sure. I try using my notebook on the woman and the scene around me, but keep getting the big red X. Maybe the notebook is just an in-game reminder for the player to actually take notes.

The only way Sonny can exit the screen is to the right, so right I go. There, Sonny is confronted with a rather unattractive wildman standing near a rock by the river and wearing nothing but his boxers as he raves about space aliens and other sorts of random nonsense. His clothes lay in a pile next to him.

I try talking to him, but nothing works. He just keeps raving about “The Bathonians” who are coming to vaporize us. Sonny can’t tell if the guy is acting this way due to drugs or mental instability. I check my inventory to see if I have any items that may help solve this puzzle, and I think I may have found just the thing.

Or not?

Or not.

Hm. It’s going to take more than bullets to solve this problem. And for the record, Sonny only gets SUSPENDED for shooting the guy? SUSPENDED?!

I restore. Clicking the nightstick doesn’t work either, so I’m actually going to have to use my brain. Damn! Not much else to do but walk towards this creep and see what happens.

The guy takes Sonny’s badge and throws it in the river before diving in himself, that’s what happens! What a jerk! Luckily, the game tells us Sonny always carries a spare badge. Of course. This is a wasted opportunity for another puzzle, you know: Find the badge replacement requisition form, fill it out properly, find the right box to put the form in, and wait seven-to-ten in-game days for the state to issue Sonny a new shield. It would have been thrilling.

So now Sonny needs to figure out how to get this weirdo out of the river and into the back of his patrol car. Talking does nothing. I click “Hand” on the guy’s clothes and find his driver’s license and a set of keys. Captain Crazy doesn’t like Sonny rummaging around in his stuff, but there’s not much he can do about it.

I look at the guy’s license. His name is Brian Forbes, and his license number is 789612. This gives me a flash of inspiration. I run back over to Sonny’s car and run the license number into the computer to see if I get any useful information out of it.

I do not. And here I thought I was acting like a REAL cop. Then I realized a REAL cop wouldn’t leave the madman alone in the water. Oops.

Back on scene, nothing I do works. So I defenestrate my police manual, ignore proper police procedure, and act like a vengeful little bitch by throwing Mr. Brian Forbes’s precious keys into the river.

Kind of petty, no?

This angers Brian Forbes.

He rushes towards Officer Bonds.


So I guess that Sonny needs to follow proper police procedure by using the appropriate level of force. To wit, Section XIII, Levels of Force, Part 2, Level Two: “Threats indicating imminent physical attack (no weapons used).” That sure sounds like this situation. So what are the options?
  1. “Call for backup if possible.” Not possible here.
  2. “Use department-approved hand-to-hand combat.” Perhaps . . .
  3. “Use PR-24.”
Ah! The nightstick! Let’s see if Sonny’s fighting skills are up to snuff!

They sure are. With the perp incapacitated, Sonny slaps a pair of handcuffs on him and gets him into the patrol car for a date with the inside of a nice warm jail cell.

“So . . . this is awkward.”

I manage to get Sonny back to the jail in one piece and order Brian Forbes out of the car. Before heading into the sliding door, Sonny has to put his firearm in the storage locker and take the key in compliance with Section V, Booking Prisoner, Part 1: “Never enter the booking facility with a weapon.”

This is so an angry perp can’t take the cop’s gun once the cuffs are removed. Makes sense to me. A cop’s job is dangerous enough already.

Officer Smith holds court in the booking room. Sonny has Mr. Forbes wait near the door. I take a few seconds to click around. The only thing that Sonny seems able to interact with is the drawer under Smith’s window, used to pass things back and forth, and the Gas Chromatograph, which is basically a breathalyzer. The game won’t let me use this on Forbes.

I talk to Smith and run into the game’s other form of copy protection: Entering booking codes, which are in the manual. I decide to book Forbes on 05150: “Not in full control of faculties.” Booking complete, I put Forbes’s license in the drawer and turn him over to Officer Smith, who removes the handcuffs and proceeds to GET MURDERED WITH A SHARP OBJECT.

Holy cow! This got grisly, and fast! I didn’t get a good screenshot, but I can tell you that Forbes stabs Smith right in the chest, and that there is blood. Dang!

Like an idiot, I forgot police procedure 101, or what the manual calls Section V, Part 2: “Remove all personal items from the prisoner’s pockets and place them into the booking drawer” before giving the booking officer the proper violation code. Rookie mistake, Bonds, rookie mistake. And you’re supposed to be a Detective Sergeant.

I restore, search Forbes and find his weapon, and give it to Officer Smith. I suppose I could have, and probably should have, also searched him at Aspen Falls.

Have some respect, ingrate. I just saved your life!

Now, Forbes is safely taken away into lock-up. Smith returns my cuffs through the drawer, making a point of telling me not to forget them. He also tells me that Officer Morales needs a supervisor to help her with a traffic violator who refuses to sign his citation. She’s waiting by the freeway near the 7th Avenue on-ramp. Will Sonny ever catch a break? Since this is an adventure game, it’s safe to assume that the answer is “no.”

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

Session Time: 40 minutes.
Total Time: 2 hours.


  1. *I* searched the guy at Aspen. By accident. :-P

    Constantly scrolling through the manual PDF between the pages for the map and penal codes has been quite tedious by the way.

  2. I guess you're a better, more realistic cop than I. ;)

    Agreed about the manual PDF. Wish I could find my old paper copy from the PQ collection.

  3. One look at the news these days, and it's totally understandable why you would assume that shooting the guy was the natural solution to the problem. If the game was made today, I bet most of the puzzles could be solved with firearms.

    Love your writing style, btw. I found myself chuckling through most of the post.

    1. Torch,

      I thought a lot about that when writing this post. Given that the police have been in the news a lot the last year or two, I've been trying to walk a fine line between making jokes that are computer-game based (reflecting the absurdities in the game world and what the player can do) and that could be distasteful in light of police-related deaths in the real world. And also, let's not forget about the cops who have been murdered as well. As with many issues, both sides have legitimate grievances, but both sides have legitimate problems. Geez, why does every game I wrote about raise serious socio-political issues?

      And I'm glad you enjoy the posts. I have been assuming--and have been proven right so far--that this blog's readers are adult enough to understand the distinction between a joke and a statement of fact.

    2. Or statement of personal opinion, I should say.

    3. I didn't find it offensive at all, given the absurdity of the situation ( and the fact that this is a game ), but then again I'm from Norway, where they police don't even HAVE guns. ( Well, they do, but they're usually locked away and probably require a truckload of paperwork to obtain )

      Hopefully Robin Hood will allow you some breathing room from dealing with all these uncomfortable modern-day issues.

    4. 's/they police/the police/'

      ... where's the edit button?

    5. Yeah. I hate the lack of an edit button too. If I discover immediately I've been known to delete my old comment and copy/paste and edit a better one. If I discover later, I just leave it and hope nobody picks up on my incompetence.

    6. Oh brother. Knowing my lock, Robin Hood will probably devolve into a discussion about progressive taxation, Marx and Engles and socialism in America...

      And I didn't think you were offended. I just didn't want to be offensive in general.

    7. ..or perhaps a discussion about the social stigma of men wearing tights.

      Also, I didn't think you thought I was offended. :)

    8. You know, I've never seen "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." I'll have to remedy that before playing Conquests of the Longbow.

  4. The driving sections are really boring, especially as you don't see any scenery or other drivers, except in plot-related spots (so unlike first Police Quest). It just makes whole Lytton seem so empty. I guess that while the city grew, they also made so perfect subway system that driving around became a thing of the past.

    I actually used the tracker system as an in-game map - a bit more helpful than trying to catch the street names.

    I also found the red cross at the police radio a bit annoying. In earlier games you were always calling the dispatch every now and then, asking for backup or just informing them of your position. Now, the radio is apparently a one-way device, since you cannot use it yourself.

  5. Ilmari, you will see in an upcoming post that I finally figured that out myself! Much like Laukku, you are a better cop than I.

    The red X is very annoying, and seems to be a quirk of Sierra's earlier point-and-click games before they really got a handle on what works well and what doesn't.

    Lastly, I agree with you that the driving mechanic makes Lytton feel deserted. It's either the perfect subway, or everybody has flying cars a la the Jetsons, leaving the road (mostly) to Sonny.

  6. "Aspen Falls is a recreation area that dominates the southeastern portion of Lytton. I figure I’ll drive south from the station until I hit River Street and go west from there." If you really want more boring driving, rather than circumnavigating the globe in your car, you could just play Desert Bus. ;)

    The game misspelled "ignoramus."

    WTF on Sonny putting the madman in the front seat. That seems like an easy way to cause a car accident.

    Officer Smith looks a bit like Gil Grissom from CSI!

    1. Thought the same about madman in the front seat and shouldn't there at least be two officers in the car to keep an eye on the perp?

      Also, that moment would be a perfect Sierra death moment if you hadn't searched him at the lake. This together with LsL 5 one begins to wonder if Sierra became a bit more lenient with the death punishment.

    2. @Fry

      Paperwork simulation and boring drives. This game is truly REALISTIC. I can't wait for the inevitable shaving puzzle where you actually have to move Sonny's razor with the mouse, making sure not to cut his face too many times.


      Good point about the game being forgiving by letting me search the crazy guy at the station. This could have been an epic Sierra Walking Dead (TM) scenario, but alas! It was not meant to be.

      And yes, to both of you, putting the guy in the front seat struck me as really odd, stupid, and dangerous. But hey, what do I know? I'm not The Mighty Jim Walls.

      (PS I'd LOVE it if he stopped by this blog, saw my good-natured barbs, and threatened to kick my ass. Would truly make my life complete.)

    3. I put a fair bit of effort into making your life complete Alex, but it appears to have backfired. I created a Jim Walls gmail account and posted a comment threatening to kick your ass for questioning my old school police techniques. I thought it was some of my best work, but one of the admins must have been a bit confused and concerned. To whoever deleted the comment, I'm certainly not criticizing you for it. You were only doing what you felt was right to keep the streets of The Adventure Gamer clean. I won't throw your keys in the river. ;)

    4. Ah. That would be me. I thought it was likely a joke (or a troll), but as it was it seemed too anonymously threat-like to me so I got rid of it.

    5. @Trickster

      Can I give you 1,000 CAPs for this?

    6. Accepting bribes would not be appropriate conduct for an officer of the law.

    7. I knew it was a troll account - I just guessed it'd be Kenny's doing somehow...

    8. Ah, if I knew for sure it was a joke I would have left it - On the bright side, Trick... I mean Jim, at least you had one person falling for it. :)

    9. Would you accept 1,000 donuts, Mr. Walls?

    10. @Aperama - Whoa, hey! I was down with a bad case of flu during this stint. What Trix did was terrible. I would never have done it. I might come in as Jessie "Deth Angel" and applaud Alex's balls in challenging Jim though.

    11. I reckon the thoroughly shot Bains would go further along say the XxXDeTh@NGlexX route myself. Never seemed that well educated to me.

  7. Positive light time again! This time I'm really struggling... I'm not surprised as the game doesn't really allow you to forcibly talk the crazy guy down where it's clearly what a real policeman would have done. I find the fact that the game forces you to play a kindergarten-like prank of throwing the man's keys into the river in order to provoke a threat and allow for police mandated violence - I'd really like to think this wouldn't happen in reality. Maybe it would, but I'd really hope not. It's just got the whole 20s 'gumshoe standover tactic' thing going for it that I find bizarrely endearing.

    Hopefully (and I've played it so I know it's not) next time Bonds can tie someone's shoelaces together and then shoot them for being angry!

    1. I know! A real cop might do some of the following:

      1) Talk the crazy guy down, like you say;
      2) Call for back-up and go in the water to forcibly, yet non-violently, remove him;
      3) Use a net (?) (I'm really reaching here)

      The last thing that would happen is a police officer doing something to provoke the guy just so he can have an excuse to beat the stuffing out of him. I know, I know, SOME cops are a-holes. But some nuns are a-holes. Some of EVERYTHING are a-holes. That doesn't mean that the majority are or, as I have said many times to people sick of hearing it, otherwise society as we know it would cease to function and we would have all-out every-man-for-himself anarchy.

      Wow, I'm really overthinking things here, aren't I? It's just a computer game, Alex, it's just a computer game . . .

      PS Your suggestion that Sonny tie a perp's shoelaces together is great! I would also add the option to give him an old-fashioned hot foot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_foot

    2. Yeah, for a game series that makes a big deal about properly following procedures, this puzzle does seem a bit out of place. When I played it I had to walkthrough that puzzle for exactly that reason - I never would have thought of using keys on water..

  8. Enjoyable read as always. You seem to be enjoying yourself Alex. And your right - it pays to not overthink things adventure gamey.

    1. I am glad you like the posts. This game is pretty fun so far, save a few frustrating sequences you'll read about soon. I don't know how much longer this will last, though, given the game's reputation.

      And I try not to overthink these games, but j just can't help it.

  9. Shooting the law-breaking creep repeatedly is probably the most fun part of this game.

    Actually, you might be right at home playing a Judge Dredd game... :)

    1. It's fun just to see what Jim Walls says about it.

      Judge Dredd, huh. Do I get to yell "I AM THE LAW!"?

  10. Regarding Sonny's hair color, I remember that he dyed his hair blond at the end of PQ1, which is why he's still sporting that do in PQ2. The dye would have faded by now.

    1. I guess the implication is that Sonny liked being blonde so much he kept it?

      Also, speaking of PQ 2, whatever happened to Sonny's partner Keith? Other than Sonny and Marie, characters seem to disappear between games.

    2. Considering his constant smoking, I'm guessing Keith died from a fatal heart attack on one particularly stressful day at work.