Tuesday 20 October 2015

Police Quest III – Happy Wife, Happy Life

Written by Alex

At the end of last post, Sonny had just been called to check out an assault at the Oak Tree Mall; since there were no other available officers, Sonny was next on the list. Dutifully, he rushes over, only to his wife Marie’s car in the parking lot. Running to the paramedics, Sonny finds his worst nightmare come true.

The paramedics tell Sonny that Marie suffered multiple stab wounds. It looks like she has something clutched in her right hand, so I click the “Eye” on it and see that it’s a gold chain. I also check out her purse, but am unable to interact with it. Before I can take the chain, Sonny automatically hops into the ambulance. Alright game, it’s going to be one of those sequences. I reload, quickly grab the chain, and then allow Sonny to accompany his wife to the hospital. Sonny adroitly realizes that Marie must have pulled the chain from around her attacker’s neck, and that there was likely something attached to the other end of it. But enough speculation! Marie needs medical attention, STAT.

Here Jim Walls steps in and give us the nutshell version of what happened: Marie is taken to Lytton General and is stabilized, but remains comatose.

Sonny stays with her until dawn, finally going home when Dr. Wagner, Marie’s neurosurgeon, tells Sonny to get some rest, but not before giving some parting advice:

A puzzle, perhaps?

Clicking “Eye” on Marie gives a close up of her lying in the hospital bed. Sonny can see that the IV drip reads .015 and that her EKG is operational. There is also a call button above Marie’s head. I can click “Talk” on Marie to make Sonny plead with her to wake up. “Hand,” however, reveals that no amount of shaking can bring Marie back.

With nothing left to do, Sonny leaves the hospital with one final oath to catch Marie’s attacker, no matter what it takes.

It’s all so cheesy . . . so cop show . . . I love it!

Sonny doesn’t immediately return home when the paramedics take him back to his cruiser at the mall, and I can’t blame him. He’s at the scene of his wife’s assault and he’s a cop. Might as well look for some clues! But first, a trench-coated figure approaches Sonny, cracks a distasteful joke, and asks Sonny for details. Ugh. An ambulance-chasing reporter, in Sonny’s words. When Sonny doesn’t answer, the reporter says he’ll just find someone who will talk. He then walks away.

Usually, there are ambulance-chasing lawyers, not reporters.

I felt like I missed something, so I restored and clicked “Talk” on the reporter before he skedaddles. Sonny then gives the guy an earful, and the reporter at least has the common courtesy to act ashamed: “I thought you cops liked that kind of loose talk—helps keep things from getting too serious, know what I mean?” The guy then gives Sonny his card and says to call if he can be of any help before slinking back into the night. Two things here: First, it’s cool that the writers of the game made this reporter not a total jackass, but something resembling a real, decent human being who just put his foot in his mouth; second, this is a miss-able item. I mean, if Sonny tries clicking a few things that aren’t the “Talk” icon on the guy, he walks away, presumably forever.

Anyway, I want to investigate the crime scene, so I try to click on the trunk of Sonny’s car for his investigative kit. Why do I think this is in the car, you ask? First, in Police Quest II, it was, so there. Second, according to Section XIV: Required Equipment for the Police Officer, Part 3, an “investigative kit equipped with various tools used at crime scenes” is standard gear for cops. But only the front end of Sonny’s patrol car is on the screen, so he just gets in and goes home. Again, like with the reporter, I have a feeling I may want to investigate the crime scene, seeing as how my wife was nearly killed there, so I restore to make sure I didn’t fall for a Sierra Walking Dead (TM) scenario.

And I’m glad I restored. Taking a cue from the uniformed cop scouring the parking lot with his flashlight, I fire up Sonny’s to do the same. Here’s where I think I leapfrogged a puzzle, which I mentioned in my first post when Sonny took the batteries from the department’s storage closet and put them in his flashlight without any prompting from the game. I suppose if I hadn’t done that, Sonny would have then discovered that his flashlight had no batteries and would have been unable to search the crime scene, since trying to click “Eye” near the car without the flashlight on gives a message saying Sonny should return when it’s day. That’s kind of a diabolical way for a game to reveal the existence of an inventory-based puzzle. I’ll remember this when it comes time to rate this game.

In any event, Sonny turns on his flashlight and walks around Marie’s car, finding this:

Do you see that glinting object? Sonny picks it up and discovers that it’s a Bronze Star war medal, serial number 09987. This was probably attached to the chain Marie had in her hand. Seeing as how there’s an Army recruiter at the Oak Tree Mall, they may be a good place to investigate come morning. After all, according to Section VIII: Investigative Procedure, Section 1(b)(3) of my manual, a good cop follows up on “all possible leads.”

Further clicking proves fruitless, so I decide that now is a good time to go home.

Sonny is rudely awoken by Captain Tate of the Homicide division, letting Sonny know that his traffic-duty days are behind him, at least for the foreseeable future.

Alright! I’ll bet you anything that the Captain is assigning Sonny to Marie’s case. Nothing left to do but get into those plain clothes and head to the LPD!

But first, since the game gives the player control once Sonny gets dressed, I decide to check out the bedroom.

I perform my standard adventuregamer task of clicking anything that looks intriguing. The only clickable object is the music box sitting on the top shelf of Marie’s armoire. No, the game doesn’t call it an armoire. I just want to show off my vocabulary.

This music box is apparently was one of Marie’s favorite possessions, as she liked listening to its song—her favorite—while Sonny was on-duty since it reminded her of him. Bet that’d be a great thing to bring to her at the hospital.

I try leaving the room, but can’t find the exit. Eventually, Captain Tate calls, tells Sonny to put some pep in his step, and then the game make Sonny leave the house, get in his car, and drive to the station.

Once there, I go to the Homicide room to talk with Captain Tate. As I suspected, Sonny is put on Marie’s case, since the Captain knows Sonny won’t be able to concentrate on anything else. It’s like the plot to a late 80s/early 90s cop movie. I approve. He also tells Sonny Marie’s case file number and the file number of a related stabbing, strongly advising that Sonny do some computer research. In other words, the game posits that YOU, the player, does some REALISTIC detective work. “Reality role playing,” as it says on the box, indeed.

Oh, and Captain Tate has one extra surprise for Sonny:

That’s right! The woman that Sonny had to bust for unprofessional conduct and overrule in front of a vehicular offender is now Sonny’s partner, getting assigned to Homicide, for some reason, and potentially being responsible for Sonny’s safety in a future life-or-death situation. Pretty interesting plot twist. Sonny isn’t too happy about the news, but Morales seems cool enough, apologizing to Sonny for being “rough around the edges” and saying that she’s not so bad once you get to know her.

Captain Tate leaves to handle some other business, so I figure I should look up those cases. First, just for the hell of it, I check out the Personnel section and call up Morales’s file, figuring I should check out my new partner. Turns out she has quite a history.

There are also a bunch of Sierra employees who apparently work at LPD.

Oh well. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I click on “Serial #” to see if I can put the number from the back of the Bronze Star Sonny found under Marie’s car. It turns out you can! This medal was stolen from murder victim and World War II vet Samuel Britt, and the file references his case number.

I figure I should start at the beginning, so I check out Mr. Britt’s case. He was murdered via repeated stab wounds on March 3, 1990, and had a pentagram carved into the lower-left part of his torso after death. Some hair collected from the victim’s hand reveals that the presumed attacker has Type A-Negative blood. The medal was reported stolen, and according to the file, there is no modus operandi or similar murders. The investigator, John Childs, speculates that a cult might have moved into the area. Great. I think back to poor Mr. Britt’s Bronze Star medal itself. In the inventory screen, it kind of looks like a pentagram. Maybe that’s why the murderer stole it? Was the medal the reason for the murder? I don’t know, but it’s a weird coincidence.

I check out the old case that Captain Tate told me about and read about the unfortunate Clifford Jones, murdered on March 23, 1990, just a few weeks after Samuel Britt. Mr. Jones also died from stab wounds, and Detective Childs believes that Jones interrupted the perp during a burglary. There was also a pentagram carved onto the victim’s body after death in the same spot as on Mr. Britt, and hair found on the scene, presumably the murderer’s, revealed Type A-Negative blood. My guess is that Sonny is dealing with a serial killer.

Nothing left to do but check out Marie’s case. One thing that sticks out is that her wounds were the same size as the wounds on Messrs. Britt and Jones, 6” x 1 ½” and presumably made with a dagger. The file indicates that the attackers were motivated by robbery, which makes no sense because Marie’s purse was still with her when she got taken to the hospital. Lastly, the file speculates that the attackers were frightened off during the attack. But who, or what, frightened them?

So that’s a lot for Sonny to chew on. I try talking to Morales, but she has nothing useful to offer. I then talk to the other detective in the office, Hanks, to see if he can help. He’s kind of a wise-ass, making comments about the newspaper he’s reading, but a commonality between his comments stands out: First, he tells Sonny that some old lady has posted a reward and is requesting witnesses to help her find her lost dog. Second, some fans were trampled to death at a Pink Mongoloid concert, and the paper put out a call to ask for witnesses. I think back to the nameless reporter and the card gave Sonny. Could he help?

Yes! I call the number and give the info, and the reporter offers to publish the request in the next morning’s edition.

Oddly, the card disappears from Sonny’s inventory after this. Oh well, I wrote the number down for future reference.

Since it seems like a serial killer is on the loose, why not check out what the criminal psychologist, Dr. Aimes, has to say? It turns out he’s kind of a pompous ass, telling Sonny he can’t build a profile without the proper documentation. I try to print stuff from the computer, but there is no way to do so that I can find. I guess I’ll have something to give him later.

There’s also a personnel file on Dr. Aimes’s desk, but when Sonny tries to grab it, the good doctor gets angry.

Wondering if I missed something earlier in the game, I restart and immediately head to Dr. Aimes’s office. He is not there, so I try to pick up the file. He then pops out from under his desk (?) to admonish Sonny. I guess I didn’t miss anything and just haven’t found the right time to check out that file. Unless it’s a red herring.

Oh well. I kind of want to go back to the Oak Tree Mall and see if the Army recruiter knows anything about Samuel Britt. But first, I go to the evidence lockup on the ground floor to drop off the chain and the Bronze Star.

The attending officer, Martha Gibbs, asks Sonny to enter the case number for each before booking them in the proper file. Unfortunately, after depositing the Bronze Star, the game automatically makes Sonny drive home! I restore and, before driving to the mall, check out the trunk of each car.

Both the cruiser and the unmarked car have evidence kits with a scraper, toothpicks, plastic baggies, and a camera. The cruiser has road flares, but the box of flares in the unmarked car is empty. So there’s the explanation as to why Sonny has to grab some from the closet. This smacks of a puzzle in Codename: ICEMAN that Trickster rightly complained about involving not checking that a security guard gave you the proper ID card back. In other words, this is a very procedural puzzle, expecting the player to pore over every single detail, without any prompting, lest you run into a dead man walking situation later on. Brutal.

Anyway, I get into the unmarked car. Morales comes down, uncannily being able to tell the exact moment that Sonny is about to leave. She puts her purse on the arm rest. I click on it, and get a message about not being able to take the key while Morales is around. I keep that in mind.

I drive to the mall. When I try to make the turn, the game tells me there’s no reason to.

Really? There’s no reason to go investigate “all possible leads”? This makes no sense. I figure it’s a bug, so I check out some FAQs online. Nope! It turns out that the only thing left to do on this day is book the evidence and go home. This sounds like really bad police work to me, but what do I know? I’m not a former California highway patrolman turned game designer.

I drive back to the station, book the evidence, and leave. Sonny automatically stops at Lytton General Hospital first to check up on Marie. In the lobby, I walk into the florist and buy Marie a rose.

The statement contained in this screenshot is 100% true.

I then click “Talk” on the receptionist, who gives Sonny Marie’s hospital room. Wouldn’t Sonny have known this already since he was just at the hospital yesterday? I go to Marie’s room and click “Eye” on her to get the close-up. I talk to her a bit, and give her the rose and the music box. They make Marie’s finger twitch and her eyelids flutter. Signs of life! This is good news!

I push the call button to see if Sonny will mention this to the nurse. He does not. With nothing else to do, I leave and go home. The game automatically takes care of the rest.

On Day 3, Sonny gets to his office only for Morales to lock her desk drawer, stand up, announce she has to go to the locker room, and that she’ll meet Sonny outside. I try to open her desk drawer when she leaves, but am told it’s locked. I guess that’s why I’ll need her key.

There’s a message from the Captain in Sonny’s basket. Turns out someone named Carla Reed saw the request for witnesses in the paper and called with some information. Her address is 325 Second Street, which the Captain remarks is strange, as that’s an industrial area. Could be a trap. Nothing left to do but go visit Ms. Reed. I also see that there’s a paper back on Hanks’s desk. I try to pick it up and am told that it is Hanks’s lunch so I should just leave it alone.

In the car, both Sonny and Morales express skepticism about this witness, hoping it’s not some joke given the strange address. I drive to Second Street and get out to see a bag lady sleeping in some newspapers by a shopping cart which presumably contains all of her worldly possessions. This is Carla Reed.

She won’t talk to Sonny until he shows her his badge. He then asks her to come to the station, but she refuses unless she can bring her stuff. Sonny says it won’t fit in the car, and we are stuck with a stalemate.

Just for kicks, and prompted by the above message, I try clicking the handcuffs on Carla Reed. Instead, Sonny pushes her carriage to the pipe and cuffs it in place. This pleases Carla, who comes to the station to report what she knows. I don’t know how I feel about accidental puzzle solving, but I’ll take it.

In Sonny’s office, Carla does nothing but complain about being hungry. I give her Hanks’s lunch, which calms her down enough to describe the scene: While foraging through a dumpster at the Oak Tree Mall, she is bumped by a large man. She responds by punching him in the leg. The man then turns and grins at her. Carla says that the man was frightening, and that she’ll never forget his face. Further talking reveals nothing but some bad jokes . . .

Like this one.

. . . so I turn on the computer and go to the “Tools” section, where there’s a program to make faces. Clicking through each feature prompts a message from Carla, who eventually Sonny when he’s gotten the hair, eyes, mouth, and so on right. Do this for each feature, search the database, and Carla will tell you who she saw the night Marie was attacked.

Steve Rocklin: One bad dude. Drugs, burglary, and membership in a cult called “Sons of Darkness.” I think we have our first suspect. I wonder what would have happened had I not gotten the card from the reporter?

Carla wants to go home, so Sonny and Morales drop her off. I remember to get my handcuffs back, which gives me points, and again prompts me to wonder what would have happened if I had forgotten to take them, other than Carla being unable to move her cart. Would it have been a big deal at all? Aren’t police stations pretty much swimming in handcuffs?

Whatever. I get back in the car, and Morales checks her watch, tells Sonny she has to make a phone call, and asks him to take her to the Oak Tree Mall. Sonny reluctantly agrees, although I figure that this is a good time to talk to that Army recruiter.

Upon arriving, Sonny notices that Morales is careful to take her purse. No key-swiping now, but there is a key maker’s shop in the mall. Another future puzzle, I think.

The key maker is useless, as is the Army recruiter. I can show the recruiter my badge, which makes him more cooperative, but there’s nothing to do or take, I am unable to ask about Samuel Britt, and they guy offers no useful information about anything.

I’ll take one of those tank keys, please!

Can you make the game let me ask you about Samuel Britt?

When I get out of the recruiter’s office, Morales is back in the car. When Sonny gets in, the game says that the shift is over. Sonny automatically drops Morales off, drives home, sleeps, wakes up, showers and dresses, and gets back to the station, ready to begin Day 4 with an investigation about Steve Rocklin and a possible cult. I sure hope I didn’t create any dead ends up to this point, but all in all, this game has been fun, actually offering a rough approximation of what being a detective might be like. Given the game’s reputation, let’s see how long these good feelings last.

Points: 181 out of 460.
Inventory: Gun, handcuffs, flashlight, road flares, nightstick, wallet with $7.50, computer access card, notebook.

Session Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Total Time: 4 hours and 50 minutes.


  1. So it's a satanic cult? And they are dealing with drugs? Hm, not far of from last post guess, the madman threw me for a loop there with his alien invaders. And Morales seems a bit... suspicious, especially since it's clearly hinted that the player has to search her desk for some information.

    1. Yep. A drug-dealing, Satanic cult. If they played rock n' roll, they'd be pretty much every parents' worst nightmare.

      And I love how your'e still jonesing for the "alien invaders" angle. If only this game DID have aliens . . .

    2. I can go the Stargate-way and say that if all religions are based on aliens a satanic cult is then by definition an alien cult ;). Although as far as cults go I prefer Blue Oyster Cult, which is, when I think about it, an alien cult according to their songs... maybe need to make a new rotation in my music library.

    3. Now, if Blue Oyster Cult were the villains of Police Quest III, that would be the greatest plot twist of all. Tell me again why you're not an adventure game designer?

    4. Now that you mention it, doesn't Steve Rocklin look a bit like Will Ferrels SNL character in the Cowbell-sketch? Add a bit bushier beard and some glasses?

      And if I was the game designer for this with Blue Oyster Cult as the villains I would probably have been thrown out by the die hard Police Quest fans when it is revealed that Sonny Bonds is a grandchild to Imaginos the starchild from the star Sirius that stole a magic mirror from an Mayan temple and that the Blue Oyster Cult that does the bidding from the old gods are planning to use his blood to resurrect their ancient masters. Which also would alienate the Blue Oyster Cult fans since Imaginos isn't one of their loved albums (although I find it probably the best overall).

      Need to get in the satanic cult theme so this week it's Black Sabbath. So next post better be on War Pigs and Iron Men being Paranoid about a Eternal Idol or Headless Cross. Or bring Lucifer's Friends, the Judas Priests into the mix as well ;)

    5. You've got to throw Rush in there somehow. They DID feature a pentagram on the 2112 album cover and on Neil Peart's bass drums for most of the 70s.

    6. Sadly, the only songs I've listened to is Tom Sawyer and YYZ. One could say that I didn't want to RUSH into it... that one hurt.

    7. It may tickle the oysters of youse guys if you remember Police Academy and the Blue Oyster Bar.

    8. I don't remember those movies too well, but consider my oysters tickled!(?)

    9. I've been getting confused. Whenever I hear of "Blue Oyster Cult" I think of Police Academy. Now I know they're different. Thanks for the clarity!

    10. I'd seriously like to know what were the images running through your mind before you realized it.

  2. The amount of possible dead ends are a little troubling, that's for sure. However if previous Police Quest games are anything to go by, sometimes it's possible to solve the case without collecting all of the evidence and all that happens is a reduced points total.

    1. We'll see how it shakes out Andy. If you recall from last post, I missed some points by, apparently, bungling the undercover cop traffic stop, even though I was just DOING MY JOB. Hopefully, I haven't run into any other dead-ends (a lot of comments were rot13'd, so I haven't read them yet. If anybody knows if I'm really and truly boned, please leave a comment IN BIG CAPITAL LETTERS to that effect).

    2. I learned this from a walkthrough years after playing PQ3. When patrolling the highway in the black and white, before pulling over any vehicle, you can use the in-car computer to run the plates of each car. In the case of the speeder (the non sex crazed one), when you run the plates, the computer tells you that he's a member of Sheriff's Department so you don't have to waste time pulling him over. I can't remember if you get points for doing this but I believe it's the correct method.

  3. I am not that much of a fan of the plot - especially the cult thing seems a bit fat from the supposedly realistic tone of the series. And I do have to wonder, why would Morales be transferred to homicide so suddenly.

    The flashlight thing is not that bad. If you haven't found the star during the first day, you can come back during the second day - and now the car has been towed away and the star can be seen quite easily,

    "Wouldn’t Sonny have known this already since he was just at the hospital yesterday?"

    I seem to remember that if you try to just take the elevator, Sonny comes immediately back and the game says that Marie has been transferred to another room.

    "I wonder what would have happened had I not gotten the card from the reporter?"

    On the third day, some other officer would have found out Carla and brought her to Sonny's office.

    1. The cult thing is a little out-there, but in actuality not that far removed from the bounds of reality, especially since Lytton is in California. I joke about California a lot (and, I mean, I have to . . . it's CALIFORNIA), but they have had and currently have their fair share of cults: The Manson Family, Heaven's Gate, Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, Scientology, the Kardashians . . .

      And thanks for the info about my feared dead-ends. These are more like alternate solutions than anything. I generally approve of alternate solutions.

    2. Certain regions seem to attract cults. Apparently there are dozens or hundreds of abandoned compounds up and down the BC coast where people tried to start their own societies away from civilization.

  4. As Ilmari said, they majority of these things are more about points even though they feel painful and worrying at the time. One of the big issues with this game is the internal clock - you're noticing this inadvertently as with the music box being missable at first, the amount of time you're given to explore the apartment depending on your CPU clock. You have unlimited time in the actual 'puzzle' areas though. I'd also like to say that there's no way they should let Sonny investigate the attempted murder/mugging of his own wife. Bad game.

    My positive for today is the setup for puzzles. You already know you have to steal Carla's keys purely because there's a keymaker - the convenient 'Army recruitment officer' area here making you already think that there's something to be had here. Well, it's a positive unless it's all a red herring of course, which I'm neither confirming or denying with my knowledge of the game elsewise - but this is typically the sort of 'logical step' puzzle that I always take as a positive in adventure games.

    1. I agree with you completely about the puzzle set-ups. So far, I've picked up on them all, I think. I wonder about some of them being missable, though, like jung unccraf vs lbh qba'g trg gur genpxvat qrivpr gb cynag ba Ebpxva'f pne, be vs lbh qba'g unir synerf jura lbh pbzr npebff uvf penfurq iruvpyr?

  5. Well, it happened. I ran into a weird bug, as well as a dead end: Qhevat Qnl 6, nsgre lbh tb gb gur pbebare'f naq trg gur phyg evat, gur phyg obbx, naq gur arjfcncre pyvccvat gnetrgvat Fbaal, tb gb Ebpxyva'f ubhfr jura vg'f ba sver naq trg gur unve naq oybbq fnzcyrf naq gur cubgbtencu bs Zvpunry naq Wrffr Onvarf, naq tb gb gur znyy sbe Zbenyrf'f cubar pnyy jurer lbh pna fubj gur cubgb gb gur Nezl erpehvgre naq trg Zvpunry'f svyr, lbh raq hc onpx ng gur fgngvba. Vs lbh znxr gur zvfgnxr bs tbvat onpx vagb Fbaal'f bssvpr, gur tnzr tbrf ba n ybbc: Pncgnva Gngr gryyf Fbaal gb tb gb gur pbebare, naq nsgre lbh qb (gur qbbe vf ybpxrq), lbh tb gb gur ubfcvgny NTNVA, naq gura lbh trg gur zrffntr gung gur ubhfr vf ba sver NTNVA . . . V whfg erfgberq.

    Juvpu oevatf zr gb zl frpbaq ceboyrz: V qrnq-raqrq zlfrys. Vg'f abg vafhezbhagnoyr orpnhfr V unir fnirf, ohg jura V jnf gelvat gb trg n jneenag gb frnepu gur ubhfr ng 522 Jrfg Cnyz, V qvqa'g unir rabhtu rivqrapr . .. orpnhfr V obbxrq vg. Nera'g pbcf fhccbfrq gb obbx rivqrapr? Guvf jnf n engure purnc qrnq-raq V guvax. I don't need hints now, but if I do I'll put out the call.

    1. Ah yes, "the loop". I believe I warned you about that

  6. Carla Reed is an anagram for Car Dealer. Think about it.

    1. I did think about it, and you're right. It is you've cracked the code!

      The code to what, I'm not quite sure. But when you figure it out, please let me know!

  7. Yes you did! What a weird bug. It showed the hospital at night and the game's time moved ahead, but the events stayed the same. Like a weird Twilight Zone episode, or an elaborate prank played on Sonny.

  8. Well, whaddya know... It seems that there is no conflict of interest if a cop investigates a crime involving their own kin & kine.

    This rule only applies to all active participants in the judicial Court of Law; i.e. judges, prosecutors, defendant lawyers, bailiffs & etc. Also, even if Sonny apprehended the killer here, it seems that (during trial) his professionalism will be called to question and requires several people to support his character before his testimony can be accepted.

    1. Interesting! I've never done criminal law, so this is news to me. Thanks Kenny! Who says computer games rot your brain?


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