Tuesday 27 October 2015

Police Quest III – The Puzzle From Hell: Prelude

Written by Alex

Oh, Jim Walls and friends: Why do you hate me? I’m following proper police procedure. I’m using the manual. I’m picking up on in-game clues and hints and trying to do everything right. But it’s not working. Why? Why must you be so damned finicky?

I’ll tell you why: Because you can. That’s why.

You see, it was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time before I ran into THE puzzle, the one that kept me from progressing in this game when I first played it all those years ago. The puzzle that drove me so insane, I refused to touch this game for over fifteen years. But here I am, patrolling the streets of Lytton, solving crimes and dispensing justice like a true bad-ass cop with a true bad-ass cop soundtrack, getting through your stinking puzzles. I’m back, baby. I’m back! And fools and criminals better beware, or they may just catch a bullet in the torso.

Don’t &*@! with Sonny Bonds!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we need to set the scene. Day 4 begins like any other, with Sonny doing his morning routine and driving into the station. I notice that he doesn’t start his shift until around one o’clock in the afternoon, the lazy bum. But he hasn’t gotten fired yet, so who am I to judge?

Not Jim Walls, I can tell you that.

Being Day 4, the third day since I started this game, I figure that Officer Banks must have returned the tracking device, mentioned way back in the first gameplay post, to Lytton PD’s tech department. So the third floor is my first stop. There, in the Mike the Angry Geek’s drawer, is the tracking device.

Tracking device in hand, I make my way to Sonny’s office to see what administrivia awaits. Morales, again, locks her desk drawer and gets up to head to the women’s locker room the moment Sonny goes in. Nothing suspicious about that.

In Sonny’s inbox is a subpoena. Uh-oh, that’s never good.

A subpoena (“sub-pee-na”), for those of you who aren’t lawyers (and good for you, I say!) is a summons to appear in court. Why the legal system can’t just use the word “summons” is a good question, but I think it has something to do with overcompensation via the use of Latin. Anyway, this subpoena requests that Sonny testify in the matter of Juan Jose Ruiz, one of the people Sonny gave a ticket to way back on Day 1. He was the slow driver with the souped-up old Ford. So screw trying to find out who brutally assaulted my wife: Let’s go to court!

Before leaving, I refer to the manual section on “Special Operating Procedures,” specifically Section VI: Courtroom Procedure: “1. Be prompt. 2. Be prepared and have proper paperwork available. 3. Testify in a professional manner and cite only those facts surrounding the case.”

Proper paperwork! I knew that, in this game, paperwork had to be a part of the puzzle. I remember checking out the glove box in Sonny’s cruiser and seeing the radar gun’s calibration chart. I also remember my own real-world experience sitting in court and waiting for the traffic cases to finish before conducting my own business and seeing that the traffic cops who won their cases always had their calibration charts.

That’s right, Police Quest III is about to hit too close to home for this here adventuregamer. You see, by night I may be a smooth-talking, screenshot-posting, perp-dispatching gumshoe, but by day I’m actually a lawyer. And while I never did any criminal work, and am currently working for Uncle Sam, I did civil litigation for five years and spent nearly every day in court. Every. Single. Day. I am not relishing the prospect of simulating my actual, real-life job in an adventure game. But Sonny has to “Be prompt,” so I guess I have no choice lest Jim Walls pop up and admonish me for my lack of punctuality.

Nooooo! Make it stop! Make it stop!!!!!!!!!

Morales decides to wait for Sonny as he strolls into the court for a date with Mr. Ruiz. Inside, the assistant district attorney is ready to hear Sonny’s testimony about the circumstances surrounding his stop of Mr. Ruiz.

Celebrity look-alike time! I’ll go first: Ronald McDonald.

I got nothing for this guy.

No “So help me God”? Even in Massachusetts they say “So help me God.”

The ADA asks Sonny the kind of questions you’d expect, and all you have to do is click “Talk” on the ADA and Sonny proceeds to testify in a professional manner, citing only the facts surrounding the case. I think it would have been more fun if you could type your own responses in. Eventually, the ADA requests that the calibration chart, so I click it on him and he submits it into evidence. Usually, a document has to be authenticated in some way, typically by the attorney asking the witness to identify what it is, before . . . oh, who cares about this legal nonsense? You don’t. I am almost 100% sure of that.

So anyway, Mr. Ruiz’s useless lawyer has no questions for Sonny, which is preposterous: If you’re going to bother to pay your own lawyer to come to a traffic hearing, he’d damn well better be ready to do something. Mr. Ruiz then takes the stand, offering his sterling, iron-clad, and irrefragable argument (great word, irrefragable):

That’s right, Mr. Ruiz’s defense is that Sonny is racist. Wow! This game really is realistic!

The ADA has no questions for Mr. Ruiz, and again, neither does Ruiz’s empty suit of an attorney.

Ruiz should sue him for professional malpractice. Also, he looks like every lawyer in every 80s movie, ever.

This thrilling episode over, the Judge makes her decision: Mr. Ruiz is GUILTY! Which is kind of funny that she says “guilty,” because traffic violations like this are typically civil infractions, and the language used is usually “responsible” or “not responsible,” but again, who really cares? Not Jim Walls, that’s for sure.

Cares given: 0

When Sonny gets back into his car, Morales wants to go the mall again to make a phone call. I wonder why she can’t get a cellphone, and then I realize that, in 1991, a cell phone would look like this . . .

. . . and cost roughly $2,320.00 1991 dollars, which, adjusted for inflation as of 2014, comes to a hair over four grand. Okay then, the mall it is. It’s not like we have a serial killer to catch or anything. I sure hope nothing bad happens while we’re farting around at the mall.

The dum-dum leaves her purse behind, so Sonny swipes the key and takes it to Zak the keymaker to make a duplicate. I just have to see what Morales has in her desk drawer, after all; that’s much more important than catching my wife’s would-be murderer.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have found our serial killer. I mean, look at the guy!

Sonny gets his duplicate key and puts the original back before Morales is done with her phone call. With time to kill, I go back into the Army recruiter’s office to see if I can question him about Samuel Britt, Steve Rocklin, anything. Nope. It seems to me that the Army recruiter serves no purpose except for the game to make bad jokes about the United States military . . . you know, those losers who keep us safe?

Because everywhere that’s not California or New York sucks, amiright?

No sooner does Morales return to the car when they receive a message over dispatch: A 187 on Rose Street. I don’t even need the manual to know what a 187 is: Murder. Did our serial killer, presumably Steve Rocklin, strike again? We’ll find out. It’s a good thing I was in court testifying about traffic citations and waiting for my partner to make a phone call instead of searching for the guy. Realism! If this is how cops actually conduct their business, then I’m surprised I haven’t turned up dead with a pentagram carved into my torso.

The crime scene is a gross alley with the unfortunate victim tossed into a dumpster as if he were trash. This murderer has even less respect for human life than most murderers.

The officer on scene informs Sonny and Morales that he’s already called the coroner, who is on his way. Morales gets the camera from the kit in the trunk and takes some pictures of the victim. When that’s done, she walks away off-screen, presumably to be useless. It’s alright, Pat. I didn’t want help or anything.

I take the rest of the tools from the kit—scraper, toothpicks, and evidence baggies—and while I have the trunk open, put the road flares Sonny’s been carrying around like a dope into the empty box. Walking to the dumpster, I click “Eye” on the body and get a grisly close-up.

Yikes. Nothing left to do but swallow hard and start investigating. It doesn’t say so in the manual, but a police officer’s best investigative friend is the “Eye” icon. I figure I’ll click on his hand first: The computer files for the other victims I’ve been investigating discuss DNA evidence found under the victim’s fingernails. Sure enough, there is hair and skin under this guy’s.

I use some toothpicks to transfer the evidence into a baggie. Maybe this will help link the presumed suspect, Steve Rocklin, to the victim.

I then click “Hand” on the victim’s shirt to lift it up and check the wounds. It’s not a pretty sight.

Oh boy. We’re dealing with the same sick Satanic serial killer. There are stab wounds in addition to the pentagram. I click Sonny’s notebook on the pentagram to make him take some notes; I don’t know if these will be useful later on, or if it’s just for points, but it’s nice to actually make use of this particular inventory item.

Nothing left to do but search the body for some ID. I click “Hand” on his jeans and find his driver’s license. The victim is named Andrew Dent. I record his license number, and then the coroner arrives.

Oh. Great. This is Leon, another “coroner with a quirky sense of humor.” This trope was old in 1991. Nothing more to do with the body. Sonny automatically gives Leon Dent’s ID. Time to check out that abandoned car in the back of the alley.

Do you mean the dent on the car or the Dent lying dead in the dumpster?

Sonny sees gold paint on a dent. I use the scraper to scrape the paint into another baggie. Maybe we can ID the suspect’s car. I click on other spots on the car, and discover the VIN on the windshield. Heading back into Sonny’s car, I enter Dent’s license ID into the computer to call up his information, but I glean nothing valuable. The VIN is a six-digit number, and Sonny’s computer only lets him input 5 digit VINs, so that is useless. I wonder why the game even lets you find the VIN number in the first place.

I drive back to the station. Once there, Morales tells Sonny she has to run to her car. This is a perfect time to snoop in her desk drawer with my copy of her key! But first, actual policework beckons. I go to the evidence lockup and submit the paint and the skin and hair samples with Officer Gibbs. This case is assigned a new file number, which I jot down before heading back to the Homicide office.

Morales is absent, so I open her desk drawer. I am disappointed by what I find.

It’s a piece of paper with the numbers 386 written on it. I don’t care what kind of computer she has! I was hoping for something interesting, like drugs or a severed head. Oh well. Maybe this is the combination to her locker in the women’s locker room. She is always going down there, after all.

I’ll follow up on that later. First, I need to check Sonny’s inbox, where there is another message for him. This is from Dr. Wagner, Marie’s physician, telling Sonny not to forget to visit her. Geez, doc. What kind of jerk husband do you think I am?

Before leaving, I do try to go into the women’s locker room, but am unable to enter: The same woman punches Sonny and gives the same line about men being perverts. Lady, it’s like close to midnight three days later, and you’re still in the locker room? What exactly do you do here, anyway?

Since the shift is not over, Sonny brings Morales along to the hospital, who immediately absconds to a telephone when we get into the lobby. I stroll into the flower shop and buy Marie another rose. Sonny comments on his dwindling cash supply. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any ATMs in this game. Or casinos. Come on, Sierra! What kind of Quest game is this with no gambling mini-game?

Up in Marie’s room, Dr. Wager gravely tells Sonny that Marie’s condition is unchanged and that there’s nothing left to do but wait and hope that her condition changes. What, is he running for president or something?

Exactly what you want to hear from your doctor!

My confidence in Dr. Wagner is further eroded when I take a look at the medical chart hanging on the foot of Marie’s bed. It wasn’t there during Sonny’s previous trips to the hospital, so being the snoop I am, I check it out. It says that Marie’s IV dosage is supposed to be set at 0.005. 0.005 what, it doesn’t specify, but I distinctly remember her dosage reading .015 on previous visits. I click “Eye” on Marie to confirm.

Now, I’m no doctor, but this can’t be good. Unable to change the dosage himself, Sonny clicks the call button above Marie’s head. When the nurse comes in, Sonny gives her the scoop. She in turn calls Dr. Useless. The doctor initially doesn’t believe Sonny, but when he checks the chart against the IV meter itself, he fixes the dosage and at least has the common decency to be ashamed. Of course, he throws his staff under the bus.

What is it with this game and doctors? Dr. Aimes is a bloviating jerk, and Dr. Wagner is incompetent. Of all the professions to pick on—lawyers, bankers, government officials, cops—Police Quest III picks on doctors. Why?

Whatever. As long as Marie is getting the proper medication, I don’t care who screwed up what. I click hand on her, something I didn’t do in my previous visits, and Sonny gives her a smooch. I replace her old rose with the new one, which doesn’t do anything, and head out. Sonny drops Morales off at the station and then heads home to sleep. Tomorrow comes quickly, even for cops that don’t start their shift until 1:00 in the afternoon.

Points: 272 out of 460.
Inventory: Gun, handcuffs, flashlight, wallet with $2.50, computer access card, notebook, tracking device, keys to Morales’s desk.

Session Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Total Time: 6 hours and 20 minutes.


  1. "The dent contains gold paint."

    Do you mean the dent on the car or the Dent lying dead in the dumpster?


    Sorry, was just channeling the quirky coroner there for a minute.

    1. That was a GREAT one, a million times better than Leon the Poorly Written Stereotype! Can I change this post and retroactively put that joke in there, making it look like I came up with it?

    2. A bit late to the party, but of course you can. In face, I think you already did...

  2. *hugs Alex*

    I know how you feel. I sure wouldn't want to play a teaching game.

    1. Aww thanks.

      A teaching game . . . damn, that'd have even more paperwork, right? Grading papers and all of that? It would make Police Quest III's administrative duties feel like a pulse-pounding shoot-'em-up. Yikes!

    2. Hey, PQ1 was actually used by a few PDs to teach real cops how to do policing!

      That said, Alex, why are you complaining about having to go through lawyer stuff in this game when there were hundreds of rookies who were MADE to play through PQ1 with that horrible driving mechanic?

    3. @Kenny,

      So because PQ 1 was used as training I can't complain about PQ III? What would the Internet be without complaining?

    4. Although Police Quest prides itself on its realistic police procedure, the use of the game for training purposes slowed after too many cops became obsessed with walking around their patrol cars before their shifts, fearing their tires would spontaneously combust and they would die a horrible and sudden death if they didn't.

    5. Hahaha! That's a good one!

      Cop picks places a pencil on his desk and goes out on patrol. As he went pass the 3rd traffic light, he thought to himself, "Is that pencil important for something later? Did I dead-end myself? #$%&!"

    6. Hahahahah this is good stuff you guys! I wonder if there was a rash of cops making stops at local malls for phone calls when there were, you know, murders to catch and all of that.

  3. You're right, irrefragable is a pretty fun word.

    I thought documents could also be subpoena'd, which wouldn't make sense for the "summon" definition you gave, but you are the lawyer, not me!

    I think they're actually running an opium den out of the police station women's restroom, which is why Morales is always running off there, and why the same woman is in there at all hours.

    1. You are correct Fry. Evidence can also be subpoenaed. For the purposes of the post I figured I'd just go with the "summon a person" definition. Either way, a super-pretentious word.

      The opium den explanation would more interesting than how this game actually turned out! Yes, I finished it a few days ago. Yes, it sucks.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I sense great frustration within you. /betazoid

    But it's great fun to read. Please persevere. :)

    1. @Kirinn,

      Thanks! I did persevere, and finished the game a few days ago. All kidding aside, it's actually pretty good but just falls apart in the end.

  6. So, positives.. positives. Huh. I'm kinda running low, here. Adventure game puzzle made out of your ingame avatar's dying wife doesn't really seem like it can run under the term 'positive'. The legal stuff and randomly finding stuff in your partner's desk can't really go under this category either...

    I guess the crimescene is at least fairly well handled, with several pieces of tiny information that feel like actual 'detective work'. I mean, better them than puzzles like 'calibrate your gun!' or 'Pick the right pressure in your SCUBA gear or DIE!' of the previous game, right? If I recall, even if you miss a couple of those little things (like the flecks of gold paint) other crimescene investigators will come by and find them for you, too - it just makes Sonny feel that little bit more fleshed out, which is hard not to approve of.

    1. @Aperama,

      I agree that most of the puzzles so far haven't been too bad, and it seems like, if you miss something, the game will provide it later for you so as to not dead-end you, which is something I approve of. However, regarding this, I do wish that gur rivqrapr gung Fbaal pbyyrpgf sebz pevzr fprarf--QAN rivqrapr, sbe rknzcyr--unq fbzr checbfr. Ng yrnfg gur tbyq cnvag sbhaq ba gur nonaqbarq juvgr pne va gur nyyrl jurer Qrag jnf zheqrerq erfhygf va yrneavat jung xvaq bs pne Ebpxyva qevirf.

  7. I uh... don't see THE Puzzle in this post at all. Which of it was giving you trouble? Is it in the NEXT post?

    1. @Kenny,

      Hence the word "prelude" in the title ;)

  8. I remember that if you stayed out of the traffic control, the fourth day began straightaway from the murder scene. You never got the chance to get the key from Morales and you couldn't open her desk at the end of the day. I don't know if the key could have been obtained later, since I originally restored to an earlier save at the beginning of fifth day, when I finally had to succumb to a walkthrough and I noticed lot of things I hadn't done.

    1. @Ilmari,

      Really? You skip the entire court scene, too? Is that a way to work around the "trap" I read about in an earlier post's comment that fperjvat hc gur fghss jvgu Ehvm naq genssvp pbheg jba'g yrg gur tnzr nqinapr?

      I'm almost, ALMOST tempted to go back and try everything with this game, the way I did with Leisure Suit Larry 5. But that game could be blown through relatively quickly, and this game's driving mechanic alone makes it too tedious to contemplate doing. There is only so much time in the day (and my life) after all!

    2. There's no reason to go to court, if you haven't even met the guy. So yes, this is definitely a way to avoid one possible dead end. It would be quite interesting to know, if it means that you can't get Morales's key and fall into an even worse dead end. But I understand if you don't want to do that, since driving around in this game is so boring.

  9. The game seems good to me so far. I guess it depends on ones exposure to police dramas but I don't mind the cliches; they just make the game seem authentic. lol at the military innuendo; don't over-react to the games humour or anything okay?

    1. @Anonymous,

      The game actually IS pretty good! I finished it a few days ago, and I have to say, though, that, in my opinion, it falls apart on the last day with annoying puzzles, things that should be important being ignored, story weirdness, and a general sense of feeling rushed. I do almost wish that the game was longer, to tell you the truth.

      And great sentence, "don't over-react to the game's humor"; it made me chuckle because a) it's humor and I should just relax, and b) this is the Internet, where outrage is king. I'm taking an exaggerated look at things, though, because in reviewing games for this site, I get the opportunity to take a fine-toothed comb to them and really parse out what works and what doesn't. I think it's important to analyze the writing of these games, but you make a good point and sparked some interesting thoughts in my mind. For example, when it comes to rating the game, I should keep in mind that, while writing is (debatably) better in video games now than it was in 1991, in 1991 games like this were light-years beyond a lot of the games released before and up to that point. I can't get too involved in chronological snobbery.

      And also, like I said in a comment already: This is the Internet. Outrage is king. If my writing has convinced you that I'm an angry weirdo who yells at my computer screen over dumb things that happen in a game, then I guess I'm doing my job!

      In any event, glad you're reading, and I hope you keep visiting this site!

  10. Your not an angry weirdo, take my word for it. I am always visiting and reading this site so have no worries on that score. I guess I'm of the school of thought that if you are writing a humourous monologue it should be clear which parts are exaggerated and which are not. Because you are also in part reviewing as you go. Sometimes it is hard to tell your critique from your humour but maybe thats just me. In any event keep doing what your doing; my comment was purely tongue-in-cheek. :-)

  11. Less than a year's worth of posts to go! I'M GOING TO MAKE IT!!