Tuesday 4 July 2017

Police Quest 1 (VGA Remake): Morning Routine

Written by Alex

And so we begin the Police Quest remake. I have to say, right off the bat, it gets points for presentation. I like that the title screen mirrors that of Police Quest III, released one year earlier.

In fact, this remake uses a lot of the same assets from Police Quest III, as though they were intending make sure that the overhaul of the series maintained a certain level of continuity throughout.

Lytton P.D. in Police Quest I

…and Lytton P.D. in Police Quest III.

Sonny’s street clothes in Police Quest I…

…and in Police Quest III

And lastly, Sonny’s character portrait in Police Quest I

…and in Police Quest III.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but these are cool little touches that make me wish that the second game had also been similarly remade to bring it in line with these two.

Back to the intro: over some wailing guitars—well-composed, though the audio quality is a bit grating—we get the game’s credits, as well as some ominous imagery bespeaking the violence facing the city of Lytton.

This is actually animated.

So is this. It turns into a SKULL!

It definitely gives the game that “cop show” vibe I’m sure they were going for, and that I enjoyed so much about the third game . . . at least in the beginning.

But among the credits . . .

. . . we see . . .

. . . a distinct . . .

. . . lack . . .

. . . . of Jim Walls.

“Hey, you say something?”

Gah! Oh whew, it’s just you, Ji—Officer Walls.

“Ah, come on. Jim’s fine. So anyway, what’s up?”

Nothing. I’m just curious as to why you’re not in the game’s credits.

“Are you serious? You must’ve gotten a defective copy or something. One of those pirated discs I think.”

I don’t think so . . . that’d be a strange change to make, don’t you think?

“Oh, you think? Just remember, punk, I made a lot of enemies in my 15 years on the California highway patrol, many of which I put into my games! I mean, it could’ve been Jimmy “Slick” Velazquez, a numbers-runner I used to know down in Chico who . . . wait, I remember now. It’s probably one of Ken Williams’ little gags. Let me tell you, that guy was such a joker! He was always jealous that my mustache was so much better than little strip of fuzz he wore on his lip. He stuck me in at the end of the game, and himself as the very first name. That guy . . . such a crackup.”

Hey, if you say so, Jim. You’re the boss.

“Damn right I am!”

The game begins with a view of Lytton’s skyline and a few text bubbles written in the style of travel guides and newspaper articles, describing Lytton’s growth in prosperity and troubles from the 1960s up through the then-current early 90s. It’s brief, economical, and tells the player all they need to know without bogging down the game’s intro. An excellent framing story that does its job without overstaying its welcome.

“Kind of like me, right?”

R-right. . .

We begin, as does every game in the series, with Sonny Bonds coming to the station one morning. I’m going to try to keep this playthrough from being like a walkthrough, or incessantly chronicling the differences between the original Police Quest and this remake, but some noticeable differences that actually have to do with a simple, initial puzzle are that 1) Sonny starts in his street clothes and 2) the layout of the station is different.

The first door in the screenshot above leads to the evidence lockup. There’s nothing to do there right now, since Sonny’s inventory is completely empty, which is kind of weird for a nitpicky reason I’ll get to later. Cool factoid: The officer running the lockup is named Russ Dinkle, the same Russ Dinkle who, according to the in-box copy of the Gazette, won a 13” color TV in the recent raffle. I love little touches like this.

There is nothing of value on the table, but the hanging file holder on the wall contains transfer request forms. Sonny can’t do anything now, since he’s technically off-duty, but come on! This is a Police Quest game! Paperwork is always on the table!

But this is sort of a puzzle, isn’t it? It’s a pretty good way of tipping the player off to an action they can perform without being too obscure or cryptic.

But wait! There’s more! And it doesn’t devolve into hand-holding! Down the elevator is the narcotics department, home of Lieutenant Morgan. The game goes out of its way to make you realize he’s prissy, overpaid, and a suck-up to the Commissioner, but when you talk to him he offers this little gem of a hint:

I like it. It’s reinforcement for the player to realize that those transfer request forms aren’t just for decoration. I know what I’ll be doing later . . . once Sonny is officially on the clock!

I similarly like the tie-in to the in-box copy of the Gazette, which has an article detailing Sonny’s excellence on the force. Good writing so far!

Also, some of the descriptions in Lt. Morgan’s office are pretty funny.

“Cloun” = “Clown.” Ha ha.

Steelton, an actual location you get to visit in Police Quest II.

Back on the main floor, I come to a lobby with three doors, a table holding radio receivers, and a board replete with patrol car keys. I take a radio and a set of keys and try to go into the first door I see.

Well, it looks like getting uniformed and on-duty is the first of Sonny’s puzzles. Again, it guides the player without being too much of a tutorial.

The door on the lower-left leads to Sgt. Dooley’s office. There’s nothing to do there besides get yelled at for not being changed and in the briefing room. Dooley and his office are messes, the opposite of Lt. Morgan. I’m not sure if there’ll be anything to do in there later, but for now, there are no puzzles, so it’s off to the last accessible door in the station: the locker room!

Sonny’s locker is in the middle of the middle bank of lockers, and it presents us with the game’s first copy protection puzzle. It seems that, as in Police Quest III, super-cop Sonny here forgot his combo, but then remembers that it’s the final football score of last night’s game, conveniently chronicled in the in-box copy of the Gazette! It’s 26-9, and yes, you have to enter it every time you go to open the locker.

Inside is Sonny’s uniform, nightstick, gun, ticket book, pen, a towel, and . . . uh . . . the keys to his personal car.

. . .

How did he get to work if he had neither the keys to a patrol car nor his personal car?!

“He walked! What, are you some kind of wimp afraid of walking?”

But the game showed a squad car driving into the station at the beginning!

“It did not.”

It did too! Here’s photographic evidence depicting the scenario I just described!

As you can clearly see from Exhibit A here, a squad car is very obviously approaching the entrance to the Lytton Police Department’s underground parking garage.

And in Exhibit B, we unequivocally see said squad car making a right turn into the station’s egress and, indeed, enter said underground parking lot. Therefore, it is safe to assume that—

“Cram it, Law Boy. He walked. Who’s to say that’s Sonny’s car?”

But why would the game show it otherwise! It’s Sonny’s car. Q.E.D.

“Oh yeah? Prove it.”

You know what? Let’s just move on . . .

Grabbing the towel, Sonny heads to the shower, washes up, changes into his uniform, takes his stuff, and we’re ready to go!

More items! The inventory in Police Quest I is normal Sierra fare, where clicking on items gives you their descriptions and . . .

Bed . . . posts . . .?

“What? Cops have personal lives too, you know. What’s the big deal?”

Is . . . is this what you mean by saying you designed these games based on your own personal experiences?

“. . . I can neither confirm nor deny.”

*Shudder* Now that the game’s first puzzle is over, Sonny can get to his briefing, where Sgt. Dooley runs down a list of Lytton’s problems with drugs and violence, particularly among the young, compliments Sonny for his recent outstanding work (though warns him not to get a big head), and tells all officers to keep an eye out for a certain stolen vehicle:

Sgt. Dooley looks a little . . . nerdy, doesn’t he? I approve!

I suspect that’s a mission or a puzzle! Again, the game gives a breadcrumb trail without being too obtuse or too on-the-nose. So far, so good!

After the briefing, I click around some boxes built into the wall and find out that they’re called pigeonholes, used for messages between officers and the like. Eventually, I find Sonny’s and learn that his buddy Steve wants to meet for something called an 11-98 at a place called Carol’s later in the shift. In the manual’s list of radio codes I can’t find an 11-98, but I’m going to assume it means a break or something. In any event, it’s another puzzle/quest/objective/event/whatever you want to call it. Cool!

Lastly, there’s an in-game copy of the Gazette lying on one of the tables in the briefing room featuring, among other things, mention of a shadowy figure many think is responsible for Lytton’s troubles . . . a drug kingpin known only as the Death Angel!


Rock and roll! The game’s objectives seem to be getting clearer. The morning routine out of the way, nothing left to do but hit the streets and get patrolling! But first, a little paperwork . . .

Next time, we’ll go over the driving mechanics and see what happens to Sonny on duty. I’ve got a feeling that the remainder of the day is going to be anything other than routine.

Inventory: Loaded gun, pen, radio, squad car keys, ticket book, nightstick, handcuffs, keys to Sonny’s Camaro
Score: 13 out of 225
On a scale of Don Knots to Don Johnson, how much do I feel like a cop?: Will Estes as Officer Jamie Reagan

Play time: 45 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


  1. Again with the massive interruptions by the fat cop guy. Those are not funny, they are not good for the flow of the article. The rest is fine.

    1. I don't know, tastes may vary here. I personally like the intrusion of Mr. Walls.

    2. This is Alex' writing style. I think it's funny. Others may not

    3. I also like the appearances from Jim Walls - normally I just lurk but I needed to say I hope they stick around!

    4. @Alejandro You know, I wish he'd leave my front door too.

    5. @Ilmari I do appreciate the honest feedback and criticism though. Blogging is a lot of A/B testing and seeing what works. The gag was really a joke on how he's inserted into PQ games, especially when you die. That he's not in this one, I find kind of strange, and a little bit funny.

    6. @Jason Well, thanks for leaving the realm of the lurkers and commenting here on TAG!

    7. @Alex I guess the simple explanation would be that Mr. Walls had already left Sierra at that point. It's still a bit awkward that he gets no credit for the game, since it is a remake of his work. Kind of like someone would film Psycho again and would give no credit to Alfred Hitchcock.

    8. I agree that the Interrupting Jim Walls meme is a bit stale. Bringing him in when you're talking about the fact that he got slighted in the credits, or scratching your head about police procedure is fine, but the other times it's not adding anything. And that giant picture takes up the better part of a page. If you could shrink the size of the interruptions down (say, to the size and layout of one of these comments) they'd be a lot more palatable, IMO.

    9. @Fry I appreciate the feedback--thanks! I was working up to something with it, as you'll see in post 2, but not every idea works. Like I said in another comment, there's always a lot of A/B testing when it comes to writing.

      Thanks again!

    10. I for one enjoy Alex's blogging style. I was in hysterics at the douchey Robin Hood guy from earlier playthroughs, and I'm loving Mr Walls here. It's certainly different from other contributors, though. It helps turn the experience of playing the game into a story. :-)

    11. @GregT

      I forgot about Robin Douche! Ha ha!

  2. My guess would be that, rather than the reuse of assets from Police Quest III being done to add continuity, it was done to save costs. Which makes sense, seeing as they'd know the market for this remake would likely be lower than that of a brand new story.

    I'd also guess the graphics for this were done earlier - the PQ3 Sonny portrait is definitely better than this one, so if they had done PQ3 first, I expect they'd have just reused it rather than going to the effort/expense of drawing a 'worse' one.

    I agree completely that it would have been great if they did Police Quest 2 in the same engine - I thought the story and puzzles were cool, but I didn't have the patience to complete it when I started playing it a few years ago - for me, all the '2's of the quest series are the more annoying and dated ones, partly because of these remakes. (Unnecessary personal RPG opinion - I feel the same way with the Ultima series)

    1. >the PQ3 Sonny portrait is definitely better than this one

      What?!? Look at that ugly yellow skin!

    2. Well, the PQ3 one is larger and thus more detailed (and maybe better framed), but that alone is no indicator of superiority. It is weird though. A competent pixel artist should be capable of adjusting the skin tone, but I guess there was another reason for the redraw (making it look more consistent with the other portraits?).

    3. I should have known better to make a definitive statement about art. :)

      I still think the PQ3 art is much better, but accept that others disagree.

      Also, who does a remake without a credit to the original designer? Poor form, Sierra!

    4. @TBD and Laukku: You're right: The portrait isn't really a "re-used" asset. But it IS drawn in a similar style to unequivocally look like Sonny. Same with his street clothes. But whether to save money or for continuity (both?), I personally like the decision.

      And regarding the second game of each Sierra series: The early ones (KQ, SQ), really just used the same engine, and played almost like expansions. As far as *annoying* second games, I'd say that Leisure Suit Larry 2 really takes the crown in that respect. SQ 2, KQ 2, QfG 2, and even PQ 2, in my opinion, are all fine games.

    5. While thinking about how I'm not a big fan of the 2nd games in the Quest serieses... I realised that the only Sierra games I owned in the day on my Amiga were Kings Quest V and a compilation box of 2nd games - King's Quest 2, Space Quest 2 and Police Quest 2. This amused me for some reason.

  3. I have finished Kyrandia, so I'll be firing this up soon.

    The graphical upgrade is good enough, I kinda like the old style PQ1 but I'm sure I'm in the minority about that. But I'm a sucker for a Sierra point & click interface, and I'll be trying to arrest everyone I meet (in the eyes of a cop, everyone is guilty of something).

    Here's hoping you can find a slightly different picture of old Jim for his inevitable next appearance.

    1. @Andy Glad to have you play along! I, too, love the original PQ to pieces, especially for the "take off clothes" death. But this remake is pretty good so far.

      As far as pictures of Officer Walls there . . . there are, sadly, precious few shots of him to use.

  4. Great post, Alex! You are really funny guy - I love Jim Wall's interruptions! :)

    1. @Anonymous I'm glad you're enjoying the posts. They're fun to do, and I love reading everyone's takes on the different games here (especially the . . . odd ones, like Fascination).

  5. “Cram it, Law Boy. He walked. Who’s to say that’s Sonny’s car?”

    Isn't there another obvious possibility? Perhaps Sonny had spent the night in drunken debauchery, was arrested by a colleague and was taken to police department to sober up. No wonder he has to shower.

    1. Makes sense, because who the hell has to shower when they get to work? Does he not have hot water at home?

    2. @Ilmari My friend, I think you just cracked the case.

      @TBD I think that was a gag in the original PQ 1 regarding the cop who is always in the locker room shower. In the remake, he just sings "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.

    3. @TBD I know some people who shower when they get to work. They travel to work by a bicycle and work up a lot of sweat in the process. The rest of us are pretty happy that they wash themselves before entering their cubicle.

  6. The Cloun College joke is interesting. Baraboo, WI was actually home of the Ringling/Barnum & Bailey Clown College until its closure in 1997. It's still home of the world-famous Circus World Museum, which I visited when I was 8, but have no real memory of.

  7. This is brilliant. Jim Walls scares me.