Sunday, 6 August 2017

Police Quest 1 (VGA Remake): Won!

Written by Alex

The reign of the Death Angel is at an end. The city of Lytton is safe once more. And Sonny Bonds—Detective Sonny Bonds—is the most beloved man in the city.

How did we get here? What happened in between Sonny disguising himself *snort* as a gangster *snicker* in order to infiltrate the illegal gambling ring at the Hotel Delphoria?

Oh come on!

There were hiccups on the way. For starters, before Sonny leaves, Sgt. Dooley pops into Lt. Morgan’s office with some sad news: Officer Jack Cobb’s daughter, Kathy, died in the hospital from her drug overdose. This is more than a hiccup. This is tragic. And though Lt. Morgan tells Sonny not to let it distract him, Sonny wants to give Jack a call…

…except the game won’t let Sonny sit at his desk, telling him he has more important things to do. More important than wishing his friend whose daughter just died his condolences, offering to help, and providing a friendly, sympathetic ear? You know, the kinds of things that might help stave off suicide? Okay…

But enough of that. Here’s how the Hotel Delphoria operation went down.

The Scene

If you recall from last post, Sonny is to head over to the Hotel Delphoria and start drinking with Sweet Cheeks, who will have already been there, schmoozing with her friend, the bartender Alexandra Parker. Sonny will start talking with her and hopefully convince her to invite him to the secret illegal gambling ring she facilitates.

But first Sonny has to get a room.

No, not like that.

Easy enough. No puzzles here.This gets Sonny a room key. Nothing left to do now but explore. Sadly, the hotel is bereft of things to do. To the left is a manager’s office he can’t get into, and the only thing to do on any other floor is go to Sonny’s room, as there’s an inaccessible penthouse. Nothing left to do but head to the bar through the archway in the hotel lobby’s right.


Step two: Act the part of the gangster Jimmy Lee “Whitey” Banksten, get in good with Alexandra Parker, and infiltrate the gambling ring. This involves some vital components of police procedure, something that may not be taught at police academies around the nation.



And womanizing.

For a moment, Sonny thinks he’s wandered into a Larry game.

This stuff is not in the manual. It is Advanced Policing, known only to the masters.

But drinking with Sweet Cheeks is fun. Sonny knocks down a few and enjoys Sweet Cheeks’ overdone banter, which makes it clear that her hots for Sonny—I mean Whitey—are no mere act.

She tells Sonny that she has seen the “same three guys” going back and forth to the storeroom (in the screenshot, it’s in the upper-middle of the screen) where they stay for hours before coming out. But when she peeked in there one time right after they went in, she saw nobody.

Smells like a secret door! Or maybe the plumbing is backed up back there; I don’t know.

Whatever the source of the stench, I need to get back there and check it out. For his second drink, Sonny pays with a $100 bill and leaves $20 for a tip. This piques Ms. Parker’s interest, prompting Sweet Cheeks to formally introduce her to Sonny before taking off to use something called the “lejuois.”

(French readers, help a Yankee out! I’m assuming it means “toilet,” but the closest word I can find anywhere is le jouis, which means “the enjoyment,” which would be a pretty freaky slang term for the bathroom . . .)

Sonny and Alex get to chatting, with Sonny spinning a yarn that he had just gotten out of jail for embezzlement, which Alex finds interesting. When Sweet Cheeks returns, Sonny drops a line about wanting to take her to Vegas for some gambling, and they abscond to Sonny’s room for, presumably, a romp in the hay.

But before Sonny goes Alex, who apparently found his story interesting enough to trust him, reckons that Whitey is a man with lots of money, and a man who likes to wager it in games of chance: “If you were to come back later tonight,” she says, “alone except for a couple of C notes, I might be able to get you into a little private party.”

Sonny’s in. Things are looking good. But they’re also about to get dangerous.

Reporting In

If this post is sounding like a recitation of fact, it’s because it kind of is. The game is firmly on rails at this point, and so far there hasn’t been much to do in the way of puzzle-solving. That will change, sort of, very soon, including one very rant-worthy situation.

But I’ll keep it clean, because this is a family blog.

Aaaaaand there goes that promise.

In the hotel room, Sweet Cheeks is ready to go. But Sonny is supposedly supposed to call a cab to extract her from the situation before checking in with Lt. Morgan. I say “supposedly” because this is a part of the plan described nowhere by Lt. Morgan or Detective Watts, and yes, I checked my screenshots, which I took of every conversation (this will become more important in a few paragraphs).

But what the hell. As Sweet Cheeks says, the department is footing the bill . . . and they have a few moments to kill . . . what harm could there possibly be in a little fun?


Wouldn’t, like, a quickie have been enough? SEVERAL HOURS?! 

Yeah, I guess SEVERAL HOURS of sex may be fatal . . .

Let’s try this again.

That’s more like it!

So, in order to call a cab in the pre-Internet, pre-smartphone days, you would actually have to, get this, know the number and dial it in on an ancient device known only as a “land line” digit by digit. And if you didn’t know the number, you used this thing called a “phone book” with the numbers of people and business and stuff printed in it to figure it out.

Being in a hotel room circa 1992, you’d expect there to be a phone book somewhere, say, maybe in the drawer with the Gideon’s Bible, right?

I mean, the game even tells you that the nightstand probably has a phonebook in it. Easy puzzle, right?

Proof that I am not making this up.

Nope. The game makes you call 411, known to us old-timers as “Information.”

I have no real complaint about this puzzle, seeing as how calling information was a common thing to do back then (I’m 36, so I vividly remember using this service). But why tell the player that there’s likely to be a phonebook in the drawer, and then not let them open the drawer, especially when they need to know a particular phone number in order to advance with the game?

Anyway, with Sweet Cheeks out of harm’s way, it’s time for Sonny to check in with Lt. Morgan and . . .

. . . uh . . .

What’s his number?

I have no clue. And checking all of my screen shots, I do not see it anywhere. So I do the only logical thing.

I call 911.

They can’t help Sonny, and Sonny feels like a dope for doing this. And then the game drops this bomb on the player:

Now listen, game: Nobody mentioned this phone number. Nobody hinted it would be needed. Nothing in the manual, relied upon so heavily in the game for police procedure, mentions “Step 75.4: Make sure you find your Lieutenant’s telephone number prior to beginning a sting.” The only way the majority of players would know that they needed this number is getting to this point, trying to call Lt. Morgan, and realizing, “Oh dang, I don’t know his number!” and then getting this snarky message, forcing them to restore to an earlier point, or use a hint book, or call a hint line (remember those?) or spend 75 years punching in every possible permutation one-by-one.

You can’t dial 411 to solve this puzzle either. You can’t just dial the station. And you can’t use the phone book that’s in the nightstand!

But it wouldn’t be a Police Quest game without an infuriatingly obscure puzzle that dead-ends you way later in the game, would it? In Police Quest II, we had the whole recalibrating your gun’s sights thing. And while Police Quest III’s map-plotting puzzle from hell was more of an interface issue than anything, that game also had the whole “don’t actually book all the crime scene evidence you got according to proper police procedure, because you can never get it back, and you need it to get the search warrantin addition to needing to perform just the right steps in just the right sequence to make sure that Marie doesn’t die at the end of the game!

Because I didn’t kiss her at the right time.

Yes, I’m still bitter.

So how does one get the number? Glad you asked! After defenestrating my police manual, I consulted a walkthrough. But I was still curious, so I loaded back to when Sonny could use his computer and checked the personnel records.

Okay, so the number is there in the game. But I still call extreme double shenanigans in the 1st degree on this puzzle, and am using police code 666 to book it to the fiery depths of Hell itself.

Morgan tells Sonny to be careful and check in after the poker game. “Will do!” I say to the computer screen as I play. “Thanks for making such an integral puzzle [More on that later] require the player to have read the designers’ mind!” I don’t recall if the number is given in the original version, or if anything or anyone mentions that Sonny better know it, but that’s neither here nor there. All I know is that this is bad puzzle design.

Anyway, on with the mission.

The First Poker Game

Sonny is in. After slipping the lovely Ms. Parker a few bills, she brings him to the back room, pats him down, and lets him into the secret back room at the back of the back room (the backer room?) where the illicit high-stakes gambling is going on!

I think she’s enjoying this a wee bit too much.

Yeah, baby! Cards! Gambling! Thrills! Chills!


As with many Sierra titles, particularly the early ones (Space Quest I and Leisure Suit Larry I come to mind, though there is also, inexplicably, mandatory gambling in Leisure Suit Larry V and Codename: Iceman), Police Quest I features a poker game that you have to play.

Oh, I’m sorry: Did I say poker game? I meant poker games.

And look, I appreciate the idea here: Going undercover . . . infiltrating a gambling ring . . . getting in good with the bad guys in order to get the evidence to make the bust and make it stick!

It’s just that video poker is, quite frankly, boring. At least, to me. And slow. And you never win.

But what’s this?

This, alone, is going to save the “Puzzles” rating for this game after the debacle that is The Case of the Missing Phone Number.

I also love that it gives you the chance to see what happens if Sonny totally blows it at the card table. Let’s click that one first!

And maybe YOU should have brushed up on your
game-design skills before you—you know what? Forget it.

I’d much rather see what happens when you win!

But first, an introduction to the players: Sonny is playing against three bad dudes—Otto Lipschitz to his left, Gene “The Bambino” Bamboni (who can’t stop laughing at everything) to his right, and across from Sonny, the dangerous-looking (according to the game’s description) Mr. Frank Magpie.

Nice Bond villain-esque quip there.

In the interests of time and sanity (mostly sanity), I skip the game. After consulting the walkthrough, it turns out that you have to win $1,000 in order to move on. $1,000! You start with $300. Yeah, screw that.

Oh yeah: you can’t Save and Restore during the poker game either.

The Second Poker Game

No, not really . . .

Victory brings with it an invite to come back later and play an even higher high stakes game of poker. Oh joy. Once wasn’t enough, game?

Mr. Magpie gives the password—“Frank sent me”—and tells Sonny to come back later. Time to check in with Lt. Morgan, but first, let’s see what’s up with Alex?

Wait! Not yet!

I’m screwed, aren’t I?


I think I sequence-broke the game, but I just roll with it.

Alex leads Sonny to a secret, garishly decorated back room where . . .

Lovely use of green, guys . . .

. . . Frank Magpie comes out of the elevator and seats himself at the head of the table.

Yes, I know the table is round. Just go with it.

Mr. Magpie invites Sonny to talk “business” after the game, presuming that Sonny wins. In lieu of trying again to make $1,000, or whatever ludicrous amount is required now, I click the handy cheat button like so:

And go on my way to the penthouse of the Hotel Delphoria to talk business with the dangerous-looking Frank Magpie.

What could possibly go wrong!

End Game

A lot.

You see, at the penthouse, Magpie provides the Big Reveal. He is actually none other than Jesse Bains, the Death Angel himself!

That you love me and that I’m all of your wildest dreams come true?! 


Mr. The Death Angel is then distracted by a telephone call, telling Sonny to have a drink and think about the “lucrative” business Bains hinted at.

Come on game! The man told me to have a drink! Let me have a drink!

I see a phone—looking at it tells Sonny it’s suite 401 and gives the “points” chime, letting me know I’m doing something right . . . but I can’t call for backup.

True, but my ass is on the line here!

When Bains gets off of his phone call, he informs Sonny that one of their card-playing friends recognized him from the newspaper (Another tie-in with the newspaper! I love stuff like this!), and proceeds to blow him into Kingdom Come.

You know, that deep-throated laugh that accompanies this screen really adds insult to injury.

But I deserved this one. I know I did things out of order. I was, quite frankly, surprised that it let me go into the second game right after the first; I figured that I’d have to do something else to trigger that dialogue option with Alex. Nope.

Oh well. Now I know what to do! Let’s hop into our police-issued Way-Back Machine, also called “The Restore Function,” and give Lt. Morgan another buzz after the first poker game.

Reporting In Again

Lt. Morgan is happy to hear that things are going well. He’s going to have a backup team come by with money and a wire for Sonny.

A wire? Hmm . . . hasn’t Alex been patting Sonny down (and loving every minute of it) before each poker game? Is this going to be a puzzle? We’ll see!

Anyway, after a little bit, Detective Danny Anglin comes by, giving Sonny the cash and the transmitter, disguised in true 007 style as a fountain pen.

“Deluxe” or “secret”? Pick one, game!

Now, I’m ready to play poker click the “Win” button and finally take down Bains!

The Second Poker Game and the End Game, Done Right

Poker, blah blah blah . . . and no, there was no
puzzle involved with sneaking the transmitter by Alex.

Business, blah blah blah . . .

Phone call . . . come on game, let’s move things along!

Now I know the reason to know the room number: it’s kind of hard to let backup know where you are when you don’t know where you are.

I think it’d have been cooler if the transmitter was in his shoe.

Now, if Bains’ phone call had lasted 4 minutes and 59 seconds, Sonny would be in big, big trouble.

Seriously, how did they get in there?

This time, when Bains comes by telling Sonny to plant his protruding labia oris on his own posterior and give it a kiss, things turn out a wee bit different.

Yeah! That’ll show Bains what happens when you mess with Sonny Bonds, aka Whitey, and the City of Lytton! Take that, punk. One more dead drug dealer. Another bust in the books. And this one . . . this one will stick! It’s hard for a dead perp to beat the rap!

So? It could just be the wind. Leave him be, Sonny. Just walk away.

Walk away, Sonny . . . 

That ambulance was for Sonny, not for Bains . . .

I know, I know. Compassion, caring for all human life, et cetera, et cetera. But letting Bains go to that big garishly decorated secret hotel backroom in the sky would save Sonny and Sweet Cheeks-indeed, the entire city of Lytton—a lot of trouble later on in Police Quest II.

Oh well. Sonny did it! He got the Death Angel. This dude is going to be going to jail for a long, long time . . .

The End

Look at this! Sonny gets feted by the Mayor on the steps of the courthouse (not City Hall, which is kind of weird, but whatever), being promoted to Detective and getting the Lytton Police Department’s highest honor, the Commendation for Valor . . . plus he’s got a hot date with Sweet Cheeks later that night!

All in all, not a bad way to wrap up his first few days (or was it one day?) as a Narcotics detective! We’ll give the denouement and wrap things up with the PISSED rating in the next post. Until then, the streets are safe, things are looking up for Sonny, and somewhere, standing in somebody else’s doorway, Jim Walls is smiling . . .

Caption Contest: Celebrity Lookalike Edition—extra CAPs for the funniest entries. GO!

Final Inventory: Wallet, keys to unmarked car, hotel room key, transmitter pen
Final Score: 189 out of 225
On a scale of Don Knots to Don Johnson, how much do I feel like a cop?: Ricardo TubbsTotal Number of Showers Taken: Five.

Play time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Final time: 5 hours, 45 minutes


  1. >The game makes you call 411

    That part is even worse for us non-Americans.

    1. Yeah that totally got me stuck, I had to check a walkthrough. I don't think much would be lost if they'd just avoided having you need to dial a number at all. Should just be able to "use" the phone, and proceed with the actual game.

    2. @Laukku That's a really good point! It's almost guaranteeing the need for a walkthrough...or a long-distance call to America to ask a friend.

    3. @Andy I agree! This puzzle seemed so unnecessary. Was it added in a bid to increase the REALISM? How likely would it be that, even in 1992, a COP wouldn't know the number to his own station?

      It's more fantastical than King's Quest...

  2. Can't believe you avoided the poker game! I didn't even find it that difficult, winning my first game and only taking two tries for the second one.

    Made me want to play a proper poker game though, the interface for that one is awful.

    1. Yeah, it seemed like an easy minigame. I won both games on the first try (Maybe I need to go down to the casino and see if my skills transfer to the real world)

    2. @Andy I don't have time for poker simulations. I'm not a big fan of the game quite honestly, and while I know the rules, it bores me to tears.

    3. @TBD I bow to you, the master.

  3. I got stuck in the hotel as well and also tried calling 911. :)

    I've got to say, this cop operation was poorly planned. Let's go through what was done poorly...

    Sonny had to remember Morgan's number (and Sonny can't even remember the locker code he uses 18 times a day) AND work out what the number of the cab company is. Result: Bains escapes because Sonny, as he's already proven, can't remember numbers.

    But okay, assuming that Sonny knows the number of his boss and the cab company, why don't they just GIVE HIM THE FREAKING TRANSMITTER PEN AT THE START OF THE OPERATION?

    What would have happened if there was no second poker game and Bains invited Sonny to his penthouse after the first game? The pen wasn't an issue when he was frisked the second time so why not give it to him the first time so as not to overcomplicate matters. Result: Sonny gets killed because he has no way of contacting his fellow cops

    Apart from that, after the first poker game, another cop meet Sonny in his room to give him the transmitter pen. If Bains wasn't sure he could trust 'Whitey' perhaps he would have his room watched to make sure he wasn't working with the cops. Result: Sonny never gets into the second poker game because Bains is suspicious of the guy coming to Sonny's room between games.

    The plan ONLY works if Sonny goes to two poker games in the same night, which they had no indication was Bains' M.O., and meets with a cop in his hotel room in between without them being noticed by any of Bains' men. Bad planning, cops. Bad planning

    1. The planners obviously used a walkthrough. Otherwise they couldn't predict the second poker game and would have had to read the designer's mind.

    2. @TBD You make EXCELLENT points all around. This is an excruciatingly stupid plan. If I remember correctly, in the original, Sonny gets the transmitter pen AND A GUN HIDDEN IN A WALKING STICK right off the bat. This makes so much more sense. It also allows him to call back-up right away, which is what I think he does, doesn't he?

      I can't recall. Either way, Operation Delphoria relied on too many unforeseen things to work without Sonny ending up in a body bag.

      Hmm...maybe that's why Lt. Morgan was so hot to send Sonny, his brand new temporary detective, in the first place...

    3. @Laukku That line is so good, I wish I could steal it and retroactively add it to the post!

    4. The radio pen come between poker games in the EGA version as well - you have to ask the detectives for it. I remember this vividly because the parser doesn't recognize 'get pen' and forces you to use 'get radio pen', which took me forever to figure out as a young gamer.

      And in order for the detectives to show up in time there, I am pretty sure you have to call for backup outside the room before entering - no secret elevator for EGA plebs!

    5. @Mark Thanks for the refresher on the EGA version. Nothing like ultra-specific parser issues in a critical point of the game! I'm having flashbacks to the end of Larry II.

      And I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the "secret elevator" aspect ridiculous. Like, did they rappel into Bains' penthouse or something?

  4. Caption contest: The Mayor from Jaws, who's thrilled that Sonny Bonds has signed off on the cause of death being "boating accident"

  5. I think in the original game you were supposed to look at Morgan's phone to get his phone number. This version is at least a little bit more sensible.

    1. What do you mean? YOU don't have your own phone number printed on your phone?

  6. Caption contest: Elton John and Richie Cunningham published their duet album "Blueberry Hill"

  7. I'm surprised the bartender was changed to a female in this remake, considering that in PQ2 the very same bartender is found revenge-killed by Bains and is still Woody from the original.

    This new "Death Angel" reveal is B-grade villainy. In the original, the detectives upon coming to your room mention they got a fax from Chicago with mug shots of Bains. Sonny thinks the guy in the photos looks familiar; when he goes down for the second poker game, he eyeballs "Frank" and realises he's sitting right next to the Death Angel, and what's more, has to beat him at poker.

    The shootout was also more dramatic in the original, as your backup only got there seconds after Bains draws his gun. They kick in the door, distracting Bains, allowing Sonny to dive for cover. And when the bullets start flying, a bottle next to Sonny's head explodes, and I think a window behind Bains shatters before the bad guy goes down in a spray of pixelated blood. Much more satisfying.

    Still, great playthrough. Thank you, Alex! And a hat tip to Mr. Walls.

    1. Kirinn, glad you liked the playthrough, and thanks for the kind words!

      And you are right! Having the bartender NOT be Woody ruins whatever continuity they were trying to establish, almost as if they focused all of the changes on jibing with Police Quest III. One has to imagine that these changes to PQ 1 were intended to be reflected in the PQ II remake that never happened once Sierra closed the doors on their remake project.

      I agree--in the original, the whole Delphoria sting made a lot more sense, storytelling wise. If I recall, Sonny also got in a few shots with his hidden walking stick gun . . .

      The original ALSO had Bains' trial, which I thought was cool. "You're a dead man, Bonds!"

      Ah well. This has an animated plaque-handing and hand-shaking close-up of Sonny (who looks different than in his speaking portrait) and the Brillo-pad headed mayor.

  8. Okay, so, a couple things I remember from repeatedly playing this as a teen.

    1) I think you CAN call Jack Cobb; you have to do it from the hotel room once you have access to the phone there, if I remember right. You probably have to take the number from the database still.

    2) Only the first poker game takes any time. Having done the high-stakes a few times, it consistently, within the first couple hands, gives you a ludicrously good hand like a straight flush or full house that you can drive the bidding up on and win the second game with super fast.

    3) It looks like Senator Al Franken is giving that award to Ellen. The dialogue pictures in this game were not the artists' strong suit.

    1. 1) I did not think of that! I'll have to try that now.

      2) That's good to know. Maybe if I had patience for gambling I would have figured that out myself!

      3) I'm dying...10 CAPs for you!

  9. The cops plan in the hotel is about as hair brained as Luke's get everyone captured in Jabba's Palace so he can show up to rescue everyone.

    To answer your question about the Lt.'s phone number, yes, you had to get it in the original version of the game as well by knowing to walk over to the phone on his desk and typing, "LOOK PHONE".