My mind raced. Here I was, two years older and wiser . . . well, older, than the last time I played a game for this illustrious blog. Of course I wanted to do another one. Another two, in fact, but little did I know/remember I had already agreed to play these two. Apparently, I am a leading expert on games made by Jim Walls and Al Lowe.
Sweat began to coat my fevered brow. My heart skipped a beat, and then another! I debated calling a doctor, but then remembered that this is just a dramatic retelling and not real life. So gamely, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and sent a terse, very ominous, and very age-appropriate (I’m 41) reply:
“What’s up man?”There was more, of course, but the details are quite inconsequential. What matters is that I took on this heavy burden of playing Blue Force for you, The Adventurers Guild reader, mainly so you don’t have to.
This will be my third game designed by the leading lothario of law-enforcement, Mr. Jim Walls, former California Highway Patrolman and game designer for Sierra On-Line. The other two Jim Walls productions I have played for this blog were the VGA remake of Police Quest 1: In Pursuit of the Death Angel and Police Quest 3: The Kindred, which I still have nightmares about.
The only other game designer whose games I have played more is Al Lowe, having completed Leisure Suit Larry, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does A Little Undercover Work, and Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, with Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! coming up for me soon.
Yeah, let’s just say I’m looking forward to Larry 6 far more than I am this one. Generally, when it comes to playing Jim Walls’s games, I feel a lot like Larry . . .
|Well, this got dark fast.|
Blue Force was created by Tsunami Media, Inc., a game company founded in 1991 by some disgruntled former employees of Sierra On-Line (all of the gruntled ones stayed). Former Sierra Chief Financial Officer Edmond Heinbockel started Tsunami in 1991 and—here comes a tangent!—boy, did Mr. Heinbockel get out of Sierra while the going was good. Have you read Sierra founder Ken Williams’s book Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings: The Rise and Fall of Sierra On-Line, published in 2020? It’s great, and it details the kind of financial shenanigans that did Sierra in in the late 1990s. Fraud, deceit, overreach . . . it’s really interesting stuff that would make a great movie a la Margin Call or The Wolf of Wall Street. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re into the history of Sierra and computer gaming generally. Did you know that Ken Williams turned down the opportunity to buy id Software (the makers of a little game you might have heard of called Doom) and declined the chance to go into business with a short, bald guy who runs the world and a major American newspaper named Jeff Bezos? He also basically invented multiplayer gaming as we know it via this new thing called the Internet before the technology was available. No fooling!
Anyway, Tsunami created a number of games. According to MobyGames, these include the following:
- Free Enterprise (1996)
- Silent Steel (1995)
- Man Enough (1994)
- Return to Ringworld (1994)
- Flash Traffic: City of Angels (1994)
- Geekwad: Games of the Galaxy, The (1993)
- Blue Force (1993)
- Protostar: War on the Frontier (1993)
- Wacky Funsters! The Geekwad’s Guide to Gaming (1992)
- Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch (1992)
Okay, I’ll stop.
In Blue Force, the player takes control of rookie cop Jake Ryan, whose father was killed in the line of duty. From the back of the box:
Ryan Double Homicide
Case Status: Unsolved
Recommended Source: Lyle Jamison
Attending Officer’s Comments:
Thursday, June 14, 1983. At approximately 10:00 P.M., Lieutenant John Ryan and his wife were brutally murdered in their home. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene, having suffered multiple gunshot wounds. There are no suspects at this time. The Ryans are survived by their only son, Jake.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN . . .
You are Jake Ryan, rookie motorcycle cop. Ten years have passed since the unsolved murder of your parents, but threads of evidence still exist. Teamed with your father’s partner, you begin to weave the all but forgotten strands together. As your past comes into focus, the line between justice and vengeance begins to blur. Will the truth force you over the line?
BLUE FORCE . . . the only way you’ll know!
The box also advertises the following GAME FEATURES:
- Smooth animation through the use of fully digitized actors.
- Quick reaction interface gives you the speed you’ll need to survive high-pressure situations.
- Authentic police procedures help guide your investigations.
- Digitized sound effects and dynamic original music provide pulse-pounding excitement
- True-to-life action, intrigue, suspect arrests, and gunfights.
- Challenging, multi-layered gameplay.
The music was composed by Ken Allen, whose other credits include, among other things, Descent, Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Castle of Dr. Brain, Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter (1990 remake), Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1990 remake), King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder, and The Colonel’s Bequest. Hey, I’ve played all of those! They have great music! What a pedigree! Mr. Allen also did a little voice acting. Here’s an interview with him from February of this year.
Unfortunately, Blue Force was not well-received. According to my sources (Wikipedia):
“Computer Gaming World‘s Charles Ardai in 1993 stated that Blue Force ”is simply not as strong as Walls’ previous games”. He criticized the game world (“prop-up facades”), “abysmal” dialogues, “appalling spelling errors and factual inconsistencies”, and slow speed. Ardai concluded that “Walls and Tsunami both have better work in them ... they have nowhere to go but up”.
In 1996, Computer Gaming World declared Blue Force the 37th-worst computer game ever released.”
Oh boy. The 37th-worst? Even by 1996, there were a lot of computer games out there . . .
The manual is interesting. It gives the multigenerational story of the Ryan family whose patriarch emigrated from Ireland many years ago, ended up in New England, and became a cop. We walk through the family history as they end up further and further west before the tale brings us to Jake Ryan’s father John in the town of Jackson Beach, presumably in California. Jake’s partner on the force, Lyle Jamison, never married. When John and Jackie were murdered in 1984, Lyle left the police to try and crack the case as a private investigator while Jake was raised by his grandmother, Frannie. I’m sure Lyle will be a character in this game, so I’m glad the story mentions him.
The rest of the manual just goes over the interface, which actually looks pretty much lifted from the standard Siarra point-and-click fare of the day, and then technical troubleshooting. The only sop to proper police procedure (the three Ps!) are the radio codes:
- 10-1 Radio Reception - poor
- 10-2 Radio Reception - good
- 10-4 Received Message
- 10-13 Weather Check
- 10-15 Prisoner in Custody
- 10-27 Subject Check
- 10-35 Back-up Requested
- 10-97 Arrived at Scene
- 10-98 Cleared Scene; Available For Call
- 10-99 Emergency; Officer Needs Assistance
|It’s not quite the Sierra logo, but it’ll do.|
|Hey, it looks just like the manual!|
|But not before flashing us with his sweet, sweet mullet.|
|Presumably Jake’s father John and his partner Lyle.|
|I think he got sick of so many people with names starting with “J.”|
(Please tell me at least one of you gets that reference.)
|Hey look! Jeff Crowe! He did a bunch of Sierra games!|