Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Blue Force – Not All There

by Alex

Here are some synonyms for “crazy” I looked up and found on Thesaurus.com:

  • balmy
  • bananas
  • batty
  • bonkers
  • brainsick
  • cracked
  • cuckoo
  • daffy
  • daft
  • demented
  • deranged
  • dippy
  • disturbed
  • flaky
  • foolish
  • freaky
  • gaga
  • goofy
  • harebrained
  • idiotic
  • illogical
  • inane
  • irrational
  • kooky
  • laughable
  • loco
  • loony
  • ludicrous
  • mad
  • maniacal
  • mental
  • mentally ill
  • mentally incompetent
  • moonstruck
  • moronic
  • nonsensical
  • not all there
  • nuts
  • nutty
  • nutty as a fruitcake
  • odd
  • off one’s rocker
  • off the wall
  • out of one’s mind
  • out to lunch
  • potty
  • preposterous
  • psycho
  • screwy
  • sick
  • silly
  • stark raving mad
  • stupid
  • touched
  • unbalanced
  • unhinged
  • unreasonable
  • unsound
  • wacky
I’m listing these for your reference so you know what to call me when you learn that I, after another play session of Blue Force, still not only do not hate this game, but actively enjoy it.I know, I know. This is not what you were expecting. And I’m not just saying this to be a contrarian for laughs, though I do have that impulse within me. I am dead serious: Blue Force is an adventure game that offers the classic adventure game experience, and it does a yeoman’s job of it. So far, Blue Force feels like what Police Quest 3 should have been, although that’s a pretty low bar. Police Quest 3 actually started off pretty fun before going off the rails. I hope Blue Force doesn’t follow that same route.

Still, when I read comments like this and this and this and this and this and this and this, I am not filled with hope.

Alex Romanov liked it though! So did Leo Vellés! Ditto LeftHanded Matt! So maybe I’m not as balmy, batty, bananas, etc., as I feel. Only time will tell.

If you recall from last post, I had just finished booking Mr. Bradford Green, caught beating Laura Dixon’s young son skip, booked the bastard, submitted the evidence with Barry back at the station, cleaned Jake’s gun (after a grisly death where I forgot to unload and Jake shot himself in the face), and had said: “In retrospect, I think I should have also paid a visit to Child Protective Services. I’ll ride over there when I pick the game back up.”

So that’s where I began, leaving the station to head to CPS. On the way, though, Jake pulled over a pickup truck that was driving recklessly and seemed to be avoiding him, and the game mentioned that this took place in the dreaded Tower District, specifically called out in day one’s briefing as a dangerous place where all officers should call for back-up in. NO DIRTY HARRY’S!
The game mentions that the occupants are wearing gang colors. I wonder if it’s going to be a cool gang like from The Warriors, maybe The Baseball Furies or The Lizzies or The Savage Huns or The Punks.
But no, it’s just a couple of generic dudes in yellow headbands.

Well, this being the Tower District, I head back to Jake’s bike and call dispatch, letting them know the situation, running a check on the plates, and calling in for backup, getting points for each of these. While waiting for reinforcements, I order the punk out of the truck, and before I can do anything, back-up arrives.
And it’s Officer Useless, aka Doug Harrison.

Honestly, I’d rather take my chances two-against-one. Seriously, what’s Doug here going to do when the proverbial S hits the proverbial F? Toss his gun and run away crying for his momma? Tell Jake “Golly gee, maybe we ought to give up!” Or maybe he’ll slap on a yellow headband and join the gang, turning against Jake because why not, they’re going to lose anyway?

Maybe I can just shoot Officer Doug now?

(PROTIP: No, you can’t).
There are two guys: Jake handles the one with the mustache, and Doug handles the other somehow without screwing things up.
Not gonna lie: I kind of understand where this dude is coming from. What is Jake’s probable cause other than “They looked like they were trying to avoid me”?
I mean, there’s no universally agreed-upon definition of “probable cause,” but it’s generally based upon the totality of the circumstances, and the premise that, based upon what an officer knew at the time, in the case of a warrantless search, that reasonable suspicion existed which would lead the officer to discover evidence of a crime being committed (often demonstrated ex post facto in court via testimony, affidavits, etc.). It’s especially tricky in vehicle stop situations, which the Fourth Amendment obviously never contemplated, and I don’t see how “reckless driving and I think they’re avoiding me” necessarily rises to the level of probable cause. I mean, these two should have just stayed in the car and demanded a warrant and . . . whoa, this is getting really long for a caption. I’ll stop.
I click Jake’s ticket book the mustachioed thug (I’m so psyched I got a chance to work the word “mustachioed” into a post), citing him for reckless driving after clicking “talk” until there are no new messages and then cuff him (though I failed to read him his Miranda rights, nothing bad happened, so three cheers for Proper Police Procedure!) which automatically makes Jake search the guy, revealing his ID and an illegally concealed weapon.
These guys are named Tyrone Walker and Frank Sandoval. I don’t know who is who, but a white guy named “Tyrone” is not something you see every day. Either way, I made the bust! Let’s see if Jake can make it stick!

I search the truck. I find three bullets in the dash, which raise red flags given the rap sheet on Forest Follet and the ammo he stole from Strathmore Armory.
Putting the seat back by clicking on the lever in the lower-right reveals a rifle and a wig.
Something is definitely up with these two. If Jake does have to go to court to defend his warrantless search, I think testimony could show—you know what? That’s enough legal lecturing for this post.

Doug actually does something useful and brings Tyrone and Frank down to the lock-up while Jake calls everything in for more points. I know the Jail should be my next stop to complete the booking, but I stop at Child Protective Services on the way to see if I can follow-up with little Skip Dixon.
Me too, Jake. Me too
And the answer is no. There’s no one there. So it’s off to jail to complete the requisite paperwork and taunt the inmates.
Ha ha, losers.
Paperwork completed with Larry, evidence booked with his twin brother Barry back at the station (I still can’t get over how stupid that is; I also can’t get over the fact that even though some of this evidence includes guns and ammunition, I still can’t check the guns and ammunition against Forest Follet’s rap sheet), booking slip in Sgt. Sutter’s mailbox, there’s nothing left to do but change out of Jake’s uniforms into his civilian clothes and knock off for the day. The game avoids confusion by having Barry tell Jake it’s quitting time. So a quick trip into the locker room, and Jake’s time is once again his.

Of course, out in the parking lot, there are only police bikes. It took me a while to realize that if you hover the mouse cursor on the right side of the screen—where Jake rode his bike into during the game’s introductory cinema, there’s an arrow showing that Jake can exit the screen that way (more on me missing such arrows later). You do that, and Jake zips off on his personal motorcycle and the world is yours!

So naturally, I go to Bikini Hut and am immediately disappointed by the lack of bikinis and attractive women wearing them.
Sigh. I guess this truly is not a Larry game after all.

I head to Grandma Frannie’s instead, and pull up to this nice pink house. Jake heads right into the automatically opening garage door and says hi to his grandma, whom he lives with. How cute!
What a sweet old lady! She’s making Jake dinner—pot roast! And the TV, as Jake notes, is always on. Aww, grandma!

Grandma also has Jake’s new side-quest: a baseball card hunt!
Child Protective Services called Jake’s house, saying that Skip and his mother are there and that Skip is hysterical about a lost baseball card he lost at the Marina. The case worker called to see if Jake could find it. Jake’s understandably a little miffed that his free time is being eaten into, and instead of finding bikini babes at the Bikini Hut (talk about false advertising), he has to help a little kid find a baseball card. Oh, the indignity of it all!

Grandma does the classic grandma thing by guilt-tripping Jake, saying he was raised better than that, that he should know better, should know what it feels like also having no father (ouch!) and that he should remember when Jake’s dear, departed dad got Jake a special baseball card when Jake broke his leg.

Man, what a tongue-lashing. We sure this isn’t a Greek family?

Jake gives in, and then invites Skip and his mother to dinner.
Oh goodness, he really is Greek.
Yes, Jake. That’ll calm him down. I’m sure you’re thinking only of the boy *nudge nudge wink wink.* I remember what Laura Dixon said when you saved her from being murdered earlier today:
Jake, apparently, has a few ideas.
So the wisdom of asking a clearly traumatized woman and her young son on what is essentially a date, I head over to the Marina so Jake can do his due diligence. Finding lost baseball cards . . . man, Jake will make detective in no time!
Baseball card quest!
As an aside, I’m old enough to remember when baseball cards were still a huge thing among kids. It’s sweet to play a game from that era, like a time-capsule from the pre-Internet days. I’m not sure if kids really collect baseball cards anymore like they did up to the end of the 20th century. I know Pokemon cards are still a huge deal, but baseball cards? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, I can’t find any baseball cards here or on the screen with the Future Wave. In fact, I can’t even open the door to the Future Wave. It’s locked, and Jake can’t even knock. Where else would this baseball card be? What am I missing?

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said I noticed an exit from the police station parking lot I hadn’t noticed before? Well, here in the Marina if you hover the cursor on the left side of the screen sort of on or above the blue railing, the cursor turns into an arrow pointing due west and not the southwestern pointing arrow you get when the cursor is on the edge of the screen below that railing, which exits the Marina. This isn’t a huge deal and more a result of my own failure to investigate rather than poor game design, but it made me wonder if I missed anything by not going here during Jake’s first trip to the Marina.

I could reload back to that point, but nah.
This exit takes Jake to the titular Mr. Carter’s office. I don’t see any baseball cards here, but I learned my lesson back at the station about clicking everywhere on bulletin boards. On this, Mr. Carter left a note for Skip saying that he found a missing baseball card. Bulletin boards are what us old fossils used before the Internet, although given that these were public, we had more circumspection than to post lewd, vulgar, or otherwise uncouth messages.

Come to think of it, the Internet is public too, and that doesn’t stop anybody from posting lewd, vulgar, or otherwise uncouth messages.

Anyway, back to baseball cards.
Mr. Carter’s a nice old fisherman who seems to know Jake from way back. Jake can poke around, talk lures, and check out the counter on the left side of the screen which Mr. Carter mentions is a remnant of his old stamp and coin shop. I note this for later, and then give Mr. Carter the note about Skip’s baseball card. Mr. Carter is more than happy to give Jake the card, and compliments him for being such a stand-up guy.
Mr. Carter doesn’t know that Jake had to be guilted by his yiayia grandmother into doing the right thing, but that can be our little secret. Nevertheless, he gives Jake a bunch of coupons for discounted boat rentals. Nice!

In any event, sidequest solved! I say this half-jokingly, because what is an adventure game besides a series of fetch quests? However, in contrast to RPGs, where the fun comes from killing monsters, exploring dungeons, and gaining levels and fetch quests are somewhat of a distraction from the core gameplay elements, fetch quests are the core gameplay elements of adventure games. That, and ridiculous puzzles (not this one though).

Baseball card in hand, it’s off to Child Protective Services I go! Laura and Skip are waiting . . . Skip for his baseball card, and Laura for her knight in shining leather jacket.
Control yourself, Jake!
Skip is overjoyed to have his baseball card, and his enthusiasm at the prospect of going to Jake’s for dinner overcomes his mother’s reluctance.
We pick up dinner in medias res, with Jake showing Skip his own baseball card collection after the meal is over. Jake suggests a walk, so he, Laura, and Skip head to the porch. Jake’s dog Waylon is there hanging out, so I click on him to remove his leash and then exit via the stairs to the beach below.
Down boy! And I’m not talking to the dog.
Dang! That’s some nice beachfront property Jake and his grandma have! I mean, it really doesn’t get much nicer than that. Is Laura impressed?
Yup, she’s into Jake. However, ever the cop, Jake asks how Bradford Green could afford his yacht given that he seems like such a scumbag lowlife punk. Laura tells Jake that Green doesn’t own it; he just takes care of it for some “big-shot judge or lawyer o something.” Okay then.

After some more small talk, the sound of Waylon’s barking can be heard. The dog had ran off with Skip, so Jake informs Laura he’ll be right back. The screen scrolls to the left, revealing a nice shot of the beach.
Skip kind of wanders off into the woods with Waylon, but Waylon returns with a stick and sits it and himself by Jake’s feet. Jake throws the stick for Waylon if you click on it, and I do this a few times, wondering how long this scene will go on, until after the third or fourth throw, Waylon brings back something better than the old piece of driftwood we’d been playing with.
It appears to be a piece of wooden packing crate, which is also technically driftwood, right? It is wood that drifted in from the ocean, so what’s the big deal?

I’ll tell you what: it looks like it’s from a U.S. Army crate! Strathmore Armory, anyone? Jake suggests they all head back up to the house, and look who’s here! It’s Jake’s father’s old partner and the man who acted like a father to Jake, Lyle Jamison!
Lyle stopped by to see how Jake’s first day on the job went and that he’s really proud of him. It’s a nice, touching scene. After introductions are made, Laura and Skip take their leave and Lyle gets to the real reason he showed up:
Yeah, she is, Lyle. Let me tell you how we met!
Ah, well, y’see . . .
All right, when you put it that way, Lyle. Way to rain on a guy’s parade!

Anyway, after making small talk I decide to click the piece of shipping crate on Lyle. And it works! Jake explains his suspicions that it has something to do with Strathmore and the murder of Jake’s parents. Lyle gently chastises Jake about always jumping to that conclusion and also expresses his frustration about the case as well. Still, he tells Jake to stop by his office (Lyle’s a private detective, as we learned in the manual) on the way to work if he finds anything else interesting.

Speaking of touching, if you click the “Action” icon on Lyle . . .
After some intense male bonding, Lyle leaves, and grandma tells Jake that, while he was out on his walk, she got a box of Jake’s old baseball cards from the garage and put them on a shelf in the den in case Jake wanted to look at them. It’s weird because I thought Skip and Jake were already looking at Jake’s old baseball cards, but whatever.
The den is accessed via the door in the back of the room, although the cursor does not change into an arrow to indicate that there is an exit. Anyway, here we see a computer, the shoebox on a shelf, and a memorial plaque featuring meaningful items from Jake’s father’s service on the wall. These include:
Poignant stuff.

I sit at the computer next and get points for turning it on. Even though it’s a DOS prompt, you just click on files and executables to navigate. Early touch screen technology—and wow! The computer is by Tsunami! They were totally ahead of their time!
Most of the programs are . . . plugs for other Tsunami games. Man, those ex-Sierra employees who created Tsunami really learned all the right lessons from their former employer.
One of three multi-screen plugs.
There’s also a letter from John Ryan to his wife, Jake’s mother Jackie, expressing his love and appreciation for her patience. There’s an option to print, where you click on the PRINT icon, and then on the file you want to print, but Jake cannot print his father’s letter. Finally, there’s a locked file called “COBB” that requires a password. I try John’s badge number of 172, which doesn’t work, so I leave, figuring I’ll get the password later.

It didn’t hit me until later that the password was probably “Jackie,” and that the letter to Jackie being in the same directory was probably a clue. More on that next post.

Anyway, the box on the shelf contains a bunch of baseball cards and a small safe, which the game calls a “bank.” So it’s like a piggy bank shaped like a block. “Block Bank” doesn’t sound very good though, so bank it is.
I click on the bank first and not the baseball cards, which brings up a combination lock.
This time, John Ryan’s badge number 172 works, and I snag an old Indian head nickel, realizing I can probably show it to Mr. Carter for, I don’t know, adventure-game-related reasons.

After this, I could not figure out how to shut the bank and go back to the shoebox screen with the baseball cards. So I never figured out if I could interact with the baseball cards. I reloaded and replayed a bunch of the earlier part to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and no—the baseball cards are a red herring. For whatever reason, the game wants you to get the nickel at this point.

Fine by me. I leave the den and chat with grandma. She comments that it’s getting late. Jake agrees and decides to turn in, noting that he has an early day tomorrow—and an inspection after the briefing!
Not the David Bowie album.
I ended this session standing outside of the house, ready to get back to work.
So far, I’m still enjoying Blue Force. It’s not exactly what I expected because I was expecting a steaming pile of garbage and got a very competently made adventure game that doesn’t have any walking dead scenarios (so far) and moves along at a good pace without any obtuse puzzles that veer off into Roberta Williams territory . . . or Jim Walls territory, for that matter.

So maybe I am disturbed, flaky, foolish, etc., but I’m looking forward to playing more Blue Force. L.A. Law this ain’t. It’s not as bad as Lure of the Temptress either (reminder: that game was bad). On the other hand, Blue Force, so far, is also no Conquests of the Longbow—I mean, what is?
“No, I totally get it, bro.”
But it’s an adventure game. A cliched and corny adventure game that really leans into its cop show cliches, but that’s why I find it so charming.

So far.

Session Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours

Score: 1,180

Inventory: Gun w/ 2 clips, handcuffs, ticket book, Miranda card, briefing, telescoping boat hook, ID, piece of shipping crate, Indian head nickel, boat rental coupons

Arrests: 3

9 comments:

  1. Why do you think you keep getting to take the lead on investigations? They only have two guys available during the day, and Doug the Cowardly Lion sure as heck isn't going to be that guy!
    I like the white as all heck guys trying to be as ghetto as humanly possible. Perhaps their gang is a bunch of middle-class white dudes trying their hardest to be black, as white people haven't really had the name Tyrone for about 50 years by the time this takes place, and only a film buff would know who Tyrone Powers is. On the other hand, Frank isn't really a black name, so if they were making up new "ghetto" names that wouldn't track too well.

    Do children collect Pokemon cards? I was under the impression that it was just adults collecting cards these days. Couldn't tell you if that applied to baseball cards or not, but either way this seems like a thing that Walls/other writers assumed kids still do. Come to think of it he might just think Tyrone Powers is still something of a big deal...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Say, does anyone else think the mustachioed thug suspiciously looks like Jim Walls with Aviators and a big yellow bandana (and a pixel-edited 'stache maybe), or is it just me?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kinda thought it looked like Doug the cop!

      Delete
    2. To me, he looks like the singer of Suicidal Tendencies

      Delete
  3. In the introductory post I was surprised that almost everybody said that the game was really bad because I have fond memories of it, and I even gave it the highest score with a 58. I'm so glad you are enjoying it. Maybe I am not loco (or maybe we both are)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I wrote this after reading the first paragraph only. It seems that You, Alex Romanov, Matt and me should be call The Crazy Bunch

      Delete
  4. Being a Jim Walls game, I was laser focused on doing everything right lest being told off by Uncle Dimitri (he clearly has some Greek ancestry). After pulling the car over, I thought I'd radio in a 10-27 (Subject Check) to run the plates by dispatch. The game had other ideas... before I'd even retrieved IDs and spoken to both perps, I was requesting background checks on suspects Tyrone Walker and Frank Sandoval. Similar to the earlier situation where you visit the Future Wave and get popped by "Green" before knowing who Green is... the game again failed a milestone prerequisite check.

    I do look back fondly to this point of the game though, because in hindsight, this was the part I actually found borderline enjoyable (read: I wasn't yet at the point where I just wanted it to be over).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love Jim Walls' high-quality writing in this post. The white "thug" named Tyrone, who speaks like a stereotypical black gangster from the 90s, but since they were likely only using people from the office as the rotoscoped characters, they didn't have a person of color on staff to act the part. Separately, BOTH gangbangers call you "homes" and later, our Jake calles one of them "Homey".
    Since this game came out about the same time, I'll just say that "Homey don't play that."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Also, caption for the very first picture: "Although Jake kinda liked Tyrone, he's more into brunette victims for cuffing season."

    ReplyDelete