Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel

Me, have fun playing the role of a cop? Sure, pal. I never saw more than five minutes of Hill Street Blues, thought Dragnet was a drag, and haven't watched Miami Vice since the first season. Why should you care about my taste in TV? Because even though I'm no fan of cop shows, Police Quest slapped the handcuffs on my attention and kept me prisoner for a week of engrossing entertainment. (Fortunately, the QB attorney bailed me out in time to write this review.)

It's the first disk drive detective game in which you must work your way up from uniformed cop to plainclothes officer, and the only one that asks you to deal with an assortment of crimes while working on the main case. Police Quest is also the most authentic such scenario, written as it was by former California Highway Patrolman Jim Walls.


You Have the Right to Get Stuck…

Most "puzzles" focus on following the procedures of a real policeman, such as always reading a prisoner his rights and handcuffing them behind the back. Violate a rule and it's "Game Over" time. So the manual, which takes the form of an "Indoctrination Guide" for the Lytton Police Department, is required reading if you hope to last long on the mean streets of this crime-ridden town, let alone stop the rising tide of drugs, murder, prostitution and gambling. Some procedures aren't discussed in the manual, which means you'll get a little on-the-job training.

The story opens as you, Sonny Bonds, attend the morning briefing and learn the suspected kingpin of the local drug scene is a coke dealer known only as the "Death Angel". Busting him is your long range goal. Top score is 245 points, but as usual in a Sierra game, you can finish it and still not get them all. (I nailed the Dope Fiend but would up with just 190.)


Instead of a sword, you'll grab a .357 Magnum, and you pack a ticket book in place of a shield. Then you cruise the streets in a patrol car, as the game shifts from the familiar view seen in Sierra's graphic adventures to a top-down map of a small part of the city. Streets aren't named on the screen, but each area is marked (Map D2, A1, etc.) You can learn your exact location by radioing to the dispatcher, and a fold-out map of the seven by seven block town is included in the package.

Your car is represented by a little oblong object that's maneuvered with joystick, mouse, cursor keys or numeric keypad; by punching a function key you can change speeds; code - 1 is normal; code - 2, faster; and in code - 3 you turn on the siren and race through red lights just like a real cop. Get close enough behind a car in this mode and both cars pull over automatically (unless the driver hasn't broken a law, in which case you'll crash, and guess what?).

If you run a red light when you're not in code -3, the game ends because you've violated police procedures. It also ends if you hit the road without conducting a safety check on your car, or violate any of the countless procedures that I'm sure real cops overlook every day without getting fired. (That's my sole complaint about the realism: In real life you'd at least get a few reprimands before being booted off the force.)

You can pull over and park at buildings with parking spaces out front, places like the Delphoria Hotel, Carol's Caffeine House and the City Jail. The game reverts back to the standard graphics display, and you can get out and guide your animated character in the door to investigate, talk to other characters and snoop around.

After pulling a car over for running a light or some other offense, you'll also see the standard display. There are some nice touches in these scenes, like when you ask to see the driver's license and it appears onscreen, complete with picture. The driver may even be illuminated with animated graphics.

How Animated Was It?

Helen Hots, for instance, was so animated, her license said she lives at 202 Gyrate Court. In this scene and a few others, the graphics and some text responses get risque, but the game won't spit out any X-rated pictures or words (though it understands a few and appropriately answers any lewd suggestions you might make… but you'd never do that, would you?). Sierra says Police Quest is best suited for "mature players," but it's closer to a PG-rating than an R.

The story unfolds in a linear fashion, with time-triggered radio calls sending you to various locations to investigate a wide mix of situations: rowdy bikers, a car wreck, a stolen Caddie and the like.

In most cases, music alerts you to life-threatening situations. Gradually, you learn that Lytton's small-time dealers are getting rubbed out one-by-one, and the clues point towards an out-of-town killer who's working with the Death Angel.

It's Going Down!

If your lucky enough to nail him, you'll be assigned to the Narcotics Division and get to work on the Big Case. Then you can drive an unmarked car, wear civilian clothes and make some practical use of the computer in the station. Until this point, you won't have found much to look up in the police database. But be sure to save the game when you get ready to bust someone, for an arrest can have several outcomes depending on your actions — and most of them will end the game, even if you don't get killed by the suspect.

Like real life, Police Quest is not all chase scenes and night court. You get to go off-duty for awhile and drive your red Corvette to a surprise birthday party for another cop. The "chicken incident" is amusing and sheds light on the personal side of a cop's life. Several characters, like fellow officers Dooley and Keith and hooker "Sweet Cheeks" Marie, populate this fantasy world and make it more than just a game in which you wander around on your own. There is also a sub-plot, the running story of fellow officer Jack and his doper daughter.

The Parser Police

Since most of the things you must do to succeed are handled with lively and detailed animated action, the Sierra parser doesn't have to be as powerful as its counterparts in other adventures. Still, the vocabulary leaves a lot to be desired, and the inventory command proves misleading at times, telling you that you've got an item in your inventory even if you actually left it in the car (which makes it hard to write a ticket). After a few hours of playing, though, I got the feel of the parser and communication smoothed out. A plethora of cliched police jargon is incorporated into the vocabulary, but I have to admit I enjoyed saying "Book him!" and "Freeze, sucker!"

As in previous Sierra games, you've got to develop a knack for gambling. This time the game is five card draw, a variation of poker that's a bit more complex than playing Space Quest's slot machine or Leisure Suit Larry's blackjack. And the goal differs, for you're not out to win enough to buy an object. Instead, you hope to impress one of the other three players enough to advance into the next phase of an undercover operation. The package includes a detailed reference card on the game (which I had fun with even though it wouldn't let me draw four cards to an ace).

The program is not protected. Sierra's first animated adventure to be offered in this manner. You can slide it onto a hard disk or make back-ups and never need insert a key disk as with other Sierra games. Sierra says if it isn't pirated, they'll make this standard with all their adventures. (But they also report the experiment wasn't successful when tried with Wrath of Denethenor; the number of calls to their customer service line was way out of proportion to the number of games actually sold, so the only conclusion was that lots of people were copying the program.)

Three 5.25" disks and two 3.5" disks are included in the package (that means frequent swaps if you've got one 5.25" drive). It requires 256K and supports Hercules, CGA, EGA, Tandy EX (or higher) and PCjr color cards; you get 16 colors in EGA and on the Tandy. IBM's new VGA and MCGA graphics for the PS/2 are also supported.


This is more of a simulation than a traditional adventure, for the obstacles to success are situational puzzles that can only be construed as logical problems when viewed from the perspective of a copy trying to follow procedure. I found driving the cars without crashing was the hardest part of the game, which took about 20 hours to complete. But I enjoyed every minute (except the crashes!) Because of the story's linear nature, as the events unfold with drama and humor, tension and gratification.

QuestBuster David Heidt, who just joined the Guild by doing a solution for the game, had this to say: "Sorry the walkthrough took so long, but Police Quest is like A Mind Forever Voyaging - what it lacks in puzzles, it makes up for in length." The only people who might not like it are those who are more concerned with purely logical puzzles than with engaging in true interactive fiction. A sequel is hinted at several times, and you can be sure I'll be there if the Death Angel ever gets out of jail.

System: IBM and Quest-Alikes (256K)
Conversions Planned: Amiga, Mac, IIGS, ST, Apple (128)
Skill Level: Novice
Protection: None
Price: $49.95
Company: Sierra On-Line

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