The Blue Knights

Though often romanticized and misrepresented on entertainment screens large and small, police officers stand proudly in the ranks of "everyday" heroes. Despite the frivolities of prime-time TV, law enforcement is much more than high-speed car chases and William Shatner's latest hairstyle. It's a grueling career of unending responsibility and unexpected jeopardy.

Now Sierra On-Line salutes those blue knights with the release of Police Quest, the latest and most unusual entry in its series of graphic adventure games. This game for the Apple IIGS is an adult look at a police officer's world of crime and punishment, of traffic tickets and narcotics traffic.

The game's designer is Jim Walls, a California State Highway Patrolman for 15 years before he was disabled as a result of a shoot-out. "Everything in the game is based on my experience," Walls tells GamePort. Police Quest "puts you in the driver's seat as far as experiencing what it is like to be a police officer."

The adventure casts the player as a police officer in a middle-American town. "The town has no big problems with crime," explains Walls. "Suddenly, it is invaded by a big narcotics pusher. You start off as a police officer in a car and then become an undercover narcotics agent. Your responsibility is to get clues to lead you to the man you need to arrest."

Unlike the fantasy settings of Sierra adventures such as King's Quest and Space Quest, Police Quest ventures into the brutally realistic world of bars and jail cells. The game isn't all Dirty Harry action, though. Gameplay also deals with the routine of police life. The game's officers find themselves handing out speeding tickets, attending briefings, and discovering their best efforts tangled in the red tape of justice.

"Crooks don't have to play by the rules, but cops do," notes John Williams of Sierra On-Line. "There's a frustration to that. The police don't get to shoot first and ask questions later."

A booklet that comes with the program describes police procedures for arrests and other situations. Players must follow those procedures in the game, just as officers must follow them in the field. A careless officer might make an arrest that won't hold up in court or, worse, might let a dangerous suspect get the upper hand. Players also have access to a realistic crime computer that provides them with information on suspects.

The game also offers a dose of humor. The camaraderie of fellow officers in locker rooms and coffee shops adds a light touch. Even so, don't take the mean streets and infested alleys of Police Quest lightly. Its unflinching situations and real-life dramas are aimed at mature game players.

"I hope the game will give players an insight into what it is to be a police officer," Walls says - "the things we come across, how we handle them. And it should give an idea of what we feel and go through."

- Reprinted with permission from A+ magazine.

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