For this weeks offering, I’m going to be going back to the computer as it were, where I have recently been reintroduced to a game that I bought when I got my first DOS/Windows based computer in the early 1990s. While I personally never actually wanted to be a police officer, games involving the police always intrigued me for some reason. (Guess that says a lot about me!) The “Police Quest” series was always typically praised for it’s intense game scenarios and extreme realism to the profession. The third entry into the series would also show how many of the classic computers of the eighties were starting to fade away, as this game was only released for DOS computers and the Commodore Amiga. (The previous games were also made in Atari ST, and Apple II editions.) So for today, let’s take a look at this 1991 offering, “Police Quest 3: The Kindred”, brought to us by our great friends at the classic Sierra On-Line!
Police Quest 3 takes place after the events of the previous 2 games. For those not familiar with the series, you play as Sonny Bonds, a highway patrol officer working for the city of Lytton. Throughout the series, you would deal with many different types of police patrol situations, such as drunk drivers, fires, drug use, securing the scenes of crimes that have taken place, collecting clues, as well as death, both accidentally and by acts of murder. Throughout the series, you seem to be having a love-hate relationship with the Bains crime and drug lord family, because you always seem to be able to link them to various serious crimes. In the first game, the drugs were related to a murder that took place. The second game in the series involves Jessie Bains breaking out of jail while awaiting a retrial. During these first two games, there was another character, Marie Wilkans. She started off as a hooker in the first game, but manages to help Sonny in his work. In the second game, the two begin dating, which leads to a proposal at the very end of the game. The Bains family also makes an appearance in this game. This is a basic setup for the review today, on the third game in the series.
The game starts off with you learning that Sonny and Marie married sometime between the second and third games. Sonny has since been promoted to detective. Now, aside from traffic duties, he also has to go out into the field and work with much more serious crimes on a routine basis. During this game, you will also learn of a new drug cartel in his great city, and try to figure out what is with all of the satanic organizations that have seemed to emerge around town. This is all just another day’s work for Sonny, that is until, it became personal. On a routine police call, Sonny learns that his wife had been the victim of a violent crime, when he learns that she got stabbed in a parking lot at the local mall. She had been taken to a local hospital in serious condition, and it is then that Sonny wants revenge. This adds a nice twist to the game, because not only do you have to do your job as a police officer properly, you have many golden chances to get even, but can’t. At least not until you are completely positive that you have the right person. Sigh. Back to regular procedures!
On top of everything else, you have been assigned a new partner by the name of Pat Morales. From the very start, the two of you are just as compatible as oil and vinegar salad dressing. (That is, before it’s shaken up.) Talk about differences! While you are more by the book and morally proper, Pat seems to be quite corrupt and very much unethical. You always have a sneaky suspicion that she might be up to something, but just cannot put your finger on what it is. She always seems to be trying to take control over situations that do not seem to be all that important, and she is just flat out creepy to you. At one point during the game, you will have a chance (moral or otherwise), to find out a little more about her. It’s whether or not you take advantage of this chance that will help you out later in the game. Just make sure you don’t get caught!
You go on your typical day to day duties. Go to a crime scene, do what you have to do, arrest a few people, go to court to backup your findings, and get out. All the while trying to figure out who could have possibly been responsible for stabbing Marie, and putting her in a coma. Not to mention, you have to keep a close watch on her at the hospital. Talk to her, let her know you are there, even keep a keen eye on the nurses and physicians at the hospital. You never know if one of THEM could have been responsible! (Or, is it just poor work ethics on their part?) As the game gets further and further in, you will start to uncover the vital clues to your own research, and if all goes well, find the person that attempted to kill your wife, prove it, and have them arrested. There just might be something special and unexpected at the end if all goes according to plan!
This was the first game in the Police Quest series to offer an exclusive point and click interface using a computer mouse. The previous games in the series used a lot of typing commands, which at the time, were quite common with Sierra games. All the other games of that era (Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, etc) used the typing interface. The mouse makes it a lot easier to play games of this nature. I couldn’t possibly imagine playing, a game as detailed and time oriented as this one, by using solely a keyboard. (If you have to pull out a gun to shoot someone, and you cannot type well, all you would get is “FIRE G” out before you got shot and killed!) Not to mention, the mouse makes it easier to do other tasks. Other than typical moving around, right clicking the mouse will help you examine items and talk to people, whereas a traditional click can also allow you to enter numbers on a keypad, talk on the radio, turn on the sirens in the police car when going to a scene, and other useful functions.
But sadly, I just had to mention going to a scene in the car. That is, as far as I am concerned, the worst part of the game. See, in the first game of the series, you drove at a rather slow pace, and could see a lot of the city at the same time, so you knew is cars were coming in other directions if you had to go to a cross street. In this game, you get a rather small window of view, and if you are driving too fast, you can very easily crash at the end of the road. Not to mention, you will be told to go to a specific street or cross street, and while the direction you are traveling and the street are always showing up below the map, unless you know exactly where you are going, you might have problems. Sierra On-Line enclosed a paper map with the game so you could try to memorize the area. (More on that in a minute.) Not to mention that if you forget to turn on your sirens and you are en route to a call and driving a lot faster than typical, cars will crash into you from side streets. I really think this is the only part of the game that could have been better developed.
But putting the driving scenes in the background, it’s during the actual game play that it is quite excellent. The scenarios are very realistic (well, maybe not the naked man in the pond, or is it?) Having drunk drivers walking in a straight line and follow your finger, trying to figure out if the pregnant woman is full of more than her baby, all the while trying to make it not as personal, and frequently checking up on your wife. It’s a game with common sense, non so common sense, mystery, curiosity, critical thinking, and occasionally hand-eye coordination. I think the fact that this game was written by a former police officer really helps. When the game designer (Jim Walls) was recovering from police related injuries, he was asked to create a game based on his experiences, which is how this series came to be. (Jim would create the first 3 games of the series, before being replaced by Daryl F. Gates starting with the fourth installment of the series, and going on to create the SWAT series.) The fact that the games were always based on real life situations, really added to the game. It wasn’t like the designer was just a game programmer that had no experience. THAT is where it matters. In the experience.
In the early nineties, it was still very common to copy software illegally for your family and friends. Sierra On-Line always had creative ways of getting around being able to use a bootleg copy of their games. For this title, the map was one of the reasons. They figured that if you didn’t have a paper map, then getting to the scenes would be too difficult. But in case it wasn’t, there was another piece of physical copy protection that was more critical. In order to properly arrest someone in the game, you have to enter a five digit number that the game calls a “violation code”, which is pretty traditional. The list of the codes are in the manual, something you would not have if you illegally obtained the game. (Of course, a xerox could have been made with the codes on it, but that’s besides the point.) It just goes to show that Sierra was accurate, even when it came to copy protection. As the old saying goes, “Don’t copy that floppy!”
All in all, this is a very strong segment of the Police Quest series. I personally was not really into the first two games as they where originally published. (Later on, after this game was released, the first 2 games were re-programmed with VGA graphics and the new point and click interface, which made the first two games a lot more realistic and more fun and easier to play.) On that topic, very briefly, I will say that as much as I love my Commodore Amiga for its graphics abilities, you’ll want to pass the temptation and get the VGA version for the PC if you can. The Amiga graphics are a little less crisp. Anyway, I think that the story line of this one is the best, with the fact that you have to not only deal with your job, but deal with personal emotions at the same time. If anyone out there has ever had a family member extremely ill and had to work at the same time, you know that it’s not a good time. If you are able to get a copy of the game, and have a somewhat older PC that can handle it, you’ll want to give this installment a try. (And if you want to play it in DOSbox or something of that nature, just remember to slow it down. If you thought the driving scenes were hard on the original hardware, just try playing it on a modern system! Instant crash!)
(Note: Video preview contains spoilers.)