Hello all! Last week, I wrote about a cutesy Sega Genesis game starring a dolphin. It’s stupidly difficult.
This week brings us an old Sierra adventure series. Mostly because I bought the Humble Sierra Bundle, but also because I’ve been playing these games off and on for basically forever.
In a change of pace, today’s article is about an entire series, because they all kind of run together for me. This won’t be a normal thing.
Police Quest is a series of adventure games from Sierra, beginning way back in 1987 with Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel. In the first three games, you play as officer Sonny Bonds, a uniformed patrolman in the fictional Lytton, California. Right off the bat, Police Quest sets itself apart from…basically every other cop game by forcing you to follow police procedure, often to a T. You don’t start shooting five seconds from the title screen—in fact, you don’t really shoot anyone at all. Much of the Police Quest series revolves around investigating, making traffic stops, calling for backup when things seem dicey…cop stuff.
I mean, you’ll fail the first game almost immediately by not grabbing a radio on your way to your car—said car will also crash if you forget to perform a safety check on it first. You have to stop at traffic lights…the list goes on and on. It could be described by impatient types as “boring.”
For me, it kind of was, way back. The Police Quest collection was one of the earliest PC games I played on my first computer, a bulky IBM PC running Windows 95. My older brother had wanted it for whatever reason, so we got it (this was the 1998 box set that came with the four Police Quest titles as well as the first SWAT). Being around I think eleven years old at the time, I didn’t really “get” the game. Naturally, coming fresh off of games like GoldenEye, I immediately wondered why I wasn’t shooting everyone, Dirty Harry style. That’s the cop I wanted to be!
There was also my lack of experience with adventure titles; I had played a couple, but I wouldn’t really immerse myself into the adventure genre for a few more years. The first two Police Quest games were ancient and used a text parser system to play: you had to type in what it is you wanted to do—”open door,” “take keys,” and so on. This is a terribly difficult transition for a pre-teen who’s primary system at the time was Nintendo 64, with games like Super Mario 64, GoldenEye, and, um, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. The slow pace (rather, the glacial pace) of a game like Police Quest simply didn’t appeal to me.
Later on, when I was a teenager, I booted up the game and finished Police Quest 4, a game that was kind of a departure from the series in tone. The digitized graphics were probably revolutionary at the time, but they’re pretty hilarious now. That one appealed to me as I got older, because I was super into Law & Order for some reason at the time. PQ 4 felt like a gritty, realistic Law & Order episode to me (playing it now feels more like a current, zany Law & Order: SVU episode). But the point is, this game that made no sense to me suddenly appealed to me years later.
The first time I finished Police Quest 1 (the 1993 remake, that is) was a week before I sat down to write this article. I am, of course, far from my teenage years (at least physically—not mentally), and I managed to get through the entire thing. I wasn’t bored; actually, I found the slow pace intriguing, or refreshing, or something. The point is, it’s fascinating to me that a game I was bored with became more appealing as I got older. And I don’t think it has anything to do with Police Quest being a “mature” or “adult” game, inscrutable to my tiny teenage mind. I think it has more to do with my gaming tastes evolving as I got older; I’m more open to different games than I was when I was growing up. It’s like, here’s this old series called Police Quest: it’s a game where you need to think like an actual police officer, and if you shoot anyone haphazardly, you lose. What sounded dumb way back is, at the very least, intriguing to me nowadays.
I’m pretty glad I revisited these games; there are certainly better adventure games out there, and Police Quest is super aged, feeling more like a curiosity these days. But they’re still fun in their own, quirky way. Truth be told, you won’t find anything else like it, even today. If you pick up that Humble Sierra Bundle (you absolutely should, for the new King’s Quest and Phantasmagoria), give Police Quest a try for a bit. It’s ancient and annoying, but it’s still unique in its own way.
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Next week’s game is a PS1 cult favorite that’s a little bit Resident Evil meets Ghost in the Shell.