Friday, 10 September 2010

I'm playing Police Quest. You should be too.

I borrowed my mother's Police Quest collection CD and installed the games in an attempt to keep myself entertained and focused on one thing so that I couldn't possibly make any new videos or write blog posts, although here's one new update anyway.

I beat the VGA version of Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel on Tuesday evening. It was entertaining, and I didn't even get any real gameplay help from walkthroughs. Not that I wouldn't have tried to read walkthroughs, it's just that I didn't ever end up reading anything that would've made me do something I wouldn't have tried on my own. Only things I did get out of guides were numbers like the locker combination, Morgan's telephone number, the 411 number and the first codes for the first drunk driver booking. I didn't remember to check the manual that tells the penal codes and the locker combination at first, and when I eventually did, it was the wrong manual. Yep, the manual that acts as the game's copy protection isn't there on the disc, instead you get the King's Quest series manual by some horrible mistake and must download the correct manual online. Sucks to be someone who bought the game just to pass time at their grandma's house without Internet connection.
I checked Lt. Morgan's phone number on my own early in the game but didn't write it down, and it's only needed at the very end when you can't go back to get it again. Instead of saving, reloading an older save and finding the number and then reloading the newest save, I just looked at a guide to save time.
Not being a resident of US I also didn't know what number to call when trying to find out a taxi firm's phone number. It's something you NEED to know to advance in the game but neither the manual nor the game itself ever refer to it, and at first I just thought I had missed something in the game. Same problem with PQ2, you need to find your girlfriend's phone number by dialing 411 if you want to arrange a date with her and get more points, but it's never said anywhere how you are supposed to find it. I only knew to try it at that point because I learned about it in PQ1, or PQ1's guide, rather.

After having finished the VGA version, on Wednesday I downloaded the original PQ1(legally and for free! Yay abandonware!) from Abandonia. I spent about two hours trying to get it to run in dosbox with no luck, but before completely giving up I went and downloaded the game from XTCAbandonware also to see if their file was different and I could run that. Indeed, I got the xtcabandonware file to install and run, and I finished the game that same night.
I think the original version is better. It's at times more annoying, yes, but it has a lot more going for it anyway. The story progresses at a better pace and there's more to try out in the game because there's more objects to look at, more people to chat with, more options for commands and more ways to fail or succeed at tasks. There's also more humour than in the remake. Basically the remake is just a graphically advanced version based on the original's plot summary with every piece of scenery that doesn't directly contribute to the completion of the main tasks at hand, removed. Locations may look better in the remake, but they're empty for the most part and unlike in the original, in the remake you can't go Bad Lieutenant on the optional female driver event. Yes, I got laid! *(in a video game)

I think there's some misplaced bits of dialogue in the PQ1 remake, because at one point where you're not yet in narcotics division, Sonny tells his friend that he has his own computer now that he's in narcotics and the friend cracks some joke about how Sonny must be the guy who has worked late in the upper offices playing with his computer, the computer that he doesn't actually have yet in the department he's not in yet. Didn't see any similar mistakes in the original. The remake can also error more often than the original if you click the wrong bit of scenery at the wrong moment. I ran the original just fine in one sitting, I never closed dosbox once during the playthrough, but the remake messed up a few times and told me I did something "I didn't need to" and closed DOSbox.
The driving sections in the original may be very annoying and the main cause for your deaths (especially parking can be a nightmare), but at least that is an annoying minigame you play. In the remake you just click turning signals on the screen with no real fear of failing, yet you still waste almost as much time as in the driving sections of the original. Also, during the driving sections the remake has a tendency to not give you your next task. There's a moment in the remake where you are told to go check out some problem out at a certain location, but this is a hoax and in reality the game is supposed to give you another task before you get there. I say 'supposed to' with an annoyed tone of voice, because I spent like 10-15 minutes not doing anything but driving in circles trying to stop at the first address before the game was kind enough to allow me to continue on with the story.

So, a lot was lost in the transfer of PQ1 to the new high-tech age (of the early nineties) and there really isn't any reason whatsoever why PQ1 had to be remade. Nothing was added, for the most part things were just cut out, some stuff was changed just enough so that the game doesn't tie into the rest of the series that well and the graphical update is rather useless as you don't get any of the animations you'd expect to see. If foolish mistakes are at all possible in the remake, the game tends to only tell you that you failed, and it even dares to say it in your face that you shouldn't be rewarded with grisly death animations for your actions. Bullshit! It goes without saying that if I go out of my way to blow away innocent, unarmed civilians, I want blood and guts and bits of brain splattered everywhere, God damn it!
The original does have one problem, though: it makes you wait around for stuff to happen at times and this might make you die or fail at points you otherwise would pass perfectly, as you start thinking it's time to act when the game expects you to just wait another entire minute or two not doing anything. The remake makes you wait less and whenever you do need to just sit back and twiddle thumbs, the game informs you of it first. The final showdown in the original can be difficult for people who don't just decide to sit and wait at a certain screen for half a minute without any sort of hint given by the game that you should do so.

I'd suggest that if you want to play through the entire Police Quest series like I am doing at the moment, start with the PQ1 remake. It's easier, crappier, shorter and gives you a good idea on how to approach stuff in the original so you won't feel as fucked as you would otherwise. The original is also more tightly tied to PQ2, so it would make more sense to play the original right before PQ2.
Also, to enhance the experience during your playthrough of the original Police Quest play Bob Seger's song Shakedown and Glenn Frey's song The Heat is On over the game, 'cause that's what I did. Awesome feeling.

Police Quest 2: The Vengeance is a lot more fun than either PQ1, but it's also harder and it seems that I played myself into a dead end in it already. Can't progress any more and I can't return to pick up evidence that I missed according to walkthroughs, so I'll just restart from beginning and try to be more careful. Should be easier now that I know the general jist of the plot and I've figured out a lot of things I missed on my own as well as read up on a few bits of evidence online.  Didn't need to read walkthroughs before I got in the dead end and I think I've passed the halfway point a while ago, so I'm sort of proud of myself. I'm not big on adventure games, especially the old 90s Sierra series. It's Broken Sword 4 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that got me interested in the genre at all really, so props to those two titles.

By the way, the five Police Quest games I'm playing through as well as dozens of other old games can be legally downloaded for free from Abandonia, XTCAbandoware and a few other websites, so I suggest you check those sites out if you want to relive PC gaming history. I heard about Abandonia and their list of available titles only recently, and I think they have enough games to last me till Christmas. If I can get them to work, that is.
DOSbox is available and the game manuals that you need to pass certain spots in some Sierra games can be downloaded from Any other game manuals you might need you can Google, as this is the Internet you're using, friend.


  1. I am looking forward to the open season rant :D, not a huge fan of these games so far though.


  2. Long live Al Lowe!!
    The genius behind the programming of this series!!
    Play his Leisure Suit Larry series Johnny, I can guarantee you immediate satisfaction. You can legally get it off those abandonware sites - all of them are humorous, awesome games and this type of retro humour you might find really appealing. Give it a try!