11: Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1987
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Apple II; Atari ST; Macintosh

Review: My passion for adventure games began with an AGI figure named Sonny Bonds. A Lytton, California traffic cop, Sonny has aspirations of moving up in the police force, a goal roughly equal to his pursuit of beautiful women. Your job is to help him succeed in both areas.

I love games that take place on Earth with real-world situations. This is likely the case because I can relate to the characters better and put myself in their shoes. If I could put myself in any adventure series, it would be in Sonny’s shoes. Created by police officer Jim Walls while on leave (related to an on-the-job injury), Sierra helped him start another career as a game designer. Though the reaches of his success are debatable, his involvement in the Police Quest series was a boon for the gaming industry. This game was also supposedly used as a training tool for real police officers, though likely as a recommendation rather than a requirement.

Sonny begins the story performing his regular duties: briefings, pulling over unlawful drivers, and taking coffee breaks at Carol’s Caffeine Castle. Eventually he may join the narcotics division to pursue the “Death Angel” mentioned in the title. The emphasis on correct police procedure is ridiculously high considering the medium; thankfully, failure to do things correctly will often result in merely losing points rather than becoming stuck. Though, at times it can become mundane, driving Sonny around town and looking for suspicious vehicles gives the game a suspenseful, realistic feel. That is until you run a red light or crash into a curb and hope you’ve saved your game recently.

Go ahead, lose some points!

The typing parser is excellent for its time, and the graphics and sound are also brilliant when you compare them to other games out during the same year. Driving is fairly intuitive as is the process for loading, aiming, and shooting your firearm. Even the copyright protections in the manual aren’t too annoying as they are simply things that your average cop may need to look at a manual for anyway.

While I have played this game many times, I can find few faults. There is one ridiculous way to lock yourself out of a part of the game, but it only prevents you from completing that optional section. And if you choose to restore it will only set you back about ten minutes or so. One annoying part is a poker game you must join.  If you lose, you have to restore the game, and considering how much luck is involved, it can become irritating.  There are also a few times where figuring out what to do next becomes guesswork, visiting locations you’ve been, hoping it will advance the game.

Though I am partial towards this game, it really does have everything the average gamer is looking for. Every character has their own personality even if they get little screentime. Subtle and not-so-subtle jokes abound. The puzzles are mostly fair and many are optional, though the more you complete the easier the game will be near the end. And the plot (with a couple of sub-plots) is developed well throughout the game, with a good deal of suspense and action.

Sierra remade the game with their SCI engine, giving it the look of Police Quest 3.  While the game is a little less random and perhaps less frustrating to a novice gamer, several of the cool puzzles are eliminated, and key characters to the plot are completely missing!  If you plan on playing the other games in the series, you definitely should play the original.

Contemporary RatingLow. The parser is decent but not great. Random event triggers would also annoy modern gamers, as would checking your car every time you get in it for flat tires.

Cruelty RatingTough. One could make the game unwinnable if your only save file is during the poker game and you’re about to lose.  There are a couple of other situations like this but they’re all pretty obvious.

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6 thoughts on “11: Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel

  1. Very fond memories playing all the games in the series…well, if you stop at the first three I mean. Back then the driving didn’t seem terribly mundane because it was just cool you got to go where you wanted and pull people over. Also fun to turn on your sirens so you could run red lights whenever you wanted :)

    P.S. What happened to the “recent comments” sidebar?

    • I’m sure you did. When I was young I remember using your notes to help me complete the game. Near the end, there’s a point where a fellow cop gives you a pen that doubles as a one-way radio. You had written “Pen is transmitter,” but it was written a bit hastily and I had to ask you what a penis transmitter was.

      • LOL, a penis transmitter? I don’t remember that. But while we are on the topic, give me your definition of a penis transmitter, please? :} Hmm, that might be a useful tool for Leisure Suit Larry. :}

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