Police Quest 3: The Kindred – PC Review

One of the great strengths of the original Police Quest was
that the encounters were “fictionalized” versions of actual
arrests and situations, either experienced by designer Jim
Walls himself (a retired law enforcement officer) or one of his colleagues,
that required correct police procedures to resolve.
Police Quest 3: The Kindred (PQ3) continues the tradition of excellence.
In spite of the controversial “parser-less” interface
(which some veteran adventure garners believe has a tendency
to make the games less complex), the latest installment in the
career of Detective Sonny Bonds still requires authentic police
procedures to solve the case. [Ed: In fact, the police procedural
aspects of the series have been so well-received by actual law
enforcement agencies and personnel that Jim Walls’ development
company, Jim Walls Games, is working on a professional
computerized training program using Sierra’s toolkit.]
The puzzles in PQ3 are tougher than those in earlier Police
Quest adventures. Be careful in making decisions early on as
they significantly affect results further on in the game. Also, unlike
some of the other games with the parserless interface, such
as Leisure Suit Larry 5, Sonny Bonds can die.
Of course, puzzles are not the only features to be enhanced in
PQ3. The graphic artists used rotoscoping (drawing over filmed
footage of live actors) to improve both the animated movements
of the characters and to provide a more cinematic perspective to
screen layouts and blocking (character movement on-screen).
Sometimes, the scenes are so real that reaching out and touching
the monitor would almost cause one to expect to see blood
on one’s hands (and PQ3 does have blood!).
The musical soundtrack, composed for maximum adrenalin effect
by Jan Hammer of Miami Vice fame, effectively uses most
of the available sound cards in presenting an audio cue as to the
importance of certain scenes, as well as enlivening transition
times. Beyond the music, the sound effects do a good job of
emulating everything from typewriter clacking to the banshee
screams of screeching tires.
Roll Call
Warning: Portions of the next few sections of this article
offer specific hints for completing the game. Readers who
do not desire hints should skip to the section entitled
“Debriefing.”
In PQ3, the player takes on the role of a modern detective. To
succeed, one will practically have to be a master of deductive
reasoning, an artist (using the game’s computer-assisted composite
photo technique), a social worker and a computer
specialist. Following the manual’s “First Day Briefing (Walk-
Thru)” will get rookies (first-time PQ officers) off to a fast start.
The game begins like any police officer’s day, with a briefing.
As usual, parts of the briefing are thinly disguised versions of the
real thing. This is immediately followed by a one-on-one conference
with a fellow officer to determine strategy. Then, it is
time to equip oneself for the investigation by heading to the locker
room and adding useful articles to Sonny’s inventory. Players
better make sure that Sonny ends up in the “Men’s Locker
Room” or they are liable to meet an unhappy “fellow” officer that
resembles a female version of Mike Tyson.
Driving Sonny Crazy
Driving a police cruiser to Aspen Falls is next on Sonny’s agenda.
Navigation is accomplished via the map of Lytton provided
in the manual. Driving the car demonstrates some of the versatility
of the new Sierra adventure game toolkit. The player
places the cursor in front of the squad car and presses the left mouse button to increase speed and the right one for braking.
The car can be turned by placing the cursor at the intersection
(and in the direction) in which the turn is to be made. Since
these controls are considerably different than those to which
players are accustomed, it make take a while before they are
mastered. In fact, one is very likely to spin out quite a few times
when turning corners too fast. If players are alert for the signs
which indicate upcoming intersections or are paying attention to
the built-in “locater beacon,” they should get this part of the
game mastered fairly quickly.
Note that Aspen Falls does not have a turnout. So, one has to
stop the car, turn off the ignition and exit the vehicle at the appropriate
location. There, one must talk to the bystanders, take
notes and proceed according to police procedures. For those not
properly prepared, a watery grave awaits. Sometimes the best
thing to do is “to do unto others as they do unto you.” Remember,
a suspect should always be handcuffed and searched before
anything else is done. In addition, one must always follow procedures
when booking a suspect, since mistakes cost lives.
Homicide
At this point in the game, Walls opts to deviate from realistic
police procedures. Normally, when a member of an officer’s immediate
family is a victim of a crime,
said officer is not allowed to work on the
case. The chance of the officer’s emotions
causing him/her to make a serious
mistake is too great. In this case, Marie
(Sonny’s wife) has been attacked and
stabbed. Of course, Sonny’s involvement
in the case is simply a page out of the
average detective movie where the hero
violates a direct order just to “make
sure” the crime is solved. In the game,
for example, Sonny knows that the scene
of the crime will have been carefully
scrutinized by the experts, but there is a
tremendous temptation just to make
sure. One must be certain to use
evidence gathering techniques properly
and to take down important information.
Also, just as one would expect in a mystery screenplay, it sometimes
takes a good night’s sleep in order for the subconscious to
sort matters out.
One thing is certain. Walls does an excellent job of keeping the
player motivated in PQ3. Sonny will definitely want to visit Marie
and the sight of his helpless wife is enough to bring tears to the
hardened crime fighter’s eyes. As if Marie’s situation were not
bad enough, the hospital environment is tremendously depressing.
Maybe the player could find something to brighten things
up? It might even help bring her out of the coma. After all, that
happens in other scripts. After that, well, maybe work will help to
pass the time.
So, the plot evolves. Sonny is transferred to Homicide and he
gets a new partner. One must get back to proper procedure to
advance further, though. Studying cases of similar homicides in
order to look for a “pattern,” interrogating a witness and creating
a composite photo should be helpful. Unfortunately, there is
something about Sonny’s new partner that just seems “funny.”
Maybe watching her might not be such a bad idea. In fact, there
is something “key” about watching her.
In fact, after a routine court appearance, Sonny may get his
chance to “key” in on his partner. Almost immediately, the two
detectives get a radio call indicating that a murder has been committed
in an alley near 300 Rose. Examining the body (a real
“nail biting” task) should give the detective some idea of the “pattern.”
This should be followed by a trip to return evidence to the
crime lab.
Sonny will eventually get enough evidence to end up at a local
pool hall. Once there, it certainly would not be a bad idea to
place a tracker on that vehicle Sonny has been trying to locate.
Then, one can enter the pool hall and, essentially, flush the
suspect out.
It’s a Dirty Job
After all the excitement, Sonny might notice that someone has
“taken a powder” (not in the usual sense). It might not be a bad
idea to search that person’s desk. The locker combination looks
helpful. After that, Sonny might need to get the janitor away
from the door. Well, what are janitors for? After obtaining his services,
it is no problem to exit and enter “forbidden territory” long
enough to examine the contents of the locker. Remember, an officer
had better inform his/her captain about such things.
After visiting both the coroner and Marie, the plot quickens with
a radio call from dispatch. Sonny will need to proceed to the appropriate
address. He should not, however, enter the dwelling
until after the fire marshall says it is all
clear. Then, he should take careful note
of the contents of the dwelling, particularly
the photographs. The altar room may
offer very fertile ground for gathering additional
evidence.
Eventually, this will lead the detective to
visit the army recruiter at the mall and
read the file on the suspect. This, in turn,
will necessitate a visit with the criminal
psychologist back at the station and onward,
to the endgame.
Book ‘Em Dan-o!
If the investigation is proceeding well,
Sonny should be able to knock on the
door of the crack house and attempt to speak to its occupants.
As usual, the straight-ahead approach does not get him very far,
so he has to appear before a judge and obtain a search warrant.
If successful, he should be able to use the warrant to make a
search and garner enough evidence. He should return to the station
and book the evidence. Then, after returning to the courthouse
and appearing before the judge, once again, one can finally
make the bust. Alert players will remember, however, the immortal
words of Yogi Berra (“It ain’t over till it’s over!”) and
make sure that the real brains behind the operation is brought to
justice, even if it is cinematic justice!
Debriefing
Police Quest 3: The Kindred is the best of the series to date.
The parserless interface enhances playability so much that even
those who did not care for earlier Sierra releases may want to
try the new generation. PQ3 offers more replayability than one
would suspect, because every time one tries to do something differently,
something new will pop up that the player did not see
during the first experience.
Whether one is looking for a good “cops ‘n’ robbers” story, a
police procedural mystery or a challenging adventure game,
Police Quest 3: The Kindred fits the description.

Written by: Brent

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