Police Quest III – The Puzzle From Hell: Full-Blown

Written by Alex

Here it is. The Big One. The puzzle that kept me from finishing this game way back when. Day 5, a day that shall live in infamy. A day when my adventure-gaming exploits were thwarted by one man . . . a man on a mission to ruin my police quest. A man fond of inserting himself into his own games, who claims that his games were designed based on his real-life experiences. I certainly hope that this puzzle is not based on one of them.

Whether he had a hand in creating this puzzle, I’m not sure. But in the great American tradition of blaming the most visible person for something, regardless of the truth of the matter, I am laying this all at your feet, Mr. Walls.

Am I being hyperbolic? Of course. This is the 21st Century, and I’m on the Internet. So take everything with a grain of salt as I try to set the scene for this puzzle.

Imagine a younger, gentler, more innocent Alex, playing this game sometime around 1998 or 1999. He is still in high school, and has been a fan of adventure games since his grandfather first fired up Space Quest I on his old Tandy (in full color!) and showed him how to play parser-based graphical adventure games. Fast forward to his 16th or 17th birthday, when his parents got him the Police Quest Collection, allowing him to finally play the second, third, and fourth installments of this series, as well as the remake of the original. Being slightly OCD, this younger Alex plays them in order: The original, the remake, and the second. Coming up to The Kindred, he initially finds the game unplayable, being unable to control the driving due to the blazing speed of his Pentium and how it makes Sonny’s car soar down the streets of Lytton like a bullet from a gun. He does an Internet search, finds a program called MoSlo that slows down his PC, and is able to play Police Quest III, enjoying himself and feeling like a “real” cop. He deals with Brian Forbes (a puzzle I forgot about), pulls over fools on the highway, and investigates the stabbing of his wife. In between, there is some key-swiping, newspaper-calling, and bag lady-interrogating, leading up to the discovery of the unfortunate Andrew Dent, murdered, mutilated, and discarded in a dumpster. Eventually, Sonny’s shift ends, so he gets some rest and returns to the Lytton Police Department ready to begin day 5. The younger Alex is also ready to begin, wondering how he will track down his suspected perp, Steve Rocklin.

Just like any other day: Pull in to the station, take the elevator to the second floor, see Morales lock her desk and leave the office, check the basket for any incoming messages. There are none, but this time Officer Hanks is at his desk. Sonny asks him what he’s doing.

Hanks tells Sonny he’s using his computer to plot crime scenes on a map of Lytton to see if there’s a pattern to them. Young Alex distinctly remembered a function on Sonny’s computer allowing him to do just that. Do you hear the distant rumblings of thunder, way off over the horizon? A storm is coming, Mr. Bonds.

What young Alex did was check all of the files to see the addresses of all the murders where pentagrams were carved into the victims, as well as the address of the Oak Tree Mall. The addresses are:
  • 376 West Rose Street 
  • 341 East Rose Street 
  • 280 West Palm Street 
  • 392 South Sixth Street 

Plotting these, he begins to see a pattern. That looks kind of like . . . a star. A five pointed star. Wait a minute . . . five . . . the Greek word for five is pente . . . pente . . . penta . . . gram? How about that “Check Pattern” function up above? 

Yes! Yes, it’s starting to make sense! Now, where would the missing point go?

There! Right there! Up on Palm Street! That’s where Steve Rocklin will strike next! What are you waiting for, Sonny? Hop to it!

Young Alex waits.

He waits.

He waits some more.

Nothing happens.

Is this not the solution, Jim Walls?

What more do you want me to do?!

Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Young Alex tried plotting the crimes again. And again. And again. And still, nothing. He did find the hint book loaded with the Police Quest Collection, but it did not help at all. Knowing when he was beaten, Alex shelved the game and played Police Quest 4: Open Season, a game that, when we get to it, he will have a lot to say about it. But Police Quest III was put away, never to be touched again.

Jim Walls: 1. Alex: 0

But all that is changing, thanks to the power of the Internet!

You see, the intervening fifteen years or so have seen the creation of this wonderful little site called GameFAQs. GameFAQs is spoiler-central, but I only needed one specific hint, and that was where exactly to plot the crimes on this picky, picky map of Lytton.

The issue is with the addresses: 376, 392, 280, 341 . . . not exactly nice round numbers. The map you plot them on, though, doesn’t allow for such nuance. Instead, you’re supposed to plot the crimes exactly in-between certain streets: 376 West Rose is between Ninth and Tenth Streets, 341 East Rose is between Second and Third Streets, 280 West Rose is between Third and Fourth Streets, and 392 West River Street is right on the intersection of Sixth Street and River. Lastly, the point on Palm Street needs to be plotted between Eighth and Ninth Streets. Doing so, and linking them with the red lines, finally gives the message that young Alex was looking for way back in the 20th Century.

“Your pattern has formed a perfect pentagram.” “Perfect” is the operative word here. This puzzle is quite unfair, and a pentagram is the perfect symbol to encapsulate the demonic nature of such a finicky puzzle that serves as such a maddening chokepoint in a heretofore enjoyable—and fair—game.

Enough griping! Here, now, in the present, I’m happy to be able to see what happens next. Who’s the unlucky person marked for death that Sonny is about to save? He won’t find out sitting at his desk!

But I check the Steve Rocklin file first, because when Sonny sat down at his computer, the first screen informed him that the case had been updated.

The paint samples have been analyzed, revealing it to be a gold General Motors sedan. Great! We know Steve Rocklin’s ride! I click “Hand” to get up, but accidentally click on Sonny’s phone. Now, the game doesn’t let you get up unless you pick up the phone and hang up. To hang up, you have to press a button. I usually just press “Dispatch” to get the generic “Don’t call unless you have something useful to say!” message so Sonny can get off of his butt and back to work. This time, though, Sonny does have something useful to say.

Sonny informs dispatch of the vehicle and tells them that the occupant is likely armed and dangerous. Dispatch immediately puts it out on air, and I accidentally solve a puzzle. This isn’t bad puzzle design, it’s bad clicking on my part. I wonder if this was another possible dead end that I avoided? Time will tell.

Before leaving the office, I check out the bulletin board. Sonny sees a message saying that all female officers will have a physical performance test tomorrow morning at the start of the shift. Was this message always there? I recall the bulletin board having generic messages in previous days. Is this message what has been causing Morales to be acting weird? Is she worried about passing this evaluation? I’d really like to get to the bottom of this sooner than later!

Well, time to go to Palm Street. First, though, I check out Dr. Aimes’s office to see if I can read that damn personnel file on his desk. I go in, and it is empty. I click “Hand” on the folder anyway, expecting the doctor to again pop up from under his desk like a creepy jack-in-the-box, but that doesn’t happen! This time, Sonny glances through the file like a nosy little weasel.

It’s Morales’s file! Let’s see what Dr. Aimes thinks of her: “1. Displays chronic insubordination. 2. Irrational hatred of authority figures. 3. Low self esteem [sic]. 4. Borderline sociopath. Evaluation was suggested by Internal Affairs. Officer Morales was involved in the destruction of evidence on three different occasions. Internal Affairs concluded the incidents were ‘coincidental’ based on insufficient evidence for disciplinary action.” Whoa! Borderline sociopath and irrational hatred of authority figures?! And she’s my partner? Thanks a lot, Captain Tate. More like Captain Taint, who’s with me?!

Whew. So now Sonny has to worry about Steve Rocklin and Officer Morales. Might as well roll the dice and go to find Rocklin’s future victim before it’s too late.

200 East Palm Street turns out to be a dive called the Old Nugget. And there, parked outside, is a gold General Motors sedan! This means Rocklin must be near, maybe even inside the bar! Did the murder take place already, or is Rocklin waiting. It’s likely that no murder has gone down yet, since nobody has called the cops. That’s pretty good logic, I think. Jim Walls would be proud of me.

Pictured: not proud of me.

There is no license plate on the gold car, but Sonny notices white paint on the car. I quickly get the scraper and some baggies from the investigation kit and liberate a sample. Sonny can’t search the car without a warrant, though, which is B.S. because I would say that, in this particular instance, Sonny has more than enough probable cause to search this vehicle for clues about the three murders and the attack on Marie. But again, what do I know? I’m just a lawyer, not an adventure game designer.

I get a sudden flash of inspiration and try to stick the tracking device to Rocklin’s car. It works! I also check out the alley, but the door is locked. Nothing left to do but go inside the Old Nugget.

Rough looking joint. Useless Morales tells Sonny she’s going to go look in the back, presumably the alley, to look for the suspect, leaving Sonny to do, you know, the actual police work.

None of the people at the bar are too helpful, but neither are they rude. The bartender has no information about the car outside, and she tries to get Sonny to order a drink. I try to do so, but nothing I click works. The guy playing pool makes an “I small bacon” crack, and is generally no help, although it looks like he’s waiting for someone to play pool with. In the interim, he’s standing there playing pocket pool.

What?! The game made a lame “balls” joke. Don’t I get to, too?

Eventually, somebody comes in from the back—somehow being missed by Officer Pat “Waste of Space” Morales—grabs a cue, and stares daggers at Sonny.

It’s Rocklin! I try talking to him, clicking my badge on him, anything. Nothing works. After a few seconds, he pulls out a gun and shoots Sonny point-blank. Damn!

I restore, and this time pull my gun and shoot Rocklin. He falls leaving a satisfying smear of blood against the wall.

Wait, what?

Shooting Rocklin is, obviously, not the way to go. But let’s go back in time a few posts to when I shot crazy Brian Forbes. Let’s see what Jim Walls had to say about that:

So shooting a suspect a crazy half-naked guy by the river results in a suspension, but shooting a SUSPECTED SERIAL KILLER gets Sonny sent to prison where he faces a future full of butt-rape? Wow! I guess we really are in California!

I restore and try other things. I find that I can, comically, leave the bar as Rocklin pulls out his gun. Once outside, I notice a weird glitch: Sonny and Morales replay the conversation they had when the first got to the Old Nugget. And upon entering the bar, everything has reset like Sonny wandered onto the set of Groundhog Day. Strange.

Back in the bar, I try to use my nightstick on Rocklin. Only the nightstick is no longer in Sonny’s possession. When did this happen?

Well, you won’t get the best of me again Jim Walls! Convinced I’m on the right track and the game is just being a jerk, I consult a FAQ. It turns out I was right to try to shoot Rocklin, but what the game wants you to do is click the gun on yourself. This brings up a crosshairs you can then aim at Rocklin. If Sonny gets a shot off before Rocklin, he fires back, scaring the scumbag enough to send him packing. Nothing in the game documentation says anything about clicking the gun on Sonny, nor does anything in-game hint to this as well.

Jim Walls: 2. Alex: 0.

Outside, Morales is all like, “What happened?” and Sonny is sorely tempted to shoot her. Instead, he yells at her to get into the car. Once inside, I flip on the tracker and watch Rocklin’s car speed away. I can’t catch up, too busy am I farting around with the game’s crappy driving interface, when I notice Rocklin has stopped on Highway 41. When Sonny gets close, he sees that Rocklin’s car has flipped over.

Rocklin sure looks dead. I check out the accident procedure in the manual, wondering if there’ll be anything else I have to click on Sonny—the road flares, perhaps—but no: I can “[p]reserve and protect [the] scene with proper use of flare patterns” by clicking the flares on the road. It’s a good thing I picked up those flares from the storage closet back on Day 1. Otherwise, I think I’d be dead-ended.

Morales does something useful for a change, and radios for back-up. By the time Sonny has lit the flares, a uniformed cop arrives to direct traffic so Sonny can safely investigate the wreck.

The perp is dead, and he has no ID or anything else on his person. The keys are still in the ignition, so Sonny takes them. Just then, Leon the coroner shows up.

At least Leon spares Sonny the “jokes.”

So I’ve got the keys to Rocklin’s car. Let’s open his trunk.

Would you look at that: A bunch of envelopes chock full of cocaine. Let’s just scoop these up and bring them to the evidence lockup . . .

Uh . . . nobody sees anything wrong with letting the woman with an “irrational hatred of authority figures” and who is a “borderline sociopath,” who has on three separate occasions been accused of destroying evidence, the woman who has had an Internal Affairs investigation conducted of her, grab a bunch of cocaine?!

Alright Jim. If you don’t have a problem with it, I don’t have a problem with it.

Sonny and Morales go back to the station where Morales runs off to do . . . something. Notice how she doesn’t immediately go drop the evidence off at the evidence lockup.

I still can’t get into the women’s locker room (that sounds worse than it really is), so I go back to Sonny’s office. In his inbox is a memo from Dr. Wagner reminding Sonny to visit Marie. Seeing as how there’s nothing else to do at the office, I head to the hospital. Morales, again, tags along and uses the stupid phone in the hospital lobby, so Sonny heads up to talk to Marie and give her a kiss before dropping Morales off at the station and heading home.

All in all, a busy day. Sonny overcame two totally B.S. puzzles and tracked down his prime suspect, only to see him die before being able to question him. My one question, as this session ends, is this: Was the next victim that Sonny uncovered by plotting the scenes of Steve Rocklin’s previous crimes on the map of Lytton . . . Steve Rocklin? It sure didn’t seem like he was at the Old Nugget to murder anybody. Or was he? Was he waiting for Sonny to show up in order to ambush him? Was Sonny supposed to be the next victim?


Points: 331 out of 460.
Inventory: Gun, handcuffs, flashlight, wallet with $2.50, computer access card, notebook, keys to Morales’s desk, keys to Rocklin’s car.

Session Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Total Time: 7 hours and 50 minutes.

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