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Police Quest III – WON!

Written by Alex

Oh boy, you guys. Oh boy. I just finished Police Quest III, and all I can say is hold on to your hats. We’re about to see is an example of an adventure game running out of spunk at the very end. There are twists and turns and piles of dead bodies, puzzles and procedural work and drama, but in the end, there is no narrative cohesion or emotional payoff. You’ll see why.

Day 6 begins just like every other day, with Sonny waking up, dressing, and driving to the station. The previous day had been pretty exciting, featuring detective work, a demonic puzzle, a shoot-out with a suspect, and a car chase resulting in a dead perp. And Sonny’s partner, who has a history of stealing evidence, stealing evidence.

Is it a good sign when computer games get as monotonous as a real job?

Being the clever bastard that I am, my first stop is the first floor. I want to check the women’s locker room again because I’m an incorrigible pervert. I’m also convinced that the paper Sonny found in Morales’s desk is the combination to her locker. I’ve been thwarted in earlier attempts to enter, but I’ve been checking every day to see if anything changes, optimist that I am.


And something is different! It’s Mr. Stumps, the janitor!



And of course he’s a slack-jawed yokel. Because what else would a janitor be but a stupid, broadly drawn caricature of a middle-American hick? It’s yet another example of Hack Writing 101: Doctors are jerks, coroners are quirky, middle-Americans are stupid rubes, and manual laborers are borderline retarded. And don’t worry: there are plenty more examples of such stellar characterization for you to enjoy.


To add insult to injury, Sonny still can’t go into the women’s locker room. Nothing left to do but distract Mr. Stumps. I try to do something with his cart, but that doesn’t work—Sonny is no Roger Wilco. So the answer must be in the men’s room. I get the inspiration to cause a disturbance requiring Mr. Stumps’s attention. What, exactly, I’m not sure, but I’ll figure it out. And yes, I tried shooting Mr. Stumps. It did not work.


Check it out! There’s toilet paper in the stall now! There hadn’t been up to this point. Sonny cleverly clogs the toilet and flushes it until it starts to overflow. Shades of Leisure Suit Larry flash through my mind, but Sonny doesn’t drown. Instead, he goes and tells that loser janitor to clean up the nasty toilet water. Janitors! The butt of jokes since time immemorial!

The good news, though, is that Sonny can get into the women’s locker room. I click around until I find Morales’s locker and enter “386.” It works, and Sonny finds—drumroll, please!—cocaine in her locker!


Who saw that coming? And Sonny even acts surprised! How’d he make it to Sergeant, anyway? I can’t take the cocaine, but I click my notebook on it. Sonny takes notes, but I don’t get any points.

Well, I’ve gotta confront somebody about this. But I head up to the third floor first. There’s another tracking device in Mike’s drawer. I take it, thinking I may need to use it on Morales. Finally, I make my way to the Homicide room. Morales is still at her physical, but Captain Tate’s there. Sonny gives the Captain the news: Morales stole evidence from Rocklin’s car! And, uh, that Sonny thinks she’s in league with the cult.

What?

Where the hell did this come from? Nothing in the game has given me this impression. Every other discovery in the game has been the result of the player actively doing something, such as finding and interrogating witnesses, tracking down suspects, and investigating crime scenes. This just falls from the sky, and falls flat. But the Captain decides to have her investigated, so there’s that. He also tells Sonny that the coroner called with evidence recovered from Rocklin for Sonny to collect. Leon the coroner. Great. I wonder what whacky coroner trope he’ll embody this time.


Sandwich-eating. Huh. Never saw that coming. And the greatest thing about the TV Tropes page for this one is that it directly references Leon.

Old Leon had left an envelope for Sonny, containing a cult book and a cult ring taken from Rocklin, as well as Marie’s locket. Interesting that these were found on Rocklin, because when I clicked “Hand” on Rocklin, I was told he didn’t have anything. Consistency: who needs it?

Leon also hands Sonny a newspaper clipping from when Sonny got promoted. There’s something strange about it, though even Sonny’s exemplary detective skills can’t crack the mystery.


I was right: Sonny was the next intended victim. But why? Why did Steve Rocklin have a grudge against Sonny to the point of wanting him dead? I try to do something with the cult book and the cult ring, but they just take up space. Might as well book them at the station.

Leon also tells Sonny Rocklin’s last known address: 500 West Peach. Better get moving, then. Time is of the essence!

Or not, because Sonny automatically drives to the hospital to see Marie. Might as well give her her locket.


And she wakes up! Marie is out of her coma! She’s saved! She doesn’t say anything, but she’s awake! This is fantastic news, a miracle! Dr. Wagner probably wants to know! Better call the nurse and spread the news that Marie just woke up from a four-day coma! But the game tells me there’s no need to call the nurse.

Really?


Alright. Geez! Sorry I said anything!

Sonny and Morales hop into the car. The radio immediately crackles into life: Fire at 500 West Peach. It sure is a good thing that Sonny and Morales didn’t go there sooner to search for clues as to Rocklin’s motivation, or the true nature of the weird cult.


Where’s a cop when you need him? Oh, right: Attending to personal matters when he should be out solving crimes. I’m beginning to think that Sonny’s policing skills have been slightly overblown. Nothing left to do but examine the smoldering wreckage of this easily preventable fire.


Check out that blue thing on the floor in that screenshot. The first time I played this sequence, I tried clicking on it, because it looks like it’s highlighted for a reason, but Sonny couldn’t do anything with it. Upon leaving, a fireman brings a photograph to Sonny. It piqued my curiosity. It turns out that Sonny can find the photograph there, too, provided that he clicks on it with pixel-perfect precision. This is pretty cool, actually, because it avoids a Sierra Walking Dead Scenario (TM)(don’t worry; there are more). Let’s check out the photo:




Wow! Jessie Baines had a brother who’s apparently out for blood! I don’t think there’s been mention of Michael Baines in the previous two games, but there he is. This explains the title of the game: The Kindred. No wonder somebody wanted Sonny dead. This also explains the attack on Marie. Rocklin, then, must have been acting on the orders of Michael. I still don’t have any motive for the murders of Clifford Jones, Samuel Britt, and Andrew Dent other than making a pentagram, but this is at least a good start to unraveling the cult mystery. And here’s another overused trope: the sociopathic soldier! Because remember boys and girls, the men and women who volunteer to get shot at so we can be safe are all secretly mass murdering jack-off trigger-happy freaks with no conscience just one incident away from irreparably snapping!

Besides the further example of hack writing shown in this photograph, notice the address: 522 Palm. After Sonny finishes this investigation, he’d best book it over there to see if he can find Michael Baines. Maybe call some back up and do things in a timely fashion. The back room first, and then 522 Palm!


Well this is certainly nightmare fuel. There’s no madman summoning a killer djinn a la Quest for Glory II, but there is a whole lot of hair and dried blood in the middle of that pentagram! It’s a good thing I grabbed Sonny’s tools from the trunk before entering the house. I snag samples of the hair and blood for further DNA testing. So far, none of the other DNA evidence I’ve submitted during the course of this game has had any effect on anything, but a man can dream, can’t he?

“No.”

Okay, enough screwing around! Off to 522 Palm! Let’s solve this mystery once and for all!







Aside from this being the 300th or so time this exact same sequence has played out in Police Quest III, couldn’t Sonny say something, like, “No” to Morales? It’s just a suggestion. I don’t think that the game manual’s mandate to “follow up all possible leads” means “go to the mall.” At least this time the military recruiter—another poorly written character!—can tell Sonny something useful. I show him the photo of Michael and Jessie Baines. The recruiter gives Sonny Michael’s military records.



True to poorly written stereotype, Michael Baines seems like one bad dude, angry at the death of his brother and seeking payback. This seems like the kind of info that Dr. Aimes could use to build a psychological profile for Sonny, but I think it’s past the time that such information would be useful. It’s kind of redundant at this point, isn’t it? There’s no sense in going back to the station now. 522 Palm awaits!

Nothing . . . further . . . to do?

It’s around this point that I started to hate this game. Nothing is making any sense anymore. For a game premised on REALISM, this is getting pretty bonkers. But you know what? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I’ll take my sweet-ass time if that’s what the game wants me to do. First, I book my evidence. All of it: The cult book, the cult ring, the hair and blood samples, and the photograph. Next, I go to Dr. Aimes and give him Michael’s file.

His “analysis pose.” True fact: That’s Corey Cole!

This is what Dr. Aimes tells me:

“This guy’s not your average scumbag. He’s closer to the slit-his-own-mother’s-throat variety. I’d know more if I’d examined him, but based on this, I’d say he’s a schizophrenic psychopath. This guy’s criminally insane, Bonds. I’d be careful how I approached him.”

Thank you, Dr. Useless! I have a few bones to pick with this analysis, and a few I’d like to break:

  • Sonny is a detective. The fact that Baines appears to be the head of a murderous satanic cult gave Sonny all of this same information sans an analysis pose.
  • There is no way that the unspecific information from Baines’s file allows Dr. Aimes to make such a specific diagnosis.
  • “Criminally insane” is a pretty strong statement. It’s also a killer Slayer song.
  • Schizophrenia is, broadly speaking, an inability to discern what is real and what is not. Psychopathy, generally, refers to severe antisocial behavior and a lack of empathy towards other humans and remorse towards committing back acts. Schizophrenias aren’t in touch with the real world, and psychopaths don’t react to it in a normal way. A cursory Internet search revealed a condition called “pseudopsycopathic schizophrenia”: “a term applied to patients in whom antisocial, impulsive, or sociopathic tendencies initially mask underlying psychotic tendencies typical of schizophrenia.”

My question is: HOW DID DR. AIMES FIGURE THIS OUT FROM LOOKING AT THE STUPID MILITARY RECORD?! I know it doesn’t matter, and that it’s just a way to get more points and follow “the book,” but it’s still really, really stupid! And I just played Leisure Suit Larry 5, so I know stupid when I see it!

Sheesh! Let’s see if Sonny has any messages or anything in his office before finally, finally heading to 522 Palm.

Oh no.

Oh hell no.

The Captain seems to be stuck in a time loop. So does the whole game, in fact, a bug that commenter Torch warned me about in the introduction post. I play along, because what the hell else does Sonny have to do? Not catch the leader of a murderous death-cult, that’s for sure. So I drive to the coroner. It’s locked. Back in the car, Sonny drives to the hospital. The weird thing is that it’s nighttime and the time has advanced. Marie is still awake, but nothing new happens. Then back in the car I get the message about the fire at Rocklin’s house. At this point, I restore, book my evidence, talk to Dr. Jackass, and then finally, finally, drive to 522 Palm.


522 Palm looks like a heavily reinforced dump, with bars on the windows and a thick steel door. There’s a barking dog, an electrical meter, a couch, and a broken-down old car that Sonny can’t do anything with. I know on the door and see movement through the barred window, but nobody answers. I try clicking “Talk” to announce myself, and click the badge too for good measure, but nothing happens. Here’s the procedure according to the manual, and why I’m pissed off about this:

Special Operating Procedures Section IV, Obtaining Entry into Private Property, Part 3: Other situations: a. Requesting admission: “An officer may present himself/herself at a legitimate entrance to the private property and ask for admittance. The officer must identify himself and his purpose.” The game does not let you do this. Realism my ass.

Here’s b. Admission refused: “If admission is refused the officer can only gain entrance by obtaining a search warrant.”

Right. Search warrant. How does one get a search warrant? Well, since I’m an attorney, I know you get one from a judge. But nothing in the manual mentions this. What if you were a kid, or a non-attorney who had never studied legal procedure? You’d just have to brute force your way to this solution. Lame. Or you’d do what I did, and try to walk up the stairs on the side.

Caption Contest: What’s going on here? I’ll go first: Sonny: “Praise the Lawwwwd!”

The stairs are in disrepair. Sonny falls down and . . . dies? Is there a bottomless pit down there? A moat? Spot from The Munsters? Wouldn’t he just scrape his knee or twist an ankle or something? Realism! So I die, and since I hadn’t saved in a while, it takes me some time to get back to this point. It’s around here I really start to loathe the game.

I drive to the courthouse. Sonny requests admission to Judge Simpson’s chambers to try and get a warrant. After a sarcastic comment or two, she asks to see Sonny’s evidence. I give her the newspaper clipping, the only piece of evidence I really have. It’s not enough. I have nothing else to give her, not the cult book, the cult ring, or the photo of Michael and Jessie Baines. That’s because I followed proper police procedure and booked them into evidence. So I have to restore even farther back, not book the evidence, and give that junk to the judge to get my warrant into 522 Palm. It’s around this time that I started to despise this game.

Back at the courthouse, I find that if I give the judge the newspaper clipping and the photograph, she’ll give Sonny a warrant. She doesn’t care about the book or the ring.


I feel like the game punished me for following proper police procedure and dead-ending me. I call extreme shenanigans here. But Jim Walls don’t give an F. He’s as bad as he wanna be. At least Judge Simpson seems pretty nice.


Hopefully I won’t need to take her up on her offer for further assistance. However, back at 522 Palm I run into an obstacle I saw coming 1,000 miles away: serving the damn warrant.


How is Sonny going to get that door open? Well, even though the manual screwed me over fairly recently, let’s take a look at Special Operating Procedures, Section V: Forceful Entry into Dwellings: “1. In the case of a locked or fortified building, specific departmental tools may be required to gain entry. Available tools include: a. Hand-held power ram. Sufficient for most non-reinforced entrances. b. Motorized converted military armored ram. Used to violate heavily-reinforced steel entrances.”

Although the thought of using something called an “armored ram” to “violate” a door is arousing, I control myself and prepare to—sigh—drive back to the judge to get permission to do this. How do I know I have to drive back to the courthouse? I don’t. I’m just guessing. But it’s the solution. It’s around this time I really started to question my sanity for volunteering to blog about this game for this site. This whole sequence is exacerbated by the ball-numbing tedium of the driving interface. Anyway, Sonny gets his damn judicial order.

Notice how here Sonny says that service of the warrant isn’t the problem, but at the actual crackhouse, the game said that service of the warrant is the problem.

Back at the crackhouse, things are ready to get rammed: The ram unit is in place, backup is covering the front, and Morales goes to cover the rear. The uniformed cop tells Sonny to give the word. So I give the word using my trusty “Talk” icon.

Oh, baby!

Before we go on, I’d like to point out that the game automatically make Sonny stroll right into the crackhouse after the ram unit finishes violating the reinforced entrance. Now, I did read Special Operating Procedures, Section III: Felony Situations, 1: “Approach the situation with weapon loaded and drawn.” But the game did not let me draw my weapon before entering the room. When Sonny waltzes in unarmed like a doofus, he gets blown to smithereens by some asswipe who rolls in like he’s friggin’ G.I. Joe.

“Boo!”

Oh, kiss my ass.

You have to click the gun on Sonny. Then he’ll take out his weapon, give the order, and go in ready to blow some perps sky high. It’s about time that Sonny got a chance to legitimately introduce some asses to some caps. But wouldn’t you think he’d get a bulletproof vest or something?

Finally!

It doesn’t matter. His bloodlust temporarily satiated, Sonny emerges most triumphant from the shootout. But what’s this? Somebody off-screen says “Don’t shoot! I give up!”


It’s Michael Baines: Cult leader, schizophrenic, CRIMINALLY INSANE psychopath, and total pussy. Anti-climactically, Sonny cuffs him without incident and hands him over to his back-up officer. I suppose this is where, if I didn’t get my cuffs back from crazy Carla Reed’s shopping cart, I’d be screwed.

So that’s that. Instead of venting his burning rage against the man that killed his brother and sent him over the edge, Michael Baines, the kindred of the Death Angel, surrenders himself, mild as milk. Game over, then?

Nope. Sonny can search this room now. I click “Hand” on the corpse lying behind the couch and am told he has “nothing of interest on him.” I can think of something of interest. An ID. You know, a way to know who I just killed?

Whatever. Searching the couch a la the thief in the little old lady’s house in Quest for Glory I, reveals a television remote underneath one of the cushions. Did I slip into Leisure Suit Larry? Clicking the remote on the TV brings up a zoomed-in image.


In line with the sense of urgency present in this game thus far, I figure Sonny will turn on a baseball game, plop himself down on the couch, and watch a few innings before leaving, driving to the hospital, taking Morales back to the Oak Tree Mall, grabbing a sandwich somewhere, pinching a loaf, and turning in for the night. I mean, the crackhouse will still be there tomorrow, right? Instead I get a flash of inspiration: Maybe Morales’s locker code is some kind of cult thing. Sonny miraculously suspects her of being in league with the cult, right? So why not click “386” and see what happens?

I’ll tell you why: You can only click one button at a time. I click “3.” Nothing happens. I click the remote on the TV again to get the close-up. Maybe you have to do each button separately. I click “8,” and the fireplace opens up, revealing a hidden passage.

The only thing saving this from being really stupid is if Batman is down there. He is not.

A secret passage! I guess I was supposed to just click everything until I got to “8.” By this point, I am beyond caring about anything but ending the game and, by extension, my misery.


Look! Drug stuff! And nothing I can click on! Let’s go back up the stairs!


Look! Another nameless, faceless cult member I get to shoot!


Look! It’s Morales! Where’d she come from? Who cares?!


Look! Another poorly written stereotype, the man-hating woman! Sonny’s partner is trying to kill him! Who cares?!


And look! A random cop the game just drops out of nowhere and has spent no time building any sort of emotional attachment to or interest in appears in the nick of time to shoot Morales! Dead bodies!

This guy is somebody named Detective Hooks from Internal Affairs. I don’t know if I’m supposed to know of him or not. Hooks has been trailing Morales since I tipped off Captain Tate earlier in the day. Really, who cares at this point? I sure don’t.

I then get the victory message:

“Congratulations! You’ve not only solved your murder case, but you’ve also found and incapacitated a dangerous cult that was processing crack. Now all that’s left to fight is the paperwork. You almost welcome the routine of it all. There IS such a thing as too much excitement.”

Okay then. The game then shows Sonny’s car outside of Lytton General. He gets out, presumably to see his wife and take her home. And then Jim Walls appears to give me one final kick in the nuts on my way out:



Roll credits:


I hate this game.

Points: 440 out of 460.
Inventory: Gun, keys to Morales’s desk and to Rocklin’s car, flashlight, handcuffs, photograph of Michael and Jessie Baines, judicial order, wallet with $2.50, computer access card, tracking device, cult book, notebook, cult ring, newspaper clipping.

Well-written Characters: 2 (the nameless reporter, Orpheus Hanley)
Poorly-written Characters: 7 (Morales, Leon, Mr. Stumps, Carla Reed, Juan Jose Ruiz, Mike the IT guy, Dr. Aimes)

Official Body Count: 7 (Rocklin, nameless cultist #1, nameless cultist #2, Morales, Samuel Britt, Clifford Jones, Andrew Dent)
Unofficial Body Count: 9 (Rocklin, nameless cultist #1, nameless cultist #2, Morales, Samuel Britt, Clifford Jones, Andrew Dent, crazy Brian Forbes, the undercover sheriff)

Session Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Total Time: 10 hours and 20 minutes.

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