Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (EGA) Review

Screenshot from Police Quest 1 EGA
Lytton Police Station in Police Quest 1 EGA

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Sierra On-Line
  • Publisher: Sierra On-Line
  • Release Date: 1987
  • Time played: 6 hours

What is it

Every adventure gamer or gamer that played games in the 80s and 90s, would've heard of the company Sierra On-Line and if you played one of their "Quest" games during that period, there's a good chance you would've played one of the Police Quest games.

The first Police Quest was released in 1987 and was an adventure game developed with Sierra's older Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) engine where character movement was performed using the keyboard's arrow keys or Numpad and interacting with the world was done by typing commands into a text parser. 16 colour graphics (aka Enhanced Graphics Adapter or EGA) was standard along with a 160x200 resolution. In the game, you play the role of police officer called Sonny Bonds for the fictional Lytton Police Department. You'll experience what it's like being a police officer ranging from mundane tasks like issuing speeding tickets to participating in undercover operations to take down drug lords.

The first three Police Quest games were designed by Jim Walls, an ex-California Highway Patrolman. He was recruited by CEO of Sierra On-line, Ken Williams, as he was looking for a police officer to assist in the development of a new police adventure game and to ensure it was an authentic experience. Walls agreed and the rest is history.

By late 1995, it's reported that the four Police Quest adventure games sold more than 850,000 copies. With respect to the original Police Quest, contemporary reviews were positive about the game's graphics but were critical of the easy puzzles which revolved around following the police procedures manual bundled with the game.

How I got it

As I played quite a few Sierra adventure games back in the day it only made sense for me to acquire the entire Police Quest collection which I purchased off GOG back in January 2011.

The games sat dormant for a while until recently when Choona suggested I revisit all the Sierra adventure games as part of my Pile of Shame Initiative. I've already reviewed a few AGI adventures so I decided to continue with other AGI adventures prior to moving on to SCI. After completing the early King's Quest and Space Quest games, I chose to try Police Quest next.

Screenshot from Police Quest 1 EGA
Ensuring you don't crash into anything while going at Code-3 can be a challenge in itself

What I like:

Police procedures

Police Quest is infamous for its strict adherence to police procedures: for example, the game ends prematurely if you forget to check the tyres of your car before going out on patrol. In fact, the game was apparently used as a training tool by police officers at the Allegan City Police Department in Michigan: that's how authentic the experience was.

Anyway, while some would find it a chore to follow police procedure manuals to the letter, this made the game appealing to me for two reasons.

Firstly, as I touched on already, the game lets you experience the life of a police officer from rather mundane tasks to more daring undercover operations, which gives you an appreciation of what risks a police officer faces each day and what hoops they have to go through to ensure the crooks stay behind bars.

Secondly, since the game is so pedantic when it comes to following the correct procedures, it means the game is actually easier than other early Sierra adventures because there's generally only one way to solve the puzzle and the answer is often in the manual.

No ridiculously narrow walkways

The game thankfully doesn't have any ridiculously narrow walkways for you to plummet to your death (like the early King's Quest adventures) although driving (and crashing) around the streets of Lytton is almost just as bad… almost…

Decent length

Unlike the early King's Quest and Space Quest games that can usually be finished within an hour or two, it took me almost six hours to complete Police Quest.

Screenshot from Police Quest 1 EGA
Poker takes a good amount of your time in Police Quest

What I dislike:

Very specific wording

I managed to get through most of the game without a walkthrough but there were a couple of times where I was stumped and both of them involved responding to people with a very specific line. In one case, I finally figured out what I had to say but in the other I sadly had to resort to a walkthrough. When I discovered that my initial attempts of typing "ask for help with…" should've been replaced with "can you help me with…", I found it a bit ridiculous, not to mention it means changing the grammar from giving directives (e.g. "open door", "get handcuffs", etc.) and instead typing responses like you're having a conversation (which only really happens a handful of times in the game).


Now I have nothing against poker as a game and it's fine if an adventure game has it as a side quest, but like a lot of early Sierra adventures, winning at games of chance is actually mandatory and Police Quest is no exception. Besides the fact this encourages "save scumming" (i.e. restoring saved games until you achieve the outcome you desire which, in this case, is winning money) both poker games in Police Quest took about an hour to complete: that's one sixth of the total playtime! Seems a bit disproportionate if you ask me.

It's old

I'm grasping at straws here because in terms of gameplay, this is definitely one of the better AGI adventures I've played, however at the risk of stating the obvious, this game looks like an old game, sounds like an old game and plays like an old game. Just as well there's a 1992 VGA remake of the game right? I'll be sure to review this one in the near future and compare 😊.

Also, since the game is old (i.e. it's set in the 1980s) you actually have to remember how 80s technology works. For example, if you were to contact people nowadays, you'd probably pick up your mobile phone to do so; it's very rare for people to use landlines nowadays (outside of a workplace, at least). Obviously, this wasn't the case back in the 80s and there are several occasions where you'll have to use a landline to contact the relevant people. Not only that, but you also have to know that the number 411 is the phone number for the telephone directory: probably second nature if you lived in the United States during the 80s, but not as obvious if you didn't.

Score – 6/10 (Not too bad)

Like Space Quest II, Police Quest is one of the better Sierra AGI adventures to play if you've never played one before thanks to it being somewhat easier to beat as it's all about following police procedures. It's also one of the longer AGI adventures clocking in at 6 hours. It does have drawbacks though like the fact the poker mini-games take about one sixth of the game, how specific it sometimes gets with respect to what you type and the simple fact this game hasn't aged well in the graphics and audio departments.

(I've placed the following disclaimer when reviewing Sierra games before and I'll say it again: before I get burned at the stake by the Sierra fans, I'm trying to judge this game on its own merits, playing it today in 2019. No doubt the game was highly regarded by fans in the 1980s, but nowadays, things have evolved and, in my humble opinion, generally for the better).

Is the game worth $14.59 AUD?: No. Although it really depends if you're an old fan (so you've probably already got a copy anyway) and what price you would put on retro games in general. The $14.59 is not only for the original Police Quest though; it also gets you the VGA version of Police Quest 1, Police Quest 2, Police Quest 3 and Police Quest 4: Open Season so when you think of it as $3 per adventure, it doesn't seem as bad.

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