Tag Archives: Jim Walls

Kickstarter: Precinct

This is not something I would normally do considering the size of my audience here at Death by Troggles, but I desperately want this game to become a reality, so hopefully this post reaches a few people who can help.

Jim Walls was the principal designer of my favorite series of games, ever. On my countdown of the Top 50 Adventures Games, the Police Quest games he designed ranked 11th, 1st, and 30th respectively. He also was a designer on Blade Runner, the 28th game on the countdown. I can’t say he’s the best game designer in the industry (see: Tim Schafer), but I’ve always been crazy about games that take place in the real world with real human problems involved. He had a couple of misses with Codename: Iceman (submarine adventure) and Blue Force (lackluster Police Quest clone), but I’m seriously hoping that if he’s allowed to make a game without any pressure from a publisher, it’ll be fantastic.

I admit this screenshot isn’t that amazing, but hopefully they crank it up a notch if they get the funding. After one week they’re only at 5% of goal, and they only have three weeks left. Police Quest didn’t have quite the following as other adventure game series, and it didn’t help that Daryl F. Gates designed an extraordinarily shitty game with the same name after Sierra dismissed Jim Walls.

If you have any desire to see this game made, please consider donating to the cause. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy all of the ways Walls figured out how to kill me or get me fired, and sincerely hope this can happen again.

1: Police Quest 2: The Vengeance

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1988
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Atari-ST; PC-98

Review: Sonny Bonds is back…with a vengeance! Actually, the perp he testified against last game and put in prison is back with a vengeance. Not only has he escaped prison, he has kidnapped Sonny’s girlfriend and is knocking off everyone that was at the trial. Since you’ve been promoted to homicide, the case is yours. Lest you worry that you’ll get bored with nobody familiar around, Jim Walls has created several more characters with wonderful personalities.

First is Keith Robinson, your partner. Other than taking smoke breaks and making snide remarks, he offers little help, but befits the easy comic relief that every cop game needs. Then you have Captain Hall, who has a very short temper but a keen taste for pistachio ice cream and a master at working the telephone. And as with Police Quest 1, the supporting cast of characters usually have something funny and interesting to say.

The production values remain quite satisfactory, with improved graphics and sound over the predecessor. Even the sound that tells you that you’ve been awarded points is addicting. The game takes a bit more of a linear route this time around as Sonny usually knows his next destination. However, the puzzles remain fair and moderately difficult. Police procedure is toned down considerably, but still must be followed regularly in order for Sonny to achieve the maximum points and have a clue as to what’s going on. The design team also made a smart move in eliminating manual driving. Since Sonny is in an unmarked car and never needs to patrol the streets, driving would have become pointless and quite tedious.

But where this game shines again lies with the character and plot development. The Vengeance has the best story in the series, with the game spanning over two cities, under water, and in the air. The humour is still very prevalent, and suspense and action are dished out at regular intervals. There is one highly contrived plot device, but can be forgiven considering its entertainment value. And the end-game is fantastic on all levels.

As close to flawless as an adventure game can get, Police Quest 2 remains my favorite game of all-time.

Contemporary RatingMedium. Good parser, but going to the shooting range multiple times to adjust the sights on your gun would annoy many.

Cruelty RatingTough. If your only saved game is a split second before you’re going to die, then yes you can make the game unwinnable. Otherwise, you should be fine. You can miss a ton of things through your investigation, and this will make the game more difficult (and less enjoyable), but it won’t lock you out.

28: Blade Runner

Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: Westwood Studios
Year: 1997
Platform: Windows

Review: Based on the cult-classic movie of the same name–starring Harrison Ford–this cyberpunk adventure is one licensed title that doesn’t disappoint.  I unabashedly feel this is better than the source material. Being as that the movie is currently ranked #123 at IMDb, I am sure to be in the minority.  Good news is if you liked the movie it is doubtful you’d be disappointed by the game.

In the future, where buildings rise above the city, crime is rampant, and man has colonized the moon, a mega corporation has developed replicants, super-humans with a predetermined lifespan. Naturally, some of the more advanced replicants have begun to become self-aware and are pissed that they have been essentially subjected to slavery for moon colonists. And some of them have come back to Earth in order to meet their maker with the intention of reversing their fate. Blade runners have been employed by the city to terminate all replicants before the bloodshed spreads. However, it’s not so simple, as determining who is and who isn’t a replicant is not a foolproof process and there is considerable sympathy for the replicants. It’s even possible some of the blade runners are replicants and don’t know it!

This premise is the same for the movie and the game. The designers of the game were smart in creating a new storyline, sharing only a few characters from the movie made fifteen years earlier (of which Sean Young and William Sanderson reprise their roles!). Not only does this keep the game from becoming stale, but I felt the movie’s story was plodding with poor dialogue. To be fair, the plot of the game is no Oscar-winner, but I actually did enjoy the script significantly more, feeling the characters on my desktop were more sympathetic than the wooden personae on the silver screen.  They did, however, keep the Voight-Kampff testing, and you can whip that out whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

I keep discussing this game as if it’s a movie, which is only because that’s what it feels like. There are very few puzzles and it is incredibly difficult to become stuck. Atmosphere and exploration rule the game, with gorgeous sights and beautiful sounds lifted straight from the movie. There is certainly detective work to be done, but a significant portion is optional, shedding a light on the finer points of your case. What gives Blade Runner the feel of a game (and not just an interactive movie) is that there are multiple paths, stories, and endings dependent on several factors.  Every time you start a new game, character motivations change, which in turn changes some puzzles, dialogues, and eventually plot branches. In addition, whether or not you decide to terminate or sympathize with the replicants will also change the story.  If you like this sort of thing, you’re in for a treat. Personally, I did not have a desire to replay the game multiple times, but I did reach a few endings on my own before downloading some save files to see the others. Blade Runner has incredible production values and it is worth trying to find everything there is to see.

Oh, and you can use your gun. Good times.

Contemporary RatingMedium. Some modern timing issues in action-scenes.

Cruelty Rating:  Polite.  You can die, so saving is necessary.  If you “screw up” the worst that happens if you take an alternate path through the game.

30: Police Quest 3: The Kindred

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1991
Platform: DOS, Amiga

Review: Another game, another promotion, another hair-dye, another bad day for your significant other. Your wife is stabbed in a parking lot on her way home from work and has fallen into a coma. Though you are now a sergeant, Captain Hall has authorized you to work as a homicide detective in this case as there are other murder cases that may be related.

The production values are excellent once more. The graphics and sound have taken a giant leap, and the pont-and-click interface does not detract from the gameplay.  Firing your weapon is as fun as ever and you’ll use it more than once. Driving is also back, though is less intuitive and less useful than in Police Quest 1. While you do chase some perps, driving becomes tedious fairly soon and damn near impossible on fast computers without a slowdown program.

The plot is developed over a six-day period, though it not as tightly wound as the previous two games. Still, Sonny meets many interesting characters, visits some beautiful (and some dreary) locations, and must once again use logical thinking and correct police procedure to track down the killer.

Though it saddens me to admit it, designer Jim Walls makes two significant mistakes here. First, you are assigned a partner that has zero personality other than “super obvious slimy bitch.” She has no sense of humour.  She obviously does not belong on the police force, especially in a department as high as homicide. From the very start, she is up to no good, and the player can figure out the hows and whys fairly quickly. What’s irritating is that Sonny can’t or won’t do anything about it until very late in the game. Meanwhile, the player has to watch the contrived charades for the duration.

case in point

Possibly even worse is that Sonny has lost all of his personality. Granted, he is in a serious position, and his wife is in the hospital, but there is nothing distinguishing about Sonny here for gamers to remember him by. Thus, it becomes hard to empathize with him.

The programmers also made a significant “We had to hurry to get this game out by Christmas” mistake. Day 6 is chocked full of some serious police work and intense situations. However, there is a bug that makes the entire day repeat if you do something trivial in the wrong order.

Thankfully, there are some new features that give the game some bonus points. There are several potential endings, which would give the game even more replay value than the forerunners if it weren’t for the subpar plot. Also, when you die (which will be quite often), Jim Walls will appear on the screen, mocking you.  He provides what little humour is left in the series.

57836-police-quest-3-the-kindred-dos-screenshot-trouble-at-the-recreation

Definitely play this game if you liked the previous two, as it nicely wraps up the Bonds saga. However, casual adventurers are probably wise to pass it up as it doesn’t really work as a stand-alone game.  I fully admit my love for this game is mostly nostalgia.

Contemporary RatingMedium. All the pointless driving is annoying, plus it’s tied in to your computer’s memory, so getting it to work today is a chore.

Cruelty Rating:  Polite. There is one walking dead situation, but it’s only for about two minutes, so as long as your only save file is at a ridiculous spot, you’ll be fine.  Considering you can die frequently, you’ll be saving plenty anyway.