Police Quest 3: The Kindred (1991)

I've come to believe that Police Quest 1 was a fluke. The second game in the series was already showing signs of decline, despite it had removed some of the more annoying aspects of the first game, like driving. While Police Quest 2 was at times fun cop game, it wasn't a great one and it did miss the feel of the first entry of the series, that revolved heavily around more realistic policing, while Police Quest 2 took a lot of cues from cops shows and movies, having scenes like aeroplane highjackers and a stone cold nemesis Baines wreaking his revenge against those who imprisoned him. While I liked PQ2 more than PQ1 as a kid, I don't think it has really endured time that well.

With Police Quest 3, Jim Walls, the creator of the series, headed back to the direction of the first game. This he did to an extent of putting the hero of the series, Sonny Bonds, back in blue and even included back the driving on an overhead map of Lytton. Now, let me be frank here, this is by far the shittiest driving system ever, as the map screen is small and you see only a small snippet of the road ahead. It's a frustrating system, which turns the game more like a chore than a fun experience. In the original AGI version of Police Quest 1, there was an arcade-like feel to the driving with a big map screen. In PQ3 and in the remake of PQ1, you are stuck to a small snippet of the road, which you drive slowly in order to react in time on the next possible exit. Not a fun system at all.

Well, okay, the system does have a full city overhead map as well, but it doesn't really make the driving any much simpler, as you still need to use the actual game manual map in order to properly plot your course. And unless you are willing to study that map by heart, you'll be looking at it often.

But let's retract for a moment. Again, the story begins from Lytton PD, where Sonny Bonds is heading to work. He has been temporarily transferred to traffic division, as like the game tells us, there are never enough cops at traffic. He's not a regular beat cop anymore though, as he is sergeant nowadays, so he also has to give morning briefings and give disciplinary actions. All of which you get to during the very first minutes of the game, before you notice that you are just walking around the police station, as there's a small timed segment here, which forces you to wait for a call that asks you to call dispatch in order to get out of the station.

So again, you spend a lot of time driving around, dealing with petty crimes, like speeding, arresting a deranged man, disciplining the one rotten apple of the Lytton PD, Morales. You can also die easily enough, be it neglecting to search a suspect or by just approaching a stopped vehicle from a wrong side, as that's a sure way of getting hit by a passing car despite there's no visible traffic on the streets otherwise. So in all, it's a mix of similar stuff seen on Police Quest 1 and your typical Sierra middle finger flipping to those who don't save their games every 30 seconds.

And then, story-wise, the shit hits the fan: while leaving from work, Marie, Sonny's wife, is jumped on and stabbed. Sonny is called on location just as the paramedics are hauling her to the hospital. Really, as far stories go, Police Quest 3 takes a darker turn pretty quickly: from a mundane policing to a near-fatal stabbing of the loved one. But then it turns a bit silly with heroin dealing satanist serial killers.

The next day Sonny gets back to homicide, where he obviously gets Marie's case. And for some reason, not explained, Morales, the worst cop of Lytton PD, is his new partner. And she acts extremely suspiciously all the time. I might just spoil it right here, she's in cahoots with the satan worshippers, because why the hell not? Oh, and it's Baines's brother who's behind the trouble.

The story is relatively bad. It jumps through hoops in order to make twists and turns, but in the end, it manages only to be pretty stupid. It has to be admitted though, that neither of the previous games was storytelling gold, but Police Quest 3 was written by Jane Jensen, so it should have been better. And while it some ways is, it still manages to be relatively moronic and full of holes. Not that would be an issue, as Police Quest 3 had the potential to be the best game in the series, as I do genuinely like how the crime scene investigation and police procedures are handled in it. Looking for the clues is the best part of the game really.

But then there are situations where the design asks you to be either clairvoyant or very familiar with the game, as there are several things in it that you just have to just know, especially if you are looking for a full score. But that's again pretty typical Sierra dickery, so nothing new in that.

What really mars the game, in the end, is the driving, as it is genuinely frustrating. It is one of those things, which make replaying it so unappealing, that it's not even funny. PQ3 is designed so, that if you want to make a perfect playthrough, you need to play it more than once. And considering a lot of the game consists of driving, a terrible mechanic really kills it.

If you want to try it for yourself, GOG is your friend.