George Lucas would be proud. Like one would expect, this VGA remake of one of Sierra On-Line's premiere 3D adventure game title is unarguably superior in the level of graphics, sound, and control, but it also suffers from making changes that shouldn't have been made and from making the age-old decision of choosing style over substance. This Police Quest remake is sleeker. Easier. More solid. And considerably less fun to play on almost every level.
To get it out of the way, let's cover all bases: the plot is virtually unchanged. Still play Sonny Bonds. Still go after the "Death Angel". Still flirt with "Sweet Cheeks". The dialogue has been almost completely re-written, though, which is a good thing. The original version of the game had some of the most unintentionally funny of lines, so it seems the (re)creators this time around wanted to polish it up a tad. Unfortunately, it's not enough, though, as the vast majority of the dialogue is still pretty awful. Instead of being outright silly, this time the writing is incredibly bland. Yes, asking for the heights of adventure game humour (ala LucasArts, Infocom, etc.) isn't really fair, but any game's writing should at least be interesting and engaging. This Police Quest remake is neither. Dialogue just pops onto your screen in lifeless quality, and it can only be said it succeeds by helping make the game's information get across smoother than before.
As far as appearance, it can't be really debated that the graphics and sound are much improved in the remake. Instead of blocky characters and objects, the remake has detailed, dirty, smooth ingredients of all kinds. "The Blue Room" does not look eerily similar to, say, "Caffeine Carol's," one fellow cop does not look exactly like another, and one object does not look the same as another. Yes, there's a level of distinction that is achieved that wasn't there before, so that's a success.
However, the major problems hit you pretty fast. While it may seem insignificant, the first thing that one finds unsettling is the odd changes to the driving mode that carries along most the game. Hate to say it, but the charming simplicity of the "drive the rectangle that-a-way" car control of the original version is lost. This new driving interface (much like Police Quest 3: The Kindred), which basically only lets you control speed, is more boring than interactive. The city of Lytton is empty of civilian activity. The street maps are tiny, the player can only see a flashing square to represent their own location, and there are no stoplights or other cars to create an "alive" atmosphere. The designers may have gone for a less stressful driving interface (and this may seem a minor point), but sadly, the active "buzz" of the city is gone.
Another crucial element is the overall gameplay in the game's other situations. Since the remake was made years after the original EGA version, there is a much smoother interface. Fluid mouse control (right-clicks cycles actions, left-click activates) -- that most adventure games have used as standard since LucasArts helped popularize it -- is nice. However, like a lot of early transitions between an open, typing control and a mouse-interface, what's lost is a lot of the challenge. For example, in the first version of the game, say one needed to follow strict police procedure by first radioing dispatch, then demanding a suspect leave his car, then for him to lie on the ground, then to cuff him, etc. In the older version, the player had to implement each action by typing these exact actions from memory. In this remake, just clicking one or two different icons on a suspect will more or less do everything you had to do. It's easier, sure, but too easy. The first demanded a precise order and a knowledge of the rules of the game. This remake only asks that you click the right icons on the right places on the screen. Original game: genuine problem-solving skills. Now (even if a player is having the most dumb of days): a patience for process of elimination.
Which helps define what's wrong with the concept of remakes in the first place. While they assuredly help late-comers to a title or series "catch up" with an old release, they usually tend to forget what made the original charming and what made it fun to play. This Police Quest remake is a good example: better graphics, smoother interface, but a complete ignorance of the elements that made the original tick and a disastrous dumbing-down of the original puzzles. Dialogue, driving, challenge...almost everything is hurt here.
So if you ever see a game that says "update," "remake," or (help us all) "special edition," stay away. Go search for an original because nine times out of ten it serves for a better experience than anything that tried to replicate it later on. In a world (and entertainment field) devoted to the "next step" in technology, not all improvements are improvements. There just should be two unwritten, cardinal rules about remakes: one, new Jabba The Hutt scenes aren't always a good thing, and two, sometimes older is actually better.
Graphics: Good variety of location design and detail.
Sound: Apart from the awful "driving" songs, music is thankfully kept at a minimum and used with in-game sources. Sound effects are effective in their modesty.
Enjoyment: Mouse-based interface destroys a lot of the original game's police-procedure puzzles. Challenge and user creativity is low.
Replay Value: Going through tense situations might be enjoyable a second time around, but not for many.
A remake of the original Police Quest game, the new version uses VGA graphics and a mouse-based point and click interface to guide police officer Sonny Bonds through the investigation of the criminal the Death Angel.
People who downloaded Police Quest 1: VGA remake have also downloaded:
Police Quest 2: The Vengeance, Police Quest 3: The Kindred, Police Quest: Open Season, Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, Police Quest: SWAT, Quest for Glory 1: So You want to be a Hero (remake), Space Quest 4: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter VGA
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