Police Quest 1: In Pursuit of the Death Angel logo

Activision/Sierra On-Line
Price: £14.99

Have you ever suspected that cops drive around more or less aimlessly for most of the day? This game will not dispel your suspicions - you play the part of a cop, Sonny Bonds, patrolling the small American town of Lytton.

You start off at the local Police Station, where there is a briefing to attend (miss it at your peril!). There you learn about a serious drug problem in the town controlled by a drugs baron known as the Death Angel. The briefing over, it's time to get kitted out for the day's work ahead and get your patrol car out onto the streets.

And this is where Police Quest differs from other animated 3D adventures from Sierra. Once in the car, instead of moving the animated character around a perspective picture, your cursor keys control the patrol car, which is shown in plan view on scrollable sections of the town map. You have to drive carefully, keeping to the right hand side of the road, observing the traffic lights which change infuriatingly slowly!

Operating your car in this way is difficult. At the fast speed to which you will have probably set your character, it is almost impossible Even in slow mode it is extremely easy to misjudge exactly when to make a right turn. You only have to graze the kerb to get into a fatal smash. It pays to save the game position after you complete each major event.

Use the large fold-out map, which is provided in the package. As no buildings of interest are marked, one of the first jobs is to stop and get out when you can (you can only do this in lay-bys and car parks). Poke around a bit. Take the opportunity to mark up the map with useful locations.

Before long I came across my first corpse -a traffic victim with a bullet through his brain. The Death Angel was behind this, but I called up Homicide and left it to them to clean up the mess.

A brush with some violent bikers, an arrest on a VC23152 charge, and an 11-98 with Steve at Carol's Caffeine Castle, just part of a day's work. Don't know what a VC23152 or 11-98 is? Well, it's all there in the instruction manual - a list of vehicle codes, penal codes and radio codes. You never have to input these, but you do have to translate them from the messages received.

The text side of the game leaves a bit to be desired, with a number of fatuous replies for reasonabl commands such as "how can you do that?" in response to "ask about"... Apart from this, and the difficulties in driving, this is an interesting and fairly realistic game.

And now we know that Sonny Bonds will succeed in catching up with the Death Angel, or else how could he have escaped from jail? Yes, I've been peeking at the ST version of Police Quest II, which will be released for Amiga during June. So get moving, you've only a few weeks to get him behind bars!

Police Quest 1: In Pursuit of the Death Angel logo

Sierra/Activision, Amiga £19.99

And you thought life in the good old US of A was all donuts and MacDonald's - even for cops? Yeah, well, you shouldn't believe all those cute things they tell you in Sesame Street (Who ever heard of a talking bird, anyway?) On the other hand, no one in their right mind would believe all that screeching tyre and designer jumper Miami Vice stuff either.

So what's it really like for your average, ordinary cop wearing out shoe leather on the streets? No lizard's toenail, bumper Christmas party, I can tell you. There's loads of driving around and performing petty traffic duty for a start. And when you do finally get called to the scene of a crime, you've got to be pretty sure you follow the correct procedures for arresting, searching, calling for backup. Oh yeah - and you hardly ever end up shooting... Bah! Spoilsports!

Well now you can have a go at being one of these well hard routine sort of street cops yourself - in a combination of glorious Sierra interactive 3D and typed in verbal commands.

Zzap's Rockford: Ev'ning all! It all starts out at police headquarters in Lytton. This is your comfy as a troll's hole base: come back at the end of the day for a shower (bleuch!), change back into civilian clothes, use the computer to follow up leads (you can actually type in data), get your daily briefing from the captain - the usual routine.

Zzap's Thing: Allo, allo, allo! Your patrol car's just outside and most of the action involves manoeuvering it about an aerial view map of Lytton's streets. The idea is that once you're out of the station, you're free to investigate some of the city's locations, pull people up for driving offences and respond to radio alerts. Once you get good enough at that, you might even be promoted to going undercover and helping to rid the city of the notorious drug-dealer, Death Angel for the good of the force!

That's the idea anyway. In practise, the actual driving around is so awkward that if you survive long enough to get to the scene of more than one incident, you're so brilliant you should be given a life-long supply of lizard legs and promoted to Chief Of Police immediately. It takes just one tiny mistake with the mouse on the map for your car to career into the sidewalk and that's the end of the game. Oh yeah - and if you mess up one bit of police procedure (like not walking round your car first before you leave the car park), that's the end of your police career - dead realistic that. I know there's a save game option but it still seems like a pretty big cop out (geddit) to expect you to keep on saving every five seconds just in case you get thrown out of the game - again.

Zzap's Ken D Fish: Wot's all this then? Survive long enough to actually get to any action and you're in for a big disappointment. The parser doesn't always understand the most obvious investigative questions (say about a number plate) and all you end up doing is performing a few routine actions. Maybe it gets more involved later on but I doubt you'll want to stay around that long.

Maybe if you like Sierra games and can ignore all the sudden death situations they bung in as a matter of course and don't mind some pretty basic graphics, you might get a fair bit of fun out of this. As for me, I can do without loads of really annoying death scenes, uninteresting gameplay and not-very-exciting interactive graphics - especially for 25 quid. Think I'll buy myself a policeman's hat and start looking important down Ludlow Bridge instead - it's cheaper and there's a lot more scope of violence. Huaaargh!