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Police Quest: An overview

Back in 1987, King Graham was already crowned as the King of Daventry and, after saving the beautiful Valanice from her ivory prison, he was the contented father of two beautiful, courageous children. Roger Wilco had already saved the universe not once but twice, and Rosella was about to embark upon a perilous trip to Tamir... when Sonny Bonds drove his car to the Lytton Police Station for the very first time.

Back then, adventure gamers were used to helping and rescuing damsels in distress, to freeing fairy lands from evil witches or powerful wizards and even to saving the whole galaxy from megalomaniac scientist and mass-destruction weapons. They certainly weren‗t accustomed to the kind of task that Sergeant Dooley presented them in the first few minutes of Police Quest 1: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, the task of cleaning out the drug dealers from Lytton and hunting down “the scumbag that's supplying them”.

Jim Walls and Ken Williams' offering was to introduce an unprecedented level of realism to the adventure genre, with a more adult language and more subtle, serious themes. Lytton's youth is wasting itself in cocaine abuse, corruption seems to be everywhere and Sonny Bonds' first adventure – with its dirty money, crime lords, illegal gambling, driving accidents and deaths from overdose – smoothed the way for the sleuth, thriller or even horror adventure titles we can enjoy today. Police Quest demonstrated, in fact, that adventure gamers were ready for a more realistic, tough and grim gaming experience, that they were mature enough to deal with the issues they were – and are even nowadays – reading about in the newspapers or watching on the television.

The strength of Sonny Bonds is that he's a normal person. He is neither a hero with a feathered cap nor a space janitor with the habit of saving the world: he's a policeman, and he can die from a well-placed bullet by a lawbreaker or for failing to follow the correct police procedures; he must respect the highway code and he must know when to withdraw and when to call for backup; he has to obey his superiors and to learn quickly how to survive the concrete jungle. He falls in love with a woman who is the exact opposite of Valanice, he has friends who can die by his side or who can betray him and foes who swore vengeance upon him, who are prepared to do anything to get rid of him. Sonny Bonds is more than realistic. He is real.

It's because of this that people were so shocked in 1993 when Sierra announced that Police Quest IV: Open Season would feature a new character and a new setting. After Jim Walls left, the series was taken over by Daryl F. Gates, the retired Police Chief of Los Angeles, and – whilst Open Season is often regarded as a disappointment by the fans of the main series – the new title carried on the tradition of the previous games.

The loss of Jim Walls and Sonny Bonds doesn't diminish the fact that, even today, Police Quest – with its realistic, mature stories filled with serious, grim and often disturbing themes – is a unique gaming experience, a matchless effort to bring reality into adventure games. Back then it was ahead of its time, and today – it takes only a brief look at your local newspaper to highlight this – it is perhaps even more topical.