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Police Quest is a series of adventure games developed and published by Sierra. Similar to an interactive CSI, the first three games had players take the role of Sonny Bonds, a police officer in the city of Lytton, California.

Reporting for his shift at the beginning of the first game, Bonds soon becomes aware of drug ring operating out of Lytton... masterminded by one man, Jessie Bains. Known as the Death Angel, Bains is aggressively moving in on the territory of Lytton's local dealers, and things are getting messy.

Enlisting the help of a local Hooker with a Heart of Gold named Marie, he is assigned to an elaborate sting operation that ends with Bains behind bars and Sonny and Marie returning to day-in, day-out normality.

This doesn't last, however, because in the second game, Bains escapes from prison, murdering a prison guard in the process. After tracking down a couple of minor thugs, Bonds returns home to find that Bains has kidnapped Marie (now a retired Hooker with a Heart of Gold, and Sonny's girlfriend). Proceeding into the latter stages of the game, Bonds tracks Bains to his hideout, saves Marie, and (eventually) marries her on the plane ride home.

Several years later, Sonny and Marie are happily married, but there's more trouble to come from the Bains family. The Death Angel's brother has sworn revenge, and it's up to Sonny, now a Sergeant, to protect his beloved Lytton, which has grown into a city. This one pulls out all the stops, with situations ranging from dirty cops to sexual assault (strangely enough, the revenge plot ends up being an afterthought).

Police Quest 1-3 were produced by Jim Walls, a retired California state trooper, and the situations Bonds encountered were true-to-reality, following police procedures to the letter. If you stepped out of line during a bust, the judge would toss your case out of court. If you went crazy with your gun, or didn't properly maintain your vehicle, that was it: game over.

Starting with Police Quest: Open Season (4), the series came under the helm of LAPD Chief Darryl F. Gates (Walls having moved on by that point). Open Season was the last to focus on a specific, named detective: this time, an LAPD Homicide Detective John Carey. Working from Parker Center, the player now had to cope with much more violent, graphic crimes. The player is introduced to Carey on the first screen, with a body in a dumpster... which, when moved aside so the Criminal Investigative Division can photograph it, reveals the body of a six-year-old boy.

The later games in the Police Quest series were Police Quest In Name Only... and only for the first two installments, after which it is most often known as the SWAT series. This series frees itself from the limits of a set character by placing the player directly in the role of a 'SWAT Pup': a trainee, on his first real assignment. Like the first games, the SWAT series adhered strictly to police procedure. You were trained in the basics of SWAT teamwork ('basics' because SWAT teams don't generally make their full tactical procedures known to the public), and expected to obey the rules. Even attempting to fast-forward through the first game's opening cutscene (where the Element Leader gives his welcome speech) has the Element Leader take you to task for interrupting him, and warns you very firmly that you should not do it again. Ever.

Sonny Bonds does return to the Police Quest series, though, in SWAT 3: Close Quarters Combat, where he is now SWAT leader, which seems a natural progression for him by then. In SWAT 4, Sonny has a cameo as a veteran member of SWAT and trainer of new SWAT recruits. The SWAT sub-series is peculiar in that the first entry was primarily an Interactive Movie, the second an overhead Realtime Tactics game, and the latter two tactical FPSs, notorious since any downed civilian, suspect or bystander, costs points from your total score. SWAT teams really are the babysitters of the populace.

You can play the first game free and legally in HTML 5 here.

Tropes used in Police Quest include:
  • Aborted Arc: Pretty much every location, plotline, and character from the first game is dropped for the second, except for Marie and Jessie (many of the locations were retooled and still around though: the Blue Room from the first game closed and is under renovation, Cotton Cove is still around, and the courthouse is still the same, you just never go there).
    • Dooley is still around, having been promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant and running the Narcotics division. Another character from the first game appears in the second before he gets killed.
    • The gremlin arc from the first game is also wrapped up in the second, albeit only if you read all the files in the computer, which reveal that Sonny's Narcotics partner Laura Watts was the gremlin, as it shows up as a reprimand in her file.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Police Quest 2 features one. A slight subversion is still that the air is less than fresh. There are pockets of methane gas in some sections that kill you if you stick around too long. And the gas isn't visible, only the messages about teary eyes and difficulty breathing are.
  • Betting Minigame
    • Something of a Scrappy Level in the original game. Thankfully, in the remake, it's optional.
  • By-The-Book Cop: Enforced by the gameplay mechanics. Half the puzzles in the games consist of knowing the proper procedure and following it.
  • Call Back: Remember "The Gremlin" who tormented Sgt. Dooley in the first game? If you look at the personnel records in the second game, you get to find out who it was. Laura.
  • City of Adventure: Lytton, the location used in the first three games. It's described variously as being a relatively small city, whose crime rate is only just beginning to catch up with that of bigger ones... but on the same token, it certainly seems to have more criminal activity than is typical for a town of its size.
  • Connect the Deaths: In the third game. A Game Breaking Bug in this puzzle, which was present in the early versions of the game, often caused the game to become Unwinnable By Mistake and earned it Discontinuity status with many fans.
  • Copy Protection
  • Darker and Edgier: Open Season is this. Despite previous games steadily escalating in this direction, Open Season manages to top them all in its portrayal of truly sick criminals.
  • Death by Irony: Try going through the metal detector at the airport while carrying your gun in Police Quest 2.
    • This is if you don't show the guard your badge, of course. If you do, then he will let you through and allow you and Keith to keep your guns, apparently confident that cops won't try to hijack the plane.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: There's a really evil example of this that can occur in Police Quest 3: one of the first actions you do in the game is to evaluate a fellow officer due to her belligerent behavior. If you don't choose to sustain the complaint put against her here, you can breeze through the rest of the game perfectly, only to have her gun you down immediately before the end of the game.
  • Drugs Are Bad
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Sonny Bonds suffers quite the emotional turmoil across the first three games, but each one gives him a genuinely happy ending.
  • Easily Angered Shopkeeper: Try to steal from a store in Open Season, and the shopkeeper will stop you. Persist anyway, and you'll be gunned down.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: As a lot of Sierra's games, this is the case. A particularly egregious example: if you forget to inspect your squad car properly, you get a flat tire. This is game ending, as instead of being on patrol and seeing all the plot-critical elements, you're stuck waiting for a tow truck (presumably, someone other than Bonds goes on to save the day).
  • Guide Dang It: Open Season had several of these, as told below.
  • Handy Cuffs: Be careful with those things.
  • Have a Nice Death: Your adviser informs you, in no uncertain terms, how you screwed up and what happens next.
    • One of the best game enders is if you pull your gun and fire it without reason in the second game. If (and only if) you fire it at the Cove, you'll get a message about "Wow! That was loud!". If you fire it again, or fire it once anywhere else, the game immediately cuts to a front page news story showing Bonds in a straitjacket (apparently, he cracked and went crazy by firing his gun once).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Marie Wilkins, a friend of Sonny's from high school, who agrees to help out with an investigation and later becomes his girlfriend and his wife.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted hard in Open Season. Within a few minutes of starting the game, you will find the gunned-down corpse of an 6-year-old in a dumpster. See also Darker and Edgier above.
  • In Name Only: Open Season and SWAT. SWAT 4, in which Sonny Bonds from the original trilogy returns, is still In Name Only since it's not an adventure game any more.
    • He was available for selection in SWAT 2 with his backstory being that he was loaned to the LAPD from Lytton so he could start a SWAT team in Lytton.
  • Karma Houdini: Among The Gremlin's pranks was spraying a memo to Sgt. Dooley with mace. When he read it, the effect was pretty much the same as if he got sprayed in the eyes with the stuff. Fast forward to the second game, and a computer search through the personnel files reveals not only the identity of the culprit, but that the individual was punished by being given a written reprimand and being forced to write an apology to Dooley. And after that, Laura was able to retire at the age of forty.
    • In Laura's defense, the employment file indicates numerous citations for excellent police work, so it may be a case of the good balancing the bad.
  • Last Lousy Point: There are a lot of easily-missed pieces of evidence that aren't required to win, but are needed for One Hundred Percent Completion.
    • In the first game, failing to find the VIN on the blue Cadillac, which you are at no point given an indication is required, will lock you out of 100% completion.
    • The second game has a couple: failing to find the bomb-making guide, failing to read the mugger's rights (even though your partner already did that), failing to closely examine the note you find on Marie's door, and most easily missed: not checking the bulletin board at the beginning of the game to see you're behind on your shooting scores.
  • MacGyvering: Near the end of Open Season, the Big Bad knocks you out and empties your pockets. To defeat him, you need to macgyver a flamethrower with a lighter and hairspray.
  • Motorcycle Dominoes: "Someone has to answer to four angry people!"
  • Older and Wiser: Sonny Bonds from Police Quest 1 is the SWAT team leader in the game SWAT 4
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: A nightmare inducing example. See Infant Immortality above.
  • Press X to Die: SWAT is full of this, as well as Press X to Not Die. Go around a corner without slicing the pie? You're dead. Fail to cover a door? You're dead. Take a wrong turn? You're dead. Enter the Eastman building on the wrong side or without proper sniper cover? Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
  • Pygmalion Plot: Not exactly an example of the trope being played straight, but close. In the first game, Marie is a hooker who's in love with Sonny. In the second game, Sonny has "helped her turn her life around" by somehow convincing her to give up prostitution and (presumably) get a legal job. While Sonny was clearly attracted to her in the first game, he doesn't enter into a serious relationship with her until after he's changed her. Perhaps justified, since it wasn't the safest line of work, and he probably didn't want to have to worry about her getting arrested all the time.[1]
  • Revenge of the Sequel: Police Quest 2: The Vengeance.
  • Shout-Out: If you stop your car some place at random in the first game, one of the locations you could end up is the disco from Leisure Suit Larry.
    • Larry himself is sitting around the airport in the second game, waiting for you to talk to him.
  • Schmuck Bait: After you arrest the drug pushers in the first game, you get a prompt saying it would be a good idea to question them before you take them to jail. Doing so without reading their Miranda rights first (which you are NOT prompted to do) will net you a game over. However, if you choose not to question them, the game will continue (but you get less points).
    • Players who read the manual and remember proper procedure for questioning suspects won't fall into the trap, of course.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Sierra game, but not nearly as bad as most.
  • Sorry, Ociffer...: In the first game, you pull over a drunk man who is a textbook example of this trope, "ociffer" and all.
  • Spiritual Successor: Many argue that L.A. Noire is this.
    • Older still was the Jim Walls produced Blue Force.
  • Stop or I Will Shoot: Played straight, but read your manual carefully and follow procedure exactly, or you're done. Yes, procedure contains "stop or I will shoot", but that's not all there is to it.
    • One pivotal scene in the first game has you pulling over a known violent suspect, wanted in at least two murders. The procedure here is actually very involved: you have to call for backup, tell backup what you're going to do, order the suspect out of the car, order him to get on the ground (twice, the first time he ignores you, and he will shoot you if you don't order him again; you can skip this requirement by using the right command[2]), and keep your gun on him until you cuff him. Fail to do any of this, and you're a dead man. Oh, and don't forget to read him his rights.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: There are several situations where you can shoot a criminal. In almost all of them, that is the wrong response and will get you a Game Over. The few exceptions to this rule appear in the second and third games. In two cases in the second game, Sonny will be ambushed by a gun wielding Jessie Bains and must return fire in self defense. In the third game, Sonny is storming the hideout of drug runners and several armed suspects jump out from behind cover, and the correct response is to shoot them.
    • Lampshaded in the remake of the first game if you decide to shoot the biker in Wino Willy's.

"You pull out your revolver and shoot the unarmed biker right between the eyes. (No, we're not going to reward your violence with animation of blood and brains hitting the back wall.)"

  • Violation of Common Sense: You can fire your gun without drawing it first, with predictable results. On the other hand, except for a single scene, you can leave your gun at the jail locker for the entire game and proceed unarmed.
    • In SWAT 4, you fail on points for shooting a suspect regardless of whether they were going to attack you, one of your team, or surrender. Sadly Truth in Television. Though police and SWAT officers are entirely justified in killing someone who attacks them with lethal force, the game distorts the responsibility of the police to the public's perceived standard (and, in some ways, what professional organizations like SWAT are supposed to do) to protect and serve while doing as little harm as possible.
      • It gets ridiculous when the suspects CHARGE at you with the guns, and you are still not able to shoot them.
  • Wretched Hive: In the first game, Lytton is turning into one.
  1. Not to mention he would have lost his badge for compromising his integrity.
  2. "Get out of the car with your hands up" instead of "Get out of the car" will make him note that there's two guns on him and put his hands up as soon as he gets out of the car