Police Quest: Open Season (Sierra On-Line) - 1993

This review is part of the “Let’s Adventure!” series. See all reviewed games sorted by rating here.

Police Quest: Open Season (also known as Police Quest IV) is a 1993 police procedural point-and-click adventure video game developed and published by Sierra On-Line that follows homicide detective John Carey as he investigates a series of brutal murders in Los Angeles.

This fourth installment in the Police Quest series abandons the story arc of the previous three games, introducing a new setting and a new protagonist. The story begins with detective John Carey finding his best friend and ex-partner, Officer Bob Hickman, murdered in an alley in the Southern part of the city. An eight-year-old boy named Bobby Washington has been murdered as well. Carey begins an investigation that leads him deep into the criminal life of the city and a hunt for a maniacal murderer.1

Growing up playing Sierra games, Police Quest was at the top of my list so I have very fond memories of the series. As I started on this review journey, I found myself playing through the first three games (Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, Police Quest II: The Vengeance, Police Quest III: The Kindred) pretty early on as I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with Sonny Bonds and the city of Lytton.

This entry in the series throws all that legacy out the window and instead tries to present a grittier, more realistic setting.

The graphics are blocky and just overall look shitty

What really struck me immediately is how bad this game looks. The character models are extremely chunky and looked overly compressed. Character walk cycle animations are rigid and awkward and everything in general just looks out of focus and kind of blurry.

The text boxes can be extremely hard to read

Whenever you interact with another character in the game you’re presented with a translucent text box that makes it extremely difficult to read the contents. Since this is an adventure game that involves talking to a lot of characters to uncover plot points and advance the story, you’ll find yourself frequently in situations that involve squinting to try and make out what’s on screen.

All interactions are fully voice acted (including Detective Carey’s observations when you interact with the background) so you can get around the text box quality, but then you’re at the mercy of some sub-par voice acting instead. Not all voice acting is awful in this game, but it’s definitely not one of this game’s strengths.

I’m sure this was meant to be an attempt at humor, but it feels forced

Unlike the voice acting, the background music is … fine. Nothing really notable other than it seems they reused a Leisure Suit Larry song for the elevator music which is a nice tip of the hat to fans of the series.

The tone of the game is a bit scattered. The subject matter is meant to be extremely serious, but they try to weave goofier elements in periodically. These attempts at comedy, mostly fell short for me and just came off as awkward and out of place.

You advance through each day of this game by going to various locations across Los Angeles, interrogating various characters, collecting evidence and recording details using your notebook. Since this is another police procedure simulation you get points for following proper protocol.

This involves showing your badge to literally everyone you have to talk to (sometimes every single time you see them), clipping your name tag on every time you enter headquarters and filling out a form 3.14 every single time you progress your investigation the tiniest bit.

I HATE form 3.14

I know this is meant to be an “accurate simulation”, but this is just not fun game design. If you need to do this once - fine. If you need to do this every time it’s no longer a game - it’s just “work”.

A lot of this game just feels like work. Maybe that’s an accurate depiction of police detective work in the early 90s, but it really doesn’t translate to a compelling game experience.

Point and click to navigate between game areas

I appreciate that you can fast travel to the various locations you need to investigate. In earlier entries in this series you would have to manually drive yourself around town, which could take forever and result in unnecessary game ending situations.

Speaking of “game ending situations”, seeing as this is a Sierra game you would expect death to be lurking around every corner - but that’s just not the case. There are maybe a handful of situations that will trigger a game over, but these are few and far between.

What’s worse is the prompt you get when you die is just as boring as the rest of the game. I used to go out of my way to see how the game would describe my character’s death in games like Leisure Suit Larry or Space Quest because it was always funny, descriptive and entertaining.

The plain gray box with a generic message stating I died is fitting for how boring this game is as a whole.

I got stuck here for a while

Open Season is not a very long game, but I found myself stuck and unable to progress at one point because a scripted event just would not trigger. After watching the news at the bar after the second day, the screen would just go blank and the game would wait forever. Eventually I found that lowering the detail and speed in the game settings before entering this sequence would allow the script to progress.

The game takes place over the course of a few days. If you don’t complete everything, the scripted events required to trigger the transition to the next day won’t trigger.

I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t get Wednesday to end, which it turned out was actually a pretty common issue for a lot of gamers. The official spoiler from Sierra Help states that you need to:

Go to the L.A. County Morgue. You should see a news team questioning Sherry and the day will end. If this doesn’t happen, you have missed something. Did you get the newspaper clipping from the patrol car at the Impound Lot? Did you look at the clipping in your inventory? Did you go to the Bitty Kitty and question Electra and Barbie after showing them your badge? Did you show them both the shoe from Yo Money’s house? Did you question the proprietor of Ragin’ Records about the patrol car and the abandoned car? Did you give the bone from Griffith Park to the coroner?

Turns out I didn’t show Barbie the shoe. After doing this I went back to the coroner’s office and the script triggered that had the reporter pestering the coroner’s assistant.

You’ll pick up a lot of items throughout the game, and thankfully their usage is typically pretty obvious. There are very few item combination puzzles, but the mirror-based one is a pain in the ass.

Near the end of the game you’ll need to peer around a corner to make sure a dog isn’t there, which you do by gluing a broken side-view mirror to a drumstick. This is not very obvious, but adventure game veterans know to just try combining everything with everything so once you put the glue on the drumstick and it works it sort of “clicks” that this will be a 3 way item combo puzzle.

This is an extremely repetitive game but the shooting range sequence is a neat distraction. Unfortunately this mechanic isn’t actually used anywhere in the game. You just sort of do this to kill time.

You do draw your gun a few times to make arrests, and there is a shotgun sequence at one point but the first person view of the shooting range doesn’t make an appearance anywhere else.

The story progresses and you eventually uncover that there’s a cross dressing man killing people for … reasons? I don’t know if this wasn’t actually explained or if I just zoned out for the last couple days worth of content in this game but I never fully understood the motivations of the killer or why it was even all that material to the story as a whole.

You’ll ultimately find the killer then neutralize them by spraying them in the face with a home made flamethrower. Then you get a medal of valor for being awesome at your job. Way to go Detective Carey - you’re my hero.

The End

Sierra should have left this series alone after Police Quest 3. I guess after Jim Walls left to join Tsunami Media (where he made Blue Force) they wanted to keep the series alive so they brought on Daryl F. Gates to fill the void.

That void should have remained unfilled. Gates also consulted on Sierra’s SWAT series, which I equally didn’t enjoy playing …

I don’t recommend this game. Go back and play any of PQ 1 through 3 instead.

Game Information

GamePolice Quest: Open Season
DeveloperSierra On-Line
PublisherSierra On-Line
Release DateNovember 1993
SystemsWindows, DOS, Apple Macintosh System 7
Game EngineSCI

My Playthrough

How Long To Beat?6.5 hours
Version PlayedDOS via ScummVM


See here for a refresher on how we’re scoring these games.

Atmosphere (20)8
Story (25)13
Experience (15)5
Impact (10)2


  1. Description from Moby Games 

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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