That ’90s Blog: Blue Force
Today, the premise of playing as a no-holds-bar criminal is about as commonplace as walking into your local game shop and seeing such titles line up the shelves. Back then, before certain boundaries were pierced, finding games that puts you in the shoes of a lawman wasn’t so out of the norm. Case in point, exhibit A: (the now defunct)Tsunami Games’ Blue Force.
Blue Force puts you in the role of Jake Ryan, who, as a child, experienced a traumatic evening where an unknown assailant broke into his family’s home. Jake cowered in his parents’ closet as he watched his parents gunned down and the murderer escaping to the sound of wailing sirens. The case was never solved. Instead of traveling the world, learning martial arts, and dressing up as a bat, Jake grew up to become an officer of Jackson Beach P.D., in honor of his father who was once part of the force. On his first day on duty, Jake will patrol and regulate the streets, while coincidentally stumbling upon clues that points him to his parents’ murderer.
Now of course, this is a tale that isn’t exactly laced in CSI gold. Rather, it sounds like today’s standard issue B-movie fluff. But peers will also attest to this being the common plot piece that kept shows like Pacific Blue on the air for more seasons than deserved. But hey, it was 1993.
Blue Force comes out swinging with the two immediate identifiers of ‘90s point-and-clicks: tedium, and frequent game overs. Figuring out how to get someone to drop their weapon, hands in the air, and cuffed is one thing, but Blue Force keeps it real where if protocol isn’t properly followed, i.e. knowing your radio codes, booking the subject, and patting them down for evidence, you’re fired. If this sounds familiar, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Blue Force was designed by Jim Walls, former cop turned game designer of Sierra’s Police Quest series.
If you’ve managed to stomach the menagerie of sensitive challenges on Day 1, the game more or less rewards you with going forward with the main story. However, again, this is a two decades past point-and-click, so the challenges continue to climb in irk factor. A lot of backtracking may be involved as puzzle solving greatly rely on collecting items that can easily be missed given that they don’t stand out from the rest of the background. The nature of some of these brain teasers can easily have you give up as their solutions aren’t so obvious. An example includes getting back a wayward kid who walked off the screen – you can’t follow him, and the only thing you can do is continuously play fetch with a dog until you notice he brings back a different piece of wood which somehow prompts the dog to find the missing brat. Riiiight. This is where the Google venturing for guides comes into play, and depending on your temperance, you might end up frequently pausing the game to read your way out of a problem.
Overall, Blue Force is still an experience in its own right, a nostalgic one at that. Reminiscing about yester-year’s popular choice in live FMV animation, primitive music tech, and horrendously faux seagull cries is worth a couple of laughs. If there’s anything that reminds me of how I used to be a worry free kid back in those days, games like Blue Force reads me my rights.
You can download and play Blue Force for free at Abandonia. Be sure to also download its manual.