Commodore User

The Force

Author: Chris Anderson
Publisher: Mind Games
Machine: Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #31

The Force

'Ello 'ello 'ello, what's this? A game in which you take on the role of a police officer. Sounds interesting. Perhaps you can do all the things that seem to make the police so, er, popular? Well, not quite. The Force is a strategy game, and a boring one at that.

The main graphic display is of a drab-looking map showing different coloured regions each of which represents a different type of area such as 'residential' or 'industrial'. Four different police stations are marked and each has control over four separate zones.

It's possible to access from this screen voluminous sets of statistics showing crime rates in each area and the number of different types of police unit (bobbies, motor patrols, dog handlers, etc) currently allocated to each.

The Force

Based on this information you have to plan how to deploy your units for the week ahead, a time period which is broken down into no less than 21 different shifts each of which may require separate planning.

In addition, you have to make allowances for special events such as football matches and visits of dignitaries listed in the week's diary (a separate screen).

Once you've made your decisions, you advance the clock and a teletext-type printout tells you of all the bank and post office raids you failed to allow for properly and how your police rating is suffering as a result.

Finally you have a chance to control the town's traffic - the only part of the game that takes place in real time. The idea is to switch traffic lights on and off to keep vehicles moving round the perimeter road.

The program is being promoted on the strength of being 'icon-drive' - in other words you make your choices by using a joystick-controlled cursor to select from a range of small pictures, each representing a different option. In theory this is easier than entering text or being presented with a range of menus.

Not so with this program, where you have to spend hours poring through a manual to work out what exactly you're supposed to be doing at each stage. Icons only work if they're virtually self-explanatory. Their use here is clumsy and gimmicky.

This is not to say there are no worthy features in this title. On the contrary, a great deal of work has gone into it as is evidenced by the detail in the three separate manuals, cleverly written as if addressed to a real police officer.

But as an entertainment it's let down by certain strange departures from realism (such as the daily bank raids) by its utterly nondescript graphics and sound, and by the fact that when all's said and done it requires far too much effort for far too little reward. As they say - a policeman's lot is not a happy one.

Chris Anderson

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