The game begins, like the TV series, with an early morning Roll Call. The nine officers and five rookies under your control can then be assigned to various districts within the precinct. Each area has its own crimerate and the mere presence of an officer on patrol will tend to reduce the number of crimes committed. The main screen gives a Sim City-style bird’s eye view of the Precinct, complete with roads, buldings and cars, which is remarkably detailed. The city also has a day and night cycle; when it gets dark, the streets light switch on and help illuminate the roads. The 400 citizens in the game are all unique and have their own individual appearance. This helps give the game extra depth and long-lasting appeal. Each time a crime is committed, the radio operator at Hill Street ralays the information via a scrolling message which appears at the bottom of the screen. To the right of this is a bank of icons which help control the game. With nearly fifty icons to master, this isn’t a game you can instantly load up and play; you’ll have to actually read the manual (strange, but true!) before you dive in. There’s a useful player’s guide included in the manual which takes you through the initial stages of the game if you find the icons too bewildering. After an hour’s play, everything should become clear and then the fun can really start, After arriving at the scene of a crime it’s useful to explore the area and question bystanders to see if they match the description of the suspect. When you’ve decided on a likely villain you can either warn, arrest of shoot them. It’s a good idea to call for back-up from the five rookie officers on patrol, as the presence of reinforcements might make suspects more cooperative. Only get gun happy if you think you’ve a potentially violent criminal and don’t be surprised if he shoots back! Once a suspect has been arrested, he’s taken back to the station, charged and then, if it’s a serious crime, sent for trial. The arresting officers must attend the court or else the accused will get off through lack of evidence. The suspect must also be correctly identified or the case will be thrown out. If convicted, previous crimes will also be taken into account and removed from the outstanding case file. Crimes range from bag-snatching, mugging and pickpocketing through to drug peddling, armed robbery and random murders. There are even serial killers on the loose who are extremely dangerous and will resist arrest at all costs. The more crimes an individual commits without being caught, the more likely they are to commit others. Things can quickly get out of hand, and the cases pile up. At one point, I had more than 150 unsolved crimes and my popularity was at an all time low – needless to say I got the boot. Hill Street Blues is a complex and highly enjoyable game which requires careful planning and allocation of resources. The graphics are functional and suit the game perfectly. Although the sprites are extremely tiny, it’s still possible to make out individual characters, The attention to detail is quite staggering – even the police cars’ lights flash when the siren is turned on. The in-game sound effects are also noteworthy. Drivers will blast their horns if they get caught up in a traffic jam, cars doors slam when closed and pedestrians emit a strangled shout when shot by police snipers. One of those rare games which you can’t put down once you’ve started to play.

More news: Generation Amiga magazine