This is an icon-driven strategy game that simulates the duties of a newly promoted divisional superintendent (stand up straight when I'm talking to you!) and his attempts to deal with crime in Middletown, Middlethorpe. And, yes, it's a rather middling game. In TV terms it's nearer to The Bill than Starsky And Hutch as it attempts to get beneath the glamour to the nitty-gritty of a policeman's lot. Hill Street Blues without the jokes.
In many respects The Force, with its use of multiple maps, statistics and a barrage of facts to create a smokescreen of reality, is closer to war games and battle simulations. Well, you've heard tell of the 'war against crime'! But Mind Games emphasises that winning this fight (and so increasing your rating) has more to do with deployment and communication skills than the use of violence, hi-tech weaponry and machinery. Armed police are never called in, though there is always the Chief Constables Reserve Foce for emergencies. But you're advised to use it rarely - its short term achievements will ultimately lose you community goodwill, your prime measure of success.
Mind Games has tried to combine reality with some sense of the moral responsibilities of policing but whether there's enough 'whizz bang, 'allo, 'allo, you're nicked my son' to make it a commercial success is another question.
The Force package includes three manuals - New User's Guide, Training and Local Information - that give you all the information you need to play. Essentially your division (one overall screen) splits into four sub-divisions (a screen each) which in turn is split into four. Each sub-division has its own character (whether suburban, inner city and so on) and peculiar crime problems. From your seven resources - Bobbles on the beat to Crime Prevention Officers - you have to allocate the appropriate forces to deal with the crimes revealed on the screen.
It may sound simple but, like chess, you can move your men without being too sure what the opposition is up to. The more you play, though, the more you'll suss things out.
To complicate things even further there's a diary screen that informs you of special events during the week, ranging from royal visits to flying pickets. At the, end of each week there's a traffic control exercise and your final weekly rating is a combination of this, community goodwill and the new crime statistics.
Definitely a game for those who want to test brain muscle rather than reflexes, especially if you've plenty of patience. But plod on, Plod, it's worth it. And good night, all.