- Developer: The Wild Gentlemen
- Publisher: HandyGames
- Release date: 05/11/2020
- Price: £17.99 / $19.99
- Review code provided by HandyGames
Introducing: Chicken Police Switch Review
This year I know everyone is waiting for Cyberpunk 2077 to come out. A game that is, from the looks of things, going to be absolutely dripping in aesthetic. I know that I’m looking forward to it too, but that’s not the only heavy aesthetic game this year as I found out when I saw the eshop page for Chicken Police for the first time. It’s always great to see games embrace the look of films past and bring us these styles that don’t always get seen in modern blockbusters. So, how does Chicken Police – Paint it RED! fare with this?
It was a cold and dismal night
Chicken Police starts where all good noir movies start, in a private eye’s office on a rainy night, except for a few key things. It’s not raining, it’s a hotel room instead of an office, and Sonny Featherland is actually a cop that’s just pretty close to retirement and on furlough at the moment. However, there’s still a dame and there’s still a mystery to be solved. That gets at the core of what’s going on here, a thick slice of noir with a bit of twisting to the conventions of your typical noir story. I don’t want to go too deep into things, lest I spoil the mystery for anyone curious, but let’s just say that it starts with harassment and threatening messages, but has already escalated by the end of just the first chapter of this tale.
I know that looking at the trailer or screenshots of the game might have you wondering if the anthropomorphic characters are really needed to tell this kind of story. I’d actually say that I welcomed having them here. It would be easy for me to say, it’s Zootopia, but gritty and for adults, but that’s not the case. There’s some great worldbuilding here if you are willing to go looking for it. Characters easily mention predation as something that people have to be wary of and bugs are the oppressed underclass, with some even selling their grub children for consumption. There is some pretty dark stuff happening in this game if you are paying attention to all the dialog and searching every nook and cranny for codex entries that flesh out the world. Thankfully we are also treated to some light alleviation from this through well written buddy cop banter.
She was there
Chicken Police is a game that easily earns it’s M/16 rating and is certainly one that you’re going to want to make sure any younger kids that might have access to your switch aren’t accidentally playing. Smoking and drinking are a given, considering the setting and tone of the game, but there’s also copious foul (or is it fowl?) language. The characters are unabashedly interested in attractive characters and there is some nudity to be found here too (especially since there is a visit to a brothel). It’s all fitting with the style of the game, but it is something to be aware of. I personally found it pretty cute the way that some of the characters would self-censor their dirty mouths in a tongue in cheek way (For example, “cluck” instead of an f-bomb).
Lit cigarette in hand
This is a point and click adventure game to its core and like many others, it’s something that doesn’t perfectly onto the controls available on the Switch. While in the main investigation areas of the game you have a reticle that you move around with the left stick, other areas which could have benefitted from this cursor-like style have you instead scrolling through the selections with the shoulder buttons. It just makes everything feel slower when I have to hit a button over and over to get to my selection instead of merely moving a cursor over and selecting it. Point and click games rarely transition well onto the Switch due to the need to use a controller, but I will admit that this is one of the better ones that I have seen and the transition is mostly painless. There are only a few places where it feels a little odd, and even then, you get used to it quickly.
Unlike other adventure games, this isn’t one where you will be rubbing items together to make progress, instead you are mostly led by investigation and conversation. This is highlighted in the main system that makes Chicken Police stand out from it’s brethren, the interrogation. Based on what you know about a character, you need to ask questions that will both get them on your side and get them to divulge information that will be helpful to your investigation. You’re then scored on how on focus you kept your questioning and how well it went overall. This is one of those things that is kind of esoteric. It’s not always perfectly clear, but you have some hints about their personality and state of mind off to the side to help you. However, while it can sometimes feel like things are going very well, you can still end up scoring badly because it didn’t go as well as you thought it was. My scores were all over the place, but I never encountered an issue where I was prevented from progressing by a bad interrogation, so you’ll still get everything you need either way.
A mystery in the air
What I did appreciate was the way the game telegraphed what places were important to go to at the moment and would progress the story. And which were ones that held some optional side experiences. It was nice to know where I was meant to go if I wanted to keep things going so if I wanted to dawdle and take my time with side conversations, I could save the real progress to be the last place that I went. The clarity was something that I am not entirely used to seeing in this form of adventure game and did prevent a lot of frustration that other games could have.
However, this did not prevent all of the frustration. Chicken Police, like many point and click games, can be oddly specific about what it wants you to do in order to make progress. For a non-spoiler example, there was a point in which I solved a puzzle and opened up a hidden safe. Once I did, it was searched and the characters had a brief conversation about what was found. I spent a while looking around more and soon I felt like I had exhausted all my options. Because no new locations had opened up for me, I kept looking around at the same things over and over in hopes that there would be a change. As it turns out, I needed to go into my inventory and select what had been found in the safe so a second conversation could be had about it and then I was able to move on. Now, it might be my fault for not looking in my bag again, but since the characters had already spoken about what I had found, it did feel like everything that needed to be said had been. It was just a little frustrating to be held back by something tucked away in a menu instead of the world.
Dim light through my window blinds
Chicken Police is absolutely dripping in noir style and I adore it for that. The character designs come off as a little jarring at first, but you quickly get used to them. Its animal characters that are less like those in Zootopia and more comparable to the anime Beastars where it’s animal heads bodies that have human proportions and hands. The birds don’t have wings and can’t fly, but they are considered their own race in much the same way that the bugs are. In fact, another point of comparison might be Bojack Horseman, which the game actually makes reference to, with the adjustment that there are no humans involved.
Most striking, though, is the adherence to the typically known noir style with not only black and white but a film grain over everything as well. There is some color to be found here, but it’s typically only one or two at a time and always is there for the purpose of drawing your attention. The usage is always deliberate, precise, and eye catching. It’s amazing and just draws you into the setting even more.
The music is exactly what you would expect from a noir movie in the best of ways, but the real star here is the voice acting. Aside from just one or two characters, each and every one of the voices in this game is in peak noir style and cadence. There’s even a short musical number to top it all off. Everything is narrated and I loved it. It made for a more immersive experience and it’s always great to see in smaller projects like this one.
Find the clues
No matter if you play in handheld or on the tv, you’re going to notice that there is a bunch of text that is too small to read. From what I can tell, that’s more by design than anything else. Just a quick selection of the text and the game will tell you what it says so it’s not an issue anyway. The game isn’t a pixelhunt either, so screen size won’t be an issue. I never ran into any other technical problems.
Solve the case
Chicken Police is pretty short, but for the price it’s a decent chunk of content that I can easily recommend to fans of mysteries or the noir aesthetic. While at first glance this game might seem like nothing but a joke, but it takes itself as seriously as a modern iteration of the genre. It’s a lot of fun, even if I found myself tangled up in some frustrations. I’m curious to what else this team will put out in the future.
- Tone, flair, and style out the wazoo!
- Compelling story
- Engaging interrogation system
- Creative worldbuilding
- Isn’t always clear about what you have to do to progress
- Scoring on interrogations can be unclear
For those looking to tackle the seedy underbelly of this grim city, I can wholeheartedly recommend Chicken Police.