Beat Cop Review
If it wasn’t immediately obvious from the pulsing synthwave title music or retro pixel graphics, Beat Cop lays its cards on the table from the outset with a disclaimer; this is not a realistic policing simulator. Instead what is presented is a schlocky, retro depiction of law enforcement, as filtered through the grimy lens of a decade of 80s cinema where the streets were tough but the cops were tougher.
Under investigation from internal affairs regarding a previous case involving a local senator and some missing diamonds, you are given a fresh start as a rookie officer in a new precinct. You’ll usually not be able to complete all your tasks in a given day, as unexpected events will occur which will drag you away from your assigned duties. Life with the boys in blue being what it is, corruption is rife in the department, and you’ll have to make some hard decisions about whether to take bribes from or run errands for the city’s less savoury characters; after all, you have alimony to pay. In the precious few minutes you have in between patrolling the street and ticketing cars, you have three weeks to try and chase whatever leads you can on your high-profile stitch-up, otherwise you’ll be washed out of the force, or worse! Thankfully although there is a ton of dialogue to click through, the clock pauses while you read it.
A point ‘n’ click affair drenched in 8-bit nostalgia, Beat Cop begins each day with your maligned officer receiving his morning briefing within the blocky confines of the precinct. Here you’ll receive your tasks for the day, as well as a dose of unsavoury banter from your colleagues. Once you’re dropped at the kerb, the expansive vista of the street takes up most of the screen, but along the bottom you can find the tools you’ll need to perform your duties: your trusty notebook, pistol, handcuffs, watch, walkie-talkie, and a thick wad of tickets ready to be slung onto the windscreens of cars in less than mint condition. Tap to move your officer, and each item can be activated by tapping it under the right circumstances, for example when chasing a perp or inspecting a vehicle. Where you choose to visit and patrol during the course of the day is entirely your choice, but be prepared for the sarge to have some salty words if you don’t complete your to-do list.
Each day ends with a summary of your performance, and how it affected your standing with the general population, your police buddies, and the local mafia. Whether you choose to be a true blue incorruptible, or see no harm in taking a little on the side, it’s a balancing act as each decision you take to satisfy one party will usually aggravate the other. As the days wear on you’ll get familiar with your goofy squad mates, the local characters and business owners, what their agendas are and where their loyalties lie.
The pixel art is tiny but so expansive; even a single screen takes in a large section of the city block, packed with lots of fun details like the neon shop fronts, or a metal fan headbanging out of his apartment window. Almost nothing has changed from the PC version, with the point and click interface mapping neatly to finger taps. Taking a leaf from the likes of Papers Please, the everyday slog requires acute observation from the player; checking the parking meters for time left, or visually inspecting tyres to see if they are damaged or worn really makes you feel like you earned that day’s pay. The feeling of being under pressure to complete ostensibly mundane tasks is familiar, but the satire isn’t quite as biting on the streets of Brooklyn as it was in the border control hut in Arstotska.The overarching story about clearing your name unfolds without much input from the player, and the outcome of certain choices isn’t always apparent until they are made.
In creating this love letter to a genre, developers Pixel Crow chose not to censor themselves; the language is coarse and the racial and social attitudes are unrefined, to say the least. For some this merely adds colour and a degree of realism to the narrative, but others may find it too distasteful to put up with. If you can stomach the racial slurs as historically accurate, Beat Cop is a fairly enjoyable pastiche with a dark comedic sensibility and decent replay value.
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