In Love With The 80’s
The 80’s were an interesting time. Some folks only wanted to pierce their left ear, only listened to Tears for Fears, and they wore a pink tux to the prom. Others, while obviously nowhere near as cool as the previously mentioned folks, were more into watching TV shows and movies about cops or other gun-wielding men with glorious mustaches. If I’m being fully honest here, I was born in the 90’s, so I have no idea what the 80’s were actually like. What I do know, however, is that people are very nostalgic for the 80’s – and Beat Cop is another game trying to capture the essence of that decade in pixel art form.
In Beat Cop, you play as Jack Kelly, a former detective accused of being involved in stealing “The Senator’s” diamonds. As a result of his supposed involvement in the case, the NYPD demoted Kelly to a standard “beat cop” who writes tickets all day. On a surprising first day on the new, unexciting job, his partner gets shot in a drive by. Is Jack Kelly just a man with really bad luck, or is something else more complicated and serious going on? These are the questions you must discover the answer to, while stuck in the confines of of a single block writing tickets.
Speaking of writing tickets, you will be doing a lot of this in Beat Cop. At the start of each day, after boondoggling with other Cops of Precinct 69, the Chief will assign the daily quota of tickets or arrests that must be made. With that quota in mind, you travel left and right on your block to try to find culprits of parking violations, worn out tires, and broken tail and headlights. Every once in a while, a person will catch you assigning a ticket to their vehicle and offer a bribe to dissuade you, giving you the choice to do the “right thing” or the “lucrative thing.”
This sort of choice applies not only to writing tickets, but to interacting with a gang and a mafia as well. On your beat, you will find optional missions that will help or hinder different factions, should you so choose. For example, the mafia might ask you to clear out all drug dealers or street-walkers to make a good impression for their leader who is visiting. Doing so will make the police and crew unhappy with you, but will make the mafia very happy with you. Obviously, choosing to appease the police is the “right” thing to do, but choosing to help the mafia or gang can offer more lucrative opportunities otherwise unavailable.
Other than examining cars to write tickets or helping the miscellaneous factions for personal gain or whatever morality you see fit, there really isn’t a whole lot to do each day in Beat Cop. There are occasional instances of robbers fleeing crime scenes that you have to tackle and arrest, or assisting citizens in need in their apartments. These do help break up the gameplay, but it couldn’t stop me from feeling an unfortunate sense of monotony.
Games like Stardew Valley, Moonlighter, or even any multiplayer game have a certain “hook” that prevents feeling boredom, even though you are technically doing the same thing every time. In Beat Cop, each day lasts about 20 “real time” minutes, with a total of 21 potential real days to go through. (I say potential because there are options to get different endings earlier in the game). After about day 7, I already started feeling the repetition of the gameplay. I won’t say that the gameplay is bad, but I personally did not find the core gameplay to be all that entertaining.
Similarly I found the dialogue and writing to be unenjoyable. I have never really been a fan of “raunchy comedies” or really 80’s movies in general, so I will fully admit that I was not the target audience here. Maybe I sound like a prude, but I did not exactly enjoy characters letting out F-bombs incessantly or talking about all the “action” they got the night before. It made me lose interest in what the characters were saying and prevented me from feeling attached to any of them because I found them to be unrelatable and honestly just people I wouldn’t want to spend time with in real life. Similarly, having prostitutes you can hire for personal use, an “adult store” with “adult items” and posters (albeit in the game’s pixel art visuals) were things I was not particularly fond of either.
On a more positive note, I did find the visual and sound design in Beat Cop to be quite good! The pixel art visuals do a great job making each car, store, and citizen look like they belong on the block. While a lot of the citizens or vehicles are re-used assets, it really isn’t a big deal at all because it successfully adds to the overpopulated and stressful feel that a city can have. Similarly, the soundtrack does a great job pulling from the cliched 80’s action movie soundtracks. In contrast to the over the top soundtrack used at times, Beat Cop knows when to turn down the cheese and focus on the great ambient sounds of the city. Cars honk, people yell, boomboxes blast beats, and just about every other sound a city would make shows up. While I didn’t enjoy everything about the game, I at least was pleasantly surprised to experience some quality sound and visuals!
In conclusion, I sadly do not think that I am the target audience for a game like Beat Cop. But here’s the thing, I don’t think that I could ever call it a bad game. I am not a fan of 80’s action movies, raunchy comedies, or playing as a cop with a potentially horrid moral code. BUT, there are a lot of people that really do enjoy these sorts of aspects in games or movies – which is awesome for them! Thankfully, the sound and visual design made me not hate my time with Beat Cop, and allowed me to push through to the point where I can safely recommend it to certain people – just not myself.
Yes, if you:
- Are a fan of cheesy, raunchy 80’s action flicks
- Have wanted to be able to toe the line as good cop/bad cop
- Are in the mood for some good, quality pixel art
No, if you:
- Are offended by/ don’t enjoy foul content
- Want a game with a lot of gameplay variety
- Like to experience a narrative with deep character growth
Beat Cop was originally released on March 30, 2017 on PC and is now available on Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) on March 5, 2019 at an MSRP of $14.99
Note: Cannonicity received a copy of Beat Cop in exchange for a fair and honest review.