11-bit studios have created a pixel art styled 80’s cop romp that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Unashamedly based upon the classic cop shows of the 1980s (something the developers state at the beginning of the game), Beat Cop puts you in the shoes of Jack Kelly, a former detective framed for murder after a high profile homicide puts him at the scene of the crime. Now forced down the ranks to ‘Beat Cop’, you are tasked with patrolling the streets of Brooklyn writing parking tickets and attending the scenes of petty crimes.
During each morning brief, your Captain gives you a set number of parking tickets for you to write and occasionally a few other day-to-day mundane jobs. All these errands are stored in your notebook and act as your guide to your mission objectives for that day. Each day last 8 hours, which is around 20 minutes real time and you must manage your time well enough to achieve these objectives and quotas. Time management is key but Persona 5 this is not.
If this all sounds incredibly arduous and dull it’s because frankly, it is. While at first the story is quite captivating and the gameplay is addictive, very quickly it all starts to come to a grinding halt and what waits is a 21-day slug that never regains any momentum. While you patrol up and down the same block ticketing vehicles you are likely to receive a call on your radio asking you to stop off at one of the many different ’80s based establishments. These include an Italian Pizzeria, a Pawn Shop and a Diner. Most radio call-ins are for petty crimes such as thefts that usually instigate a chase down the street to catch the assailant in question. Some of these objectives can push the story forward while others just seem like wasted time and energy.
What annoys me most about Beat Cop is not the fact that the gameplay itself lacks variety and intrigue but it’s the fact that the main story of the game is incredibly underutilised and never really gets going enough to keep me interested in the life of Jack Kelly. Throughout the game you are reminded of the fact that he is being framed for murder as well as being hunted down for child support payments from an ex-wife and occasionally being shaken down by the mob but it all seems quite meaningless and you find that you don’t really care enough about the character to warrant any emotion towards him.
There were occasions in Beat Cop where I had no idea what was going on only to realise I had missed a very important conversation with an NPC. Luckily Beat Cop gives you the option to rewind time but it made me wonder why a game that was driven by its story would allow you to miss an important part of the narrative? It was also made clear to me that I could be given the option to flee the country rather than face up to the crimes I was being accused of. I thought this was an interesting twist to the story only to find out minutes later when I was greeted with the end game screen that the choice had literally ended the game for me only a few hours into the game.
The ‘humour’ in Beat Cop is supposedly based on the 80’s Cop shows it’s styled the game around however I felt the use of racist, sexist and derogatory words to be unnecessary and I can only assume the developers had been ill-informed in how cops used to talk in shows back then. The odd casual racism slur may have flown around in what was a different time from present day but I genuinely felt uncomfortably at the use, or in this case, misuse of language. This is by no means a kid’s game but as an adult, I also felt a little dirty while reading the dialogue between characters.
One positive Beat Cop does possess however is in its graphical style. Its retro 80’s pixel art throwback is charming and the comic strip story cut scenes are a welcome addition. The block you patrol on is bustling with many different types of people (and wildlife) that you’d expect from a gritty 1980’s Brooklyn. Small touches include 80’s movie posters, graffiti and break-dancers.
Beat Cop was originally released on PC and I can see that having a mouse would make gameplay a lot easier rather than the more fiddly analogue sticks of the Nintendo Switch.
I’m not a fan of writing negative reviews and as a big fan of 80’s cop shows and movies, I was hoping that this game would satisfy my hunger for bringing the justice from within the comfort of my very own home. Sadly I was only to be met with a humourless and repetitive affair that made me feel like a traffic warden looking for a promotion rather than a badass New York cop looking to clear his name from a murder case. Beat Flop.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*