Chicken Police puts you in the shoes of Sonny, a chicken cop just 120 days away from retirement. His career is almost over and he’s been put aside by his superiors to prevent him from making waves before he departs. This is New Year’s Eve, and Sonny was just about to spend the night drinking in his office when he is surprised by a strange visitor. On his guard, he expects the worst. A powerful lady received threats and is asking for help – and help of a discrete, private nature.
This is the beginning of a relatively short story into the world of Chicken Police – which is somewhat between a point’n click adventure and a visual novel, for the interactions you have in your hands are relatively limited. It has a very distinctive visual style: mostly using black and white, with some shades of colors here and there. Jazz music, post-war like setting, and voice-over narration manage to successfully recreate a ‘noir’ atmosphere. Add to that a cast composed of humanoids with animal heads.
Animals? Why animals, you may ask? According to the developers: “With this, we wanted to strengthen the satirical nature of the game. We are big fans of Orwell’s Animal Farm and many other stories that feature animals or anthropomorphic animals instead of humans.” The game hints at discrimination, racism, unrest between different animals, in a way that’s easier to do than it were about humans. Still, Clawville, the fictional city from a fictional timeline where everything takes place, is seen as a haven where ‘civilized’ animals can manage to live with each other, no matter if they are predator or prey.
Once you are on your own, the game lets you play around with a mouse or a gamepad on static environments (mostly interiors), where you can examine objects and interact with characters. I find myself using the gamepad when playing on a couch, and it works quite well except for a few cases, more on that later. Three types of actions can be available when dealing with characters: plain talk, questions, and interrogations. Most of the time “talk” is the only default option you can pick, but if a character becomes key to get information or to advance the plot, the other two choices may appear.
Questioning is barely interactive, you simply choose the topic you’d like to address and pick up clues this way. Interrogation brings more choices: you have to select the right questions in the right order to get the final clue you need. They give you some clues regarding the personality of the character and how to ‘break’ them, but it’s not always very clear how the questions relate to a specific approach. Sometimes there’s some visual hint as well as you go from one line to the next in choice-driven dialogs, as characters start showing signs of nervousness (shaking hands for example). I think I only failed the interrogation once in the whole game, so it was not difficult by any means.
You end up moving in between different locations, talking with different people to uncover clues to advance the case. You sometimes pick up objects on location which then appear in your inventory. It’s important to examine such objects as some additional information may be hidden at first (such as a phone number written on a leaflet…). You cannot ‘use’ your inventory to interact with anyone or anything on screen, which is why I qualify the game to be closer to a visual novel than a pure adventure game. In practice there’s very little to guess in order to progress. Don’t expect something like Phoenix Wright here where looking for clues can be cumbersome or sometimes slightly difficult.
Yet, I must admit there’s a couple of times where I was at loss with what to do next: turns out there was one particular action I did not complete in such situations. It would have been nice to have a hint in some way or another.
Usually around the end of every chapter, you need to gather your clues and link them visually to show that you have understood what’s happening. Such sequences are pretty easy, and serve as a way to engage the player rather than to block them.
Since the story is the main point of the game (unless you are into furry animals), I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s say nevertheless that there’s nothing really new there if you have read or watched detective stories before – I might even say the tropes are well known – I could smell where the story was going and how it was going to be concluded well before reached the end. It’s still a nice journey, as you explore the world as the same time as the story – there’s a lot of background information about the city, the royal family, court intrigues, race relations between animals and the like. There’s actually a lot more material in there than what the game actually uses.
While the story is somewhat forgettable, Chicken Police benefits from a brilliant execution. Animals are well designed and nicely animated. Music is always top notch (I hope you like Jazz), and the voice-over helps deliver every line in the best way. I also really liked the cutscenes.
Overall, this was quite fun. Wondering what would be the next animal showing up, where the story goes…it was entertaining. The story was a little too short – I would have wanted to spend more time in this world, have more locations, more characters to talk to. I would also have benefited from some more unexpected turn of events. And a few more pay-offs. Or side-stories. If I were to compare Chicken Police with a game like Danganronpa (they are similar enough, all things considered), Chicken Police feels a little light in surprises.
But hey! I call it a success. Making something feel different in the genre is cool enough by itself. Now I would really like to see a second episode in the future, with more meat on the bone. Seeing all the background world stories they have already in their bag, there’s plenty of material to expand upon.
Regarding controls, you’d better use a mouse to play the game. Gamepads work fine for 99% of the game, but there are a couple of (short) action sequences, where you have to do some specific actions with very limited time, where the gamepad proves impractical.
On Linux, the game works perfectly if you use a Proton-GE build – the default Proton 5.x had issues with playing cutscenes, and you don’t want to miss those. Other than this, it was a smooth experience from start to finish – you would not know it’s not native.
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