This Chicken Police game sounds like a joke. Peering over the screenshots may also give the impression that this film noir-inspired narrative is a parody with poultry protagonists, bunnies in waistcoats and rodent kingpins, but instead, it’s a well-crafted story, superb character design and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I’d started Chicken Police about three times, but due to building a new gaming PC and not having a distraction-free environment to experience it, I had to keep exiting out of the game. When I did have the time, I’d got past the intro, and the screen went black. Nothing wrong with my PC as I could tab out, but I had to restart the game.
It works out that my graphics card was on the blink, coincidentally this was after updating the drivers, so my early experience of the game was intermittent. Once past these teething issues, the allure of Clawville was just too strong.
Chicken Police Review
The Chicken Police, comprising Sonny and Marty, was a legendary duo; feared by criminals and respected by the community as a team that got shit done. They were no-nonsense, always bagging the perpetrator, but an incident cost them the limelight, and though they weren’t a laughing stock, they’ve dropped down the pecking order.
We find Sonny as a washed-up detective for hire, confound to a smoky apartment full of empty whiskey bottles and his ex-partner Marty, a trigger-happy beat cop demoted to the shooting range to pass the time. Sonny is due to retire in 121 days, but on New Year’s Eve is visited by a woman with a job for him that may or may not reunite the once superior partnership.
Film fans and readers of anything that can be traced to Raymond Chandler will be in their element. The constant ‘they’re guilty’ thoughts will swamp your head, making you feel ahead of the game, only to be met with your fair share of red herrings. On this basis, the twists and character development is fantastic. Chicken Police can keep you guessing, or you can go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Chicken Police, published by Handy Games, is a mixture of point and click adventure and a visual novel. While you can’t freely roam a scene, you can pan around some areas and interact with objects and NPCs. The traditional verb wheel appears where you can inspect, speak with, ask specific questions and also interrogate a potential suspect.
The inspect action, represented by an eyeball, will give you an overview from Sonny’s perspective. There’s no generic repeated ‘this won’t work with that’ and what-not, but a unique response each time. A downside to this is if you miss what is first said, it can’t be repeated, but if it is of importance, it will appear in your journal as a clue.
Speaking with an NPC can either be loose comments on other characters or your investigation, or even small talk. Should you tune into something of importance, you can ask them specific questions from a checklist that appears to the side of the verb wheel.
The Chicken Police gameplay mechanic is the interrogation feature. This isn’t a good cop/bad cop scenario or taking the perp downtown; instead, you will have a selection of dialogue options with your notebook to the right with crucial character traits to look out for.
It’s essential to look for visual clues and said traits as this will allow for the best results of an interrogation. To the bottom of your notepad is a gauge whether your skills are warranting a positive or negative outcome and once you finish, you will be ranked on your ability based on the questions you asked and in which order.
Sonny and Marty quickly get around town using the world map that is available at any time, in between your journal and inventory. Locations can be clicked on in order of discovery, and you have a choice of optional, sometimes timed events, to the main storyline. You can often go back and forth when looking for clues.
Some of the puzzles are that intuitive, and you may overlook some of the clues as they initially appear to be irrelevant to the case. Tip for the day: inspect everything, as mundane as that may be, as it may help with a solution.
Not to be cocky, but I didn’t utilise the journal as often as I should have. It was more of a bonus – listing key characters, clues and codex on the lore of Clawville and surrounding areas. Allow yourself an hour or two to get involved in the story then revert to these as by then, you’re hooked.
I keep whinging that visual novels aren’t my thing, but it is down to the story and character development. In my opinion, Chicken Police gameplay isn’t solely a visual novel as it also has a couple of arcade moments too that require a reasonable reaction time on the mouse. And while it isn’t strictly a point and click, it has the feel of one, and there’s even a reference to a three-headed monkey in there.
Who You Callin’ Chicken?
The character design is genius. I’ll admit, when the first screenshots were circulated, I thought the animal choices were a little lame – chickens, rats and crows? Nah… however, from the early cutscenes and then the bulk of dialogue sequences, these characters were flawlessly animated and merged with real-life actors. That is unless these animals exist. You never know.
Visual novels tend to have static images for dialogue scenes, interjecting with the odd anime-like “Huh?” or something else that can be used as a repeat asset later in the game, focusing on simplicity. In Chicken Police, all the dialogue is fully voiced, and the cast is superb. From the femme fatale(s) to the eloquent bouncers, they’re all stellar performances without being cliche. Sonny, however, is outstanding.
I rarely dedicate so much text to the voice acting, but it was so good and avoided stereotypes. The Wild Gentlemen clearly understand the film noir model and get that it’s not just about lighting, smokes and whiskey. While Sonny is a hard-boiled alcoholic detective, his voiceover was so good that I’d wait until he’d finish speaking until moving on.
Come on, everyone skips the dialogue now and then when they’ve read through the text in advance. I found myself clinging on to every word, digesting each clue and character nuance as if a private eye myself. There’s no time limit in the game, and this was an absolute luxury.
Chicken Police played out like Chinatown, The Maltese Falcon, or any of those classics (check out the ever-present movie posters scattered throughout the game). At times I would forget that I was at the helm of the investigation and would bask in the smoky ambience, sultry jazz and questioning my sanity when becoming infatuated with the story, as well as the brilliant characters. I’m definitely a dog person, but Natasha… shame on you, The Wild Gentlemen.
As a bonus, you can visit one establishment with a jukebox that plays the score from the game. I always found these sort of things a novelty, but you can think what you like when I sat there listening to the tracks without continuing my investigation. And while we’re observing these subtleties, I even loved the background leather textures of the dialogue. Chicken Police is a classy broad.
Chicken Police has all the hallmarks of a quality film noir, only it's not a paint-by-numbers affair, but an intriguing, seductive narrative that delves into the seedy world of anthropomorphic crime. More Marlowe than Manilow.
- Intelligent, well-crafted interactive story
- Engaging and intuitive dialogue.
- Stellar voice talent and excellent soundtrack.
- Well disguised, but a little linear in places.
- Could do with more interaction on player's part.