Paint this cluckin’ town red.
Every so often, a special kinda dame walks into your life with a certain… je ne sais quoi about her. That dame is alluring, moving kinda slow and steady, with striking contrast in her color. She doesn’t burn too brightly, since bright lights tend to flicker and fade; no, this dame is a slow burn, one that feels cold at first but builds over time and sustains the heat she brings until the very end. She’ll entertain you, but only on her terms — if she finds you worthy, and up to the challenge. Despite the mystery she’s hiding up her sleeve, she knows all your moves; she’ll put up a cunning fight, but she’ll let you win eventually. Of course, that win won’t come easy — you’ll have to prove your worth if you want to see her through to the end.
Oh sorry, did I say dame? I meant game — and if that opening gave away any hints as to the type of game I’m talking about, you’d know you’re in for a tantalizing tale of fiery passion and fierce energy. Don’t let the title fool you into thinking there’s some sort of joke or lighthearted whimsy about it; I can assure you, Chicken Police is as dark as any good detective noir can come. Developed by Hungarian dev team The Wild Gentlemen and published by HandyGames, Chicken Police brings a mesmerizing aesthetic to a sexy, scintillating detective story that will surely please any fan of the genre.
Players take on the role of Sonny Featherland, a cop only in name whose past haunts him as closely as his shadow. With only his booze cabinet to keep him warm at night as he sleeps in a practically abandoned hotel, an impala waltzes into his office on behalf of her boss. The reason? Her mistress has been receiving threatening messages, sometimes spray painted in red on her house, other times attached to bricks thrown through her window. The clincher? Boss lady owns the hottest club in town, and her mobster boyfriend frequents the joint regularly. Could he be the culprit? Who knows — but it looks like Sonny’s gonna need backup in the form of his former feathered friend, Marty MacChicken, who can be found down at the precinct wasting ammo and time on the taxpayer’s dime.
And so, the legendary buddy cop duo known as the titular Chicken Police return once more to take on this mysterious case that, as they dig deeper, begets more questions than answers. Traipsing all around Clawville and learning more about the high-rolling city in decline full of broken dreams and classist misery, the pair will learn plenty about their client, Natasha Catzenco, but also the devil’s den that became her playground and the inhabitants that reside within. Will the Chicken Police learn who’s behind the threatening messages and save Natasha, or will this city of sin swallow them whole, leaving nothing but chicken bones pecked clean?
Let’s talk aesthetics: they’re gorgeous. Like a good detective noir, it’s dark and moody, but the use of predominately black and white with the occasional and deliberate splash of electrifying red feels simultaneously soothing yet stimulating. It’s like cozying up in a comfy den with the lights dimmed and warm blankets aplenty, only to watch a thrilling old school movie that prevents your eyelids from getting too heavy. I also want to congratulate the dev team for how they made animal/human hybrids. I don’t know how else to say it, but they don’t look weird — the animal heads are awesome in their diversity, and if you cover them up there’s some definite sex appeal. In other words, they didn’t cluck it up. And that music? A perfectly stormy soundtrack to complete the mood, really allowing players to get immersed into this Delphic world.
When it comes to story, Chicken Police is a bit of a slow start. Don’t expect high octane from the get-go, as you’ll be slightly underwhelmed. Let yourself ease into the game and be patient with it, as it shows its splendor to you over the course of several hours. There’s a lot of world-building that it wants to show you, and by poking your beak around in all the wrong places, you’ll pick up clues and codex entries that will give Clawville its personality. Things that are beautiful, like the sparkling city, sexy nightclubs, and all the possibilities within, and things that are horrific, like the depths of its racist roots to the point that bug citizens are often turned away at establishments and, forced by poverty, sell their larvae children to restaurants so they might be served as fancy dishes. Yep, that’s an abhorrent sentence I just wrote.
As far as the detective mechanic goes, Chicken Police does it differently than the rest. Most of the time players are engaged in the standard point and click, but every once in a while they’ll have to probe select citizens of Clawville for important information pertaining to their case. At this juncture, it’s imperative to take in the person of interest’s traits, such as confidence, fear, or brusqueness, and let that dictate which question of several you choose to ask. In a sense, Chicken Police is somewhat attempting L.A. Noir’s whole schtick of reading the suspect or witness, but instead of by facial expressions, it’s by Sonny telling us how they’re feeling instead of being able to read it. For what it’s worth, the mechanic wasn’t bad…
…but I had a hard time understanding when I was doing well or poorly until it was too late — what qualified as “negative dialogue” didn’t always read as negative because of this noir-style speech patterns all the characters had adopted. I couldn’t learn from my mistakes mid-interrogation because I wasn’t receiving clear feedback when I needed it. And although there’s a bar that kind of tells you when you’re doing well enough, there’s an additional metric called “focus” that waffles in importance, where some persons of interest want you to beat around the bush, while others prefer you to cut to the chase. I couldn’t quite figure out just how to get the best possible combination of focus, questions asked, and detective points to gain the highest questioning rating, and that frustrated me. With that being said, it’s my only gripe with an otherwise stellar game.
There’s so much more about Chicken Police that I’ve barely been able to chicken scratch the surface, but the truth is, I’d rather you stop reading reviews if you’re even remotely interested in the title and just go ahead and grab it for yourself. As a general rule, I can’t imagine playing point and clicks on console, so PC is likely going to be your best bet for this top-tier neo noir. Don’t let a game like this waltz out of your life; stop clucking around and get Chicken Police today.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS4, XBox One, Switch, PC (reviewed); Publisher: HandyGames; Developer: The Wild Gentlemen; Players: 1; Release Date: November 5, 2020; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Chicken Police given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.