November 05, 2020
As a title, you'd think that 'Chicken Police' would effectively tell you everything you need to know about developer The Wild Gentlemen's strange point-and-click adventure. You are a detective, and you also happen to be a chicken. What the title doesn't tell you is that you'll end up investigating cases involving a cat who's in a relationship with a rat, and you, the chicken, end up bewitched by the sultry cat, and, meanwhile, the insects live on the fringes of society in abject poverty. To say that Chicken Police is a bit weird is a gross understatement.
As Sonny Featherland, you and partner Marty MacChicken (I'm not making this up) become embroiled in all manner of film noir-inspired intrigue, with predators and prey co-existing in some sort of delicate truce. Able to explore various locations across the monochrome city of Clawville, you're tasked with scouring the environment for clues and chatting with the myriad animal-headed denizens in all manner of places, both glamorous and grimy.
Chicken Police is an undeniably odd game, and some of its animal-headed humanoids are deeply disturbing. But it's also a fairly savvy narrative adventure that displays an understanding of the film noir genre, peppering knowing winks to classics like The Big Sleep (The Big Sheep) and possessing all of the tropes that you'd associate with a noir flick. A femme fatale, a downtrodden gumshoe protagonist, scene-setting voiceover from said main character, and a grisly murder among the identifiable hallmarks. It's like a Raymond Chandler novel or a Humphrey Bogart film. With chickens.
And while the rich black-and-white visuals are inviting, the animal heads can be initially off-putting, but then, the game's absurdist humour wouldn't necessarily work without them. Not that it always works here. Often the script, especially the banter and interplay between Sonny and Marty, falls flat, with awkward, unnatural exchanges that tend to raise an eyebrow rather than a smirk. Not that there aren't some funny moments, but they're negated by the ham-fisted attempts at eliciting a laugh that surround the all-too-rare instances when the script gels.
There's a lot of dialogue in Chicken Police, too – reams upon reams of it – so it's perhaps unsurprising that sometimes the accompanying text for the vocal performances (the game is fully voiced) doesn't reflect what's being said. You'll also need the patience of a saint to sit through every single rambling line, question, and exchange – goodness knows Chicken Police could have used a brutal edit to keep its sequences punchy, rather than long, meandering tracts of throwaway chatter and questions.
Probing a witness, having spoken to them long enough, opens up its own line of compartmentalised questioning, which you're subsequently graded on, and getting a five-star rating is tricky – not necessarily for the right reasons. In a detective game like LA Noire, you had facial expressions and body language as a visual cue, but in Chicken Police, it's hard to see whether a woman with a big crocodile head is lying or not. Sonny will interject and help you choose the right line of questioning, but it still feels somewhat arbitrary.
Some fairly nifty puzzles keep things mildly interesting throughout Chicken Police's voyage into the outrageously outlandish (just wait until you get to 'The Sweltering Nile', a brothel full of sultry men and women, with animal heads, naturally), and as the plot thickens and Sonny Featherland's case becomes more personal and more intriguing, it becomes easier to forget that you're playing a point-and-click yarn featuring an Irish beaver, a shady owl doctor, a cafe-owning raccoon, and a cockney hedgehog. And two bickering chickens at the centre of it all.
Chicken Police isn't without its issues, but it's still a bizarre curio that increasingly garners your interest as you delve deeper into its literal rabbit hole. If you've a penchant for the weird, and fancy a unique point-and-click detective game, this might hold some modicum of appeal for you. What other game has you trading barbs with intrepid journalist Timothy the seagull, insulting a bartending horse, or attempting to talk to a taciturn busking fly? I can't think of one. Is Chicken Police a work of surrealist art? Probably not, or, as Marty MacChicken astutely observes while admiring a painting, perhaps “it's so ART, I'm scared to have an opinion.”
Some really lovely smooth jazz music and impressive voice acting – Chicken Police sounds really good.
Rich monochrome scenery and weird human/animal hybrid characters, Chicken Police does sort of work, despite being a bit disturbing at times.
Pan the camera around, scour the environment with your cursor, chat to the NPCs, and extract clues. That's the crux. Puzzles and mini-games add spice.
A hardboiled detective story that doesn't outstay its welcome. The longer you play, the more sense it sort of seems to make.
A list that adds a nice bit of replay value and lends ample impetus to nail your interrogations. None too shabby.
Completely batshit, Chicken Police: Paint It RED! is a film noir-inspired point-and-click adventure with animal heads that's every bit as nutty as it sounds. It's also quite good, despite a clunky script and slow pacing.