Simulation games can come in all shapes and sizes; from full-on 1:1 simulation games like Train Sim World, which has you driving a realistic train, to God-like games where you control the action as an overlooking ethereal being, such as in Dungeons III. Then there are the games which combine simulation with other mechanics in order to create semi-realistic gameplay surrounded by an adventure or a puzzle-like experience. Beat Cop falls into the former pile, it’s a well fleshed-out story which has been presented around the simulation of being an ’80s beat cop in America.
At first glance you may be asking yourself, “WTF is this game”, don’t worry – I was still saying that after about five hours! From its rather crude and mature humour to its strict and challenging gameplay, Beat Cop is a game which came out of nowhere and had me hooked. Let’s take a deeper look at Pixel Crow and 11 Bit Studios‘ latest title…
The story of Beat Cop is quite a messy one, in a good way. You play as Jack Kelly, a former detective who lost everything when he was framed. When I say everything, I mean everything, he lost his friends, his job, his wife, and any respect anyone ever had for him. Now, in his newly demoted role of ‘beat cop’, he must not only perform all of the life-draining duties his superior gives him each and every day, but he must also find enough money to pay his wife’s alimony and avoid the local mafia. Also, Jack is taking this second chance he has been given to continue an investigation into who actually framed him and why.
Your first day on the job goes about as well as you could expect. You’re partnered up with a tubby cop who is using his final day on patrol to show you the ropes and introduce you to the locals who you’ll be looking out for. After running a few errands and taking notes in your little book, the day comes to an end – what a successful shift. Well, it would be if a drive-by didn’t just happen and mercilessly took down our new plump pal! So, on top of all of our troubles and goals, we add ‘find out who killed our mentor’ to our To-Do list – only, was the drive by meant for him or were they aiming for someone else…
Beat Cop is an interesting game. As I stated before, it’s a simulation game surrounded by many interesting stories and random occurrences. Each day begins the same, you’re sat in the police station as the Chief runs through what happened yesterday and what your goals are today. Initially, these will be simple parking violations and checking the conditions of the cars on the street, but you’ll soon be also given other responsibilities such as ensuring no cars park, keeping an eye out for certain cars, monitoring robberies, and some other more investigative tasks.
Once on the street, you have a set time to perform all your duties – this is shown by both an in-game clock with has the fictional time, and a counting down timer in ‘real-time’ so you know how long you have left. You must complete all of your required duties each day if you don’t wish to lose some of your wages and/or respect from the station. So, if you have to find 10 parking violations, make sure you do, whilst also proving support to any robberies on the radio or people who ask for help in the street.
As you get further into the game, this will become a lot harder as you’ll have a few cases on the go along with various agendas you are trying to work towards. Just keep an eye on your little black book and you should be fine – try not to lose sight of what your goal is, and don’t break the law.
Okay, so the game is initially rather easy, then you’ll start uncovering new information and tasks. You can refuse to help a lot of people within Beat Cop, but it’s better if you at least try and help them, as it’ll increase your standing with the local community. For example, if the Priest has taken a bad batch of drugs and needs to perform a service for the bishop then you’ll obviously agree to help him, right?! Even if it means you have to create a medicine which includes some of your own semen… Yeah, Beat Cop has a very dark humour which obviously shouldn’t be experienced by kids!
As well as helping out people, as above, you can also pay a working girl to pleasure you, pay to take drugs from a local dealer and accept bribes from people just before you book their car. Every action you take has a consequence though, if you arrest the mafia for robbing the stores then your rating with the police will go up but the mafia will hate you, likewise the other way around. This all comes together to create an experience which is different every time you play it. Sure, the major events will be the same as they are part of the story, but people will or won’t agree to help you based on your level of rep with them and previous choices you made.
Where’s the challenge?
So far, the game sounds awesome but fairly easy, right? wrong! Remember your succubus of a wife who is managing to claim alimony even though you hardly make any money? Well, as the requests arrive, they increase each time. This means having to not only perform your job perfectly but also find ways of making a bit of money on the side. I’ve resorted to accepting bribes and helping out the mafia so far, but I still find it hard to meet her unrealistic demands. I feel this mechanic is artificially making it a much harder game and I would have liked it better without it, but it does force me to do things I wouldn’t usually do.
Oh, if you don’t pay your alimony then you get thrown off the force and it’s game over – so it’s kinda important you pay her. Also, if you don’t meet your quota for the day with regards to parking tickets and towing of vehicles, you can also kiss your job goodbye.
Thankfully, you can reload a previous day if you get stuck and can’t figure out any way to bounce back. However, if you can’t pinpoint the moment you screwed up and fell into the uncontrollable pit, then you’ll have to start the game over.
Visually, I like the aesthetic and the look that Beat Cop is going for. In order to keep an ’80s feel about it, the developers have opted for a pixel art style but small pixel art. What I mean by that is the design is very detailed and sharp, not blocky and hard to see on a big TV. The game is almost what I’d imagine an ’80s version of This is the Police 2 would be – with it’s patrolling cops and random story elements.
It also reminds me of Papers, Please in that you have your book with the rules and tasks you have to follow as well as diagrams of what broken lights and damaged tires look like. These are there to reference against when checking out a car to see if it is in violation of the law or not.
In terms of the music – Beat Cop sent me back in time to the ’80s with its amazing soundtrack. From the stereotypical ‘Cop show’-like music on the main menu, along with a rather pleasing piece of pixel art, to the in-game daily music. If you were a child of the ’80s and watched shows featuring American cops then you’ll instantly fall in love with the choice of tunes!
If you’ve ever wanted to live out the corruption, guilt-trip ridden, and hard work of an ’80s cop, Beat Cop is for you. It’s a simulation encased in a tale of murder, smut, comedy, and the mafia – pretty much all in a days work for an America cop thirty years ago! Sure, your main role is going to be parking violations, but your case isn’t going to solve itself, is it?!
With its ’80s soundtrack, detailed pixel art design, and very dark humour, Beat Cop is a very original and challenging game where you must juggle police corruption and bribes around your wife’s alimony and the money you need for your mistress to relieve your stress! Great for short bursts or long sessions (so is the game…).
- - Dark and gritty story surrounded with adult humour - amazing!
- - Every playthrough is different as the game adapts to your playthrough
- - Very challenging as you progress and the tasks get more involved and demanding
- - Many, many hours of gameplay if you wish to see everything
- - The soundtrack is very '80s TV show-like
- - Can get a bit 'too' strict on how much you have to earn in a short period
- - Some tasks aren't very clear as to what you need to do