Dust off your neon leg warmers and don’t feed your gremlin after midnight: we’re jumping back to the 80s.
Lay down the law, arrest criminals, check meters, eat donuts – it’s the life. And it’s the life you’ll have to get used to when you start playing Beat Cop from Pixel Crow and 11 Bit Studios. Beat Cop is a pixel art adventure game where you take on the role of a cop patrolling his beat on the streets of 1980s New York City. You’ll be forced to do deals with rival gangs, arrest shoplifters, and write parking tickets all while trying to clear your name for a crime that you didn’t commit. There’s always something happening on your street and you get to decide exactly how you want to handle it.
In Beat Cop you play as Jack Kelly. After an insane case where diamonds are stolen and someone is killed, you’re blamed for all of it. Not only are you immediately demoted to beat cop, but your new boss is a jerkwad, your wife is constantly demanding money from you, and everyone – and I mean everyone – is after you. Each day is a brand new bucket of sunshine as you try to figure out who is framing you while trying meet your quota for tickets. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you’re a chihuahua.
So, you get the gist. You’re up shit creek and the only thing you have to paddle is your bare hands. Since you’re a beat cop the biggest thing you’ll be focusing on when it comes to the day-to-day nitty gritty of your job is parking tickets. As you move through the game you’ll learn your street like the back of your hand. Your main job each day is to patrol the street, towing any cars at an expired meter or parked in a no parking zone. You can also check their lights and their tires. Anything to meet that quota, eh? You’ll get your pay at the end of each day with a bonus for doubling your quota.
All of that probably sounds pretty easy. How hard could it be to walk up and down a street and write tickets? Well, you’re right. That is pretty easy. The hard part is everything else you have to deal with during the day. You’ll be getting regular calls about reported robberies, assaults, and other crimes in your area, and you’ll also be helping people on the street – like a little girl looking for her cat. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also be dealing with two feuding gangs. You can choose a side or stay neutral, it’s up to you, but your choices will affect the outcome of the game.
Everything that you can do each day in Beat Cop is outlined for you in your notebook that you can view at any time. For example, if someone asks you to deliver a package to an apartment but you can’t remember the number, Kelly will have jotted it down in his notebook. The game puts an emphasis on letting you know that you don’t have to finish everything that everyone asks of you every day – apart from that parking ticket quota – but I rarely had any trouble finishing everything. In fact, I would often double my ticket quota three or four times over. What can I say? No one knows how to park or take care of their vehicles.
Beat Cop’s Brooklyn isn’t a lovely place. Perhaps the game is a glimpse at what 1980s New York really looked like and if it is, I’m glad I wasn’t around back then. Your fellow police officers are racist, sexist jerks and there are so many obvious stereotypes thrown at you from every angle. It gets pretty exhausting after a while. After the fifth or sixth character calls the local gang “the darkies” you begin to wonder if that amount of racism needed to be so heavily focused on. Kelly himself isn’t the most relatable or morally sound protagonist, either. I, for one, wouldn’t want to get pulled over by him.
Aside from the objectionable racism and bigotry present in the game, Beat Cop‘s gameplay is pretty repetitive, especially at the beginning when you’re still learning the ropes. The endless amount of parking tickets you’re writing will be begin to haunt you and eventually, when people bribe you to get out of them, no matter how honourable you’ve been trying to be, you’ll start taking those bribes just to change things up.
Just like anything that you’re forced to do day after day, writing tickets won’t be enough to keep you interested in Beat Cop unless you can bear to stick it out for a few hours until the story picks up. The gameplay is easy to learn, but it doesn’t do much to keep gameplay new and exciting. Its unpalatable themes, even though clearly put there on purpose, could do with being toned down a few notches. Grab Beat Cop if you’re looking for something very easy to learn and don’t mind a bit of mind-numbing repetition. But if you’re looking for something with a rich story and replayability, you’d better look elsewhere.