Sorry, Half-Life, Contraband Police has become our go-to game for crowbar shenanigans.
Contraband Police doesn’t feature other-dimensional beings but we definitely appreciate being able to get very, very silly with our border inspections. The premise is that you’re a border guard in a fictional 80s-era Eastern European country which, at first glance, seems like a pretty dry occupation.
And, in truth, Contraband Police doesn’t make a great first impression. The opening five minutes of the game have you examining passports and ID, checking for any inconsistencies. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s an awful lot like Papers Please.
But once you get past that, the game opens up and keeps opening up. Because you’re not just stuck in one role, you roam the whole of the district doing whatever it takes to stop smugglers and crush travellers’ spirits.
Yes, you’re stopping cocaine smugglers but you’re also an obstacle to people who have a legitimate reason to enter and exit the country. But Contraband Police is so much fun you’ll probably sweep any ethical considerations under the carpet.
Admittedly, it helps that the country’s smugglers tend to mark their vehicles with a UV-visible symbol. So if you suspect a smuggler (the game gives you hints) you can whip out your flashlight and poke around in their car. Spot the symbol and it’s open day on their vehicle.
That’s where the crowbar comes in. Aside from hacking away at seats, uncovering contraband, stuff could be hidden elsewhere. So, our MO was go around the whole car, whacking away with the crowbar. Is this necessary? Maybe occasionally. Is it professional? No, but it is an awful lot of fun.
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Assuming, that is, you’re inspecting a single car, because Contraband Police gives you a whole range of tasks to complete. One day you’re doing Gordon Freeman proud, the next you’re driving prisoners to a labour camp. Yes, a labour camp. You don’t get away with thinking you’re the good guy.
You’re also in charge of upgrading your border station, the mini-jail it houses and so on. We doubt someone at your level would have the kind of spending power but it’s a neat way of ensuring you never get bored.
You’ll spend a significant amount of time driving around, too. Contraband Police nails that Eastern Bloc feel so hitting the road is pleasingly immersive. Speaking of hitting, there’s actual combat in the game so, while we’ve yet to murder anyone with a crowbar, there’s that to look forward to.
We’ve seen a few games that latch onto a real world activity and do the bare minimum. But it’s impressive how much work developer Crazy Rocks has put into Contraband Police. It makes success all the satisfying: contraband, for example, doesn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, you get to personally carry it over to the lockup, feeling thoroughly smug.
That said, we have our fingers crossed we’ll have the opportunity to make a little money on the side. It’s not like anyone’s going to miss the odd brick of cocaine going missing. Yes, we’re the best worst cop.
But so far, Contraband Police has us hooked and we’re not planning on handing in our badge any time soon.