Beat Cop, the upcoming release from Pixel Crow and 11 bit studios, a retro-styled side-scroller that places narrative over action. Much like Cart Life, there's a lot of walking, talking and a focus on menial tasks, but Beat Cop forges its own identity with its obvious inspiration from '80s cop shows and its own brand of dark comedy.
In Beat Cop you play as Jack Kelly, a detective framed for murder who is now patrolling the streets as, you guessed it, a beat cop. There wasn't very much story to go on in the pre-alpha, but the gist of it is that you are tasked with finding out who framed you and why. The game is about "making the choices and keeping the balance", according to programmer and designer Maciej Miąsik - investigating your own personal grievance while also doing your day duties of a beat cop on the streets of Brooklyn. Oh, and the Mafia is after you as well.
These duties are what form the core of the gameplay. From the start it is hammered into you by your overbearing boss that results are key - tickets need to be given, cars need to be towed and there is always a quota to be fulfilled. For the most part players will find themselves looking for faulty tires, expired parking meters and cars parked in illegal places just to meet this quota and although this sounds relatively menial, the fact that the day passes so quickly means there is a surprising intensity to delivering enough parking
tickets to avoid a fine.
And it's not only parking violations you have to deal with as a cop either. Throughout the game and with increasing intensity other crimes happen which need to be addressed alongside your quotas for parking tickets. These can be anything from a robber needing to be stopped in the street to a man holding his niece hostage in an apartment and if these are not addressed there also comes a fine as well. The belt at the bottom of your screen containing the tickets and the handcuffs also had a gun attached as well, implying this could be used in certain situations, although we didn't get a chance to try anything with it during the demo session.
Pedestrians always get in your way when you are trying to do your job, though. When they're not trying to bribe you they are trying to sell you something, insult you or recruit you for errands. So in this way the trivial life as a beat cop gets turned into something intense and chaotic as you are constantly trying to look for tickets while being pushed and pulled in different directions by the community who, more often than not, treat you with contempt and derision.
Another reason that priorities need to be balanced is because there are other factors than just your job as a beat cop to consider. For instance, Kelly's wife requires alimony on certain days, meaning money is a key factor, but you need money for food to keep your stamina up, and taking bribes means less tickets which could lead to a fine from your superiors, but not taking them makes the people dislike you. Priorities shift throughout the game and players always have to keep an eye on what is needed at any one time.
The game is played like any other side scroller in the sense that you can move left and right along one stretch of street in Brooklyn, however, it's not one that requires you to jump and navigate the environment. This is more about scouring the environment for opportunities and pouncing upon them, whether that be a crime in progress or an expired meter. Shops can be visited in order to talk to locals and apartments can be visited in certain situations as well. Each day (the game is played a day at the time) you get dropped off on the sidewalk and from 8am to 5.50pm game time, which takes no more than ten minutes real time, you are to do your daily objectives to the best of your ability, also dealing with situations developing or being relayed to you on your radio. The notebook where your objectives are stored stopped working for a while, but bugs are to be expected in such an early version.
Beat Cop's vulgar humour and black, edgy comedy is really what forms the bulk of its appeal though. The game's opening gives various nods to cop shows from the 1980s like Miami Vice and this is instead where the nostalgia comes from - what developer Pawel Miechowski calls the choice between "good or bad cop trying to somehow fight crime" just like in these shows. This also lays down the foundations for a game that never takes itself too seriously - by Maciej Miąsik's own admission the game is a "tongue in the cheek nostalgic vision of the 80s in the states". The phrases and comic moments are somewhat repetitive and will need more variety to stop it becoming boring, however, but the important thing is that it lays down the basics for a funny, light-hearted experience that can be built upon and improved. For now, though, it plays well, the art style works fantastically and there is a lot there to be excited for.
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