Do you consider yourself a fan of detective noir fiction? Do you like games that don’t take themselves too seriously? Do you like dark humor, incredible voice-acting, and stories that keep you up at night well past the time you’ve turned the last page? Well, my friend, you’re clucking up the right tree. The Wild Gentlemen, a small indie studio from Hungary, has conjured a thrilling buddy cop adventure with mesmerizing narrative gameplay and “Orwellesque” themes. If this sounds like your glass of whiskey, keep on reading for our thoughts and full review.
Ex-partners Sonny Featherland and Marty MacChicken are two cock-sure detectives that once made up Clawville’s most famous copper duo: the Chicken Police. As the city of Clawville spiraled towards corruption, even these two chickens couldn’t hold it together forever. It’s New Year’s Eve, and Sonny is nursing a whiskey bottle, as he is akin to do these days after being accidentally shot by his partner and his last case-the case that halted his career. While he’d rather wallow in self-loathing and begin the start of his retirement in peace, Clawville and its seedy denizens have other plans for him. Namely, one such Natasha Catzenko, a predator dame that has found herself threatened by a horrible message written in red paint on the walls of her home. Reluctantly, the ex-cop accepts her case on terms of what he initially thinks are blackmail, but couldn’t be further from the truth. To find the culprit threatening the peace of their city, Sonny teams up with Marty one last time to take on the case and put an end to the madness and corruption before someone gets hurt.
Chicken Police follows the point-of-view of Sonny, oftentimes breaking the fourth wall to let him address the player with his inner monologue and thoughts on the situation. With the Chicken Police in tow, we’ll move from place to place, scrubbing the scenes for clues to learn more about this strange world we’re trying to navigate by neon light. Clawville, as it happens, is a relatively peaceful city-state where predator and prey can live amongst each other without fear of conflict. Talking to its citizens reveals that it is far from a perfect utopia. Maybe more-so than others, Clawville definitely has its fair share of prejudice, racism, and classism.
Where do we start with the gameplay of Chicken Police? Honestly, there’s so much to mention that it’s hard to know where to begin. The game is deceptively simple as a point and click adventure, but it functions very similarly to a visual novel with lots of interaction. There are over 30 different animal characters to talk to and investigate, and each one will have to be approached with a different tone if you’re looking to get answers out of them. I’m sorry to say that the trash panda who runs the diner won’t be swayed with honeyed words like that singer dame, bossbird. There’s a meter you can watch to gauge how the conversation is going, and Sonny has cues from time to time to let you know when you need to press the interviewee a little harder. These conversations lead to clues and evidence you can use later on in conversation. Even if you perform poorly in an interrogation, however, you still surface with the clues you need and it’s enough to push you to the next scene.
Chicken Police oozes classic film-noir with its gritty black and white graphics and jazzy musical score. With over 8+ hours of incredible, voice-acted dialogue, it could have very easily fallen flat to terrible writing but is instead supported by a fantastic script. Seriously, I can’t give the writing and voice acting enough credit. In fact, the two were so perfect at times that I felt like I was listening to a murder mystery audiobook, and found myself wishing that I had a copy of the game in some kind of physical book form. The writing feels very 1930’s Stephen King mixed in with the wit and animal humor from Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom novel.
There is such an incredible amount of worldbuilding that has gone into the game, that sometimes it can leave your head spinning. Luckily, there’s a journal with a codex you can refer to in-game if you need to steady yourself at times. It includes detailed information about not only the characters but specific events and bits of lore that help flush out our understanding of the world. After all, we only learn about the story of Clawville through its characters and their interactions. There is no hand-holding or lengthy exposition, we just have to take what these characters tell us at face value, and nod our heads, falling into the corrupted fantasy they live in. We only get to glimpse into their lives, not read their memoir. And honestly, I kind of prefer it that way. There are many bits of information that can be inferred through conversation, and the subtle hints about the city’s past give it an air of mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Sonny and Marty are an incredible duo to follow around. You can tell that there was a lot of love in those ten years of partnership, and it pained both of them to have to cut it early due to the accident. Sonny is grumpy and pessimistic, while Marty is flighty, eager, and at times-dangerous. Anyone who names and talks to each of his guns and calls them his “harem” has to have a few feathers loose. The dialogue is certainly mature at times, with there being a lot of classic film-noir tropes thrown in there like mob bosses, corrupt cops, femme fatalles, and tragic romance, but it’s so incredibly well done that you can’t help but fall in love with the cliches.
Everything about Chicken Police felt like a film-noir parody when I first took notice of it-they’re chicken police for Wild Ones sake! But sure enough, the game held me tightly within its clawed grip from that first cutscene with Sonny driving down a dimly-lit highway lamenting his past amidst a sea of city lights shimmering in the background. It’s vulgar, charming, intriguing, heartbreaking, and hilarious all at the same time. Chicken Police feels like it was made just for me.
As obsessed with the story as I was, however, it was very linear. There’s a lot of illusion of choice when it comes to interacting with the characters because nothing you do has a real tangible outcome at the end of the story. That doesn’t make it a bad story, just a rigid one. Chicken Police isn’t a game in which you can expect multiple endings, but you can expect a very engaging detective noir visual novel with a healthy dose of wit, gorgeous music, and intriguing characters. Without giving too much away, it took me about 10 or 11 hours to finish the game, since I took my time and experienced all of the side content and didn’t speed through any dialogue. Even conversations you thought were already over sometimes have additional quips and voice lines if you bothered to visit the character again. I’d highly suggest taking your time and enjoying the ride because it will not disappoint. Chicken Police is the guilty animal film-noir treasure that I didn’t know I needed in my life until I took flight into the Wilderness and experienced it for myself.
If you’re also a fellow lover of detective noir and visual novels, you can find Chicken Police on a variety of platforms now, but especially on the Nintendo Switch for $19.99. If you check it out now, you can even get it for a discount of $13.49-an an absolute steal for hours of well-written dark humor and incredible voice acting.
A copy of Chicken Police was provided for the purpose of this review.