Genre: Adventure, Simulation
Release date: Spring 2017
Things aren’t looking good for Detective Jack Kelly. Framed for a murder that he didn’t commit, Kelly has landed himself in the demeaning role of beat cop, forced to walk the mean streets of New York until things calm down. But when his partner is murdered on his first day, Kelly has to decide what kind of cop he'll be. Will he stay true to the standards he swore to uphold? Or will the city turn him into something else entirely?
This is the dilemma at the heart of Beat Cop, a retro-styled adventure game in development by Polish developer Pixel Crow. Players take the role of Jack Kelly, the aforementioned detective turned beat cop whose job is to patrol the streets of New York, handing out tickets and stopping petty crimes. But New York is a living city. If you push too hard, the city pushes back.
Gameplay in Beat Cop takes place along a couple of blocks in downtown New York. This is Kelly’s beat, and it’s his job to keep the peace. From the Italian pizza parlor run by the mafia to the donut shop run by a sarcastic young woman, the various residents of New York are stuffed with personality and witty remarks. As Kelly interacts with the motley crew of residents along his route, he’ll learn more about them: their wants, needs, fears, personalities, and more. Along the way, they’ll learn more about Kelly: how he acts, what kind of man he is. The more they learn, the more their actions will change towards him.
As a beat cop, Kelly is given a daily quota of tickets to write. His tough love sergeant starts him off easy, with only a few tickets to give, but it isn’t long before Kelly is forced to write up 10-20 tickets a day, not including the arrests and tows that happen naturally throughout the day. This forces players to manage their time perfectly, because every missed quota is taken straight out of your paycheck for the day. To add an extra layer of complexity, Kelly’s ex-wife needs her monthly alimony, $300, and her father just so happens to be your boss. Fail to pay your alimony? You can kiss your job goodbye.
Therein lies the dilemma. Every penny counts in Beat Cop. Failing to make your quota isn’t an option. So when the sun starts to fall, you’d better have your quota filled or you’ll regret not making the most out of your day. There were moments in Beat Cop where I was in the midst of writing a parking ticket when a shoplifter suddenly rushed past me. Out of reflex, I started to chase after him, but stopped. Catching a shoplifter doesn’t pay the bills. Writing tickets does. This is where Beat Cop excels, forcing players to make difficult choices. Play as the goody two-shoes and wind up penniless on the streets, or take bribes and fall deeper into corruption. It’s up to you to decide what kind of cop Jack Kelly is.
Beat Cop is a gorgeous game. It revels in its 80s pixel art style, and fills every screen with layers upon layers of detail. It nails the feel of an '80s cop show, with ornate graffiti covering the streets while chatty hot dog vendors sell their wares in front of dingy alleyways. The people are simple, with pixel wide arms and colorful attire, but they are bursting with personality. The owner of Louie’s pizza is a big, thick man in a deep black suit and red tie, while the owner of the drugstore is a slight German man with a slouch in his shoulders.
But it’s the streets that make Beat Cop feel alive, and they do so incredibly well. The sidewalk is cracked and stained, the alleyways are littered with refuse from innumerable passersby. Every building has bright, colorful signs that let you know who runs the place, while pigeons sit atop windowsills, watching the world from above. The detail is incredible, and is worth the price of admission on its own.
Beat Cop is a game about decisions set on the mean streets of Brooklyn. With an unsolved murder hanging over your head, and a city that seems out to get you, it’s easy to lose an hour or two to Jack Kelly’s trials and tribulations. While I have not yet completed the story, I am excited to see where Kelly’s journey takes him. With a beautiful pixel art style and gameplay that forces players to make decisions they normally wouldn’t make, Beat Cop is definitely a game to look out for.
Beat Cop is scheduled to release in Spring 2017. This preview will be updated with our release impressions when the full game is available.