A genre made popular in the 1940’s and 50’s, noir fiction portrays society in shades of gray, both figuratively and, in the case of motion picture titles, literally. The heroes have demons of their own, and the law is seen as barely above the criminals they catch. Chicken Police is a point-and-click adventure set firmly within this genre, in a city rife with corruption and crime.
Sonny Featherland is a rooster who’s been on the Clawville police force for over twenty years, which has beaten a jaded cynicism into him that he wears like a badge of honor. The city is touted as a place where all animal species can coexist peacefully, but the things he’s seen in his career would suggest otherwise. Sonny was part of the popular police officer duo known as the Chicken Police, along with his partner Marty McChicken, but is currently on suspension for misconduct. He’s shaken out of his short-lived respite from the force by a mysterious female visitor who asks for his help in investigating a string of threats against her employer. Sonny is quick to brush her request aside until he learns that this case has ties to his past. What follows is a night filled with danger, deception, feathers, and fur.
The plot of Chicken Police wouldn’t be out of place in a classic detective story. Frequent monologues by Sonny, which appear throughout the game to recap his thoughts about where the story’s at, mirror the kind often found in those types of movies and novels. It’s this kind of storytelling that makes the plot especially memorable. You don’t spend a moment in Clawville not feeling absolutely immersed within its murky intrigue. The twists and turns of the story can keep you engaged and invested in the events that take place.
The game also includes menus that help you keep track of what’s happened in the plot, as well as sections that describe information about the city’s landmarks and citizens you’ve met. This makes it easier to follow the game’s story and stay up to date on the information you’ve gathered. You may find that some of the entries are mixed, with descriptions appearing twice across two different character or landmark sections. The issue isn’t too common, but it is a bit jarring to see these mistakes.
Chicken Police‘s gameplay consists of two main things: exploration and investigation. You travel to different locations around the city of Clawville and examine the environment for clues regarding the case Sonny is working on. This is done with an action wheel that pops up when interacting with an object or NPC, allowing you to examine or talk to them. Options to ask specific questions or even interrogate individuals can also open up depending on the circumstance. Conversations often give you clues that move the story along. You also have an inventory for keeping items you find, but unlike most point-and-click games, items are not actually used in any meaningful way, making its inclusion frankly puzzling.
A few unique gameplay segments appear throughout the game, adding some variety. These include things such as car shootouts and knot untying. They are usually pretty fun, but unfortunately, there are not very many of these novel events in the game. The game has many things that set it apart from others, but including more mini-games would have really put it over the top.
Navigation for the entirety of Chicken Police is done through a cursor you move around the screen. You can travel to different notable locations across Clawville via a map screen. Certain areas are only accessible for limited periods of time, depending on where you’re at in the story. Experiencing all of the conversations and scenes the game has to offer requires exploring every inch of the city you can before proceeding to where you’re tasked with going. This is made easier by each spot being denoted with a symbol for optional and story-relevant locations.
Every location is made up of a large screen you can scroll left to right to see objects and people to examine or talk to. The cursor can be used to highlight things and interact with them through the aforementioned action wheel. In general, the game’s cursor navigation is an acceptable means to get around, though it’s apparent this control scheme was originally intended for the PC version. It translates well enough to this version, though some mini-games are harder to complete because of it.
At several points in the game, you are required to interrogate different characters important to your investigation. These involve picking questions to ask them, with good questions giving you positive points and bad ones taking away points. These affect the level of the Detective Meter, a general indicator of how the interrogation is going. A notepad on the right side of the screen gives helpful information, like impressions about that character’s personality and a summary of what kind of information you should be trying to squeeze out of them with your questions. At the conclusion of the interrogation segment, you’re given a grade based on your performance. If you do badly enough, the interrogation is ended early and you must retry.
Interrogations are a fun feature in Chicken Police. The flow of the process works well, with the conversation progressively getting more focused on details directly relevant to the case. A degree of skill is needed to lead each individual gradually to the point, but interrogations aren’t often difficult. Achieving perfect marks may take several attempts, but you aren’t likely to get frustrated during these parts of the game.
Puzzles make occasional appearances in Chicken Police. Their relative rarity is made up for by their variety. Every puzzle has its own method of achieving a solution, and they each take place in very different locations and circumstances. If you’re averse to puzzles, rest easy knowing their difficulty is relatively easy in this game. If you do run into trouble completing a puzzle, it’s likely because the game makes no attempt to guide you in the method behind working through or completing them. Thus it’s possible you could become stuck not because the puzzle is hard, but because you just don’t know how to go about it, which is made worse because of each puzzle’s distinctiveness.
Collectibles & Extras
Scattered across every location of Chicken Police are novels for you to find. These are the game’s collectibles, and are often quite hard to spot. No effort is made to help you find them, and scouring every screen you come upon is the only real way to have a shot at nabbing some. Every novel is themed around the past exploits of the chicken police duo of Sonny and Marty. Once collected, the covers of each novel can be viewed in the Extras menu, where you can also read a plot synopsis for each novel.
In addition to a list of the novels you’ve found, the Extras menu also features a gallery of the game’s art that starts filling up as you progress further into the game. This is a great window into the game’s artistic process and influences. The menu also allows you to view any cutscenes you’ve witnessed up until that point. The last section you’ll find within the Extras menu is a list of the game’s achievements.
Chicken Police has an assortment of accolades for you to unlock. Most can be achieved within a normal playthrough, but many require a thorough amount of exploration or interacting with the right people or objects. As with any achievement system, these are really just for those looking to challenge themselves or have the desire to add an extra layer of difficulty to their playthrough. None are too hard to accomplish if you’re willing to put the effort in.
The art of Chicken Police is almost entirely in black and white. Considering the heavy noir influences the game has, this fits it extremely well. It goes a long way in immersing you into the game’s seedy atmosphere. The environments and character models both appear to be real photographs of actual locations, or at least very convincing recreations. The characters are portrayed by real body models, and the heads are pictures of real animals. The use of realistic locations and models further transports you into a society where animals have developed human-like features.
MUSIC & VOICE ACTING
The voice acting is one of the game’s strong points. The tough cops, gangsters, and other characters you meet all have perfect voices that fit their role. The standout of the vocal cast is Kerry Shale, whose vocal delivery as the protagonist Sonny Featherland evokes the kind of cadence heard in a great many hardboiled detective movies. The script is worthy of praise, with many descriptions and conversations to hear in the game. It’s apparent a lot of work went into recording and writing all of the game’s lines, and it really pays off.
The music in Chicken Police also does a great job of setting the mood for the game. Every track has a jazzy feel to it, featuring piano, saxophone, and light drums and cymbals. The songs are all of high quality and complement the dark environments extremely well. The game only has a dozen or so main songs that play in locations, but each is able to capture the individual feeling of the scenes they play in.
Should you wish to completely see everything the game has to offer, there is plenty there to keep you playing after the story is done. The novels are hard enough to find that it will be very difficult to uncover all of them on your first playthrough. The same can also be said of some of the game’s achievements, which require an exceptional level of meticulousness. Replaying through the story is also not a bad idea, as the music and atmosphere are worth experiencing again.
What Chicken Police does well, it does very well. The atmosphere created in the game is stunning. If you have any interest in noir detective stories, this packages that whole era into a great game with interesting characters that populate a unique setting. The character designs are unlike any you’ve seen before, and the voice acting is on-point. The game does falter a bit in its lack of direction during puzzles, as well as the few typographical errors in its written descriptions. Granted, these do little in detracting from an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Final Rating: 8.5/10.