Beat Cop is a police sim inspired by the cop shows that riddled television networks in the 80’s. Developed by Pixel Crow and published by 11 bit studios, you play as Jack Kelly, a former detective who was demoted and relocated after being framed for a murder. You’ve now got to work to clear your name, while maneuvering through the crappy life of one of the most disrespected officers in the police force.
New guy on the block
The world of Beat Cop is a comedically heightened version of 80’s Brooklyn. Most of the characters you meet are over-the-top stereotypes of what you would expect in a police story. Your boss is a rude tyrant that rules the district with an iron fist. The other officers of precinct 69 are constantly busting your balls, and looking down at you because you’re the new guy on the block. Racist pizza shop owners, ruthless gang members, and bloodthirsty mafia gangsters all highlight Beat Cop’s colorful cast of characters. My interactions with the people of Brooklyn were the most entertaining part of my experience. The sensationalized sense of reality that everyone is on makes them feel unique, even though they exist within a stereotype that’s been portrayed in entertainment media for decades. The quick chats between Kelly and random citizens are stuffed with funny dialogue and some one-liners that had me laughing out loud.
A signature aspect of this world is the pixel art style that the developers decided to go with. On several levels, it makes Beat Cop a better game. Take the crude sense of humor that’s featured throughout this police sim, for example. It’s much more palatable when these dark jokes are being spewed from what essentially looks like cartoon characters. Couple that with the random outbursts of violence and it’s clear that Beat Cop’s art style allows it to get away with more than if it went with a photo realistic design.
Life on the beat
I was really impressed with the simulation side of Beat Cop’s gameplay. All of the tasks and jobs you complete are tracked over a daily cycle. You have a watch in your utility belt of items that helps you keep track of how much time is left in a day. Throughout a day you’re pretty free to live your life as a cop however you like. Spend hours writing parking violations and calling tow trucks on unlucky civilians. Hang around and talk to random citizens roaming the streets and help resolve their petty issues. You can even run errands for members of the Mafia. The way you choose to tackle the day will either raise or lower how you’re perceived by the mafia, citizens, the crew (a local street gang), and other police officers. All of these decisions are reflected at the end of each day on a stat sheet that tracks the progression of your different relationships.
I appreciated how Beat Cop presented different scenarios to me, with my response having a tangible impact on how the world saw me. For example, when writing parking tickets, there’s a chance that the recipient will return and confront you in the middle of writing the ticket. They’ll attempt to bribe you, offering $20 in exchange for some of your legal integrity. I ultimately decided that a crisp Andrew Jackson wasn’t worth me missing my daily quota for tickets that needed to be handed out. This choice made me slightly less beloved in the eyes of the public, but hitting my quota gave a small boost to my relationship with my boss and coworkers.
As the game goes on, Beat Cop fails to do anything that builds upon its day to day gameplay loop. Writing tickets, arresting street thugs, and solving mundane problems for the citizens of Brooklyn is a solid foundation that I quite enjoyed. However, my days felt the same throughout the entirety of the game. I wish that the developers had sprinkled in some more elements that built on the daily routine of Jack Kelly. New crimes, different forms of tickets, more puzzles would’ve all been welcomed additions to Pixel Crow’s police sim. By the end of the game, I had seen some of the exact same dialogue and moments well over a dozen times.
Looking for a promotion
The story gets off to a bizarre and weak start. Major events in the life of Jack Kelly and the city of Brooklyn are kind of just strung together and are handled pretty lightly. For someone who is widely believed to be a murderer, Kelly is making out pretty well. In addition, Jack Kelly is pretty much a blank slate of personality, for better or worse. On the downside, it makes it hard to relate to him early on, nor do I feel like he’s as concerned with his current circumstance as he should be. On the upside, it allows you to project yourself and your own ideas onto Kelly. You can make your way through the story as a genuinely good man who has been dealt a bad hand of cards in the game of life, or embrace your surroundings and become the biggest piece of crap walking around Brooklyn.
Rounding back to the story itself, as you make your way through the narrative, that 80’s cop show vibe really comes into play. Dark secrets are uncovered and the plot takes some unexpected yet fascinating turns. A weaker opening is made up for by a very strong back half of storytelling. Beat Cop’s story actually has multiple endings, which encourages you to go back and make different decisions in vital moments in order to see the different conclusions to Jack Kelly’s story.
All in all, Beat Cop serves well as a Police sim, although that aspect of the game grows stale as time goes on. The story can be janky and oddly paced at times, but overall tells a fascinating cop story with some neat revelations. The pixel art style fits the 80’s theme of Beat Cop and really nails the retro vibe that the devs are shooting for. Beat Cop works just as well on console as it did on PC, but there’s still some room to improve.
This review is based on an Xbox One digital copy provided by the publisher. Beat Cop is available now on the PlayStation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, iPhone App Store, Google Play Store, and Nintendo eShop for $14.99. The game is rated M.
- Intriguing story
- Use of Dark Humor
- Neat simulation mechanics
- Gameplay grows stale
- Story pacing