App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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11 bit Studios seems to have made a bit of a habit out of publishing games that are hard to enjoy. This War of Mine, the first release of theirs I played, is an amazing survival game that I struggle to play for long stretches because of its focus on people torn apart by war. Their latest release on mobile, Beat Cop, is similarly hard to play, but not for the same reasons. Where something like This War of Mine dug deep into horrible living situations in a serious matter, Beat Cop is a game that—while mechanically kind of interesting—relishes in every terrible 80s cop cliche imagineable (yes, even the racist ones) without having much to say about any of it.
Hit the beat
True to its name, Beat Cop has you wandering a specific section of New York City on a daily basis. You weren’t always a lowly patrolman though. Your character, Jack Kelly, actually used to be a detective… until he was framed for murder(!). Facing these charges, Kelly is demoted and left on his own to try and clear his name as he writes tickets, arrests petty thieves, and more.
As you’re on your beat, you get to know the people in your neighborhood, and you can decide when and how you want to uphold the law, if at all. In this way Beat Cop feels surprisingly open-ended. On your tiny little block, you can choose to be a model copper become a mafia lackey.
Time to crack down
Similar to This War of Mine, Beat Cop follows a time-based structure. Each day, you’re given directives from your commanding officer that you want to try to achieve within that day. Sometimes, you’ll be focused on meeting a ticket quota, at others, you may be scoping out vehicles looking for a specific van associated with mob activity. In either case, you can spend your hours out on the street however you want, though achieving objectives helps you keep progressing through the game’s story.
Sometimes it’s not so easy to get the things you want done, though. Unexpected developments can and will happen during your shift, and you have to try and figure out the best way to respond to them. Of course, if this were just a game about being a good cop, you’d just want to try and crack down on everyone all the time, but Beat Cop isn’t that cut and dry. Instead, the game requires you to balance quite a few different things simultaneously given your limited time each day. You need to earn cash to make alimony payments; you want to complete your police objectives to stay in good standing with the chief; you want to run drugs occasionally to keep the gangs from making your job difficult; and you need to eat on your shift to keep your stamina up, among other things.
There’s something pretty neat about the constant triage you have to do while playing Beat Cop, but all of this is for naught considering the game’s godawful tone. As a period piece, Beat Cop tries to emulate 80s cop shows, but according to this game, paying homage to these shows involves playing overt racism, sexism, and homophobia for laughs, or—at the very least—limply using these things as little more than set dressing.
The reason I can’t really tell if utterances of things like “darkies” or “cunts” is an attempt at humor or not is because none of these references are tied to any sort of joke or satirical jab. At the same time though, Beat Cop doesn’t take itself seriously at all. For instance, there’s a mission where you visit a diner only to learn it’s been taken over by gigantic talking cockroach. There’s also times where all of Beat Cop’s absurd shittiness merges, like the mission where you have to get a “slant-eye” laundromat owner to make drugs by collecting things like random flowers and cat hair before mixing it all together with semen. Stuff like this is rampant throughout Beat Cop, and all of it renders whatever interesting mechanics the game offers completely unenjoyable.
The bottom line
Whenever you start a new game of Beat Cop, a disclaimer comes up that tells players that the game meant to be a celebration of 80s cop shows that were “a damn good time” about “good guys kicking bad guys asses, saving beautiful women, and driving muscle cars into the night.” Almost none of this is an accurate description of what Beat Cop actually is. There’s no good time here. There’s not even good guys. Beat Cop may have some interesting things to offer, but all of it is buried under thick layers of completley tone-deaf and humorless set dressing.