Price: $ 8.99
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Replay Value Rating:
Imagine a gritty, hardboiled detective novel or the moody drama of a film noir repackaged as an adventure game. Now imagine that every character has an animal head instead of a human one. That is essentially the premise for Chicken Police, and it's hard to deny how doggedly developers The Wild Gentlemen chased this this goal as you play it. It is an exquisite homage to mid-century detective fiction that is worth seeing through to the end, even if it can be hard to get there.
Fowl play in Clawville
In Chicken Police, you play as Sonny Featherland, one half of the legendary cop duo known widely across Clawville as the chicken police. Just like the start of any classic noir mystery, your story starts with Sonny getting a surprise visit from a distressed damsel (who also happens to be a gazelle). She explains that her employer, entertainer Natasha Catzenko, has been receiving threatening messages and wants your help in getting to the bottom of it.
Doing so mostly involves simply talking with residents of Clawville--be they dogs, giraffes, or anything in between--and wandering between places of interest. As you learn more about Natasha's predicament, you may be able to question people about more specific information or revisit locations to uncover hidden clues. For the most part, though, Chicken Police proceeds in a mostly straightforward way, almost like you're simply reading a story.
If you have any ounce of fondness for old crime fiction, Chicken Police will almost undoubtedly be up your alley. Regardless of what you make of the actual moment-to-moment gameplay, Chicken Police is a loving and charming tribute to classics like The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Big Sleep without feeling like it's simply tossing off references or copying anything in particular. The game also makes great use of old detective narrative structures and tropes to turn Clawville into a more fully realized world than a simple backdrop for a whodunnit.
All of this work bursts with life thanks to some incredible visual and voice artistry in the game. Animal characters may be little more than talking heads, but they are rendered in an eerily realistic way that matches up with some top-notch voice work. Chicken Police also has some great accessibility features like the ability to auto-play dialog or have it wait for you to tap to progess, all of which make it more mobile-friendly than it might otherwise be.
Animal instincts required
From the very start of Chicken Police, I was enthralled and couldn't wait to crack the case. That said, there was more than one occasion while playing where it was less than clear to me what I needed to do next. The majority of Chicken Police is very mechanically light, but almost every time a more traditional adventure game puzzle or item hunt crops up, it kills the momentum. This isn't just because of the time these things take to complete, either. All too often Chicken Police seems to delight in being obtuse, forcing you to meander or otherwise consult a guide to find a puzzle solution.
I don't necessarily mind this approach in theory. This ethos also exists in Chicken Police's interrogation sections, where you get rated on your ability to extract information from people. Most of the time, it was entirely unclear to me which dialog choices were supposed to be the right ones, but since making these dialog choices kept the story moving, I didn't mind. It was only when the game wanted to hide interactive environmental elements or simply require me to initiate conversations with people multiple times to move things forward that it felt like the game was intentionally trying to slow me down and make me enjoy it less. These choices all just feel bizarre and unfun. Luckily there aren't too many of them.
The bottom line
Although it suffers a bit from classic adventure game problems, Chicken Police is otherwise an immensely enjoyable piece of interactive crime fiction. If you can fight through a little obtuse puzzle-solving (or keep a FAQ handy), Chicken Police otherwise is a fun romp with excellent production values.