Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/09/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I bought this game completely on impulse and purely off of the cover art. It looked like a gritty noire mystery but where every character has an animal head; as it turns out, that’s exactly what it is. And it’s a freaking masterpiece. I expected a stupid “lol meme” game, but this is a legitimately amazing mystery story.
The main character is soon-to-be-retired Clawville PD detective Sonny Featherland, one half of the titular “Chicken Police” duo along with his partner, Marty MacChicken. When a young impala somehow makes her way into Sonny’s apartment and asks for his help on behalf of her employer, Natalia Catzenko, who has been receiving concerning threats, he approaches Marty to get the band back together, so to speak, for one last case. Little does he know that what seems at first to be a simple harassment issue will turn into a conspiracy large enough to turn the power structure in the city-state of Clawville on its head.
Aside from the fact that every character has the head of an animal on an otherwise human body and the subsequent animal puns, this is a completely serious and legitimately fantastically written noire mystery. The whole game is in black and white except for Natalia’s green eyes (that’s how you know she’s at the center of the story) and red blood. There’s also an option to turn on a film grain filter to give it that authentic 50s noire look. It’s a lot like Ace Attorney in that it could principally be described as a visual novel but with a lot of interactive moments; you pick locations to investigate, who to talk to, specific questions to ask during interrogations that can determine how well the interrogation goes, and you have to put pieces of the puzzle together on a corkboard at a few different points in the game. There are also some timed mini-game sort of segments. It’s got enough variety to break up the potential monotony of a primarily text-driven game (although it is 100% fully voice acted).
The fact that this game got minimal marketing and, from what I can tell, is sold only at Gamestop physically, you’d think this is a fairly mid-tier quality game, but literally every aspect surpassed my expectations by a mile. The art style is just astounding. They manage to nail that old noire look PERFECTLY with the monochromatic color, the film grain filter, the character’s outfits, and dialogue all working in tandem. Speaking of the dialogue, the voice acting is fantastic. Some performances were naturally better than others – Kerry Shale’s performance as Sonny Featherland is legitimately one of the best voice acting performances I’ve ever heard in a video game – but not a single character had a bad voice acting performance. The choices of music as well perfectly complemented the zeitgeist of the game. The world-building also has to be complemented; despite being a game that only lasts maybe six or seven hours, they manage to drop enough details of the world into conversation that you get a feel for the culture in Clawville, the situation of the world in the game, and the political tensions within the city-state and the real-world situations of which they’re allegories. I’m being completely serious when I saw that most AAA studios don’t make games that impress me as much as this game that seemingly came out of nowhere did.
Chicken Police absolutely caught me off guard and swept me off my feet. I expected six hours of bland story-telling, so-so voice acting, and bad jokes, but what I got was six hours of brilliant mystery writing, deep characters, S-tier voice acting, fantastic writing, and an overall experience that I cannot recommend highly enough. It may not have enough interactivity to keep some more easily distracted gamers’ attention, but for those who enjoy mystery stories and are into primarily narrative-driven games, but this is a true masterpiece in my opinion. There are optional side bits to discover and add to the codex that fill in some additional information about the world and characters, some collectibles to find, and different dialogue bits that play out depending on how you conduct your interrogations, so there’s definitely some replay value to be had here. Overall, for a $20 asking price on the eShop, this game is a downright bargain when you take into consideration the quality. I really can’t sing this game’s praises enough, and I can guarantee that it will end up being one of those games with a cult following that not nearly enough people play.