Dark night. Hardly a star in the sky. Nights like these, if you walk the streets, you can almost taste the desperation in the air. Through the dazzling lights and the fake laughter, you can tell people are on edge. Maybe they should be.
The older I get, the quicker things seem to crumble around me. After a while, you get used to the desolation. The decay. You might even get comfortable with it, settle into watching everything play out. I know I did. But sometimes, you catch a glimpse of something, and you can’t possibly ignore it. Sometimes you see something rare and mysterious — something like her — and it changes everything.
One look at her, and it felt like I was drowning in moonshine. She had this confidence, like she knew the sort of effect she had on people. What’s the word for it? Enchanting. That’s what she was.
If I let my eyes adjust, I could see through the haze, notice all of her little imperfections — how her jokes didn’t always land, and how some action sections were awkwardly executed, and hell, how some of the interrogation segments felt downright vague — but in the end, it didn’t make much difference. Warts and all, I knew Chicken Police: Paint it Red! was a game unlike any other. And that I wouldn’t be able to resist getting caught in the tangled web of her sordid affairs…
What the hell was I getting myself into?
- What is Chicken Police: Paint it Red!? It’s a noir-inspired, narrative-driven detective game in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals. Gameplay is a blend of point-and-click adventure mechanics and visual novel-style dialogue. Take on the role of Santino Featherland, one half of the famous Chicken Police, as he’s dragged into a case that could turn Clawville upside down.
- Reviewed On: PC
- Developer: The Wild Gentlemen
- Publisher: HandyGames
- Release Date: November 5, 2020
- Website: www.chickenpolice.com
In terms of gameplay, Chicken Police: Paint it Red! features a handful of different modes. These include varied forms of puzzle solving, action sequences, and, most importantly, interrogations. The puzzles scattered throughout the world are occasionally frustrating and clunky, but they work for the most part, and there’s a reliable hint system if you get stuck. Generally, it pays to be observant and borderline click-crazy, interacting with every piece of the environment, squeezing out every line of dialogue the game has to offer.
As for the action scenes, these make sense in concept but suffer from stilted execution. On the one hand, they break up the pacing nicely, giving you moments of excitement before you return to routine investigations. On the other, they have a way of disrupting the atmosphere. For example, one car chase shootout eschewed a satisfying conclusion in favor of an incredibly jarring edit into the next scene without any real connective tissue between the two moments.
Some of the meatiest gameplay comes from interrogating suspects. When interrogations work, they’re an excellent way to blend characterization with gameplay. As opposed to trying to read faces or compare statements to material evidence a la L.A. Noire, you must wring information out of people by analyzing their mannerisms and personalities, figuring out what lines of questioning will lead to the truth. When the dialogue options are clear and distinct, this is a wonderful way to both mechanically engage the player and immerse them in the story. However, there are certainly moments where there’s dissonance between what a dialogue option seems to say versus what winds up being said.
Cheap Bourbon and Smooth Jazz
Chicken Police has style in abundance. With its jazzy soundtrack and weird, distinctive, moody visuals, the game quickly gets you in the mood for a quirky noir story. Combine that with a classic, hammy voice performance from the game’s grizzled protagonist, Sonny Featherland — and you’ve got a rock-solid atmosphere. And for the most part, the game nails its tone. While the absurdity of the animals is certainly played for laughs, the central conflict and the lives of these characters are played totally straight. The result is greater investment in the story and a sincere appreciation for good jokes when they actually land.
That said, there are a few moments where the humor goes too far, to the point of being a little cringe-inducing. What’s more, while many voice performances are pitch-perfect in terms of the story and setting, others are uneven in quality and even a little grating. Unfortunately, many of these problems stem from Marty McChicken, the other half of the titular Chicken Police, and your partner (and occasional player character). He’s a very jokey character, and his voice feels somewhat out of place compared to that of Sonny.
Of course, these differences between the two chickens also contribute to one of the strongest aspects of the game’s story. The relationship between Sonny and Marty is complicated, with a messy history, and this comes across beautifully in many dialogue exchanges. Generally, the story is quite character-focused and sufficiently packed with twists and turns to keep you pulling at leads in hopes of uncovering some new revelation or character beat.
Chicken Police even dabbles with themes of societal unrest and inequality, racism, and corruption. And while these moments can become a little repetitive and obvious, one can’t help but wonder how many other developers would take a concept like “Zootopia but more noir and adult” and take the plot and worldbuilding so seriously.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Chicken Police: Paint it Red! is by no means a perfect game. So many of its accolades come with caveats, and many moments drift frustratingly from potential greatness. But it’s peculiar, charming, and downright unforgettable. If you’re looking for a moody, quirky detective game starring an old, washed-up chicken, look no further.
- Great noir feel
- Fun interrogation and investigation mechanics
- Tongue-in-cheek, but the central characters and plot have serious weight
- Awkward action scenes
- Interrogations are sometimes vague and frustrating
- Some cringe-inducing humor and uneven voice performances
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