STAFF REVIEW of Chicken Police - Paint it RED! (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Chicken Police - Paint it RED! Box art Just look at the box art or a screenshot or two, and you could probably guess why Chicken Police – Paint it Red intrigued me initially. As you could guess from the title alone, yes, you’re going to play as a detective that also happens to be a chicken. Its absolutely absurd premise is what drew me to it in the first place, and while I honestly wasn’t expecting much, Chicken Police has ended up being one of my favorite games in recent memory. I’m not sure why I’ve never really paid Chicken Police any attention when it originally released back in 2020, though probably because of the state the world was shifting at the time, it’s now gotten the Xbox Series X|S treatment, the perfect excuse for me to see what this was clucking about.

I would have loved to see how the idea for this game came to be, deciding on a Film Noir detective game but the people’s heads are replaced with different animals. See, absurd, yet it works incredibly well due to its clever and witty writing along with its masterful voice work and soundtrack. Given its Film Noir backdrop you can expect plenty of swearing, grittiness, self-loathing, mystery and more, completely fitting for movies based on the 1940-1950’s era of filmmaking. Riding the line of satire and seriousness, Chicken Police surprisingly sucked me in with its detective gameplay and intriguing dark narrative. A modern take on classic ‘point-and-click’ gameplay, much of your time will be speaking to numerous different and unique characters as you try and solve the case that has fallen into your lap.

Like most Noir stories, this one starts much the same, with a mysterious Dame coming to your office pleading for help which thrusts you into a very odd case that you didn’t ask for. Chicken Police’s main hook is that all of the characters are anthropomorphic animals, meaning they are animal heads and characteristics placed on human bodies with regular arms and legs. As odd as that is, it works perfectly here due to the writing and voice acting.

Set in Clawville, a brooding city overrun by organized crime, you’ll explore your gritty home full of different locations and interesting characters throughout. You’re a veteran detective counting down the days until his retirement, 121 days to be exact, but gets himself involved in a case that’s going to be more than just dangerous to himself, but his former partner as well. You are Sonny Featherland, and alongside your former partner, Marty MacChicken, you were the infamous and legendary duo, the Chicken Police. This was once upon a time though, as Sonny and Marty aren’t on good terms any longer for good reason that I won’t delve into, so when they are forced to work together once again there will be some tense moments and accusations thrown around.

The duo are complete opposites and will need to learn to not only work together once again, but trust one another if they want to make it out of this new case alive. This all began when Sonny was minding his own business and a seductive goat named Deborah enters his office with a story that couldn’t be ignored. Deborah works for Natasha Catzenko (which you can probably guess what type of animal she is) and was sent here to recruit your help specifically. Why? This won’t become apparent until much later, but Natasha owns the local Czar Club but also seems to be involved with the local ganger mob boss, so this is going to be dangerous to say the least.

Like most noir tales, this simple ask will be anything but, spiraling into a much more involved and darker story filled with betrayal, danger, violence and more. Sonny won’t be able to do this alone, so he’ll have to amend his relationship with Marty if he wants to survive this case before his retirement dates comes. Sure there’s plenty of clichés and tropes used you’ve seen many times before in a noir setting like this, but it’s written so well with drama and humor that I didn’t even care. Clawville isn’t a safe place at the best of times, so having the Chicken Police back together again exploring the seedy underbelly of the city isn’t going to help their life expectancy.

I’ll refrain from any more story details, as it's quite an interesting narrative that I enjoyed all the way until the credits rolled, but I was absolutely hooked beginning to finish, even if I could see certain story elements happen before it was fully explained. Because of the animal characters there’s plenty of humor and puns throughout, like certain swear words changed to “clucking” and personalities of certain characters that embody their type of animal as well. Each character is memorable in their own way, with Sonny and Marty stealing the show given their amount of screen time and witty dialogue. It may seem odd at first to see human bodies with animal heads, but you eventually just accept it, and sure it gets a bit ‘weird’ when you’re at a brothel, but it is part of Chicken Police’s charm.

While the actual gameplay elements to Chicken Police may be light and mostly based on dialogue choices, there are some detective elements and a few mini-games throughout to keep things interesting. You’ll need to speak to everyone you can, investigate objects and find clues to help you in your case, and while most progression is linear, you’re able to do so at your own pace. If you’re a fan of dialogue choice games then you’ll feel right at home with Chicken Police.

While I’ll delve into the visuals shortly, the whole experience wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t presented in the way it is, not just with the character designs, but the realistic photography used as scene backdrops with the classic black and white filter that Film Noir movies were known for. Being able to explore more than thirty different places within Clawville means you’ll have plenty of locales to investigate and explore before progressing in your latest case. Certain areas are completely optional, allowing for extra lore and dialogue with certain characters. “This city never sleeps - they say. Maybe that's why it is so cranky all the time”.

Being dialogue and narrative heavy it may feel more like a visual novel at times, but the gameplay elements have some basic ‘point-and-click’ elements embedded in as well. The more you converse with characters you’ll get to know them, their story and clues that may help you if they are going to be questioned or interrogated. Uncover certain information and you might be able to question them about certain topics, usually leading you in a certain direction or to specific people for new clues. Each scene you explore will have objects you can inspect or interact with, so it’s a good idea to interact with everything you can and talk to everyone fully before moving on.

At certain points you’ll be able to interrogate certain characters, acting as a sort of mini-game where you’ll need to choose a question from usually three or four, but you’ll need to know who you’re questioning if you want them to break and give you the answers you need. If you push too hard on someone that doesn’t like cops, they probably won’t give you the information you need. Each question will move a meter plus or minus based on how they react to your questioning. It takes a few of these interrogations to get the hang of the ‘best’ questions to ask at any given time, but you’re given clues on the best way to proceed with each character you question by asking specific types of questions or maybe avoiding a certain topic altogether. These interrogation sections can be replayed if you want to try and get a better score, as you’re rated on a star based system given how much you fill up your meter by the time the nine or ten questions are done.

Chicken Police may have an odd title that may turn you away, but you’ll be impressed with its unique artistic style and aesthetic. At first I thought the animal head on a human body was odd, especially when they are made to be sexy and seductive, but it somehow really works well. For being a world and story told in black and white, Clawville may be one of the most colorful cities I’ve explored in a game with its unique cast of characters. By the time the credits rolled after about ten hours or so, everything in Chicken Police just felt normal as I was entranced by its world, characters, dialogue and setting. While there’s not much in terms on animation other than some minor movements and transitions during dialogue, I was still impressed by its own cinematic experience throughout. “Weirdly stunning” is how it’s officially described, and I couldn’t explain it any better myself from its aesthetics and how unique it appears.

What needs a special mention though is the audio as a whole. If it wasn’t for the 100% fully voiced over dialogue, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have enjoyed Chicken Police nearly as much as I did. Over eight hours of spoken dialogue was recorded, even for minor conversations and item descriptions, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Not only is it fully voiced, but it’s done so to perfection by a large cast of characters, even to the minor ones that don’t get as much screen time as Sonny and Marty.

Kerry Shale couldn’t have possibly done a better job as Sonny, not only performing with the raspy and worn down voice you’d expect from a Noir title, but adding some humor and impeccable comedic timing. Shai Matheson as Marty was the perfect counterpart, and as a pair they made the perfect match of a believable chicken duo, as odd as that is to write and admit. The rest of the cast also did a wonderful job, making you believe that’s how their animal really would speak and act. All of this spoken dialogue would be for naught if it wasn’t for the witty and clever writing though, as I never once wanted to skip the dialogue and even had a handful of laughs, especially when “clucking” was the swear word of choice of the duo.

Even more impressive than the already perfect voice work is the stunning and beautiful soundtrack. If you take a moment to think of some smooth jazz and if you were choosing music for a Film Noir game, Chicken Police has it and is absolutely fantastic. I actually have it blasting in the background as I write this review, and the main song that Natasha sings, ‘My City Is On Fire’, is simply perfect. Special kudos to Laszlo 'vincenzo' Vincze for the amazing soundtrack filled with plenty of piano melodies. I can’t think of one way it could be any more fitting for this backdrop.

I honestly came into Chicken Police expecting not very much, maybe because of its silly title and premise, but I can admit when I’m wrong. I came away with an amazingly unique experience that I can’t speak highly enough of. Even though it may not seem like it takes itself serious initially, it’s done so well in every aspect that I truly fell in love with the game, probably one of the better games I’ve played in recent memory. Sure, some might find the premise absurd, as did I initially, but give it a chance and Chicken Police may take you by surprise if you give it the time to sink its beak into you. If you’re a fan of Noir style settings and games, Chicken Police is one of the best indie games I’ve recently played and had a clucking good time.

**Chicken Police - Paint it Red! was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 9.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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