Chicken Police: Paint It Red developed by The Wild Gentlemen and published by HandyGames is a compelling noir mystery anchored by thought-provoking dialogue and fantastically fleshed out characters. Utilizing a unique and gritty visual novel approach to storytelling, Chicken Police weaves an intriguing tale and remains fully committed to its admittedly odd world – full of chicken police, rat gangsters, snake doctors, and harlequin cats – throughout.
While your initial impulse upon beginning Chicken Police may be to laugh at its wildly mature storyline being told by human looking animals with names like Marty MacChicken, by the end of the first chapter you’ll be fully immersed in its drama soaked world, itching to find the next clue and to interrogate your next suspect.
The story begins – as all good noir stories do – with a cop on the verge of retirement reluctantly tackling one last case. Enter hard drinking Sonny Featherland, laid off from work and estranged from both his partner and wife. Featherland is your typical no nonsense rough-around-the-edges cop, a former member of the once famous Chicken Police, but now not much more than a washed up has been.
Mr. Featherland worked for the Predatory Division of the Clawville Police Department alongside his partner, Marty MacChicken, for nine years during which their exploits and penchant for violence led to something of a cult status for the pairing – including a series of highly successful novels.
After a chance meeting with a doe who fears for the life of her boss, Miss Catzenko, Featherland is thrust into a mystery spanning the darkest depths of Clawville which forces him to reunite with his ex-partner, despite their storied past and violent last encounter. Mysterious threats, Catzenko’s unwieldy mob boyfriend Ibn Wessler, and a wide array of colorful characters are just a few of the objectives standing in Featherland’s way of solving his case.
Chicken Police surprised me with its story and dialogue, which focuses on murder, deception, brothels, racism, and a city quickly descending into chaos. The banter between Featherland and the various characters he encounters is intelligent, nuanced, and wildly entertaining. The writing and cast are top notch and deliver the story so well that most players will be swept into the mystery within minutes. I was constantly caught off guard with how far the story was willing to go despite its setting and occasionally moved by surprising moments of innocence or enlightenment thrust upon its characters.
The core gameplay exists around the player’s ability to investigate a room, piece together clues, and interrogate suspects or witnesses. Each area you encounter is filled with items which can be observed and commented on, many times hiding pertinent information or even leading to a puzzle which must be solved to progress.
Every individual encountered is important. Normally, the game will allow you to either comment on a character, speak to the character, ask the character various questions, or interrogate the character. Although, not all options are open for everybody and some will only open once enough information is found.
Much of the game depends on the player painstakingly reviewing every item in an area and being sure to speak to, observe, and ask every question and follow up question available. Much of the game will be missed if players are not willing to slow down and really pay attention to the details.
Interrogations are rated and allow Featherland to figure out the information needed to progress to the next chapter. In these sections you will have to piece together what you know of the suspect and how they may react to a specific line of questioning and then choose your questions wisely to gain their trust, otherwise you may fail the interrogation and not find out the information necessary to continue. Each question will lead to a new question and so on until you obtain all the information you can from an individual.
Featherland keeps a detailed journal and a bag on him at all times, both of which are invaluable to players throughout their time in Clawville.
The journal has tabs for clues, people, places, stats, and a codex. Clues cover all the important bits of information you’ve stumbled upon during your playthrough, people lists every character integral to the story along with the information you’ve discovered thus far on them, places compiles a list of important areas along with a few notes, stats gives a breakdown of how far you’ve progressed in your playthrough, and codex provides with you detailed information about various topics.
The bag has items which Featherland has obtained throughout the chapters. These items are used to figure out clues or to break down a scene and link them to suspects.
After completing an area, or at various other times during a chapter, you can access the map. The map allows you to choose where to go next and labels scenes as Main, Limited, or Closed. Main scenes move the story forward, limited scenes last for a specific duration and appear at various times during your playthrough, while closed scenes cannot be reached until a specific part of the story.
The bulk of the game is listening to dialogue, observing areas, and solving puzzles although this is randomly broken up by mini games such as participating in a shootout, practicing at a shooting range, opening up trap doors, or untying ropes.
A game such as Chicken Police, one that is so heavily focused on dialogue, can only work if it is well written. Thankfully, Chicken Police features a gripping story filled with fleshed out characters and intriguing writing.
If I have any real complaints, it is that I would have loved to spend more time in the world of Clawville. There are so many backstories that we learn about but never get to explore, so many characters I would have loved to learn more about, and so many places – live Hive City – I would have loved to visit. Here’s hoping we at least get a sequel.
While only 6 or so hours in length, Chicken Police delivers a highly polished, incredibly written, and immensely enjoyable noir mystery. Do yourself a favor and don’t sleep on this intriguing indie release.