This Is the Police Review

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Time management and simulation games are a tricky genre to tackle and objectively critique. For one, fans tend to be quite fond of games that border on “impossible” in terms of getting things done and keeping order: if it’s easy to do, then it’s a failure as a sim. At the same time, you need something to compel you to remain balanced and choose where to delegate your time and effort: there’s a reason Overcooked was such a success and New Frontier Days has already been forgotten. Strife, hardship and narrative make the genre go ‘round.

This is the Police, coming out of Weappy Studio, is the story of Jack Boyd, a police chief who’s just been told he’s resigning in one year’s time due to reports of scandal and corruption within the police force. Due to some unforeseen circumstances that involve the mob and your former second in command being eyeballs deep in crime, you have to figure out how to meet several goals at once. Namely, you need to pay off an illegal debt, make a nest egg all your own (your pension is gone), keep doing your job and, most importantly, keep everyone alive, especially yourself. Jack has his work cut out for him, but, when you’ve got no other choice, you gotta find a way.

As you may have guessed, This is the Police is the aforementioned time management and simulation package rolled into one. Each day starts over a map of the city, and, naturally, crime starts happening around sunrise and keeps going long into the night. As chief, your duty is to dispatch officers to crimes in the moments after they’re called in, with the caveat being that you can’t be everywhere at once. Crimes rarely are convenient and you often have multiple calls within a minute of each other. It’s equal parts judgment and clairvoyance, because the hostility of the criminal and the skill of the cop are sometimes variable. You put two good cops on an armed robbery, there’s a chance only one will come back. You put one cop on a noise disturbance and suddenly you end up with a dead civilian because there was a hidden weapon. It’s not always “holy shit random” but there are certainly times where assumptions means nothing in comparison to what could happen.

As the days progress, you also have to manage the police force you have. Cops get tired and need days off, or they get sloppy and maybe start thinking about jobs “on the side,” like working for the mob. You can’t hire and fire at will because you’ll run out of money, run out of officers and suddenly you’ll have a day where crime runs rampant. Give praise and promotions to some cops, even if they don’t deserve it, because keeping the peace and making sure the force is happy means the city is a little safer. Then you also need to get detectives to figure out crimes that no one directly witnessed, which brings in a whole mini game of finding puzzle pieces in the form of photographs to figure out what happened. This can take multiple days or even longer, but the rewards are often worth it. In general, there ends up being a lot more on your plate than you bargained for, but that is the thematic of the entirety of the game.

In fact, This is the Police is meant to beat down players in multiple ways. Besides the mechanics themselves, the overarching plotline is thick with deals with the devil and lesser of two evils. Jack is really trying to get to the other side without staining his soul too badly, but there can come a point where you realize it’s better to have something on Earth than nothing in Hell. The NPC police officers that you command do have their own stories and identities that, though brief, still can connect you to their own ideals and causes. Cutscene dialogue between days shows that there’s more to Jack’s cynicism than meets the eye, and you have to understand that most of the world, and most of the game, isn’t black and white. I’d say that the tonality of the game works incredibly well, right up to the ending, which shows you, in a crushing way, that sometimes you can’t fix everything, no matter how you try.

The art style and music of This is the Police is on point with conveying the almost pulpy atmosphere in which the characters exist. Everything feels like I’m listening and watching a 50s style detective story, with Jack’s gritty voice narrating his life between the scenes and the designs being very angular and faceless. I loved being able to get additional records as presents and rewards for the office soundtrack, and none of them went further than the jazz era.  We can infer this is music that even predates Jack’s childhood, maybe going back to what his parents listened to, when things were “right and wrong” and it was easy to see who was good and who was bad. The irony, of course, being that police were just as corrupt, if not moreso, in the days of shine running and organized crime having a public face.

Some may shy away from This is the Police for the Nintendo Switch simply because it’s an older indie title, one that’s already made its way to both PS4 and XB1 in the past. However, I argue this is the definitive edition for two important reasons. Firstly, mobility. There isn’t a single official port of This is the Police to any mobile platform, and carrying around a Switch is more plausible and logical than dragging a laptop with you “for games.” Secondly, touch screen controls. Holy Gods, nothing makes management games better than touch screen. I was really scared I was going to have to emulate mouse and keyboard with just the JoyCons, but Weappy thought again, and bless them for it. It’s totally doable to have the game docked and make decisions with the buttons, but everything feels smoother being able to touch your choices. I almost wept with joy. This is what we needed.

This isn’t your diner simulation for the new generation. You aren’t going to be grooming pets or cleaning hotel rooms at lightning speed. This is the Police threatens to draw you in for a serious look at what you consider more important in terms of a human being’s worth, and you have only seconds to decide if citizens, officers and even criminals need your attention and to what degree. It’s probably better to try and stay cold to the game, because getting involved at an emotional level will destroy you in the long run. Still, if you need that stress in your life and want something to keep you with a story instead of just “reward” mechanics, then you’ve found a grand avenue to pursue. This isn’t where you close your eyes and the demons go away. This is the Police.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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