Looking ahead to Chicken Police

It might look like your traditional wacky internet nonsense, but Chicken Police – by developer The Wild Gentlemen’s admission – is best described as ‘Orwellian buddy cop animal noir’. This might be a game featuring a couple of chickens as – surprise – police officers, but there’s also a dark, satirical story behind it all.

What do you do as the rooster cops? Detective work, of course, with point-and-click mechanics joining elements from visual novels – and a bit more sprinkled on top that the studio’s keeping close to its chest for now. But by far the most striking aspect of Chicken Police is its visual style, mixing classic forties film noir with a cut-out collage look straight from the pages of Farm Animals Weekly (not a real magazine).

“We use the animal characteristics of the game largely the same way Orwell’s Animal Farm did,” explains Peter Nadas, co-founder of The Wild Gentlemen. “While not all our characters are purely there for satirical reasons, the world of the game, which we call The Wilderness, is.”

Though Nadas isn’t forthcoming as to how or what Chicken Police satirises, the general overview sees players looking after rooster cop partners, Sonny and Marty. The duo was once known all around Clawville – as, Nadas says, “celebrity cops, real local heroes” – but the story takes place a decade down the line, with each character radically different from the cop – and chicken – they were before. “Chicken Police intentionally confronts its hard-boiled story and design with its absurd humour to create the same ambivalence our heroes encountered during their careers,” Nadas says.

Characters are all animal heads and human bodies.

Roosters and cats and foxes might lead you down the path of thinking this is a game for kids, but those who’ve been paying attention to the words used previously like ‘gritty’ and so on won’t be surprised to hear it’s not the case. “While our story is intended for an adult audience, the absurdity of our characters creates a strong dissonance,” Nadas says. “That’s what makes the animal characters, the comical title, but even the intentionally limited use of colours, so important. The contrast/dissonance itself is a deliberate design decision which the game itself completes and will partially resolve. The ambivalent environment and this sharp contrast are both main strengths of the game, and the world we’ve built around it.”

This unique approach came about partly thanks to one of the studio’s founding members funding development to get the game to a saleable point. The team has been working on it as a game since “somewhere between 2014 and 2015” with the original idea actually popping up as an idea from Chicken Police’s writer, Balint Bank Varga, who envisioned the project as an animation. “The Wild Gentlemen – our studio – was only founded in 2018 when we finally had the chance to get more serious about the game,” Nadas says. “We threw away a lot of the original concept – though we kept the story, characters, and main concept – and started building the project from scratch. So while the roots are long and deep, the real development only started a year ago in Unity.”

Although primarily black and white, Chicken Police occasionally uses colour to vivid effect.

It’s a game that needs to do the rounds to get people on board, and a fine little trailer – complete with original lounge jazz-style noirish song – did a good job. Beyond that, Nadas and the team have been touring Chicken Police around events, and will be releasing a demo to the public towards the end of August. “The show demo was well-received, and we gained a lot of valuable feedback, too,” Nadas says. “We’ve been approached by several publishers, which has been a huge boost, and basically everyone who sat down and played the game got up with a smile on their faces, which was great feedback for us.”

You’ll have a similar smile on first seeing the game, I’d assume, but the hope is there’s enough behind this first release from the Hungarian indie studio to break through the initial smirksome look of things. As long as the satire and humour holds up, there’ll at least be a couple of other things to discuss beyond the fact that it’s a game called Chicken Police, in which the main characters are chickens. Who are also police.

Genre: Noir adventure (with chickens)
Format: PC
Developer: The Wild Gentlemen
Publisher: The Wild Gentlemen
Release: TBC 2020

Wireframe issue 20 is available in stores and online now.

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