There may never have been a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than Mos Eisley, but I think Roachtown in Chicken Police: Into the Hive (or Chicken Police 2) might give it a run for its money. The famous feathered coppers are back for a second helping of seed, and this time the anthropomorphic poultry duo are on a murder trail that leads into the heart of the walled-off crime-ridden Hive. We were given early access to this cesspit of exoskeletons, just before the demo launches on Steam as part of Steam Next Fest.
The build we got, just like the demo you’ll be able to play and shown above, omits several expository details, choosing instead to give a flavour a few scenes in, and without giving too much of the game away. Private Detective Sonny Featherland has been hired by a female insect we don’t get to meet, to investigate a murder and the trail has led to the Hive. He needs his trusty partner Marty McChicken and some official paperwork to get in, and even then, two famous chicken cops could easily wind up a chalk outline on the street.
We got to play some three or four scenes of the game, mostly sampling the fantastic writing, and voicework that returns with a wallop, and getting an idea of what’s to come. In around an hour of play, we got to revisit the Clawville PD station, get Marty back on task despite getting thrown out by his missus earlier that night, and then head to a bar on the outskirts of the Hive, called the Distant Light. I’m not reviewing a demo, but it did feel a little disjointed, as these scenes didn’t quite string together. For example, Sonny says he’ll take Marty back to his office to bring him up to speed on the case, only we skip that scene, and the next is the bar in Roachtown.
Chicken Police was and remains a point and click adventure, and you’ll be clucking, sorry clicking your way through it, hearing Sonny and Marty’s banter, and interviewing and interrogating witnesses and suspects. The demo had us speaking to Sonny and Marty’s competition in detective circles, a fox and cat pairing called Moses and Plato (who are soon to have their own game) and asking for a favour, trading sarcastic jibes with snail doormen, and spider bartenders, and trying to find a way to meet the Queen of the Hive. It’s all very much in keeping with the tone and style of the first game, and didn’t throw in that many surprises, but I was pleased just to bask in the atmosphere, writing and general assurance of this second outing.
Once again its some kind of Raymond Chandler fan’s weird fantasy, where animals took the places of Marlowe and the denizens of Hollywood, and everything gets even seedier and murkier. From the dialogue to the narration, to the black and white presentation and noir lighting, everything screams the hard-boiled aesthetic, and it’s just wonderful. This time around, there’s a colour mode if you fancy it, but I must say most of its uniqueness and allure comes from its presentation, and colour somehow robs it of much of that atmosphere.
I can’t believe it’s been four long years since the original Chicken Police. I said back then that I hoped it did so well it would spawn sequels, and here we are with a fully fledged second entry, and not only that but multiple vignette games popping up around it like Zipp’s Café and the forthcoming Last Train to Clawville, branching out from Raymond Chandler into Agatha Christie and more.
So is it worth diving into Chicken Police Into the Hive! Yes, and then some. If you liked the first game, its more of the same hard-boiled investigation and tough-talking noir, just with even more assurance and swagger. The demo gives a great flavour of what’s to come, albeit without giving much of anything away regarding the central mystery. But it’ll wet your appetite for the main course. And the gameplay remains simple, intuitive and satisfying. It’s one for those who value narrative, plot and atmosphere over open-world, gunplay and crafting, but if that’s you, you won’t be putting a claw wrong.
It can be hard to say from just an hour whether the full game will keep up the tone throughout, or be better or worse. There could be new mechanics that we end up not liking, or indeed whole new ideas that end up better than the original. It remains to be seen. But on the strength of this, I’ll certainly be chicken enough to give it a whirl when it releases later in 2024. Although, I really don’t want to meet that baboon in a dark alley.
Chicken Police Into The Hive! is coming to PC (preview platform) later in 2024.
Developer: The Wild Gentlemen
Publisher: Joystick Ventures
Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we were provided with a preview build of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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