Indietail – Beat Cop

Those of you that are a bit advanced in your age may know those old hard-boiled detectives or cops in older crime shows where the protagonist has to take care of cases by the lawbook but in the end uses his own methods to find the culprit. People in my age group may know Brooklyn 99, which is a rather comedic take on the genre of cop-shows, or Lucifer which is going into that direction as well. In older shows, there’s usually some overarching scheme or plan that the antagonist has come up with and the protagonist usually gets clues on that antagonist while working on other cases that have to do with it. 

In today’s review, we’re taking a look at Beat Cop, a game in which we’re an ex-detective who is being framed for crimes he hasn’t committed. On his last case, he got into a Senator’s house, only to find a burglar of sorts who has already been taken care of and an empty safe. He’s accused of having stolen the diamonds that were in the aforementioned safe and hence gets demoted to a Beat Cop, having to patrol the streets – or rather one street – in Brooklyn, write up tickets, catch thiefs, and prove his innocence. 

Developer: Pixel Crow
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Genres: Indie, Retro, Adventure
Release Date: March 30, 2017
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased

Let’s get down to business.

Your first steps revolve around writing up tickets. You check a car’s tires, lights and the parking-meter and then get it towed after leaving your ticket at the front window. You then patrol the street, talk to different people and shop owners and take care of their needs, while fulfilling your quota on certain tasks. The game’s played with your mouse only, resulting in a point-and-click-like feeling. The ticket-writing-process kind of reminded me of Papers Please, which I found rather nice. At first, this gameplay may seem rather boring, especially as you’re usually left with no music at all, but when you’re getting busy and you’re running out of time to fulfil your quota, shit goes down. 

To make it harder for you, the game gives you different tasks every day. Sometimes you’re left with a guest of sorts, sometimes you’ve got to run errands for different people and some other times you need to tow every car in the street as a VIP of sorts is coming around soon. Every day plays differently!

While you’ve got your daily tasks, the game also throws certain distractions at you!

While you are peacefully writing those tickets, you get an alarm via radio that a thief has been reported on your turf, resulting in you having to chase the thief down! In some cases, you’ve also got to help a kidnapping-victim in dire time, stop a man from lighting himself up or removing cult-propaganda in the neighbourhood.

There’re also two gangs in the area that you may want to help now and then. On the west of your street, there’s The Mafia, run by Italians, while on the east-end there’s The Crew, run by Black people. If you help one side, you end up improving your standing with them while also worsening your standing with the other. The Mafia is running a pizzeria and take care of certain people, while The Crew is mixing things up with drugs, weapons and other crimes. 

Not only does the game change things up with different events happening on each day but it also pressures you to take care of the “main quest” in finding out the truth of who’s framing you for their crimes by sending you warnings. Your former partner gets murdered right in front of you, your boss hates you and tells you that you’ll be suspended after 21 days if you don’t return the diamonds, that you don’t have, there’s also the fact that you’ve got to collect money from paychecks and bribes to pay your ex-wife’s alimony. 

Overall, you’ve got timers ticking down in the background, pressing you for time, like the doom clock-timer in Majora’s Mask. To find clues, you’ve got to improve your standing with the gangs eventually. To pay the alimony, you’ve got to accept some bribes here and there or turn a blind eye when some radios get stolen. While I was rather rightful in the beginning, my playthrough became rather corrupt eventually as well. 

Choices matter!

In dialogues, you’ve often got different options to deal with the conversation, resulting in you being a people’s man (and letting tickets go, for instance) or being a douche (by just doing your job). In my playthrough, this didn’t feel that well executed. You shouldn’t become a douche when you’re doing your job and you shouldn’t be a hero when you’re just corrupt. Also, it didn’t really feel like the game’s punishing you hard enough when you accept bribes. You lose a bit of standing with the Police and earn a bit of standing with the people of your neighbourhood, but usually, the police-standing gets evened out by fulfilling your quota. 

The presentation is good, I guess, but also a bit lacking in some regards. 

While the art-style is rather detailed for a pixel-art style, it’s not too special when compared to other games that came out in 2017, like Dead Cells. The music is great!… when you hear it. Usually, you’re left with the sounds you encounter in the street which is rather boring and doesn’t add much to the game. I found it quite disappointing. It’s got slice-of-life vibes here and there with the ordinary tasks of being a beat cop and with the lack of music, I guess, but I doubt that that’s intentional. Here and there you hear music when there’s a boombox nearby but the mixing feels kind of off as well, as it gets really loud when you’re right next to it but is already silent when you’re only a few steps away. 

The humour, however, is rather great… for the most part!

The game tries itself at some darker humour by not only involving subtle jokes like that one German guy at the drug shop wanting to help out anyone apart from the Jewish guy, which took me a few seconds to realise. There’re also other darker jokes here and there that are rather direct and could be applied to today’s day and age – e.g. a black kid being surprised at you helping her instead of shooting her on sight. Oof. 

But here comes a big problem with the game: I don’t know where the line is between black humour and racism. 

The devs call this game “an homage to old cop shows that they used to watch as kids” but at the same time, there’s a ton of racism going on in it with slurs being spurted out in nearly every conversation. There’s also the fact that the one female coworker at your police department is getting sexually harassed daily while some other “bigger” coworker is being openly bullied by everyone else. Black people are referred to as “darkies”, Italians as several pasta-references, the Chinese are called “yellowies”, gay people are being called the f-slur, women get called the c-slur, and the list goes on. 

I don’t get it where they are drawing the line. Calling black people “darkies” or whatever is as bad as calling them the n-word in my opinion. The devs don’t want to overstep that line, so they try to pull back and tone this part of the game down… and yet, they don’t pull back when it comes to gay people or women? Calling all women the c-slur and all gay people the f-slur seems to be no problem to the devs. They are being openly sexist and racist. I guess you could argue that it’s “just an art form of sorts” but I personally don’t believe that provocation for the sake of provoking is any good. If people were to say “Heil Hitler” on the streets over here in Germany, they wouldn’t get away with saying “it was just a joke” or “it’s just an homage to old times”. They’d get fined.

I feel like the constant use of the c-slur and the f-slur as well as the constant harassment that some of the people are undergoing are creating an atmosphere where it’s alright to discriminate against women and against gay people “because they’re different from us”. Meanwhile the name-calling is just horrible in regards to the people of colour, featured in the game… and I know that it’s just a game but I don’t think that it’s alright to draw the line when it comes to racism but not draw the line when it comes to sexism, homophobia and other things. It’s just horrible.

My solution for this would have been to have an option where it censors all slurs with stars or where it doesn’t call people of colour “spaghetti” or “yellowies” or “brownies”. If you activate that “sfw-mode” or “clean mode”, you end up with a version of the game where you can enjoy the actual gameplay and the actual plot of the game (good parts, actually). If you don’t have that activated, you get a bad game where people are getting called slurs – for the sake of… edginess?

I mean, really… the game is just being edgy with this. There is no “black humour” in this case. Calling a women the c-slur and constantly making it seem as if harassing women at your workplace is alright, is not black humour: It’s a dickmove. It tells a lot about you.

Calling gay people the f-slur and just making fun of them for the sake of laughing about it, is just edgy. It’s not “an homage”, it’s just homophobic. And looking back at the fact sheet… this game is from 2017 and yet the game devs seem to be just edgelords that are trying to say that discrimination is alright when it’s in a game or when it’s set in the 60s…

Provoking for the sake of provocation is not cool. The slurs and the insults are not adding any value to the game. It doesn’t become more “like in the 60s” by adding a couple of “c***s” and “fa**ots” into the speech while censoring yourself when it comes to the n-word. It’s just being edgy and running away when it goes too far, tail between the legs. I just feel like I’ve talked too much about this already. This part of the game sucks. Inherently it’s a good game but the devs just tried too hard to be edgy and ruined a lot of the fun experience for me.

Overall, I did enjoyed playing this game. It was fun. It took its time for the plot to pick up the pace but eventually, I was rather excited about it. I also managed to double or even quadruple my quota while at the same time collecting bribes, running errands and doing missions. The time-management aspects in this game are rather interesting and there hardly have been any times where I had to restart a day and try again. I also haven’t encountered any bugs yet and am quite hyped about unlocking those other endings there. 

However, I cannot recommend this game to anyone who’s easily offended by certain slurs and discrimination overall. While I did have fun with the original game formula… I didn’t enjoy these sexist and homophobic aspects of the game’s characters… at all. They don’t add value to the game. They make it worse actually.

So, final verdict:

While I did enjoy the game, I cannot recommend it to everyone. It can be really offensive and inappropriate. If you don’t care about that, go for it. Good game. If you care about discrimination and stuff, don’t necessarily buy this game. It has got some issues.

Anyways, have a nice day and be careful where you park your car! We don’t like those tickets!

Indietail – Children of Morta

After a small break from the daily posting, we’re back again with another review! Today we’re taking a look at Children of Morta, a game about family-bonds and monster-slaying! Please enjoy this review!

Developer: Dead Mage
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Genres: Rogue-lite, Action, Dungeon Crawler
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (Windows, Linux, Mac OS), Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Copy received from the 11 Bit Studios

But what is Children of Morta about?

Children of Morta is about the Bergson-family consisting of Grandma Margaret, Uncle Ben, Father John, Mother Mary, and their Linda, Kevin, Mark and Joey. They live at the foot of Mount Morta and have to fight against the spreading Corruption which is endangering their homelands, Rhea. To do that, they venture into different dungeons to find clues about the Corruption and the source of it.

In its core, Children of Morta is a story-driven rogue-lite-dungeon-crawler where you’re playing as six of the Bergsons that can be categorized into different classes, ranging from the brawlers John (Bruiser) and Joey (Juggernaut), the swift Mark (Monk) and Kevin (Rogue), and the ranged Lucy (Mage) and Linda (Archer). While John and Joey are rather tanky and have high durability at the cost of less movement speed, Mark and Kevin focus on high mobility, quick strikes and crits, while Lucy and Linda are great at distance but are not that good in close quarters.

By diving into the dungeon, you’re able to receive not only clues about the world’s lore and the source of the Corruption but also gain cosmetic items for your house – and gold which also can get invested into bonus-stats for your characters. These range from simple stat-buffs like attack damage and movement speed to increased “luck” (more gold), increased experience, and others!

When entering the dungeons, you’re able to not only level up your characters permanently but also gain items that improve your chances of beating the boss of the dungeon.
For instance, there’re usable relics with a cooldown that provide you with a shield, blocking all damage for a short while and then exploding for massive damage around you, or, if you don’t like that, why not place a totem that buffs you, slows enemies or even distracts them from you so that you can snipe them as Linda?

Some one-use-items can give you gems, healthpoints, small buffs, etc. while other charms can grant you passive boni like a poison-DoT-effect on enemies that are hurt by you and your abilities or a small little companion that stuns enemies for you. There’re tons of combinations for items on every run, which is hella rad!

But how does one acquire items?

Well, on every level there’s at least one item-room with a divine relic, which helps you a lot. It can be an active item or a passive charm but usually you don’t want to miss out on those anyways! There’s also crates all around levels that have to be opened with gems that get dropped by enemies or are found at corpses and pots and the like. These crates can contain gold or more gems, runes and items. When you have spare gems, you can also invest them at the shop before the end of the current floor to heal up or receive more items!

There are also special rooms where you’re able to help refugees that fled from the Corruption into the Dungeon or where you do other tasks like defeating hordes, playing a game of “God’s Pong”, escort NPCs to other rooms, and lots more. At the end of all of them you’re rewarded with items, again. However, while some are rather easy to complete, others can cost you some life points or are rather tricky to master. Hence, you should always wager if it’s worth it to risk your precious life points for an item now or if you should rather push for the boss, especially since some items might not synergize with your character, like a damage-aura around your character when you’re playing a ranged one.

And while there are items that may not be that good on your character, there are no bad items.

Items do not synergies in a bad way like in The Binding of Isaac where you can get boomerang tears and ipecac, which is quite bad unless you also have explosion immunity.

So, it’s always great to pick up items in Children of Morta! I once even had an item that sets enemies on fire while I had a rune that poisoned enemies that I hurt, which lead to two DoT-effects proccing on all enemies!

With items you can make up for your character’s flaws or empower your strengths – an aspect that I really enjoyed!

On top of items and the stat-upgrades, you’re also able to level your characters by defeating enemies. When levelling up, you gain skill points which then can be invested into powerful new skills or upgrades for recent ones. By investing points into your skills, you reach new skill-levels, unlocking bonuses for ALL other family members. For instance, John unlocks a passive skill for all characters at level 20 that recovers some HP every few seconds. Usually, you could only get healed by potions and items, so HP-regeneration is a pretty big deal. Other family members also unlock stuff like “more movement speed”, “more crit/dodge chance” or even a free gem on every new run. Runes get unlocked with levels, too, not only for your own character – though – but also other members. Hence, when you level Linda, her runes become available for other members – i.e. Mark uses his magic whipping-ability and also casts Linda’s explosive crescendo when equipped with the that rune! Runes, however, are used up over time making them not as overpowered as one might reckon!

While combat and all the strategies and stuff are quite cool in Children of Morta, the game truly shines in the cutscenes in between runs.

When you end a run, you’re presented with different cutscenes about the daily lives of the different characters, giving you insight over the character relationships, their dreams, wishes, values, worries, flaws and other weaknesses. I love slice-of-life-shows and I definitely am getting those vibes in this game, too. On top of that, when you unlock characters you get some more cutscenes where they interact with their family members.

Relatively early into the game, you can see Kevin training in secret and even receiving his own daggers from his uncle, the family’s smith Ben! He’s excited and wants to help his family in every way but his mother is worried about him. There’s a few cutscenes for this one that are shown after every other run, I think, which changes the pace by quite alot. After all, you’re able to see these lovely scenes after getting back from dangerous runs!

I really enjoyed these little scenes and the interactions between characters. Even when you’re not doing anything and just relaxing in between runs, the characters are talking to each other or training or doing something else – which is quite neat to spectate.

There’s also a few log entries that you can check out once in a while to find out more about the characters’ pasts. I highly recommend reading those entries once you find them! They’re very interesting! My favourite character, by the way, is Ben!

He’s a lovely old fella and his background story is also really cool. I love seeing him interact with everyone and dwell in the past and all that.

Overall this is a lovely game, as one can see in its presentation!

The music is great and very atmospheric, the narrator is awesome, has a warm voice and makes every scene better, and then there’s the art style: It’s pixel art and while you surely feel like you’ve seen pixel art in basically every indie game ever made, you’ll shortly notice that it’s very detailed and quite beautiful. Especially the lighting in some places makes the world feel so lively and the dungeons so enigmatic! It’s truly a beautiful game.

But now onto some flaws. While the soundeffects and the soundtrack are great, there’s moments where a track stopped or where the game isn’t sure about what to do next. It’s just silent. Another thing I noticed was the fact that aiming feels a little bit sluggish here and there, especially when playing a ranged character like Lucy or Linda. But other than that I didn’t really have any issues with the game. The game surely is hard at the beginning but due to the levelling, the upgrades, the unlocked runes, abilities, and items, you get the hang out of it quite fast. When you get stomped once, you often can go to older dungeons, level up and return to the higher dungeons in order to master them. Every run feels refreshing and, as you probably can tell, I am, frankly, in love with this game which is why I highly recommend this game!

I hope you enjoyed today’s review! I tried to use topic sentences and highlight important bits of pieces while not making the review too long. If you’ve played Children of Morta, too, feel free to comment on your experiences with it. I’d love to receive some feedback on this post so feel free to also comment on suggestions or point out mistakes of mine!

Anyways, I wish you a lovely rest-weekend and hope you don’t mind tomorrow’s mondayness too much.
Cya! 🙂

Note: I haven’t touched the Multiplayer at all since right now it only features local multiplayer. There’s Online-Multiplayer planned for the near future, according to the devs’ twitter and steam page, so stay tuned for that when I’m getting to it in another post.