The 1980s has a nostalgic, rather magical glow to it. At least if you believe everything you see in films and games. According to them, everything was covered in neon, people were happy playing Dungeons and Dragons and Pac-Man, wearing strange casual pastel clothing. In reality, the 1980’s were quite terrifying. There was the threat of a nuclear holocaust, crushing unemployment and a pop duo called Black Lace (look ‘em up, kids).
Now Rough Justice: ‘84 takes us back to that time. But this is a game that may surprise you, for it comes with an intriguing, original setup that weaves in a new story, putting you into the shoes of a cop with a score to settle.
Inspired by an actual board game – and also I think episodes of Miami Vice – Rough Justice: ’84 is a strategy/management game. The closest example could well be something like the This is the Police series, although Rough Justice runs a more original take on the format. It takes a while to get used to the gameplay mechanics and rules, but when it all kicks in to the brain, it feels exciting.
You play a policeman who was locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. Jim Baylor is his name and justice is his game. The city of Seneca is a place where the crime rate has rocketed. Jim is approached by an ex-colleague to join his private detective agency, as they look to help with the terrible crimes happening around the city.
The writing and narrative are extremely well told, with brilliant characters and events you come across while out on the street. It’s a clever and nuanced world but it’s still a lot of fun, mostly thanks to those 80’s buddy cop film vibes to it. But there is also a huge overarching narrative to enjoy too, centred on corruption and private enterprise. That in itself is very interesting to see play out.
In terms of gameplay, it gets hard to explain but I will give it a go. You select agents to do your bidding, from several options in front of you. Each agent has different stats like strength and intelligence, along with options to upgrade themselves via several slots available, depending on the said agent. A map of the city appears and there are crimes and events to select from. From there you decide which of the agents to send, and where to send them, all in an allotted time. Confused? Well, it makes a lot more sense when you play it.
An event will happen, for example early in the game – without spoiling it – a robber steals a handbag and you chase after them. You can choose to tackle them and then you have to get involved in a dice roll to see if you are successful or not. Each character will have more heightened stats on certain aspects, or you might have special items you can use to enhance your chance at success. After the success of Baldur’s Gate 3, it’s obvious that this is going to enthral a lot of people and to be honest it’s always very exciting seeing what happens.
The other elements of the game focus on different mini-games that you will have to complete. Some will see you lockpicking, enjoying photofits, hotwiring, working out redacted documents, and many more. These are always entertaining, even if you do end up needing to repeat them a few times over.
The visuals are lush with a brilliant neon colour process. The animation is wonderful too, with some brilliantly drawn characters. It all ensures that Rough Justice: ’84 is just great to look at. Fully voiced over with some great acting, the audio is a delight too, especially when you consider a superb soundtrack and a great sense of the era that allows this game’s solid presentation stand out from other indie games.
A very good strategy game that covers both a great narrative and board-like gameplay, Rough Justice: ’84 is a bit of a stunner, especially visually with some of the best hand-drawn animation you would have seen. The only criticism I can put its way is that it might just feel too overwhelming to begin with, as there is a lot to take in. And perhaps some of the minigames can get slightly tiresome.
But overall, Rough Justice: ’84 is an excellent 1980’s-inspired gaming experience that will tease players to get their pastel suits out and look to deliver some rough justice.