Let us assume for a moment that you’ve been playing games all your life, and, for some reason or another (too young to remember, cloistered existence, there’s genres other than first-person shooters?, etc.), you’ve never played Pac-Man in one of its gazillion iterations. If so, then here. Also if so, then Aeternus Studios has a hell of a deal for you. Cops N Robbers (80 MSP) assumes your ignorance, and gives you one substandard take on the Namco classic.
It dresses it up some, though it’s the same pellet-eating idea under a criminal versus police coat of paint. You’re behind the robber’s wheels, of course, being pursued as you scoop up the gold (pellets) in each level and do your best to keep a few walls between you and the authorities. To aid in escape, there’s a dynamite powerup that functions as a landmine and is vital to staving off capture.
Successive stages up the ante, adding a more aggressive police presence and trickier collection routes. You can find yourself stuck behind slow drivers that either outright block your progress, or funnel you into the cops’ waiting cuffs. As someone that travels the Illinois Tollway on a daily basis, constantly being cut-off by cars and shoehorned behind slow drivers simply for being in a ‘work truck’, that part’s particularly not fun. I hardly hoped to see it recreated in videogame form, yet here it is, coupled with potholes that can slow your vehicle and prove equally frustrating.
Thankfully, the police can be ‘bought off’ temporarily by collecting dollar signs within the level (taking the place of the ghost-making powerups in the original). So, wait, let’s do the math. A crappy road system and corrupt law enforcement? Add inept politicians, future bankruptcy due to an out-of-control pension situation, and an embarrassing homicide rate that’s the shame of the nation, and Cops N Robbers is almost exactly like living and driving in Illinois!
There’s admittedly some nostalgia that arises from playing the game, though Aeternus Studios squanders that in its execution of the classic cat-and-mouse gameplay. Part of the charm in Pac-Man was its simplicity, tight corridors that stressed careful use and planning of the powerup. Cops N Robbers offers that on the surface, but needlessly complex and aggravating level designs (starting from the third stage on) keep it from finding a consistent rhythm. The scattered layouts make not only collection a chore, but the driving itself, with you getting stuck on plenty of corners and missing turns, leading to cheap ‘busts’, i.e. lost lives.
Cops N Robbers is a reskinned take on Pac-Man with almost nothing new to say about it. It functions well enough for what’s required of an arcade game, though it’s all borrowed ideas. Were this still 1980, it’d be an instant classic. But it’s not, so instead it’s a second-rate copy.