Undercover Cops

Platform: Arcade (Irem M92 hardware)
Other Platforms: SNES, Windows
Developer: Irem
Publisher: Irem
Released: 1992
Genre: Scrolling Brawler
Players: 1-3 (Co-op)
Please note!: This review is based on the Japanese/Alpha Renewal versions of the game, not the World version!

Undercover Cops is a real gem of a scrolling brawler, only marred by some slight quibbles that rear their head at the end of the game. Picking one of three newly-hired City Sweepers- Matt the former American football player who's strong but slow, Zan the ex-karate master who's a balance of speed and strength, and Rosa the vigilante who's fast but fairly weak, you hit the streets to rid the post-apocalyptic world of 2043 of dirtbags like Dr. Crayborn and his flunkies! You do this in the traditional manner of putting boots to asses.

From a mechanics point of view, Undercover Cops fits neatly into what I refer to as the 'simple' Final Fight-alike. That's not an insult- it just means it doesn't try to do anything super-complex like you'd see in games like Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons or Sengoku 3. This one's a bit more traditional, but it hits the fundamentals of the genre like Irem were making these kinds of games for years (all it's missing are lifebars for enemies). In fact, it adds a lot of stuff I wish I saw in more brawlers (wake-up attacks in particular) and takes some elements, weapons especially, up a notch. No room for punk-ass knives here, Matt, Zan and Rosa are packing things like concrete poles and whole boxes of grenades! The game even mixes up the classic food items as some of them are live animals, which means you can take them with you until you need them. These little changes to the standard brawler formula are what makes the game stand out in my eyes- doing what has been done before, but absolutely nailing it.

As you'd expect from a game made by staff who'd go on to create Metal Slug, aesthetics-wise the game is a treat too, with some fantastic character designs (the standard grunts absolutely fit the 'post-apocalyptic scum' theme, and the Moguralian enemies are a standout) coupled with excellent and fluid animation (featuring some of the nicest explosions you'll see in a brawler) and a knock-out soundtrack with the cheesiest voice-samples you're likely to hear from an Irem game. These also add to the game's weird charm- there's little touches of strange humour here and there (like the 'defeated' mugshots at the end of each stage, the delighted sounds character make when they eat live food, etc.) and so I can't help but love the game for stuff like that. I'm easily charmed, what can I say.

However, the game does have two problems in the form of slightly cheap bosses (most of them have a pattern/strategy, but bosses like Moguralian β and Fransowors can feel like they have a huge advantage over you with their sick range, even when you're trying your best) and a final stage that ditches the nicely-paced action of previous stages and seems content to throw huge groups of a single kind of enemy at you a lot. Bit of a shame it drops the ball like this, because aside from that, this is an easy recommendation- a non-Capcom brawler that gets nearly everything right. Now, Irem, where's that sequel...?

For being a solid brawler, Undercover Cops is awarded...

In a sentence, Undercover Cops is...
A solid case of doing something done before, but doing it very, very well.

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