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A.P.B. (Arcade) artwork

A.P.B. (Arcade) review


"For a few short days, Officer Bob knew paradise. The trial for the vacant position on the police force had been surprisingly easy; all he had to do was drive around a parking lot and pretend to arrest some orange cones. Then he was on the job, cruising through town and issuing citations between grabbing donuts on the run. But if Bob had possessed more of an officerís instinct, he may have wondered why such a sleepy whistle-stop needed multiple massive police stations, each flanked by a fleet ..."



For a few short days, Officer Bob knew paradise. The trial for the vacant position on the police force had been surprisingly easy; all he had to do was drive around a parking lot and pretend to arrest some orange cones. Then he was on the job, cruising through town and issuing citations between grabbing donuts on the run. But if Bob had possessed more of an officerís instinct, he may have wondered why such a sleepy whistle-stop needed multiple massive police stations, each flanked by a fleet of black and white units. He surely would have found it a bit odd that he was the only cop ever out on patrol.

He should have noticed that Small Town USA was on the road to Hell.

In his defense, the precipitous decline began innocently enough. Starting out, Bob simply had to ticket litterbugs in their junky pink Cadillacs. Next it was impatient cabdrivers honking people off the road, followed by free-loving hippies toking it up on top of their flower-powered VW buses. Arresting these minor miscreants was easy Ė just a quick flash or two of the siren Ė and each successful shift ended with the Chiefís meaty paw rewarding his newest recruit with a congratulatory pat on the back.

As the criminal element poured in, though, that same hand would find itself wrapped around his pencil-thin neck. Drunken hillbillies began to hiccup across the street in their pickups, too impaired to immediately comply like previous offenders. Then biker gangs rolled into town on their Harleys, running from their latest assault and battery charge. By the end of his second week on the force, murderers in nondescript sedans surround the rookie cop. These hardened killers won't be taken without trading paint... and possibly bullets. (Pick up a piece yourself at the gunshop drive-thru; the department doesn't provide such luxuries.) If Bob is able to survive this long, then his wits and your patience will likely be coming to an end, as even an infinite amount of virtual quarters canít see you through this demented, never-ending crime fighting journey.

The joy of A.P.B. comes from apprehending its crafty criminals while somehow navigating through an equally maniacal town. The overhead view of the city manages to confuse, since the urban sprawl arbitrality grows each day, sprouting numerous little branches and secret detours. The two main thoroughfares generally run parallel to each other, infinitely wrapping back to the station like a strange mobius strip. Still, there's no map for reference. Instead you'll have to key in on distinctive landmarks Ė from Texís Roadhouse to brassy street signs (Yuppieville!) to the billboards shamelessly plugging other Atari games. Keep one eye on the road, though. Stoplights aren't involved when paths do intersect; dodging cross traffic is just part of the job.

All this is done in a car that feels so relatively fast Ė especially after acquiring upgrades for speed and acceleration Ė and controls so precisely that any fine movement with the wheel can dissolve the slim margin for error. Slower bystanders are loathe to pull over along the narrow roadways, so you must constantly weave through traffic. The slightest contact with any stationary object, much less a head-on collision, will ignite Bobís car into a flaming pile.

You can wreck as much as you want, as long as Bob has demerits to spare. There are no lives here, just a record of every mistake you make, and the career of a cop is full of regulations. Tap another car without your siren running. Thatís a demerit. Commit vehicular manslaughter by running over a pedestrian. Thatís a demerit. Short your quota of tickets for the day. Thatís a demerit... for each item missing. Inevitably, youíll hit the magic number of eleven when Bob is canned, quite literally; his former coworkers happily slam the latest failure from the force into a refuse bin.

About the only way to extend Bobís tenure is to catch a wanted criminal from the A.P.B. list. These fugitives show up on predetermined days, and they're the ultimate caricatures in this cartoonish world. Freddy Freak is a red-eyed hash-slinger driving around in his own version of the Mystery Machine. Cool Hand Duke works his women out of his deluxe pimpmobile in Drinkerstown. Philip Fuse is a pseudo-Nazi terrorist that tosses dynamite out of his rocket car, lighting the landscape on fire. Each motor through town, bulldozing everything in his path until you ram his resistance down to nothing. Once the suspect is apprehended, though, itís time to elicit a confession by choking the life of him. But at least you wonít have to meet your quota for that day. Letís hear it for police brutality as a fun and rewarding minigame.

A.P.B. is just that crazy, almost too much for its own good. Itís absurd how fun it is to jet around the scattered city and read the jokes on the guideposts. Itís insane waiting to see what brand of harebrained criminal will pop up next. Itís unreasonable that the game expects you to disregard these distractions long enough to calmly arrest people and meet impossible quotas. The difficulty nearly ruins the experience, making sure your time as Officer Bob is short. But not quite, because A.P.B. is a helluva ride.

Rating: 7/10

woodhouse's avatar
Community review by woodhouse (March 22, 2006)

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