|Developer(s) Mike Davis|
Initial release date 1985
Mode Single-player video game
|Genre(s) Maze game|
Publisher Atlantis Software
|Release date(s) 1985 (VIC)
1986 (C64, C16, P4)
1987 (Electron, BBC)
Platforms Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 16, Commodore Plus/4, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron
Similar Block Ops, Gun, Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie A, The Blockheads, Counter Strike Portable
Cops 'n' Robbers is a game for home computers published by Atlantis Software originally in 1985 for the VIC-20 and in virtually identical form on the Commodore 64. It was ported to the Commodore 16/Commodore Plus/4 (1986), Acorn Electron and BBC Micro (1987) and the Atari 8-bit family of computers (1988). The game was controversial when released as the player is the "robber" and must shoot the "cops."
The player takes the role of a diamond thief named Fingers Lonegan. The game starts at Lonegan's car in the top left hand corner of the opening screen. The player must make their way to the Acme Diamond Company building at the bottom of the screen by negotiating the garden maze. Police appear from the Police station (at the top right of the screen) and will home in on and arrest Lonegan. To avoid being arrested, the player must shoot the police. Bullets are limited but can be replenished by going back to the car. The player may also enter the mine or the police station (not all versions) from this opening screen.
There are many diamonds to collect which are on many levels of the Acme Diamond Company building as well as the mine. Police enter the building but not the mine where the only enemies are ghosts. The player may also enter the police station (on some versions) and free fellow robbers.
There are basic puzzles such as collecting keys, TNT, torches (some rooms are dark so the walls of the maze cannot be seen without the torch) and the code for the safe to advance in the game.
The game was criticised for the fact that you shoot and kill many policemen. At the time, this was highly controversial as video games were very much seen as being for children. Rog Frost in Electron User wrote "I find this game wholly inappropriate. It strikes me as abhorrent that success is measured by the ability to shoot policemen or steal diamonds. It should have been given a fantasy setting where the nasties which must be shot are not recognisable as creatures from the Earth". This view was shared by Ray Sharp of Atari User as "shooting policemen is not my idea of a good thing to teach children to do. Aliens from a distant planet OK but not your neighbourhood bobby".
The game also gained almost universally negative reviews from critics at the time. Despite being a budget game, due to its origins on the VIC-20, the graphics were very basic for most the other machines it was ported to. Also, the original C64 and VIC-20 releases were on the Atlantis Gold label and released at the higher budget price of £2.99 (later versions and most other Atlantis games at this time were released at £1.99).
Electron User was noted for its usually over enthusiastic reviews but even so only awarded an overall mark of 4/10, complaining "The graphics aren't really up to par, even for software at this price. The sprites are simple and undergo a sort of jerky animation... The scenery that supports the action can probably best be described as plain or perhaps boring". Atari User awarded only 2/10 overall (with a score of 0/10 for value for money despite only costing £1.99) concluding "The graphics are pathetic and the sound effects dismal. The game is playable but not for long... it's a disaster". Zzap!64 gave an even lower score of 9% claiming it to be "The worst program we've seen on the 64".
Despite the terrible reviews, the game sold well and was ported to many systems over a number of years. After getting past the limited graphics and sound, buyers seemed happier with the gameplay and it is fondly remembered among retro gamers. The user ratings on current websites are much higher with the current user rating on Commodore 64 website Lemon 64 being a respectable 6.8/10.