Rough Justice ’84 – Review
Follow Genre: Strategy game, puzzle game, board game
Developer: Gamma Minus UG
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

Rough Justice ’84 – Review

Site Score
Good: Voice cast does a stellar job
Bad: Switch version is blurry in handheld mode
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)

After the massive flop that was Gollum, Daedalic Entertainment quit developing games themselves altogether and switched their focus to publishing titles from indie developers instead. They’ve been diligent at this: we’ve only just reviewed Destroyer and we’re already looking at another Daedalic-published game: Rough Justice ‘84. While the title may bring the DC universe to mind, with Justice and ‘84 in the title, this is in fact a gritty cop drama that plays out as a digital board game of sorts. It’s an interesting premise to be sure, but does it make for a good game?


Paying homage to classic ‘80s cop shows and films like Miami Vice and Lethal Weapon, Rough Justice ‘84’s storytelling has a cinematic quality to it, without getting in the way of the game’s board game-inspired gameplay -quite the opposite, in fact. Central to the story is Jim Baylor, a former “super cop” who was wrongly put behind bars. During his absence, crime has found the space to run rampant, and a desperate government has expanded private law enforcement agencies’ power to counteract this. Jim joins one such agency, at the behest of his former partner, and now has to deal with an ever-growing conspiracy involving classic ‘80s criminals like corrupt politicians and bikers… as well as Nazis. At face value, Rough Justice ‘84’s story is completely ridiculous and filled with clichés and predictable plot twists. Rather than turn into a self-parody a la UnMetal, however, Rough Justice ‘84 plays out completely straight, and quite unexpectedly, this approach just works.


The gritty hand-painted character portraits depicting Rough Justice ‘84’s cast wouldn’t have looked out of place in Disco Elysium, but here they are juxtaposed against the neon-lit aesthetics of the city of Seneca, a place that feels like the epitome of 1980s kitsch. The game manages to successfully blend the different art styles that make up the individual gameplay elements together, and sprinkles gorgeous cutscenes, both static and animated, on top. While the gameplay resembles that of a traditional board game, with dice and cards, Rough Justice ‘84 doesn’t emulate board games visually, with the city rendered as a synthwave-inspired 3D environment instead. We should note that the game’s resolution takes a hit on the Switch compared to other versions of the game, especially when playing in handheld mode. With the exception of the hotwiring minigame screenshot, the images shown in our review were captured in docked mode, just to give you an idea of how blurry the game gets. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this issue, as the first Jurassic World Evolution also had a massive discrepancy between docked and handheld resolution on the Switch, but Rough Justice ’84 shouldn’t be as taxing on the platform as Frontier’s dinosaur management sim is. Even so, Rough Justice ‘84 looks great aesthetically, but if you absolutely have no other options than the Switch, then docked play is the way to go.


While Rough Justice ‘84’s graphics set a high bar, aside from the Switch resolution issues, the audioscape actually manages to surpass the visuals. There is of course the period-appropriate soundtrack, filled with deliberately over-the-top synth music, which deserves praise on its own, but the stars of the show are the voice cast. The game is fully voiced and every single cast member does a stellar job in bringing their character to life.


So far we’ve sung Rough Justice ‘84′s praises, but unfortunately, the game drops the ball when it comes to tying things together with its gameplay. It’s not a bad game, far from it, but we felt like there was a disconnect between the actual gameplay and the story and audiovisual presentation. This is mostly because Rough Justice ‘84 doesn’t put you into the shoes of a lone wolf ex-cop taking matters into his own hands as you’d expect. Instead, the game puts you in charge of a PI agency, where you hire freelance detectives and accept assignments, which play out in the form of skill checks and minigames. There are missions that drive the overarching plot forward, of course, and your ultimate goal is to see the story through to an end, but ultimately the inclusion of a board-game style overworld map and minigame-based puzzles ends up feeling more like an incredibly weird rendition of Mario Party than the This is the Police-like game you’d expect based on the premise. It’s difficult to fully explain how Rough Justice ‘84’s mechanics work because there are so many different elements to keep in mind.

From your HQ, which acts as the hub area, you’ll assign your agents to different randomly generated missions and give them instructions on how to proceed. There is one massive caveat here, however: each agent has their own skillset, but you won’t always know which of their skills are required to successfully complete a mission, although the game does drop the occasional hint. Sometimes, you luck out but other times, you pretty much automatically fail a mission simply because you don’t have the right skills on the agent you selected. Even if you select the right agent, you’re still dependent on luck, as the game utilizes dice-based skill checks to see if your agent successfully completes a task. It’s a bit of an odd design choice, as having no way to succeed in a mission takes the flow out of the gameplay and it feels like an arbitrary way to pad game time.

The minigames that you encounter on missions are randomly selected as well. These represent the various tasks that your agents encounter, like having to pick locks, hotwiring a car, or solving simple memorization puzzles. These often emulate time-appropriate technology, further driving home the ‘80s aesthetic. The various missions usually don’t take too long to complete, but this is where there is another design flaw in Rough Justice ‘84. As we mentioned, things play out in real-time and your agents aren’t necessarily tackling one mission at a time, and you’re managing various crime scenes at once. This can be overwhelming, and there were times when one of our agents failed their mission simply because we weren’t keeping an eye on them as we were busy upgrading the skill set of another agent.

The description above may make it seem like Rough Justice ‘84 is a completely random game that relies on luck rather than skill. While this is true for a significant chunk of the game, especially early on when you only have a handful of agents, there are several ways in which you can stack the odds in your favor. Your agents can be upgraded and you’re able to add bonus dice and item cards to your arsenal. There are nuanced layers to Rough Justice ‘84’s gameplay, even if things do play out in a very straightforward manner. This makes the game rewarding for those who stick with it, but ultimately, Rough Justice ‘84’s gameplay is an acquired taste, and initially much less palatable than the game’s 1980s aesthetics.

Playing through Rough Justice ‘84 shouldn’t take too long, and most players should be able to take down Seneca’s crime syndicate and clear Jim Baylor’s name in a handful of hours. The randomized nature of the missions aids with replayability, but ultimately, the €19.99 price point does feel a little steep for the amount of content you are getting here. Fortunately, Daedalic Entertainment has a history of discounting their games fairly often, so while we do recommend adding this one to your collection should it have piqued your interest, it’s probably best to wait for a sale before snagging this one.


Fantastic audiovisual presentation and simple-but-effective storyline aside, Rough Justice ‘84 is one of those titles that is more interesting in concept than it is in execution. The gameplay is skewed towards luck instead of skill, especially early on. While you can definitely come up with strategies to beat the odds, success depends on resources that allow you to tip the scales. If you can get past these imbalances there is plenty of fun to be had here, but perhaps not enough to warrant a full-price purchase.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Rough Justice '84 - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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