Rough Justice '84 is a detective agency management game dripping in '80s nostalgia, and it’s out now

Rough Justice 84
(Image credit: Daedalic)

Dice. They've got us through many a scrape over the years, both on the board and in virtual worlds. They've decided many stamina checks, Pazaak games and V.A.T.S. beheadings—but rarely will you see a detective agency call upon them to solve crimes. 

That's the new ground for Rough Justice '84 rolls out into, a magenta-soaked detective management sim that marries an epic story with puzzles, board game mechanics and the minutiae of running an agency of hard-boiled crime solvers. 

Obviously Miami Vice is the meisterwerk of period crim-busting, but developer Gamma Minus UG speaks fluent '80s pop culture, referencing a much broader range of source material than just Don Johnson's exploits on late evening cable TV. Its story seems to nod to grittier crime movies from the same era, where law enforcement sits pretty on piles of ill-gotten cash, dissatisfied denizens form vigilante mobs and double-crossings reveals even more double crossings. 

Structurally it's reminiscent of This is The Police, and of Hothouse Creations' classic crim sim Gangsters: Organized Crime. You recruit individual agents, each with their own stats, specialities and painterly portraits, and assign them to cases they're suited to—that might be a security job, a repo, tracking down a fugitive or moonlighting.

Here's where the aforementioned dice come in—each agent has five character stats, with a value of 0-5. If they have a 5 for a particular stat, they'll get five dice rolls for that stat check. If they have a 0… what are you even employing them for? Building up the agency, then is about gathering a number of shady private dicks who collectively cover as many different job types as possible.

(Image credit: Daedalic)

It's not just rolling a dice and cracking the case, though. In between you and a good job well done stand a number of era-authentic minigames that test everything from deductive reasoning to reflexes. They're also distinctly '80s—hotwiring a car, for example. Remember when cars had actual keys, and that those keys controlled the ignition? And if you're not running coloured wires into such an antiquated vehicular mechanism, you're starting at the green-on-black glory of an early CRT monitor, trying to decipher an encrypted message. It's clear that great effort has been spent making these minigames feel of a piece with the wistful nostalgia that governs the look and tone of the wider experience, and they're satisfyingly analog.

Owing to its board game heritage, Rough Justice '84 also throws in some gear cards to add another wrinkle. These add an extra point to particular stat rolls, so if you absolutely need a perception check to succeed and you don't back your oblivious agent to get it done unaided, you can throw it an audio recorder pen to add a +1 to the dice roll. Gear cards are arranged in tiers by rarity, and they're depleted after a certain number of uses so you need to deploy them wisely. Or, you know, just let every bad guy in Seneca City run wild, laughing at your incompetence as they make off with a cartoonish bag of cash. 

No Early Access feature-trickle to contend with here—the full release of Rough Justice '84 is out now on Steam.