Developer Weappy Studio has enjoyed some notoriety as the developer of This is the Police, and now it's firing right into its own spinoff, Rebel Cops. Set in 1994, Rebel Cops is centred around a rogue faction of ex-police officers who are sick of the system and seeing their town overrun by mobsters, and decide to go out on their own to apprehend criminals. Dealing with back-alley arms dealers, busting mobsters and carefully planning their next operation is all part of the fun.

On paper, Rebel Cops sets out to deliver on an intriguing premise – morally murky cops going rogue and putting things into their own hands sounds fantastic – but the forces you go up against are often just painted with the same old mobster brush that we’ve seen for years. The shady criminals you’ll be pitting yourself against can effectively just be called “naughty Russians”, a tired trope that we’ve all seen before, and a trope that has been executed better in countless other forms of media. This is because the scenario of Rebel Cops is all just window-dressing for the missions and game mechanics.

This squanders the premise of Rebel Cops in the first place, and you could blink and suddenly be playing a game set anywhere, at any time. If one of those Rebel Cops whipped out a Cloud Strife-esque Buster Sword, we wouldn’t even blink. It’s clear that a lot of love has been put into the creation of the atmosphere of Rebel Cops, but it is, unfortunately, let down by its paint-by-numbers scenario and plot.

At its core, Rebel Cops is a turn-based tactics game. When you set out on a mission, you allocate a troop of cops, with different innate abilities to suit a certain loadout. Some will be sharpshooters, while others will be better at stealth. There is no personality attached to the names and faces of these cops, making it slightly frustrating to remember exactly who has what skills and abilities when going into a tricky mission. Additionally, you have to equip each of your units individually, with no “auto-equip” feature to give your cops even a basic loadout of a pistol and some ammo. The busywork soon grows old.

Thankfully, the moment you get out on a mission, the game really comes into its own. Each of your cops has two action points to spend on movement and a variety of options such as stunning your enemies with a baton or taser, holding them up or straight-up killing them through a chance-based shot, dependent upon distance and the skill of the unit.

The mission structure is usually centred around finding something, recovering hostages or getting to a certain area of the map. This is a pretty difficult affair when the game presents you with limited turns to complete the mission. In the early stages, we were carefully positioning units for stealth and making our way through the levels methodically, but eventually, we failed due to running out of turns. This is a great way to get you to play a bit more dangerously and forces you to use all of the tools in your arsenal to get the job done.

The maps are often pretty large and have collectables that you can gather throughout. This leaves your tactical options pretty open and offers countless ways to replay a mission. The game rewards you for making non-lethal arrests, at the cost of taking up another action. Be wary though; even on the easier difficulty, Rebel Cops is still pretty unforgiving. On more than one occasion, we lost almost every unit by alerting guards. Luckily, the game gives you a few options when it comes to rolling back to an earlier turn. You can save three times on each mission, so if you are about to commit to a ballsy decision, you’re able to revert back in case things don’t quite go according to plan.

You can also allocate units towards a side objective to complete whilst also in the main mission, and we found it pretty tricky to divide up our resources like that – adding another welcome layer of challenge to this already unforgiving game. They also give the game another layer of replayability, if you decide not to complete them the first time around.

The core game is really compelling and is perfect for both long play and short bursts. Missions can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete, and the three-saves-per-mission system makes it pretty simple to pick up or drop off at any point. However, there is a pretty big disadvantage when playing in handheld mode: onscreen text can become small to the point of being illegible. Considering that the Switch Lite has an even smaller screen, this could lead to the text becoming even harder to read.

Conclusion

Despite the bumpy setting and plot, Rebel Cops is a great game to take on the go for a little bit of tactical action. It stands up with stalwarts of the genre, and offers enough challenge and replayability to make you come back for more. Where the game falters is in its UI and quality of life options, but some instances of small text and slightly finicky menus do not take away from what is a solid turn-based tactics game.