Rough Justice ‘84 is a strategy-puzzle title for the Nintendo Switch. It involves hiring agents and solving cases in a fictional, crime-ridden city set in the 1980s. With neon lighting, voice acting, and a synth-based ‘80s soundtrack, it has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, there are cracks beneath the surface of this Switch version that mar the experience.

The story revolves around Jim, an ex-cop who was sent to the slammer for a crime he didn’t commit. Upon release, he’s given a second chance to clean the streets via a new crime-fighting agency. The premise of the game involves taking on caseloads from clients and hiring special agents to do the actual work. 

Rough Justice '84 - Nintendo Switch - screen 2

The cases vary enough to keep things interesting, requiring your hired guns to do everything from tracking down a missing person to finding a stolen vehicle. Cases are solved via a few means. Most rely on a dice-based game requiring you to roll certain numbers. For example, you might need a four, five, or six in order to complete the mission. Others use time-based puzzles, offering you the chance to hotwire cars or open a door by connecting wires.

The agents themselves come equipped with stats based on strength, intelligence, empathy, and perception. In other words, you’re better off using an agent with strong perception to solve cases requiring that skill. Agents also come equipped with action points. Once spent, the agent will need to take a break, sending you back to the recruitment pool to hire your next contracter. 

On paper, this all sounds great. And it is, in terms of the concept. Unfortunately, Rough Justice ‘84 suffers from a problem we see regularly on the Switch; it’s not ported well at all.

Rough Justice '84 - Nintendo Switch - screen 1

Most of the issues stem from poor controls. It’s easy to tell that this title was meant to be played on a PC with a mouse. Moving around the map to select cases with the control stick is a cumbersome experience, especially when time limits are at play. Another problem is the inconsistent mapping of the buttons. Sometimes the A button is used to select something, at other times, the Y button. And then, sometimes, you’ll even need to use the B button. It’s messy, and it gets even worse. Let me go through my experience.

Selecting a case requires you to move your cursor over the icon within the city. Press A. Now you’re given a spiel about the case. Then you have to press ZL to select your agent. Then A to…select your agent. Then Y to accept the case. Now your agent moves to the location on the map in a frustrating slow way. Oh, pressing X lets you speed it up, but it takes your cursor away from the map. There’s no way to know that, of course, so when your agent arrives, they sit idle for about 15 seconds while you try in vain to get back to the case. The agent literally gives up and the case is automatically failed. You lose money, XP, and reputation points. The word “frustrating” springs to mind. 

Rough Justice '84 - Nintendo Switch - screen 3

There are other issues. The introduction is so overladen with instructions as to be overwhelming and confusing. The soundtrack is actually great in terms of the synthy background music, but the audio itself is awful—some voiceovers are super loud for some reason. It feels very poorly put together. 

I was also stuck in a loop at one point near the beginning when I was told to check out the shop for the first time to purchase gear for my agent. When I tried to buy something, I was told that my current agent (who was suggested to me for the first mission) had no spare gear slots. Why, then, am I in the shop? And how do I exit? I tried every button to exit only to find myself frustratingly stuck in a loop of “buy something; no you can’t buy anything; buy something.” I’m still not sure how I eventually escaped. Needless to say, I was reluctant to return to the shop again.

Overall, Rough Justice ‘84 presents a unique concept that’s executed poorly on the Switch. It’s hard to recommend this one at all. The soundtrack is a highlight, for sure, and the idea of solving cases is a fun concept. Unfortunately, the controls and poor user interface makes this one to avoid.