Miami Vice Meets Police Quest in Rough Justice 84

When I embarked on the review for Rough Justice ’84, I have to admit that I had absolutely no idea what to expect beyond shoulder pads and big hair, and the game certainly has those in spades. However, what I could not have anticipated was that Rough Justice ’84 offers a gaming experience that combines a management game with a story-based adventure. It is without a doubt one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in a while.

Plot Ahoy!

Set in the eighties, as the title implies, the game opens with a man named Jim Baylor being sent to prison for police corruption and then being exonerated. Jim then leaves the force and looks for work as an independent agent. Seneca City passed the Seneca Enforcement Act, which allows these private agencies to engage in law enforcement activities with, as Rough Justice ’84 describes it, carte blanche.

Jim no longer wants anything to do with the police force, which makes obvious sense, and joins yours. After that, it’s up to you to manage the agents you hire via their caseloads. These cases range anywhere from providing security and chasing fugitives to repossessing cars. It’s a pretty broad grant of authority.

You’ll hire a wide variety of new agents, and you’ll get a quick sense of who they are based on their portraits and mottos. You’ll be able to deploy these agents as you see fit, and each of these characters has a story. However, despite that variety, the game does feature a guiding narrative that you’ll work through as the title progresses.

Review Notes

Sound cool? It is, especially if you really, really like the cop-related TV tropes from the eighties. I did mention the police corruption. What’s even more interesting is how the gameplay actually occurs. Rough Justice ’84 uses primarily dice and cards to resolve checks associated with the cases, but there are a series of minigames, meaning that you’re never really locked into one type of gameplay.

Let’s start with the dice. Each case identifies one of five character attributes, and your stat in that attribute determines the dice pool when you roll. If you’ve ever played the Arkham Horror board games, this will sound familiar. You can use your character’s energy pool, special items, or effects to increase your roll value, which is honestly a bit more like D&D. Then, based on your roll value, you’ll either have a success or a failure. Successes in Rough Justice ’84 are 4, 5, or 6, while rolls of 3, 2, and 1 are failures. You must roll all successes in order to pass the check. Rough Justice ’84 does allow players to re-roll their failures, but sometimes, you really just won’t be able to dig your character out of that particular hole. Your agents will still get experience from a failed case, but your bank account will suffer.

Cases identified as 24/7 do not feature dice rolls. Rather, those cases involve different mini-games, and these can become repetitive as there’s really only a handful of them. You will need to grind through these minigames which include activities like carjacking, lockpicking, and basic surveillance in order to progress, and that also means that you’re probably going to get a bit tired of them by the time you finish the game.

Otherwise, Rough Justice ’84 treats its characters as you’d expect it to do. You can both level up your agents and have them specialize, which, frankly, is a good idea. As you solve cases and increase your characters’ experience, you’ll unlock harder cases with better rewards. You can find some of these by encountering various informants who wander around the city, and those cases will be pretty lucrative.

Visually, Rough Justice ’84 leans heavily into the setting. The visuals are crisp, and the characters are generally well rendered. The voice acting ranges from very good to somewhat stilted, with characters repeating catchphrases often. The soundtrack is nicely tailored to the setting, making heavy use of the synth music we all know from our favorite 80s movies, and the title is mostly free of glitches.


Rough Justice ’84 is a fascinating blend of a story and management game mixed into a single title. It’s good but some aspects become repetitive. The gore levels are consistent with the setting and the tropes employed by the game, so Rough Justice ’84 might not be suitable for all players. It also allows for shorter playing stints and even benefits from them, so it’s a great title to play if you’re anticipating having to start and stop frequently.

Rough Justice ’84 retails on Steam for $19.99.

Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard

  1. I will warn you that Rough Justice ’84 can have mouse detection issues, so be aware.
  2. There is so much neon. Just so much.
  3. There’s at least one agent whose character design I swear is based on Bill Nighy. I’ll let you figure out who that is. You’ll also recognize at least one iconic moustache.
  4. So, fun fact, the title allows you to take out loans, but if you fail to repay them, Rough Justice ’84 ends, which is possibly a metaphor for something though I have no idea what.
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