The game is an action game where Dick Tracy walks around killing bad guys to solve mysteries. The game exists in a pesudo-3D world where enemies either approach from where Dick is or from a distance "behind" him — therefore, Dick has to attack in two different ways. Due to the differences in the two consoles's controllers, controls for each version are slightly different. In order to make this explanation simple, we will use the first level, which takes place on a street with Dick walking along one sidewalk and the other enemies across the street, to explain the different attacks.
Mega Drive: shoots Dick's pistol horizontally to attack enemies approaching Dick on the sidewalk he is walking on — if an enemy is very close, Dick will simply punch him. shoots Dick's machine gun back at enemies across the street — Dick cannot walk while doing so; instead, the D-pad is used to aim. jumps.
Master System: jumps. Tapping uses the pistol and holding uses the machine gun in the same way as with the Mega Drive version. Pressing the both button at the same time will call for help. Police backup will eliminate all enemies in the screen. But this can be used only one in each level. Some levels don't even allow backup to be used at all.
Some of the well-known villains from the series appear as bosses. In order of appearance : Itchy, Brow (which is strange as he was killed off at the beginning of the movie), Lips Manlis (again, doesn't make any sense as he was Big Boy's rival and killed off quite early), Pruneface, Flattop and Big Boy Caprice. Unlike Mega Drive version, in Master System these bosses can only be killed with machinegun as they always stay in "background".
After each level (in both versions) there is a bonus level in which Tracy is shooting at targets in Police shooting gallery. In addition to pictures of villains, there are non-targets such as milkman or police officers. Depending on how many targets you hit or missed or how many non-targets are killed, you will receive a rank and several bonuses such as extra lives or credits.
There are some levels in which Tracy is grabbing the side of a police car and attacking on other gangster cars as they drive through the streets. These levels are pretty much the same of walking level with minor differences.