Brief Write of a Brief Flight – Face Noir

Why do I like the noir genre? Is it the stereotypically damaged protagonists with their alcohol-abuse and a voice ruined after years of smoking? Is it the long-winded conversations where characters muse over their existential place in the world after contextual and subtle character development? Is it the mystery, femme fatale, guns and grim overlook? Well, it’s probably all of those things which Face Noir has no problem supplying. What it does struggle to supply is a well-designed game.

Italian developers, Mad Orange, have produced a point and click adventure set in depression-era New York. You play Jack Del Nero, alcohol abusing and cigarette smoking, private detective, tasked with finding a missing woman and taking photos of her. Finally, real P.I. work! The point and click game genre is something which goes well with the noir genre. Lots of dialogue options, the use of items for bribery, exchanging information and smoking and walking tediously slow around the landscape while brooding. You start off at the hotel where a trail has led you to the woman’s last hypothesised whereabouts.

The game has a couple of glaring issues at first impression which I was willing to look past since I wasn’t on the lookout for something of the same calibre as L.A. Noir. But then some poor decisions in game design just made these flaws worse. The graphics aren’t too flash hot which was fine until there were a close-up of people’s faces talking. Nothing like the mechanical and rhythmic movements of individual’s mouth set in emotionless faces to really build suspense. The voice acting was pretty poor to say the least, lacking emotion, or at least the correct emotion. The game is originally Italian, so poor English voice-acting is understandable. This would not have been a huge deal if it hadn’t been coupled with the emotionless faces.

The first part of your journey is talking to the hotel owner, convincing him to let you go upstairs and investigate. With a bribe I was able to enter a clue connecting mode that would allow me to join connected pieces of information to unlock more dialogue. It was essentially a new spin on the stereotypical item collection in point and click adventures. Instead of collecting items, you collect information. Like other point and click games, there’s no penalty for trying to connect the wrong information, you just need to have collected all of it. This is a great unique spin and I wouldn’t mind seeing it in more games.

Unfortunately, my delve into this game ended once it reached a point where I knew what I had to do and I knew where I had to go, but I couldn’t work out the exact game process to proceed. I couldn’t climb the fence or unlock the gate to the back alley, despite having lock-picking tools. I couldn’t work out how to sneak into the theatre to gain access to the same area, or go through the clearly visible side-door. There was only one way of proceeding and I couldn’t work out what it was, or even skip the steps. After looking it up, turns out there was loose panel on the ground I was supposed to manipulate to then gain access to the thermostat which, after turning up, would cause the woman to open her window… guess I just wasn’t that good of a detective, or the game didn’t allow me to be. There was no reason I couldn’t have accessed that alley and THEN figured out the window was closed.

Face Noir is not worth the $20 asking price and I would only recommend it to people who really enjoy the noir genre.

Face Noir is available on Steam and their online store and Desura for $19.99.

face-noir_PC_cover

Cover Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/f/face_noir.jpg
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