As PC gaming enjoys its resurgence as a viable and popular gaming platform, its signature genres are also experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. Strategy games, rogue-likes, and adventure games have moved into the modern era with standout titles that showcase the timelessness of great design and strong, mature storytelling.
Then we have Face Noir; an adventure title by Mad Orange which attempts to marry classic point-and-click gameplay with a gritty detective story. Yes, it attempts.
The first and most pronounced impression from Face Noir is that it may have the worst voice acting since Resident Evil. This game tries to evoke the hard boiled, over the top vibe of games like LA Noire and Max Payne, but forgets that the former is genuinely well written and acted, while the latter is presenting an ironic and knowing take on genre conventions. This game is nowhere near sophisticated enough to succeed on either level, and it ends up treading between the extremes of stupidity and offensiveness, often within single conversations.
I get what the developer is trying to do here, and to their credit they certainly work hard at creating a world that is evocative of Noir as a stylistic choice (although the game’s early 1930s setting predates the actual genre by about a decade, but I’m just splitting hairs). It lacks the nuance of the fully realized game world that it’s shooting for however with its hamfisted storytelling and overpowering musical score.
If feels as though instead of watching classic works of Film Noir and studying the unique aspects of it, the developer instead read the Wikipedia page and used that as its source. It is amateurish and poorly implemented to say the least, and that’s not even taking into account the boring visual design and genuinely offensive portrayals (i.e. a Chinese man who ‘mispwonunces evewything’) that run rampant throughout.
This game has been localized and translated to English (not an easy task) which may be a contributing factor to why much of the dialogue is so terrible. Also, as this is the first game from the developer this aspect might be due to a lack of experience. Then again, it is so awful and distracting that it almost completely mars the overall experience.
Face Noir is your basic point-and-click game, in that you are put into a specific area and must find items, talk to people, and use inventory to trigger the next story point. It’s pretty standard stuff as far as the genre is concerned, but to its credit it does a decent job of balancing challenge with accessibility. In addition to the core mechanics, there are also interactive moments in which you need to manipulate your mouse to do certain tasks such as open a panel or pick a lock. These moments are ambitious and fun, providing a welcome oasis to the slog of the game’s voice acting and story. As an added bonus, these sections allow you to bypass the manual task and just get on with it.
Face Noir is priced at $19.99, and that is WAY too much. Not to bring other games into the mix, but there are so many better and cheaper options out there these days for adventure game fans that it’s hard to imagine somebody being willing to look past both this game’s lack of quality in its presentation as well as its relatively high cost.
Strictly on its merits as an adventure game, Face Noir is not too bad in that its puzzles are intuitive and varied, and the context-sensitive mini puzzles that pop up from time to time provide a nice gameplay change of pace. In terms of presentation however, it is terrible on, let’s face it, every level. It uses every cliche in the film noir playbook, looks like an early Playstation 1 game, and has voice acting that runs the gamut from uninspired to straight-up racist. The core gameplay’s functionality saves it from the abyss, but unless you are desperate for an adventure game to play this Summer, Face Noir is best avoided.
[+Capable adventure game] [+Environmental puzzles a nice diversion] [-Terrible voice acting] [-Uninspired visual design] [-Uses every cliche in the book] [-Overpriced]