Face Noir Review

It was a dark and stormy night

  • Developer: Mad Orange
  • Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
  • Release Date: 17 October 2013
  • Time played: 9 hours

Once again I managed to grab a free game thanks to my Steam buddy Mix-Master and it happens to be a game from one of my favourite genres: point 'n' click adventures! Face Noir is advertised as a game that has the atmosphere of a Raymond Chandler novel or Humphrey Bogart film. When I heard that, I immediately thought "ZOMG! A film noir point 'n' click adventure game? That'd be so awesome" so I was pretty happy when I managed to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, ratings on Steam are "Mixed" at the time of posting (65% positive reviews) and Metacritic gives it an aggregate rating of 59. So is the game actually that mediocre? Or is this a case of adventure game haters being adventure game haters?

Plot (3/5)
As mentioned, this game has a film noir setting and is set during the mid 1930s in New York City. You play the role of a private eye with Italian ancestry named Jack Del Nero who is doing the usual unglamorous work private detectives do, such as taking photographs of people having affairs. It's not until Jack gets a call from an old colleague of his that his world gets turned upside down in more ways than one.

Overall, the plot isn't too bad and adopts many of the tropes or clich├ęs you'd expect from the film noir genre, such as starting off on a dark, stormy night, and having a hardboiled detective protagonist who likes monologues. The only trouble is, the monologues are done really poorly. In fact the scriptwriting in general is pretty poor. There's quite a bit of clumsy dialogue and many instances of sentences approved by the "Department of Redundancy Department".

Also, it needs to be mentioned that Face Noir ends on a cliff-hanger and is apparently only the first chapter in what I can only assume is to be a series. It's only minutes before the end do you realise that there's more to this game than just being a tribute to film noir as it starts to cross over into other genres entirely. Unfortunately, since it's right near the end, you don't get the full story of what's going on and it's obvious you'll need to buy the sequel to learn more.

Gameplay (3/5)
This is your traditional point 'n' click adventure game, meaning you've got your inventory, your mouse cursor and that's about it. It does have this feature called "Reflection Mode" that they claim is "innovative" but I've seen similar concepts in other adventure games before (e.g. Resonance) and it's nothing more than another inventory with ideas or concepts.

Most puzzles in the game are actually straightforward, but somehow they're still difficult to solve. This might sound like a contradictory statement but Face Noir is one of those games where you might have the right tools available for the job but you need to look at something first in order to trigger the ability to use the item. This wouldn't be such a problem if the game wasn't so erratic in providing hints when you look at certain items or attempt to use them. Anyway, there were only a couple of times where I resorted to a walkthrough: One was for the situation I just described but another was quite ridiculous and would've only been solved by randomly trying every inventory item on screen hotspots.

The best dialogue in the game comes from the banter between Jack Del Nero and "Chon" the taxi driver

Sound (3/5)
The background audio in the game is fantastic but the same can't be said for the voice acting. Sometimes the voice acting is hammy and sounds like the actors are trying too hard (like Jack Del Nero trying to be a Humphrey Bogart). Other characters speak in a monotone such as the owner of the Red Tulip, Greta. Some words also have weird pronunciations such as "bitumen" being pronounced "bit-two-men" - I mean who pronounces it like that? The best voice acting in the game is probably done by the comic relief: a funny, yet cunning Chinese taxi driver nicknamed "Chon", but he's not even one of the major characters.

Music (5/5)
As you'd expect in a game based on the film noir genre, it has an appropriately moody and atmospheric jazz soundtrack to complement it and it's definitely one of the game's strengths. Best of all, the soundtrack is absolutely free with the game and easily accessible from your game folder at [DRIVE]\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\Face Noir\Soundtrack (if you purchased the game off Steam).

Graphics (3/5)
As I mentioned in my First Impressions post, the character models do look a bit oldschool - similar to games in the early 2000s. However the actual backdrops aren't too bad.

Replay (2/5)
There were quite a few times where I got stuck and multiple times where I was very tempted to use a walkthrough. Fortunately, only a couple of times involved the use of a walkthrough and the other times I just gave the game a rest for awhile before returning with a fresh new perspective. Overall the game took me about 9 hours to complete and there are Steam Trading cards you can earn too. No Steam achievements though.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any serious bugs while playing and the interface seems functional. It probably helps that a purpose-built point 'n' click adventure engine was used (i.e. Wintermute).

Score – 7/10

Face Noir is a mostly entertaining but flawed point 'n' click adventure game that probably suffers from the developers not having English as their first language. The game's definitely got that film noir vibe to it but the immersion is broken whenever you hear the characters speak their clumsily-written dialogue. Also, the game ends on a cliff-hanger and expects you to buy the sequel before you learn more about the real conspiracy the game only touches right near the end. If there's anything nice to be said about this game though is that it has a delightful jazz soundtrack to accompany it. Oh, that and it was educational for me: I now know the Italian swear word, "DANNAZIONE!"

Face Noir is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official Face Noir website ]