Entertaining story in a highly atmospheric environment. Enjoyable game play mechanics and puzzles are challenging and vary so they feel fresh
Exaggerated accent of cab driver.
Gameplay ( 9.75 )Graphics ( 7.75 )Sound Quality ( 9.5 )
- Total score
Face Noir is an adventure game developed by Mad Orange in partnership with Phoenix Online Studios featuring a hard-nosed private investigator named Jack del Nero. It’s a crime fiction set in NYC in 1934 during the Great Depression and that atmosphere is reflected from the noir visual style to the jazz music that’s played throughout the game. However Jack has been down on his luck and not just because of the Great Depression but because of a corruption case he was ensnared in, which resulted in him losing his job as a cop and going to prison for some years. After Jack receives a phone call near midnight telling him where he could find Sean MacLeane, the partner that testified him years ago, he rushes to confront his partner to get answers. But when he arrives his partner is dead from a single gunshot wound. Of course this means Jack becomes the only suspect and to make matters more complicated (and confusing for Jack), his former partner entrusts to his care a mysterious young girl. Can you unravel the conspiracy behind Sean’s murder, the identity of this young girl and somehow prevent the series of events shown at the very beginning of the game that seemingly leads to Jack’s death?
The game actually starts off with a very simple case and since there’s no tutorial, or any need for a tutorial, you’ll have to use this case to get acquainted with the controls and the type of puzzles you’ll have to solve throughout this game. The controls are very simple with the left mouse button used for moving to a location and interacting with a person or an item and the right mouse button used for changing the type of interaction (look, talk, open, etc). You’re given two options to access your inventory: the first option is the standard catalog of items at the top of the screen and the second option is a 3D representation of your inventory that is accessed through the mouse wheel.
There is no game play advantage in selecting either of the inventory options but I used the 3D inventory throughout because it helped maintain the wonderfully consistent noir atmosphere. It worked very well and the “burden” of one extra click is more than rewarded with the game’s quick responses and entertaining narrative. And that’s part of what has to be understood about the excellent experience of playing Face Noir. The game play mechanics are simple and smooth but the excellently crafted atmosphere of the game is as much a detailed “character” as the various characters you interact with and whose backstories you come to learn.
And since the protagonist is a private investigator who has to piece together clues and events, there is a very enjoyable game play mechanic called “Use Your Head.” When you interact with other characters you’re given different options of what you can talk to them about and if you acquired enough information from talking or viewing objects in the game there’s a new highlighted option in blue. When you select it the dialogue screen is overlaid with floating bits of information and when you choose 2 related bits of information pertinent to the current dilemma or line of questioning you’re rewarded with the solution. The game eases you into this because in the beginning when you’re questioning a hotel owner in your initial case there are only 3 bits of information available. However as the game progresses it becomes more challenging because everything you learn appears on that screen. I loved this and how it effectively turned a crucial element of being an investigator, piecing together information, into an entertaining game play mechanic. Every situation where this was presented was very realistic and the timing was perfect.
This isn’t the only way Face Noir makes you feel as if you’re “in the game.” Another game play mechanic that is prevalent throughout the game is Control Mode. You will encounter various objects such as control panels or pieces of an item that you will have to manipulate in order to get them to work. So, for example, instead of clicking on a police radio in a patrol car and the game automatically doing what is required you will have to change the frequency and all the necessary settings yourself. If this sounds tedious in any way I can assure you that not only is it far from tedious but it keeps the game play extremely fresh because each puzzle is different and also reflective of its real-life counterpart. So even Control Mode is successful in maintaining the atmosphere. And you also have lockpicks that are needed if you, uh, misplace a key, and it’s another mini-game that becomes increasingly difficult as the game goes on.
Now, there are other puzzles in the game besides the Use Your Head option and Control Mode with some of them having very interesting solutions. I won’t claim that Jack Del Nero is Macgyver but I will state that if Macgyver said that Jack Del Nero was one of his inspirations I wouldn’t be surprised. You won’t be solving puzzles in this game using duct tape and a swiss army knife but you will make use of every item in your inventory with objects in the environment that can either require some extra thought or just has an entertaining solution. I don’t want to give any examples and spoil the game but at this point you should know that none of these puzzles result in a suspension of belief, and the realistic theme of the game remains consistent. I found these puzzles to be stimulating and they weren’t run-of-the-mill puzzles that just had you fetching items. In some situations you’ll have to use stealth to sneak past police officers or bodyguards looking for you so Face Noir definitely mixes it up.
The graphics obviously are of the noir style and even though they’re detailed enough to the point where you have to wonder what an actual item is on the screen, they’re definitely not mind-blowing. However the graphics fit perfectly in highlighting the strengths of this game: the game play mechanics and the story. Yes, the game starts off with the initial case of having to take photos of a young blonde in compromising positions with her lover but it soon turns into a story of mystery, intrigue and betrayal. It’s also a story of redemption and not just for Jack, who is a very intriguing and entertaining protagonist, but other characters including his former partner, who you do play as in certain key moments. The way the story unfolds is perfectly-paced and even the way the backstory of each character is revealed is done in a way that will keep you captivated as well as surprised. And things that seemed to be meaningless early on become important as the story progresses and highlights the questioned asked at one point “do you believe in destiny?” and adds depth to different characters along the way. Even the way you travel to different locations in the game at your choosing is the result of an initially uneasy alliance with a shady chinese cab driver. I was thoroughly pleased with the way everything was answered and the motives and circumstances surrounding each character was very believable. The story build-up leads to a satisfying conclusion that will leave you wanting more Face Noir.
Face Noir is an extremely enjoyable adventure game and has all the elements one would want in a crime fiction starring a private investigator. The thrilling story is filled with enough intrigue to keep you engrossed for hours and the rich atmosphere will transport you to a world where everything isn’t black and white (even if the noir styled graphics suggest otherwise) and help you understand the motivations of each character. I expected to enjoy Face Noir but the actual experience exceeded my expectations and confirmed for me once again that this is a genre that is uniquely satisfying. If you enjoy adventure games, crime fictions or video games in general that place a priority on great story telling I highly recommend Face Noir. It’ll leave you wondering the true meaning of destiny…or at the very least wanting more in the best way.