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Calvino Noir

Score: 82%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Calvino Noir Limited
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Stealth/ Platformer (2.5D)

Graphics & Sound:

Calvino Noir departs from typical platformers, with their colorful game levels and fanciful power-ups. Instead, it attempts to catch the essence of the monotone visuals that make up its namesake genre, "noir. Combining with levels that are often backlit, Calvino Noir succeeds in taking the audience into an interactive film noir experience by the presentation, background music, and dark dialogue that accompanies it. Hats off to the team at Calvino Noir Limited for bringing out the mood of the typical 1930's crime drama and making it interactive.

The visuals are nearly perfect at an aesthetic level. The environments have been carefully thought out from a lighting standpoint, allowing for darker negative space to play a role as a character on its own as well. In-game characters look the part, with their sleuth styles and animations, and their pictorial counterparts that appear during dialogue cut scenes are nicely drawn and inspiring as well. It would have been nice to have a few more settings to beef things up visually, but nothing was ultimately distracting aside from some slight aliasing on the characters.

On the flip, Calvino Noirís background music creates a perfect undertone to the style and mood of the game. While ever-present, it never gets in the way and only enhances the gameplay and dialogue. The voice acting is generally equally well done, with one exception. While I bought into most of the characters and their dialogue, it must be said that the main heroine, "Siska," did draw attention away from reality due to a lot of trailing sentences that lost their accent.


Gameplay:

Calvino Noir is set as a 1930ís noir stealth game, and it really does a great job of depicting this through the visuals and audio. From the moment you start the game, those elements begin to draw you in, but itís the gameplay that will likely get you hook, line, and sinker. Donít get me wrong, there are times when you will likely be pulling your hair out, but the overall tone of the game is well-presented and well-implemented.

Youíll start the adventure as Wilt, a man with a deep voice and cunning personality layered over a troubled past. The objective of Calvino Noir is to infiltrate deep into the enemyís territory, uncovering more and more storyline through each level. The levels are presented in a series of three acts, with three, two, and two chapters within each, respectively. This simple gesture is just one sign of how the developers took care to keep with the film noir style of the game. Within each chapter, there are multiple checkpoints as well, but be warnedÖ only completed scenes will be saved for later access and a quick death can cause a lot of re-work to get back to where you were. This is where hair-pulling may ensue.

As you progress through the game, you will pick up different characters to jointly (or alternately) control in real-time. What this means is that it is imperative to be conscious of where characters are in relation to enemies at all times. Calvino Noir does give good options for "hiding" characters, however, by allowing them to duck behind walls or other objects in hopes of not being seen by guards. This may not always work, so it is key to be on your toes at all times.

Each character that you control has a special ability to use when situations arise too. This is really what all of the gameplay is centered around and plays an important part of navigating the levels to come. Without addressing everyone, Wilt, for example, has the ability to take down guards (relatively) undetected and Siska is a master lock pick. Depending on the situation at hand, these (and other) characters may be able to provide easier navigation. As you progress, each opened door (or peek through a keyhole) allows visual access to the adjacent room. It is with this technique that the story is unlocked one room at a time.


Difficulty:

Calvino Noir is not without its issues, despite how the game can draw the player in. First and foremost, the default controls are probably the main argument for difficulty. Being a point-and-click adventure where multiple characters are controlled, it is easy to run into trouble unintentionally. Thankfully, the developers also put in keyboard hotkeys to help with movement (walk, run) and other abilities.

Where the game shines is that until youíve opened a door or peered through the keyhole, adjacent rooms are dark from the cutaway vantage point that the camera is at. What this means is that it is quite possible that guards will be alerted immediately upon an open door, and it only takes a second for them to put a bullet in you, sending you back to the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, due to the nature of 3D light cones in a 2.5D space, it is often noticeable when a guard with a flashlight is approaching in the vast darkness of yet-unseen rooms, and that takes a lot away from the unexpected portion of difficulty.

The last big thing that contributes to difficulty is that of finding patterns in the way guards make their rounds. Any noises and they break their preferred paths, but will soon return. It is possible to use this to your advantage too, but it also can cause chaos around controlling multiple characters if youíre not careful.

Finally, it has to be said that the game is also not without bugs. The main one I came across was a biggie too. There is a classic weight game with some elevators (think dumbwaiters) at a theatre that, at first glance, seems impossible to figure out. Well, the weights donít display correctly and there is no way to know when you are holding them either. This was a rather infuriating experience as it felt like I was missing something until Googling it and learning it was a bug. With careful observation, it is possible to complete the puzzle however, glitches and all. This is rather important, because remember, the game only saves after scenes, not checkpoints. NOTE: There is a forum post on Steam that declares this to be fixed by the developers in a patch, but it was not working properly for me.


Game Mechanics:

Because this game was apparently originally developed for touch devices, by nature it is a point and click adventure. As such, on standalone platforms like PC and Mac, the game can easily become one of fumble fingers. Essentially, to control the characters, it is necessary to point and click to their destination and they will automatically travel to that location. This is a bit odd at its core, but does potentially allow for moving two or more characters at once in different directions. When able to interact (open doors, choke out guards, etc.), icons appear that are quickly clickable and generally respond pretty well.

It is possible to also use a game controller (i.e. Xbox 360 or Xbox One connected to PC) to control Calvino Noir as well, but arguably it is better using point-and-click. The game controller actually works better while walking/running and controlling destinations, but when interaction icons are close together, it can cause inconsistencies and/or inabilities in clicking them.

Overall, Calvino Noir is a fresh response to an ever-growing set of copycat games out there. It does have some issues, but in general, the game is pretty fun. The price tag of USD $25 may be a bit steep considering the game can be completed in about 7 hours or less (although restarts due to deaths make it longer). If you are looking for a new take on an old genre, check out Calvino Noir.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8; Intel i3; 2GB RAM; Intel HD 4600; 2GB available HDD space
 

Test System:



Windows 7 Pro 64-bit; Intel Core i7-5930K CPU @ 3.50GHz (12 CPUs); 32GB RAM; Xbox One Controller

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