Review: Calvino Noir Is A Mishmash Mystery Affair
Calvino Noir admirably attempts to approach stealth from a different multi-adjective angle as a 2D side-scrolling point-and-click stealth game in which you control multiple characters. Alas, these many facets pull it in different directions - it could be a very different game if only all those elements were properly formed and put together.
- Worth The Time?For a time.
- Things LovedThe visual style is excellent.
- Things HatedThe awful dialogue; the terrible mechanics; the utterly predictable plot; the lack of explanation of the upgrade system; Siska.
- RecommendationIf you're looking for a stealth experience, a noir game or both then there are far better options than Calvino Noir. While it has good ideas there is very little to like and even less to stick around for.
- Name: Calvino Noir
- Genre: Shadow Complex
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, PS4, iOS
- Developer: Calvino Noir Ltd.
- Publisher: Calvino Noir Ltd.
- Price: $24.99
- Reviewed On: PS4
Calvino Noir takes place in 1930s Germany before that Hitler scamp did his thing. You play as Wilt, a mercenary-cum-detective of sorts. For hire, of course. He is contracted by a mysterious dame named Siska to meet with a contact of hers and steal some documents. It seems like easy money for a man like him.
Things quickly go south and before long Wilt, Siska and his pal Arno find themselves caught up in a shadowy plot involving toxic gas and government officials. It’s all pretty standard stuff as noir mystery goes, but is made worse by the wooden dialogue and stilted delivery. It smacks of amateurs reading from a script. The game is even neatly broken up into three distinct acts.
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At the outset you only have control over Wilt and can move through the somewhat linear environments with various interactive elements such as doors, points of interest to investigate, hiding spots and guards to incapacitate. It’s all done by selecting the icon hovering over each element. Movement, including the vertical sort, is done by simply pushing the analogue stick in the desired direction.
It’s a simple control scheme but one that causes issues when the game’s lack of depth makes it tricky to properly navigate stairs. Furthermore, the guards could be alerted by a church mouse, such is their sensitivity to noise. Kudos to them for being good at their jobs but it makes sneaking up on them a frustrating chore. This is compounded by the fact that many of them have paths of movement which leave the player with almost no window in which to sneak past or behind them. Things get worse when you factor in that cycling between your available interactive elements doesn’t always work efficiently.
It may be down to my poor form but it feels more like shoddy design.It is worth noting that as the game progresses any currency you accrue can be used to upgrade your characters’ walking speed and stealthiness. However, this scarcely helps the situation. Especially once you start controlling multiple characters which is fairly early on. In fact, the upgrades aren’t even shown to players – I discovered the upgrade section by accident.
As mentioned earlier, Calvino Noir allows you to control the three main characters, each of whom has different abilities. Wilt can choke guards out, Siska picks locks and Arno can control machinery. Players can switch between characters at will and choose to scout ahead or get the others to follow. Nice set of control mechanics in theory, no? The trouble is that Calvino Noir has a loose definition of what “follow” means. If you head into an elevator the other characters may or may not get in with you. There is no contextual intelligence built into the mechanic and it not only makes both navigation and keeping out of sight a pain. Also, whenever you switch to Siska she shouts out some garbled one-liner in her awful accent. She’s just an all-round terrible character.
Controlling the trio is like that riddle involving a fox, a chicken and a bag of corn. It’s a bit of faff to say the least. It also seems rather unnecessary. By the end of the game you are likely to have zero attachment to any of these stereotypical noir cardboard cutout characters and the few chances you get to select one of two dialogue options are superfluous. They seem to have near no effect on where the story goes and appear to be more a test of whether the player is actually paying attention.
One thing that Calvino Noir does have going for it is a visual style bathed in shadow with liberal use of greys and blues to create a decidedly unique and appealing aesthetic. It’s also got quite a nice old-school touch of a bar appearing across the top of the screen with a picture of the character speaking alongside their dialogue. If only that dialogue wasn’t decades past its sell-by date. You can just see Humphrey Bogart writhing in his grave with each grating line.
Ultimately, Calvino Noir tried something different and has some good ideas. However, success lies in the execution and Calvino Noir is poorly executed. Its ingredients aren’t properly blended together and the end result is a lumpy mess that’s raw on the inside.