Noir Syndrome is an interesting game. It tries to bring in something new to the Rogue-lite market, by putting you in the shoes of a private detective. From there, you have several places to visit to gather clues and suspects, while trying not to step on the wrong faction's toes.
While the concept is fantastic, the game's scope is much more modest. I was expecting much more from it, and it's not what it was trying to deliver.
Sessions last about 15 minutes.
There is a rampant murderer in the city (for cult reasons), and you can visit every landmark freely, spending one day to explore each area. I was expecting a bit more FTL or WeirdWorlds influence, with a deep lore that one could discover by playing it over and over again, but this is purely a mechanical game. Unfortunately, its mechanics are not robust enough to carry it, in my opinion. Presentation
The game's artstyle is not beautiful, nor unique. You can probably get that from the screenshots. But it's functional, and to be honest, it didn't prove very relevant in my enjoyment of the game. A great artstyle would certainly make it more enjoyable, but I could distinguish everything of important here, so it's fine.
, however, was pretty neat! As you would expect from a Noir game, it features a lot of Jazz
, with a bit of chiptune influences at times, and also Classical music in a couple of places (expensive hotels and the hunting club, for example). But for the most part, it's jazz. And it fits the detective vibe perfectly.
It's not something I'd listen to on my own time (it's simple, and not a lot of variety), but I didn't feel like turning it off while playing the game!
Now that this is out of their way, I'll explain how the game works.
You have 14 days to explore the city and find out who the culprit is, and bring him to justice. You have various different areas of the city to explore. You can explore one each day.
In those areas there are objects and people. In a restaurant, for example, you can speak to people there, and also explore the seats and tables for clues. Each area functions similarly. This exploration phase plays like a 2D side-scroller.
People can be either of 2: normal people, and sellers. Normal people can give you suspects (or give a very generic and not very convincing argument against them being a suspect... just flavour text), while vendors will try to sell you Food, Lockpicks or Bullets.
Examinable objects can also give you Locks, Bullets, Money, or Clues.
You'll need Locks
to open doors or steal from vaults, and Bullets
to... well... kill people. More on that later. Clues
are a bit more interesting (although not too much). For your deductive reasoning, you'll have to find suspects that fit certain criteria. After you learn about a person, you'll know all of their attributes. Clues will provide you with the killer's attributes.
Each person has a faction
, an occupation
, a gender
, and a name
. The faction includes Police, Mob, and Civillian. Occupation can go from Artist or Chef to Tailor or Driver. Once you think you've found who the killer is, you check him on your notebook, and his location will be shown on the map.
Every clue is about the killer. This is very important (and also a big issue). No matter where you find it, the clue is always about the murderer. Also, the clues are Binary
. A gun holster, for example, tells you (s)he's either from the Mob, or the Police. An ornate fabric tell you (s)he's either a Tailor, or a Dancer. And so on. There can't be contradictory clues, so you'll end up collecting just enough to find which aspect is common between them.
If no one fits those traits, you'll need to speak to more people to get more suspects.
This is a very uninteresting way of making you a detective, isn't it? There's barely any brainwork from the player! It's just about running around the place, inspecting every random background object (because that's where you get clues), and then finding the right choices. It doesn't feel like you're playing a detective, and every game ends up playing too similarly.
Since every clue is about the killer, you don't really need to go to the crime scenes or follow leads to find anything about him(her). You can just explore any place that's convenient to you, and you'll easily succeed. This is probably the biggest issue I have with it. There's not a lot of thinking in this game, and it completely takes the "detective" part out of the game.
On the City, there are different possible events. There are Civillian Gatherings, Police/Mob takeovers, Crime Scenes, and fishy places. About he latter, I have no ideia... You get that information from the people, but there is nothing different in those areas.
The first 3 are areas dominated by said faction. This is relevant when you killed someone from the Police/Mob and left witnesses, or stole from either, as factions can then be hostile towards you, and shoot on sight. On Hard mode, there's always an hostile faction from the start.
CrimeScenes are areas without people, where you can look for clues, without the risk of getting murdered.
Other than that, one important aspect is the Hunger Meter. Yes. This has a ♥♥♥♥ing hunger meter.
I'm sorry, that's rude. But seriously... Why?!
The game has nothing to do with survival, except for the fact that you have to buy food not to die. Each time you examine something, or open doors, you'll lose 3 points. A piece of food can give you from 100 to 300, depending on the price. I guess this puts a stop to spamming Z constantly, but it doesn't feel necessary to have such a "feature".
This is a good segway!
The game is far too easy. There aren't too many suspects, and it's easy to find his attributes from the clues. Normal mode is not challenging at all. Hard Mode, can be fairly challenging, but for the wrong reasons. Food could be one of them, but you learn to play with it. The main reason is the factions that's trying to kill you. You have very limited bullets (1-2, usually), so you can't just kill everyone, which is good. However, while finding clues is very easy, finding all the suspects can take more effort, especially, when there's a faction that will kill you immediately, and there may also be hitmen on you, that seem to spawn randomly. You can literally enter an area and just die, because he was right in front of you, and you couldn't escape.
This helps the game having challenge, but still doesn't feel like being the detective was the focus. The detective part is a very thin layer, surrounded by all these other systems trying to keep you from examining it closely.
I think I've covered most of it. It's a purely mechanical game, of getting clues and suspects, and then arresting them. Killing them ends the game, but not with a victory. There are some special systems, like stealing from factions (that piss them off) or killing everyone in an area not to leave witnesses, but those play a very minor role in the overall game. This is because the game isn't hard at all! When you die, it's mostly out of your control.
The only narrative, is present in the murderers appartment, where there are random logs (6), with a passage of his Egypt-mythology related killing spree. Nothing substancial at all, though. There are no interesting plots throughout the city, no lore, no interesting random events, nothing of the sort. It was what I was mostly looking forward to, unfortunately...
Conclusion. It's not an awful game. It's actually pretty solid, for what it is
. If you're looking for a very simple game (perhaps a good first project), then go ahead. I enjoyed the game, but I don't consider it great at all. Lots of wasted potential, but an interesting effort nonetheless. Only higher from here!