The noir genre has to be one of the most lampooned, lampshaded, and referenced genres in all of movie history. Moody lighting, black and white film, gruff alcoholic detectives, and dangerous femme fatales are all a big part of what makes a movie ‘noir,’ and Calvino Noir is no exception. Only it’s not a movie, but an interactive game. As a huge fan of the genre myself, I was eager to jump in, but right away I knew something was off, I just wasn’t sure what it was yet.
At its heart, Calvino Noir is really just another stealth platformer. What separates it from most others is its sense of style. The voice acting is excellent, if a bit cheesy, but that’s what I like in my detective stories. The backgrounds are beautiful, from moodily lit, smokey bars to dusty warehouses, the effort put into the finer details of the world is much appreciated. While it probably won’t win any awards for ground breaking graphics, it does very well with what it has to work with.
Different characters can be controlled throughout Calvino Noir and some of them are required to complete an area. Wilt, the main character, is good at stealth and taking down guards. Arno, an expert on machinery, can interact with anything mechanical, while another character, The Mole, is a government employee and can bypass guards without a second glance. Typically more than one character will have to traverse an entire level in order to complete it, but the order you do these in can significantly change the obstacles you’ll face along the way.
Mechanically, there are ups and downs. While the game does offer a few different ways to bypass guards, the main enemies here, it always feels a little clunky, like the game isn’t sure it wants you to do what you’re doing. It certainly doesn’t help that the only way to interact with the game is through clicking the mouse, a throwback to the game’s tablet based days. This can hinder progress frequently, with one slight mistake sending your character to unlock a door instead of hiding behind the nearby crate, forcing you to start the level over when the guard invariably finds you and shoots you down.
Beautiful visuals, a moody soundtrack, and classic dialogue make Calvino Noir a must play game, even if the experience can be frustrating sometimes. Even more frustrating, however, is the price. At a hefty $24.99 it’s a big increase from its days as a relatively inexpensive mobile app.