A New York Adventure 

Taking you back in time, with regards to both period and style of game play, this next game opens with your character being shot at point blank range.

Face Noir is a game from Phoenix Online Studios and Mad Orange that appears to open at the end rather than the beginning.  I say this because your game character of Jack Del Nero is shot at point blank range in the opening sequence before you have had time to really get introduced to your on-screen avator.  However before you have time to shed a tear or express any sympathy, you are immediate taken back 24 hours in time to relive the actions that led up to this shooting in an atmospheric point & click adventure game.

Prior to playing this game of Face Noir, you can make a number of adjustments to its performance by selecting the type of graphics to be used and altering the various audio levels, choice of action media plus deciding whether to play in 3D detective more or the more classic 2D mode.  I tended to prefer sticking with the latter mode using the mouse of my means of control.  It is possible to switch modes and methods mid-game if you so wish.

As mentioned this game starts with the shooting of your character, a drink-dependent, ex-police officer who is now working as a private investigator in the less salubrious areas of New York City in 1934.  This story, on which this point & click adventure is based, has been inspired by the writing of Raymond Chandler and this influence is especially noticeable with the various characters and the spoken dialogue that runs through this game.  But time to get back to the 24 hours prior to the shooting of Jack.

In this period of corruption, depression and a general lack of money, you take on an assignment from Harvey Webber to track down his missing 20 year-old step-daughter named Susan.  She has ambitions to be a film star and is spending his money as if it were going out of fashion.  Her step-father is looking for evidence that he can use to prove she is out of control thus allowing him to cut off her supply of money.

This game is played out in a mixture of bird’s eye view, as you look down on your miniature on-screen avator moving around out-door locations, and more full-sized characters when you move to indoor locations.  Concealed at the top of the various screens is your inventory which only pops into view when its area is invaded by the mouse cursor.  It is up to you to work out what these inventory items are as some are hard to identify by looks alone.  A camera might be easy to identify but what actually turns out to be your lock-picking kit is not so easy to recognise.

As you move your mouse cursor around various scenes, a brown chevron will appear to indicate an access point to another area, such as a hotel, office or ally-way while an “eye” icon appears when you can interact with an object or area.  However the “eye” just allows you to look at whatever is there.  As the scene is often badly lit, it can be difficult to work out just what is beneath your mouse cursor so sometimes you just need to trust to luck and experiment.  To discover what might be possible with an area, object or other character, you need to click the right mouse button and the “eye” will change to another possible action if it is available. 

In this way you can open a conversation with another character, make use of one of your inventory items or carry out a particular task,  When a conversation is possible then you can select from a list of topics to ask questions and receive answers.  Depending upon your original choice, conversations can flow in different directions and you might need to cover different subjects before receiving the information or response that you require.  While a mouse click will allow you to skip through the various sections of dialogue, this approach could result in missing out on some important information required to make further progress.  At various points you will be presented with a clue screen from which you need to select the two relevant items that will open up the next stage of the game.

Some of the tasks that you will need to perform will involve interaction between your mouse and objects on the screen as you adjust settings, unlock obstructions, take photos and open items.  This aspect of the game can be quite frustrating and fiddly as often minor adjustments are required to achieve a result.  While some actions in the game can be optional, others will need to be carried out in sequence in order to make progress.

Face Noir is definitely challenging and it was often this feature and a desire not to be beaten, despite a rising frustration level, rather than actual enjoyment that kept me playing the game.  You will need a system with a 2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 2GB of hard disk space and support for DirectX 9.0c running Windows XP and later.  The game can be downloaded from various websites at a cost of $19.95.

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OverallPhoenix Online Studio Mad Orange Face Noir rated 60 out of 100

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