Today we are going to talk about something quite unique. This game is created by a group of students and this is their first game. A more complete story can be read on their about page. The reason I decided to write an article about this game is because I tried to create games in the past with my friends. So, this story speaks to me. My games weren’t as fleshed out or developed as this game is. But, is this game any good or is this a project better left between friends and family of the developers? Let’s take an honest look at the game. I have beaten this demo three times, the first two levels are playable, so if you want the full game, you will have to follow them on Facebook for future updates. Also, as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.
Note: while I have beaten the game, I’m not going to label this as a review. I have chosen to label this as a preview since it’s a demo that shows off the first two levels of the game in an alpha stage.
In this game, you play as a P.I. named Jack and you must find Nancy. Together with Genevieve, you find a lead on which gang has Nancy. So, you can start to look for her.
While the setup for the story isn’t unique, what matters is how the story is written. The writing is okay. I enjoy detective/crime stories but I have read better-written stories. That’s not to say that this story is bad, the pacing is great but there are things left unexplained and things that don’t really “click” with the overall presentation.
Most of the story will be told while the next level loads. This will happen in nice black and white drawn panels. They are displayed like you are reading a visual novel. If you aren’t interested in the story, you can skip it by clicking after the level loaded. The voice acting will keep playing if you clicked until the cutscene transitioned into the level, but the comic book way of presenting the story won’t progress.
Speaking of the voice acting, it’s decent. There were a few things that could be improved in terms of the voice acting. Sometimes the voice acting lacked the emotion or the needed “punch”. To avoid spoilers, I won’t give specific examples but you will hear it once or twice. But then again, this might be me being too critical of a free game made by a group of people who just released their first game. Since the sound quality is amazing when it comes to the voice acting. It’s just that additional “punch” that is lacking.
There are also subtitles that show up on the top of your screen when the characters are talking. The only thing that annoyed me about them is the fact that a lot of subtitles are missing the “.” at the end of the sentence. You also get a sort of tutorial, where the keys are explained. These show up above the health bar in red while you hear the sound of pressing keys on a typewriter while letter per letter is shown.
This brings me to the sound design. The soundtrack of this game is good. The music is good and helps a lot building the atmosphere. The sound effects are overall good with a few exceptions. The sound effects of hitting enemies and them dying is just bad.
The sound of hitting the enemies is just annoying. When I heard it the first time, I just imagined a room full of them and them dying all at the same time. The sound of the enemies dying didn’t fit the enemies at all.
The gameplay of this game is pretty good. You play either as Jack or Genevieve. Both have different abilities that are unique to them.
Jack can roll to dodge attacks and Genevieve has a few magical moves. Their moves are easy to get used too since the controls are responsive. Yet, I have a few complaints when it comes to the controls.
The first problem with the controls is something I’m annoyed by if games do this. I live in Belgium and we have an “AZERTY”-layout in our keyboards. Usually, the game rebinds the “WASD”-movement keys to “ZQSD” but this game doesn’t do that. Thankfully, I could use the arrow keys as a replacement but this made it awkward for me when I had to fight. Since my arms are so close to each other. Oh well.
This brings me right to my second problem. Because of that, some keys were too far from my fingers to use. This became a problem in the second level when I was playing around with the magic abilities of Genevieve.
And the final issue I have with the controls is the lack of a rebind option and the options menu. You can’t rebind the keys and the options menu for the “controls” only shows a few of the keys. This needs to be a bit more worked out.
This brings me to the menu system and the UI. Something I pay a lot of attention too. And in this game, the menu system is okay apart from two things. I think that when you open the pause menu, it should make the menu more the focus. Now, it’s just displayed on top of the level. My second “issue” with the menu system is a very small one. But, why is there on every menu “return” used to return to the previous menu but in the sound menu it’s “back”?
A small suggestion for the sound menu is, when you mess around with the sliders, it would be nice if you hear a sample so you can tweak it to your liking.
Now, I’m sorry but the UI isn’t the prettiest of things in this game. Now, am I saying the art chosen for the HUD and everything is bad? No, not at all. The problem is that it doesn’t fit the presentation at all. It would make the game so much better if the HUD blends in with the presentation a bit more.
Close, but no cigar.
Now, it might seem that this game is bad or mediocre. The thing is, the game is still in its early stages and it shows. I think it’s a wise move of the developers to put the game online and get as much feedback as they can to improve their game.
Something I really liked about the demo was the presentation. The atmosphere of the game is just perfect. The filter put onto the gameplay is pretty good. Yet, it bugs me that I still need to complain about something here. The animation still needs a lot of work. The animation of the first boss special attack is unfinished and the animation of some scripted events aren’t present yet. Which is a shame, since the character models are well made and detailed. But without things like lip synching or some more movement of the characters, while those scripted events play out, it gives the game a cheap and unfinished feel.
Since this demo is quite short and can be beaten in a few minutes, this game doesn’t have a save feature. In fact, I didn’t need a save feature in this demo since I never came close to dying. The demo is easy, some puzzles might stump you for a bit but a seasoned puzzle gamer will blast through them. This doesn’t mean that the puzzles are bad, they are easy to figure out and they don’t slow down the gameplay.
Like I touched upon before, in this game you must explore and investigate an area. In this game, you must solve puzzles and defeat enemies. I just talked about the puzzles, so let’s talk about the combat. The combat is pretty good, it’s too bad that there weren’t more challenging situations in the demo to experiment more with the combat system of the game.
If the developers would use these two levels as the opening of the full version of the game, my only hope is that they make those two levels longer. It’s better to have a couple of longer levels than a bunch of short levels. Since it allows for more creativity instead of an incoherent mess of ideas. That’s my opinion.
In one of my playthroughs, a glitch stopped me in my tracks. The camera froze just before the cutscene of the 2nd boss but I could continue playing the game. Blindly. The glitch stopped me from pausing the game too. I tried to replicate it several times, but I can’t tell what caused it.
Thanks to this glitch, I learned that you can use your attacks during those scripted cutscenes. This was so nostalgic to me since you could do that in the old Tomb Raider games too.
I want to mention one other thing about the 2nd boss too. Dress his arena a bit more. In the scripted cutscene, you show us walking to him while he is sitting on a stage in a theatre. But, when the fight starts, it almost looks like you are in an ordinary room.
If I may give a final suggestion before I go to my conclusion, I think there is a missed opportunity in the game. I think it would be a good idea if you put “Demo / Alpha version” somewhere in the main menu or as a message when you start the game. Since otherwise, people might think that this is going to reflect on the full version and that might put off potential players.
My conclusion for this game is a simple one to make. I think the developers Team Noir are working on something interesting here. The game looks promising but lacks a lot of polish. The HUD doesn’t fit the atmosphere, the animation needs some work, the story needs a bit more depth… but the fundamentals are there.
I have played a lot of good and bad free games in my gaming life and this is getting so close to the good category. I honestly think they released the demo too soon. This game could have benefitted from more polish. I have played far worse games where the game bugs out or the controls lock up. That doesn’t happen in this game. Apart from one glitch I couldn’t reproduce or trigger for a second time, everything works in this game like it’s supposed to be.
The content of this demo promises an interesting game. Developing a game is hard and requires a lot of work and skill. Looking at this demo, it’s obvious that the skill is already there. It just needs some more work.
That’s everything I wanted to talk about in this game/demo. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then have a great rest of your day and take care!