Review: Calvino Noir
“We should all be here for this”. This is something you’ll hear often in Calvino Noir. It’s a 2.5D stealth action game with a noir setting. You’ll take on enemies, operate machinery and maneuver your way around each of the seven levels the game offers. With its dark, noir setting, and a story about corruption, it seems like everything is in place for a well-presented and well-rounded game. However, even though the presentation is there, the gameplay isn’t. Calvino Noir is such a frustrating game to play that no one should encounter it.
In the film noir world of Calvino Noir, you mainly play as Wilt, a detective with a dark past that is roped into a story of corruption. It’s a game that explores the European criminal underworld during the 1930s. Over the course of the game you will play as different characters, with each having a different ability. Wilt can take down enemies, while other characters such as Siska can lock-pick and see through doors without opening them. The third of the main cast, Arno, can operate heavy machinery. A few more characters are also playable with their own special talents. The presentation of the game is great; architecture and the noir world looks great to explore. Voice acting for the most part is fantastic. Wilt is definitely the headliner with his wit and realism. Supporting characters, such as the bartender at the beginning of the game, are well voiced, too. The one bad spot is the voice acting for Siska. It can sound like she is reading her lines for the first time, and it does take you out of the moment when the rest of the cast is top notch. Along with the good voice acting, the writing is there too. Characters speak of ideals and the greater world around them. It challenges the players to know how they would feel in the moment if they were there themselves. The overall story is presented well, and is honestly the only redeeming quality about this game. With how well the game is presented, it’s a shame that the terrible and frustrating gameplay experience ruins such an interesting story.
Where to begin? The game is a 2D stealth game with some 2.5D elements. When mostly playing as Wilt, you’ll have the option to sneak around enemies or take them out with Wilt’s ability to dispatch them. Movement is simple enough, walking left or right with the d-pad or analog stick will move the character in that direction. To go up or down stairs is another story. For this, you’ll point the analog stick either up or down, depending on which direction you want to go. You need to be right next to the stairs to go up or down, and if you aren’t in the right spot, it won’t respond. When it does respond, however, it works… sometimes. If you walk up the stairs to the left, then try to move right when you finish walking up the stairs, Wilt, or whoever you are playing as, will either walk to the right, or walk right back down the stairs. Most times, you’ll run right into the enemy you are trying to avoid. So you just have to make sure you are clear of the stairs until you move across the platform. Simple enough, but with the characters so small on the screen to fit in more of the environment, you can’t see if a character is in the foreground or background. Another issue is when hiding. In each level there are plenty of places to hide. You see them and think if you hide, then a guard passes you, you should be fine, as the guard is in the foreground and you are in the background. Every time I tried to hide, a guard always found me and shot me. Hiding spots are basically irrelevant in Calvino Noir as even when running away from enemies, they will find wherever you are hiding. So to select places to hide or anything in the environment, you’ll press X when over the specific icon for that action. At times, multiple icons will be on the screen. At first I just thought you needed to be in a specific spot to select them, but after trial and error, I found that icons can be selected using the L1 and R1 buttons. This does simplify the system, but another problem arises. Sometimes two icons can appear over the same section, leading you to question which icon is actually selected. When fighting the interface to either open a door or strangle an enemy, it often leads to you dying, and frustration. The most frustrating feature the game has, is when trying to take down enemies. Wilt has the ability to take down guards, but it rarely happens. When selecting the icon to take down an enemy, Wilt will stealthily creep behind the enemy, at the slowest pace you can move. This still isn’t enough as most times the guard will turn around and shoot you in the face. You are never sure when it will work. Sometimes it does, most times it doesn’t. Certain sections in the game require you to take down guards, and you don’t know when it’ll work. This leads you to replay certain checkpoints time and time again. Other problems such as a meaningless upgrade system using coins found in the environments, no tutorials leading to trial and error sections, and having up to three characters being in one spot at the same time, means maneuvering the same sets of enemies multiple times. If one character is caught and shot, you have to do it all over again. Enemies can shoot and see you through closed doors and puzzles are confusing and don’t offer any description on what you need to do. Each of the problems listed has had significance in my playthrough. If it isn’t one problem, it’s another. When actually making progress in the game there was one word I associated with every section: Luck. I felt no satisfaction when actually completing a level or section. It just felt like luck when I actually succeeded.
The overall presentation however is very well done. The film noir setting looks great and the game runs well. I found a few framerate drops that were barely noticeable, and the sound did cut out once during play, forcing me to quit out of the game and restart it. These few problems are the least of the game’s problems. Each of the seven chapters look great, and there are many rooms and sections to explore.
I’m almost not sure what else to say when talking about Calvino Noir. Gameplay aside, it’s an interesting story that’s full of style and great characters. Sadly, gameplay is needed to see the entire story. Even with the story and characters being the strongest part of the game, it’s not worth sitting through the hours of frustration to fully see everything. Unless a patch comes out and changes just about everything in terms of gameplay, it’s not worth picking up and enduring the frustrating experience that is Calvino Noir.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Good Voice Acting
- Great Writing
- Fantastic Noir Setting
- Interesting Story
What I Dislike:
- Frustrating Gameplay
- Succeeding feels like luck
- Meaningless Upgrades
- Never know if Wilt is going to take down a guard
- Fighting the interface icons and stairs
- Hiding is irrelevant
- Lack of tutorials
- Having all characters in a certain spot to progress