Review: Calvino Noir (PS4)

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Title: Calvino Noir
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.6 GB)
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Calvino Noir Limited
Developer: Calvino Noir Limited
Original MSRP: $24.99 (US), €TBD (EU), £TBD (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
Calvino Noir is also available on PC and iOS.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

When I think of film noir I tend to imagine low-key lighting, a private eye, and a femme fatale. When I think of a stealth game I imagine creeping in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to sneak by the enemy undetected. Now Calvino Noir is billed as a film noir stealth game so it would seem like a match made in heaven.

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Gameplay:
Right from the menu screen the mood of the entire game is set; a dark rain-sodden night in an unknown city from what looks to be the early 1940’s. Things are looking good for Calvino Noir. I start the game and behold the wonderful graphical style. I quickly learn that there aren’t many controls and it seems to play like a mouse driven game. Your character follows a pointer that glides along the floor whichever way you’re angling the left analog stick. Want to go up or down some stairs? Simply point or tilt the stick in that direction.

Strange movement scheme aside, I continue onward and learn that the Square button controls a flashlight that your character can’t seem to let go of. A gun might have come in handy as I quickly learn the stealth mechanics aren’t up to scratch. I die numerous times until –out of pure frustration and hope- I mash buttons on the DualShock 4 and learn that you can switch between the on-screen prompts. So my time spent opening and closing a door over and over again instead of ducking into cover are in the past.

… there are several problems with Calvino Noir …
The dark detective story is told through conversations your characters have during the adventure into the criminal underworld. You can eventually switch between three people with distinct abilities; one can take down guards, another can pick locks, and the third can operate machinery. They all need to investigate certain locations together to trigger a conversation so you’ll have to try to sneak them all through or clear a path by taking down the guards.

Wilt is the only one who can take down the guards by choking them and letting their unconscious bodies fall to the floor in a very unnatural and wooden animation that must be missing a few dozen frames. The lifeless bodies don’t need to be dragged into the darkness and stuffed in a hiding spot as they instantly disappear when touching the floor.

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Doors have an action icon above each one and you can open and close them with the press of X, or simply walk close to an unlocked door and it’ll magically open, letting any enemy standing behind it have a nice view of your defenceless character. I also noticed you can close a door when walking through it and even choke a guard on the other side of a door if they get close enough, which became a nice way of avoiding being shot when ‘sneaking’. Most of the time at least.

So far these issues are annoying but mostly forgivable. That is until you carefully sneak up on an enemy and try to take them down only to have them whip round and shoot you. No matter how many times I would quietly and slowly sneak up I would always get killed, as if I ran up to them wearing tap shoes and singing the Mighty Mouse theme song.

As you might have guessed by now there are several problems with Calvino Noir. Some I could ignore but the takedowns only occasionally working due to some guards having impossibly good hearing goes a long way to ruining the entire game. There is only one thing that kept me playing for as long as I did and that brings me nicely onto the next section of this review.

… a beautiful but flawed game …
Visuals:
Calvino Noir is a side-scrolling thing of beauty. It looks as if the menacing world these characters inhabit has been sliced cleanly in half to reveal its pure black innards. Smoke hangs in the dimly lit bar and tries its best to hide the silhouetted patrons drowning their sorrows. The heavy downpour seems to wash away almost every ounce of color leaving only.. shades of grey. I’ll ignore the obvious pun and continue by mentioning that this brilliant graphical style is what made me beg to review this game.

Audio:
The sound of rain and thunder dampen the faint, slow, sombre tune that plays throughout the game. Depending on your character’s location you’ll hear various sounds. If you’re outside you might hear some bells ringing or a dog barking. Inside it could be machinery or the muffled chatter people in a pub.

Voice acting is good for the most part and fitting with the characters they’re trying to portray. Wilt is my favourite and sounds like an aging gumshoe of the era.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I really wanted to like Calvino Noir and tried to ignore the frustrating controls and the magically opening doors. I forgot about the promise of stealth and attempted to take down most of the guards instead. I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky guards and their impeccable hearing.

Calvino Noir is a beautiful but flawed game that almost worked so very well but as it stands I cannot ignore problems that got so bad I didn’t finish the game. I really hope the problems can and do get fixed as this is a real beauty to behold and deserves a higher score.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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