Discworld Noir

1999 Perfect Entertainment
Designed by Gregg Barnett, Chris Bateman, Mark Judge
Reviewed 1999 October 5

Rating +3 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity high
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time none

You are Lewton, the Discworld's first private detective. Naturally, a beautiful, mysterious woman walks into your office to hire you to find a missing guy. Your investigation leads to a series of murders and a horrible plot that threatens the disc.

Lewton is a new character for the Discworld, and Noir is a great introduction. The story is rich and byzantine, filled with interesting characters and suspicious goings-on. It doesn't quite have Terry Pratchett's touch of humanity, but it's about as close to his style as anybody else can get. The dialogue is a good parody of Chandleresque dialogue, and there are many allusions to classic films of the genre. If you don't like exaggerated hard-boiled P.I. dialogue, you will find this long winded, but it's fun if you can get into the spirit of it.

In a typical adventure, you use objects on other objects or characters to get new objects. In Noir, the primary aspect of gameplay is using information (clues or topics) on characters and things to get more information. The result is a very different feel, even though it's really the same underneath.

Since being a detective is all about uncovering connections between apparently unconnected people, you often end asking everybody about almost everything, which makes the gameplay frequently tedious. It happens often enough that somebody makes a connection that you can't really expect that you have to be thorough in your investigation. The result is that you don't feel like you're making deductions and solving problems, you're just gathering information. The story makes it interesting, but it's not stimulating.

Noir is a basic third person graphic adventure. The game is very dark, to the point where it interferes with gameplay, making it hard to see a few things that you need. It suits the mood, though. Despite the grim-n-gritty look, the graphics looked sterile, with that "blurred stone" look common to 3D rendering. The characters are real-time 3D renderings. While Lewton himself looks okay, the other characters were under-modeled, looking plastic and lacking vibrancy. The repetitious mannikin movements were grating not so much because of the repetition, but because they were awkward, like a bad puppet show.

Using inventory and information required more clicking than necessary. It would have been nice to have inventory, topics, and the rest as permanent small icons on the screen, saving you one level of menu selection. In addition to this minor nuisance, you can't replay some important conversations, so you must pay careful attention.

I had a stuttering bug, in both audio and video. This would lose some of the audio, so I had to run with text captions. This might simply be due to my sluggish CD drive.

While there might seem to be a lot of problems, they're really very minor. The game plays well despite its faults. It's a lot of fun and moves along nicely. This is recommended for patient players who just want to go along with the story and not work too hard on challenges.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

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    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.