The film noir stealth game. Calvino Noir is the exploratory, sneaking adventure through the 1930s European criminal underworld. Architecture meets Noir as you become unwillingly entangled in a revolutionist plot. Sneak through sewers, across rooftops, and past guards in this dark and mysterious journey.
Play as a disparate group of low-lifes, loners and last-chancers as they fight for the future of a city sliding slowly into the gutter. The characters of Calvino Noir exist in a moral universe which knows only shades of grey. Some are broken souls, some are merely damaged – but all are fighting to forge a future in an ugly world ruled by those whose hearts are cruel and dark.
I love Film Noir. There’s just something special about it. It might be the lack of color, the dark stories or the overall sense of depression. It’s beautiful. That’s why I was excited for Calvino Noir the second a friend told me about it. I saw the trailers and screenshots and it became one of my most anticipated games of the year. A film noir video game! What could go wrong? Well… it saddens me to tell you that while some aspects of this stealth-adventure game are great, they’re eclipsed by some big, frustrating issues.
I consider myself a positive person, so let’s start with the good: the presentation in this game is amazing! It absolutely feels like a Film Noir. Visuals are presented in shades of gray, it takes place in the 1930’s and it is always raining. We also get the usual plot and characters you would expect from a Film Noir, which is not a bad thing. The presentation in this game is borderline perfect.
Another thing I really enjoyed about Calvino Noir is its atmosphere. Like I said, it feels like a Film Noir, but the developer really payed attention to the small details. Stairs, elevators, desks and streets all feel perfect. And don’t get me started with the 2.5D environments. They look stunning. The second the game started, I told myself: I’m going to love this! This game will be amazing! That is until I actually started to play.
Now, I’ll be honest: I don’t like giving bad scores. I will never intentionally play a game just to give it a bad score. That’s why it truly hurts when I dislike a game I was excited for. Why do I dislike Calvino Noir? In one word: Frustration.
This game is extremely frustrating, on many levels. First off, movement feels super clunky. Climbing ladders or going down a set of stairs can be quite difficult. Every now and then, the game doesn’t know if you want to go up a ladder, or walk past it. So you’ll end up doing what you didn’t want to do. Other times, you’ll have to switch directions and run. But if you were going left and decided to go right, your character will walk left for another half a second before turning around. Movement feels too heavy. When these mistakes happened in a dark room, it was frustrating. But when they were the cause of me getting caught and killed by an enemy, it became a big issue.
I was also frustrated by some of the game’s mechanics. Even if Calvino Noir is a stealth game, every now and then you find yourself in a position where you must choke a guard in order to move on. Well, chokeholds have a weird timing that I couldn’t get right during my entire playthrough, so I kept getting killed over and over and over when trying to choke an enemy. Now, someone could respond by saying: chokeholds are hard because it’s a stealth game, you’re not supposed to attack enemies. That’s a valid point. However, if you don’t want the player to attack enemies, then why even have the option? I would have rather not having the option to attack, instead of having a chokehold mechanic that constantly caused me to die.
That’s another source of frustration: the enemy AI is extremely inconsistent. And when I say inconsistent, I mean it. At times, enemies would somehow hear me walking from far away and chase me until I died. A couple of times, even if I was sure I was about to die, enemies would just point their flashlights at me and pretend we weren’t face to face. This inconsistency really affected the game. When I got caught, I felt cheated. When I managed to end a level, I felt lucky. Never felt rewarded.
Lastly, dialogue could have been better. I do feel like the voice actors do a great job portraying their respective characters. It’s just that dialogue doesn’t fell authentic at times, characters felt like they were just reciting the lines they were given.