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Calvino Noir Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . With its noir style and shadowy 2D visuals, Calvino Noir is the kind of game that should appeal specifically to me. But the awful gameplay and bad pacing kills the momentum. While the story and setting is compelling, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Calvino Noir is a huge letdown. Rating: 57%
Calvino Noir
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
If I was to make a list niche forms of entertainment I genuinely love, side-scrolling adventure games and 1940s film noir would be close to the top. Normally these two disparate worlds don't connect; 2D platformers are rarely used to tell the twisted tales of private dicks and the criminals they catch. But Calvino Noir hopes to change that. It's a game that combines two of my favorite things, creating a stylish adventure filled with mystery and intrigue. Sadly, it's not an evil criminal conspiracy that brings our hero to his knees, but rather unresponsive gameplay and bad pacing.

Set in Vienna post-World War I, Calvino Noir starts with a simple phone call. There's a dame on the line who is in desperate for a man with a particular set of skills. As luck would have it, Wilt, an ex-pat making money through espionage and blackmail, is just the man for the job. What looks like an easy mission quickly turns into a nightmare as Wilt gets caught up in a conspiracy filled with twists and turns.

The woman on the other end of the line is Siska, a determined twenty year old who will stop at nothing to get her way. Although young, she's full of secrets and it's not always clear where her loyalties lie. Is she working to uncover a corrupt system, or is there something bigger at play? Wilt will need to keep his guard up when dealing with this one.

Calvino Noir is presented as a 2D side-scrolling adventure game. At first you control Wilt, who is able to pick up items and take out guards. But when things get complicated, Wilt is forced to lean on Arno, a long-time friend with a knack for machinery. And then there's Siska, who set this whole thing into motion. Although she looks innocent, Siska is able to pick locks and peep through the keyholes. It's a talent that will prove invaluable.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because this is the set-up for The Lost Vikings, the popular 16-bit puzzle series found on the Sega Genesis and Super NES. Since everybody has a different skill, the unlikely team will need to work together to solve this convoluted case. You can switch between the characters at any time, using their skills to open locked doors, take down guards and move heavy machinery.

Calvino Noir (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

With its gorgeous art style, perfectly captured atmosphere, enthralling story and fun puzzle conceit, this unique side-scroller looked like a game that couldn't miss. But as much as it pains me to say this, Calvino Noir is a huge disappointment. It gets so much right, but lets us down at all the worst times.

The biggest problem is the gameplay, which is stiff and often unruly. It's common for Wilt to get stuck trying to use a ladder or stairs. Opening and closing doors can also be a real nuisance, especially when trying to keep out of the sight of guards. Speaking of which, taking down guards is also a crapshoot. Getting close to an enemy will give Wilt an opportunity to use a silent take down move. Unfortunately, if your timing and placement isn't perfect, the guard will react and shoot you dead on sight.

This ends up being a big issue in some of the larger levels, especially when checkpoints are few and far between. So much of this game involves repeating huge chunks of area because of a split-second decision gone wrong. The gameplay isn't built for this style of stealth combat, yet every chapter shoehorns it in for no reason.

Calvino Noir (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Even without the cheap deaths, Calvino Noir would still suffer from bad pacing. Moving multiple people around proves to be a real pain in the larger areas. There's a lot of backtracking, which sometimes means running through the same area with three different people. There's no way to group the team together and have them walk as a single unit, this is a game about slowly moving people around large facilities.

For some, the game's intriguing story will be enough for them to overlook some of the pacing issues. However, even that is marred by uneven voice acting. Wilt and Arno sound great, perfectly capturing the spirit of the 1930s crime noir. But Siska's voice acting is especially bad, often calling for range she doesn't seem to have. Her delivery is flat and even monotone at times. It stands out next to the otherwise great cast.

Calvino Noir has the kind of concept I would like to see more of in video games. I think that's why the poor execution is so heartbreaking. With just a few tweaks to the gameplay, this could have been one of the biggest surprises of the summer. But good intentions will only get you so far, and Calvino Noir is a mystery that may not be worth solving.
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