Face Noir review

The Good:

Excels in staying true to the private eye noir aesthetic; excellent music; interesting storytelling and very well-translated.

The Bad:

Lackluster voice acting; not the prettiest game to look at; very linear and methodical with minimal urgency.

Our Verdict:

Face Noir is a genuinely entertaining adventure for fans of private eye mysteries, and a solid debut for a promising developer, even if it’s only half of a story.

Let's start with a question: what was the first thing you thought when you heard there was an adventure game called Face Noir? In a genre that has previously provided us games titled Noir, Discworld Noir, and L.A. Noire, you might be somewhat surprised to learn that "face noir" is actually a French term that represents the dark side of destiny. Of course (wink and a nod), this first installment in the two-part adventure by Italian developer Mad Orange just so happens to embrace the film noir of its name and provide a very competent private eye mystery straight out of the Raymond Chandler era.

Our hero is Jack Del Nero, a Depression-era private eye who makes camp in a seedy downstairs apartment on the Lower East Side of New York City. Del Nero plays up every noir P.I. stereotype that you can find—he nurses his drinking problem down at the "joint" owned by a girl he's got his eye on, while getting prodded by his corrupt Russian landlord to finally pay his back rent, and getting by on minor jobs like illicit-romance-in-a-hotel-room photography. A late night phone call from an old friend awakens an intoxicated Jack, and one trip down to a dank, rain-soaked port later, a dead body and a hiding little girl ensure that this is going to be a long night. Much of the mystery takes place over the next few hours, as Jack hunts down leads amidst the dark dreariness of the big city to uncover the conspiratorial group that has placed the utmost importance on this child and what she means to the future.

Mad Orange has released this game in Europe previously, and Cognition developer Phoenix Online saw fit to shepherd it to an English-language release. Although it may almost seem self-defeating to release another detective game right as Cognition is building momentum to its concluding episode, do not make the mistake that these games play in the same space. While Cognition is a bloody, hyper-stylized modern mystery with a supernatural twist and a great deal of injected intensity, Face Noir is a methodical slow burn, the type of soft-paced private eye mystery that revels in its seediness with no extra urgency or modernized violence. There is a crime, and there are clues, and the clues take you from one scene to the next just like a nice rainy-day mystery does, without ever acting in a way that would seek the label of "thriller". No double-clicking to run, either; this is one private eye content to take his time.

The game remains entirely faithful to classic point-and-click adventure mechanics, with some modern touches. There is substantial use of inventory in about as logical a fashion as you could ask—after all, what would a private eye be without his gun, cigarettes and lighter, flashlight, and lockpick tools? The interactions (I hesitate to use the word puzzles) that utilize these items are simple and straightforward—if it's too dark to see, you should use your flashlight—and there is minimal inventory combination. Further, when clues are discovered, the inner dialogue of Del Nero usually makes it pretty clear where your next destination should be. It's tough to feel lost when your player-character pipes up with: "I should go see if Slovanski knows anything about this."

There are a couple nifty mechanics present that allow Face Noir to establish some of its own identity. Adventure fans are used to picking up disparate facts from various places, and once those facts are discovered, seeing some new dialogue options open up when talking to characters. Face Noir at least forces a bit of intellectual investment into the process: in the midst of conversations, you'll enter "Let's Think About This" mode with 10-15 various facts you've gathered literally floating around the screen. Connecting the correct two with the current conversation topic continues your interaction down the right path. This is certainly never challenging, but at least it feels much more like actual detective work then simply exhausting conversation trees, and you'll likely find multiple instances where you have simply not found all the facts yet and now know that some more digging is necessary.

The game also makes liberal use of close-up sequences for actions as simple as opening a mailbox or attempting to break off a doorknob, but these close-ups have a catch designed to increase interaction. Rather than simple repeated left-mouse clicking, the mouse is meant to feel like an extension of the character's arm. So opening a door involves clicking, holding, and dragging the mouse off to the side to open. While it isn't exactly the perfect PC equivalent of touch-based mobile games, it is a passable attempt to at least do something beyond a lot of clicking, and it's not overused. There are also five lockpicking minigames of increasing complexity, requiring actual precision and a bit of trial and error (though ultimately offering the ability for wimps to skip the sequences, though I never had to). Again, hardly the harbinger of a mighty new genre convention, but it's refreshing to see a game so rooted in old-school tradition show some modern design sensibility.

Continued on the next page...

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Game Info

Face Noir



Mad Orange

Game Page »

Digital July 18 2013 Phoenix Online Studios

Where To Buy

Face Noir

DRM-Free at Adventure Gamers Store


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User Score

Average based on 15 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Niclas on May 25, 2014

Lovely noir detective mystery

I must say that I love noir detective mysteries. Face Noir really captures that feel with its rainy environments, music, and great voice... Read the review »

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Evan Dickens
Staff Writer
Evan Dickens is the former editor-in-chief of Adventure Gamers. Now semi-retired, he meanders about on his front porch firing his slingshot at passing cars and griping about "the old days". Full Bio
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small dickie small dickie
Jul 24, 2013

“is Chinese accent is thick and overstated, clearly to provide the game’s only comic relief, and almost to the extent of being borderline racist”

I havent played the game but what a poor choice of words. Making fun of another countrys language is not racism. That doesnt mean i hate that country or its people. If i mock someone for any reason that doesnt mean that i hate him. Cause really racism is just that - hate. People these days tend to forget that. These days racism is used too often and for anything. Im fed up with this.  Anti-racism is now the new racism.

MoonBird MoonBird
Jul 24, 2013

I agree with small dickie here. Bad journalism. Racism-card is way too easily pulled out in every conversation nowadays. Reckless use of those terms distorts the original meaning of the word.

Jackal Jackal
Jul 24, 2013

While I agree that political correctness has gone way overboard, there are few things as culturally intrinsic as language, and mocking that can be and often is demeaning to an entire race of people. And yes, that is sometimes a form of racism, even if a subtle one.

That said, I’m sure (and no doubt Evan is sure) that’s not what was intended here. Hence the words “almost” and “borderline”, which seem to have been conveniently ignored.

Peter254 Peter254
Jul 24, 2013

One does not have to ‘hate’ another race to be deemed racist. One merely has to uphold the attitude that the institution which separates and pigeonholes race is true by default. So racism is not just to be classed as ‘hate.’ There is a hierarchy of offenses that lead up to hate; like ignorance and resentment. I’ve known plenty of people who, while not hateful, unknowingly held onto racist ideologies. And, actually, racism still exists. There is no ‘new’ racism, because the old one is still here, alive and kicking.

Advie Advie
Jul 30, 2013

lets not forget how this game really reflects the 30’s in a very truly ideal way as we all know about the it , so if the game makes fun of a Chinese accent within
its still providing the true vision about that era ..i.e if there a game about the 60’s and a writer shows how it was with black People at that time in the Southern United States and used the ‘n’ term you can not accuse him of being racist when he is trying to reflect that time as its , and also making the homework very good.
FN really reflected the 30’s in way that melt the Story within in such a great and a professional way ,i can not remember seeing it even at Hollywood Movies .

Peter254 Peter254
Jul 30, 2013

Portraying racism and employing racism are two different things. What this reviewer finds questionable is not, to use your example, that the game uses the N-word for authenticity, but that the one black character is portrayed eating watermelons and lusts after all the white women; who is also designed to be a target of our ridicule.

i.e. Chinese character is treated with racism committed by the world’s inhabitants, versus Chinese character is a ‘borderline’ racist caricature committed by the author.

Aug 8, 2013

Peter is right. Racism is not just hate, it is commonly defined as the act of acknowledging the Races have differences. Though, dickie is right, that the word is commonly used as a definition of a type of hate, which is really the only definition that makes sense.

Specifically, in this game though, all that is made fun off is the accent of native Chinese speakers, who have learned a little English.

Sep 28, 2013

I agree with the reviewer, this was a decent game but with the exception of a few sequences, mostly boring.

Biggest issue I had was there was a lot of hotspots but no indicator as to what it was(some items are very small) until you walked(not run) over to it.
This makes new screens incredibly tedious as it takes forever to walk and listen to each hotspot, 75% of which are just for show.

SamuelGordon SamuelGordon
Oct 16, 2013

Really enjoyed the game and hope for a sequel. More locations hopefully Smile. I was so sick of backtracking to the same locations: bar, port,..