I really wanted to like Calvino Noir. It's so far up my alley that it's pouring me drinks out of a brown-paper-bagged bottle and letting me snuggle up when the winds turn cold.
It's gorgeous, it's wonderfully well written, and it captures that gloomy rain-soaked noir atmosphere perfectly. Its trench coats flap in foreboding breezes, its characters are only ever a plot twist away from betrayal.
But it never quite clicks. It's obvious there are some great ideas here, but the touchscreen controls make it a little too fiddly to really enjoy, and its blend of mechanics make uncomfortable bedfellows.
Dames and what not
The game is a stealth point-and-click adventure. You're playing a freelance spy or scrambler, and need to get to the bottom of a conspiracy in a 1930s Europe.
You'll also control other characters who bring new skills to the table. Wilt can knock out guards, Arno can sabotage machines, and Siska can crack locks.
You switch between characters with a tap, and need to utilise the team you're given to make it through the objective-filled levels.
There's a torch you can use as well, and a button that toggles your movement speed. Both of these can alert guards to your presence, so you need to use them sparingly, because the guards in Calvino Noir do not mess around.
Taps move you around, and context-sensitive icons pop-up when you're near something you can look at or interact with. It can get a bit cumbersome though, and sometimes you'll tap to jump into cover and jog off in the wrong direction before snapping back and hiding.
And this exposes the game's weakness. Point-and-click controls aren't really suited to quick reactions, and quite often you'll spot a guard at the last minute.
Death happens regularly. You'll get seen, try and run away, and get shot in the back. Or you'll try to stand and fight and get shot in the front.
Never stops raining
It makes for a frustrating, unbalanced experience. You want to push on and find out where the intriguing story will take you, but you'll constantly find yourself stumbling to your death. And then you'll stop playing.
And it's a real shame, because Calvino Noir gets so many things right. It builds a world, populates it with characters you want to find out more about, and then does its utmost to make sure you don't get to experience any of that.
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