Noir Chronicles: City of Crime (PS4) Review

Artifex Mundi is back with another one of their Hidden Object Games (HOGs) on the PlayStation 4, developed by Brave Giant. This time though, it’s not a game which is part of a trilogy, unlike most of their games prior to this one. Noir Chronicles: City of Crime is a stand-alone adventure where no prior knowledge is required, all the backstory is presented within the game and its bonus chapter. That’s right, this is one of the games which has a bonus chapter which is unlocked upon completion of the main story. 

Noir Chronicles: City of Crime is a bit darker than previous Artifex Mundi titles yet it’s not as dark as True Fear. Not only do we get involved in fist-based action sequences, but we also see a few people get shot – which I think is a first for the console HoG games. I suppose the question is, does Noir Chronicles offer anything new over the other HoGs out there at the moment? Let’s find out…

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Poor Barbara…

Noir Chronicles: City of Crime opens with a rather dramatic cutscene. We’re shown a rather shady character and the back of a mysterious man who is seemingly pissed off at an article he’s just read in the paper. As such, he sends his minion to kill the reporter. Our protagonist, Fox Muld… sorry, Alfred Fox, a washed out detective, receives a call from Barbara (the reporter and his old flame) as she screams for help. Upon hailing a cab, you arrive at her house in the dead of night in order to offer assistance in any way you can.

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However, you’re too late. Poor Barbara has been brutally murdered and it’s now up to you to investigate and solve this horrific event! As you work your way through various locations, you’ll begin to uncover the truth about what’s going on, Was this a crime of passion? Maybe her investigative journalism went too far into something she wasn’t supposed to uncover? Or perhaps it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? The only way you’ll find out is by retracing the villain’s steps and dive deep into the criminal underground.

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HoG!!

HoG?
Noir Chronicles is a Hidden Object Game (HoG), if you’ve not seen or played one of these before, it’s a game which is made up of many beautifully hand-drawn locations which you can navigate through as you search for items to solve inventory puzzles as well as the infamous hidden object scenes. A Hidden Object Scene is exactly what you would expect something with that name would consist of. You’re shown an image with a multitude of items scattered all over the place and it’s up to you to find the items the game requests. This can sometimes be in the form of a word (which is quite hard if you don’t know what the named item actually is), an image, or a shadowy silhouette of said item. 

Now, just like other recent HoGs from Artifex Mundi, there is a decent amount of Hidden Object scenes for you to work through as you investigate the brutal murder, but a lot of the game is taken up by actual puzzles and inventory puzzles. Every time you solve one of the Hidden Object segments, you’ll keep one of the items you are tasked to find. You then use these in the exploration part of the game in order to unlock doors, activate statues, unlock chests, or as a gift or tool to get past a creature or person. If you’ve ever played old-school point-and-click adventure games, HoGs are like a casual version of those but with a more relaxed feeling as you can’t die and hints are provided in abundance should you get stuck. 

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So, the above is what you’d expect from your standard HoG, but how is Noir Chronicles: City of Crime different? Let’s take a look…

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The devs keep it blunt…

New features
One of the new mechanics introduced within Noir Chronicles is the combat segments. If I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of the fighting within any of the Artifex Mundi titles. They technically work and they are a nice distraction from the standard adventure and exploration processes, but they’re basically puzzles disguised as combat. Previously, we’ve seen games with spells where you had to pick the symbols which didn’t appear twice, and the customary moving target where you press Cross to shoot (which is also in this game). Noir Chronicles has you mano-a-mano in the act of fisticuffs against various foes. However, just like the spells, it’s not an action scene as such, it’s a puzzle – in this case, Simon. Simply repeat the actions displayed and knock their lights out. It’s simple, effective, and works pretty good.

Another new mechanic, which wasn’t used enough in my opinion, is the lie detector. When I was first put into this I loved it – the answers you could give, which were wrong, were really funny. For example, the detective asked us where we were at around three o’clock, to which we can reply “You sound like a jealous wife!” There are other classics like when you’re asked what your relationship is with the victim, you can say “Now, we don’t have one”… because she’s dead! I’m sorry, but these had me literally laughing out loud as I read them. I don’t recall seeing anything this blunt in an Artifex Mundi title before. 

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Outside of the above two new mechanics, the rest of the game, when you’re not looking for hidden objects, consists of puzzles like sliding balls around, solving math problems, following directions, and lock picking, as well as a bunch of other non-repeated puzzles. I had fun with Noir Chronicles, nothing was complicated or hard to get my head around, yet it wasn’t overly easy as I had to think about a few of the puzzles placed before me.

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Oh noooo!!!

Dominos, Majong or Collectables
If you’ve played a HoG before, you’ll know how inconsistent they are with what features the game has. This isn’t a bad thing, it means each developer who creates one will implement the things they want to see in the game rather than having them all look and play the same. The differences usually lie around the secondary puzzles and collectables. In terms of secondary puzzle option, Noir Chronicles doesn’t have one. What I mean by this is that in some HoGs you have the choice of doing a Hidden Object segment or either a game of Dominos or Majong – Noir Chronicles is Hidden Object only in those segments. The other feature which alternates is the collectables.

Thankfully, Noir Chronicles does have collectables, but they work as they did in Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink. There is one set of things to collect, hand and footprints, and every scene has one of them present for you to find (after the murder). This means you’ll know you can move on from a scene as soon as you’ve found the hidden item – unless you want to play the game multiple times. There is no in-game tracking of the items, so having one per scene is great for people like me who forgets what they have and haven’t found. Other games sometimes have multiple collectables which can be anywhere and aren’t always on each screen – those are the ones you have to go out of your way to look for. 

As such, it’s entirely possible to complete and platinum Noir Chronicles in one playthrough if you play it on Hard and find everything before you proceed to the next scene, even without a guide. This is what I did and it took me around five hours, which isn’t bad. Noir Chronicles even comes with a bonus chapter, which is yet another feature which isn’t present in every HoG these days, yet I have a few issues with this…

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Unlocked once you finish the game once.

Bonus Chapter
I was rather shocked when I unlocked the platinum for Noir Chronicles as I’d completed the main game but yet to touch the bonus chapter! This is the first time, which I can recall, where an Artifex Mundi title with a bonus chapter present had allowed me to get the platinum by only completing the main story. It’s not a big issue, and I certainly won’t hold it against the game, it’s just a little strange as a few trophies usually relate to the extra story so that you get something for completing it. As it stands, I know a lot of people won’t touch the extra chapter if they know there is no trophy for doing so. 

In terms of the chapter itself, it’s quite short as I think I finished it in less than 45 minutes but it does have an interesting story to it. It’s the story of our protagonist and his brothers before he became a detective and how he was arrested for the murder of his father. It’s a nice introduction and explanation of why our character is washed out and messed up. The one complaint I have for this extra gameplay, technically,  is the difficulty of it, it’s too easy. Sure, HoGs aren’t known for their hardcore difficulty modes, but this segment was a lot easier than the already not-too-difficult main game. 

In regards to my one complaint/observation about the story of the bonus chapter, I don’t see how this story relates to the main game. Sure, we’re shown the detective who we’ll work within the main game, but that’s about it. Usually, these bonus chapters show what happens next, after the main event as a ‘sort of’ epilogue, the ones that go back to the beginning normally shows how an event occurred or reveals why certain characters did what they did. I feel Noir Chronicles went back in time a little too far. Regardless, it’s still an interesting extra story and it helped define our main character a little more.

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I love the artwork!

Technical
As with all Artifex Mundi titles, the artwork is the main star of the show here. The developers they get to produce these games are extremely talented artists who can truly bring a scene alive with their imagery. There is the odd ‘unusual’ animation here and there, and the character models do look a little ‘plastic’ at times, but overall I would say the game looks really pretty for a dark and gritty murder mystery. In regards to the sound, the music is very subtle as it’s not in your face all the time. However, it fits the mood of the game perfectly and captures the atmosphere. There are also a lot of ambient noises as you explore, these make up for the lack of music in certain areas.

The voice acting is usually the games marmite, you either love or hate them. I’m not going to lie, I’ve heard better in the past but Noir Chronicles isn’t bad. All the voices seemed to sound like they would match that person in real life and nobody sounded cringy or like they were reading lines from a book. It did sound like the main protagonist was trying to put on an English accent to sound a bit like Sherlock Holmes though (unless if he actually is English?).

Official Trailer:

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Final Conclusion:
Noir Chronicles: City of Crime is a great addition to the Artifex Mundi family on consoles. It’s your standard Hidden Object Game but with a few new mechanics which we haven’t seen before and a decent amount of comedy within the writing. There are a handful of puzzles which you will have seen before if you’ve played all of the publisher’s previous games, but they all have enough changes to make them unique. The playtime is decent but it only requires a single playthrough in order to obtain all the trophies, you don’t even need to complete the bonus chapter – although I would advise you do play it for additional backstory.

If you like Casual games, Hidden Object games, or you just want a game you can put on and breeze through without too much difficulty, then Noir Chronicles: City of Crime is calling your name. 

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Noir Chronicles: City of Crime

£11.99
8

Final Score

8.0/10

The Good:

  • - Beautifully drawn environments
  • - Interesting Story
  • - Good voice acting and music
  • - Decent amount of comedy within the dark tale
  • - A few new mechanics

The Bad:

  • - Some puzzles are the same as ones we've seen previously
  • - The bonus chapter doesn't link things as much as I'd hoped for, plus you dont' need to play it for the Platinum
  • - Some of the animations are a bit robotic
  • - The characters look a little 'plastic' at times
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