Calvino Noir Review
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Calvino Noir Review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on September 1st, 2015
Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: FEMME FATALEY FLAWED
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This noir-inspired stealth game looks fantastic, but its gameplay is more frustratingly boilerplate than it is hardboiled.

Developer: Calvino Noir Limited
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2

Graphics / Sound [rating:95100]
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Calvino Noir is a stealth-based game that tries its darndest to capture the look and feel of 40s film noir. It has a beautiful black and white aesthetic, fascinating architecture, and a plot that is so conspiracy-ridden and morally ambiguous that it is reminiscent of The Maltese Falcon. As great as all these trappings are though, Calvino Noir's gameplay is unfortunately more frustratingly boilerplate than it is hardboiled.

The opening introduces players to the main protagonist, Wilt, who works as a "scrambler" in Vienna. Although it's not really explicitly stated, this means he makes his living carrying out tasks that involve espionage, blackmail, and other tasks that occasionally ask for rules to be broken and authorities to be dealt with. The first chapter does a great job of exposing players to the game world before throwing them - and Wilt - into a complicated web of mystery that needs solving with the help of some friends.

Calvino Noir becomes a beautifully rendered, but otherwise pretty standard, stealth game. Every level is presented as a cross-section of an environment with some thoroughly detailed buildings that players tap to move around in. The main objective is contextualized within the plot, but generally it just involves getting all characters past guards from point A to point B. There are a few exceptions to this, of course, as other characters have skills that involve picking locks and operating machinery, but most of the game is definitely about traversal.

Since no player-controlled characters have weapons to use against the gun-toting guards, being discovered is almost always an instant game over - though Wilt has the ability to take them out via a stranglehold. While being able to take down guards is nice (especially considering how thorough they are on patrol), executing a stealthy takedown is very difficult to do consistently for reasons that aren't always clear. This makes the bulk ofCalvino Noir an exercise in trial and error while gaming guards into leaving their regular patrol paths by opening and closing doors a lot, then strangling them as soon as they get close. Given the elegance of the rest of it, the frustrating nature of the stealth and the lack of viable options for playing are hard to stick with.

That said, anyone particularly fond of films like The Third Man can get a lot of Calvino Noir, despite the mediocre gameplay. There are a lot of narrative breaks that do a reasonable job of emulating noir dialogue, which really enhances the atmosphere. As a game told across multiple acts and chapters though, itasks players looking to experience the full story to shell out some additional cash to get access to the last two thirds of the game.

I really want to like Calvino Noir, especially as someone that's particularly fond of film noir aesthetics and sensibilities. The problem is that its strengths - as great as they are - don't compel me enough to look past the lackluster stealth gameplay. It's a real shame too, because there's a lot to like. I just don't want to have to fail sections over and over again, not necessarily knowing what I did wrong, to experience it.

iPhone Screenshots

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iPad Screenshots

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Apple TV Screenshots

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