I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times more. When it comes to point-and-click puzzle games on Xbox One, Artifex Mundi takes the lead. We’ve seen some stellar titles from Artifex over the years, from their Nightmares of the Deep, right up to their recent release of My Brother Rabbit. That said, not all of their games are big hitters. In fact, some of them are pretty bland and forgettable. Though, something I feel they need to be commended for is their diversity. Each of their releases play on widely different, mostly interesting, themes.
This time round, we have Noir Chronicles: City of Crime. The game throws players into the role of Detective Fox. Following the brutal murder of his old flame, Barbara Le Purr, Fox sets off to bring her killer to justice. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the basis of the game’s premise. It’s your run-of-the-mill murder mystery, with a slight lack of emphasis on the latter. Nevertheless, it’s interesting enough to maintain player interest, if indeed somewhat predictable and, to a degree, far-fetched. Though, that said, it’s the gameplay you’re here for.
Before we get onto that, let’s tackle something that typically holds back any given game from Artifex; voice acting and character models. Sadly, I can only report that much like in Artifex’s other offerings, Noir Chronicles follows suit. The voice acting here is notoriously bad, so much so that it comes off over the top and massively cringey. I’m not sure why these games consistently rely on poor voice casts, because if anything, it only makes each journey displeasing as far as their story elements go. Too often was I tempted to skip cutscenes.
The same can be said about the game’s character models. Mostly due to the fact that most characters are wildly out of proportion. One character in particular has a head that looks twice the size of what it should be, whereas another’s ears seem to be contending with Shrek’s tabs. Sure, this is all to easy to overlook if you’re just here for the puzzles, but in the grand scheme of things, extra polish and more refinement wouldn’t go amiss. The core loop sits inline with expectations; solve puzzles, move to the next area, solve puzzles, and so on.
Noir Chronicles’ puzzles are well crafted and so long as you’re not relying on the hint system, which doubles up as a puzzle skip option, you’ll find plenty of brain teasers to enjoy. Hidden object puzzles take up the bulk of the offerings, with additional puzzles such as untangling ropes, key combinations, fixing electrical wiring, and other like-minded extras, filling in the void. In regards to the difficulty of each and every puzzle, the game does a good job at keeping you on your toes despite hidden object scenarios being far too easy to overcome.
You’ll also pick up items to store in your inventory. Typically, these serve themselves as either direct puzzles, or pieces that need to placed into an object elsewhere. You’ll follow that thread throughout the entirety of play. That’s not a bad thing by any means, in fact if anything it keeps the pace at a steady flow. Generally speaking, you’ll move from one area to the next until you have the components that you need to access another area, and once there, you’ll be met with a similar sort of concept. Simple yes, but effective nonetheless.
I do have a major issue with a newly introduced mechanic, however. There’s a few sequences in which you’ll have a fist-fight with the game’s antagonist. This, for the most part, is nothing more than a QTE. It feels well of out place and can be massively irritating when the sequence of commands don’t activate; leaving you to suss out the correct pattern yourself. This led me to several minutes of taking an ass kicking whilst listening to the same boring, repeated dialogue, over and over, and over again. Surely a cutscene would have been much better?
There’s roughly around five hours worth of content to work through in the main campaign, with another hour thrown in if you’re interested in the bonus chapter that unlocks at the end of the game’s completion. Most of the game’s achievements will pop on your first run, with a select few being tied to the likes of completing specific puzzles without hints or without making a mistake. That said, all of these are easy to obtain if you don’t rush through the puzzle elements, serving up a nice, healthy max completion in just one or two sittings.
In regards to the visual design overall, Noir Chronicles looks fantastic. Each and every area within is masterfully produced. There’s a great level of care and attention to detail throughout, bolstered further by how diverse and unique each location is. Now, as for the soundtrack, I’m a bit split here. The soundtrack does well to capture that noir-esque vibe, but I would lying if I said that it didn’t become repetitive and slightly annoying before long. In any case and overall, Noir Chronicles will indeed scratch your puzzle solving itch, if nothing else.
Noir Chronicles: City of Crime isn’t the best that we’ve seen from Artifex Mundi, but it will indeed scratch that puzzle-solving itch, if nothing else. I take issue with the game’s shoddy voice acting, its lackluster plot, and its poor animation, but with that to the side, there’s little more to scoff at. If you’re coming here purely for the puzzles, you’re likely to enjoy what’s on offer. If you’re seeking more than that, look elsewhere.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.