Volrath and Artbane have, needless to say, done it again.
Showing off a map and the only passability issue I managed to find
Being a game that takes place in a more modern society, the duo had no choice but to use some custom tilesets, and the ones they used work very well. The mapping is, frankly, excellent throughout and realistic as well. They took careful time into making the city (the hub where you spend essentially all of your time) seem like an actually city. The interiors are also mapped well, especially the apartment of our protagonist and his friend.
A couple of the faces used are inconsistent with what Eddie and some of the other important characters have. Additionally there are cars driving around the city that look sort of funny, especially when they turn. But, animating a realistic-looking turn from a car would be more difficult than what it's worth, so I give this a pass.
They even went so far as to mp realistic bathrooms!
From the audio side of things, the music is absolutely gorgeous, sporting an array of ambient tunes that make the exploration that much more wonderful. I spent a considerable amount of time wandering aimlessly through the large city, exploring everything it has to offer while listening to incredibly wonderful city theme.
The gameplay in X-Noir involves lining yourself up with enemies and shooting them, and getting out of the way before a meter fills up which means they will shoot you.
This is where the game sort of falters. The combat, in nearly every instance, is not very exciting and doesn't require much strategy and can be abused pretty easily. Against one of the boss enemies, I dashed to one side of the desk and, since his movement pattern was set to "follow", I abused this so he would stay on the other side of the desk and I could simply move left and right and shoot him without being touched. One particular boss fight simply ends up being extremely frustrating and needlessly time consuming rather than difficult or fun, mostly because of his ability to traverse through chain link fences while moving quicker than the player can, which just becomes frustrating more than anything.
There's a "reload" button but I'm not really sure why, since the game never makes you stop to reload. The entirety of the battles are basically just strafing and shooting. There were a few instances where there were several enemies on the map which made things more enjoyable and strategic, and I hope the gameplay goes in this direction more rather than what is present in the tutorial and sewer dungeon.
The game throws a few puzzles at you, and they are brilliant designed. In particular, I cried for a few hours while trying to solve this maddening dilemma:
This is to be expected, though, with Artbane at the helm, as he is famous for his level design. So with that in mind, the gameplay is redeemed by the excellently designed puzzles and areas.
Let me put this bluntly:
This is masterful storytelling.
This game tells a classic film noir story, as you follow a Private Investigator who's not exactly thrilled with his life situation. Some of the best writing really comes through during the therapy sessions, where we really get to see into Eddie's fascinating character.
The cases that you solve are relatively interesting as well. The first one was rather lackluster on it's own, but a certain plot point surrounding it develops into something bigger, making it a fine introductory case. There are a lot of characters with varying personalities that are easily distinguishable and the player grows to thoroughly enjoy the interactions with some of the cooler characters (Munoz is such a bro).
The interrogating system (this is kind story and gameplay together) doesn't seem to have much of a point. It's not difficult to lower Eddie's anxiety (which is the byproduct of making a wrong choice), and at the end of a case you will be reminded of how many mistakes you made, but there don't seem to be any repercussions from what I could tell. Perhaps there is a reward for making no wrong decisions? I could try this sometime.
This game gets my highest praise. The gameplay is a bit of a letdown, but in the grand scheme of things it does not bring down this fabulous RPG Maker experience.
Edited by Xephyr, 06 March 2013 - 11:54 AM.