Face Noir is based in depression era New York in a game world inspired by the writings of Raymond Chandler. The graphics are suitably grim with near constant rain, desolate slum buildings, shady characters and tough talking but vulnerable bar maids. My first impression of the game was not good thanks to mediocre voice acting on the main character and there was worse to come in the form of the stereotypically alcoholic Irish cop and Chinese cap driver, both accompanied by appalling accented voice acting. But I persisted and was rewarded with an enjoyable adventure game.
The player controls Jack Del Nero an American-Italian private investigator framed for the murder of his former police partner and forced to solve the case to clear his name. Like most point-and-clicks, the game is reasonably linear but the player does have a choice of multiple locations to explore at any one time which helps to create an illusion of freedom.
The strong point of the game is it's variety of puzzles. The standard inventory puzzles where you use objects in your inventory to progress are mixed in with static puzzles like decoding an encrypted notebook or cracking a safe combination. Unusually, the player must assemble the occasional jigsaw style object using the mouse to rotate and drag the separate elements together. The puzzles are not particularly difficult but solving them does grant of feeling of accomplishment.
Unfortunately, and this is a personal bug bear, the plot drifts into the supernatural. Now, some games can handle the supernatural superbly; most can't. Face Noir is the latter. I was suspicions when the detective began experiencing dream flashbacks told from his partners point of view. I hoped this was just a lazy plot device but we were in full woo-woo territory by the end. And this is a shame because it's completely unnecessary. Games like Gabriel Knight handled the supernatural excellently and remains one of my favourite games. In Face Noir though it feels forced like the last chapter of a Raymond Chandler novel written by Stephen King. However the majority of the game is enjoyable and I would recommend it to adventure game fans.
Summary : Face Noir is a point and click adventure with a pleasing combination of puzzles, hidden items and object manipulation. Unfortunately the game is let down by some poor voice acting and a plot which drifts unnecessarily into the supernatural.