Artifex Mundi have carved out a pretty respectable name for themselves within the indie gaming community. Their well illustrated games and classic hidden object formula is easily recognizable and even extends beyond their in-house developed games to the ones that they publish for other developers, as well. Noir Chronicles: City of Crime, published by Artifex Mundi but developed by Brave Giant LTD, carries on the tradition of being easily recognizable as an Artifex Mundi title but it does go a step further in the direction of breaking some of the norms we expect from that formula.
First and foremost, Noir Chronicles: City of Crime sheds the fantastical and mythologically inspired storytelling that we have become accustomed to. Brightly colored castles in the clouds and firefly lit forest scenes are replaced instead with seedy bars and grungy alleyways while our expected protagonist is no longer a female alchemist, botanist or other worldly being. In fact, our protagonist this time isn’t even a female at all, but rather a grizzled male detective named Alfred Fox who receives a call from a lady named Barbara. Barbara is in grave danger as there is an attacker at her home, and so Detective Fox speeds to her aide as quickly as possible.
Once Fox arrives at Barbara’s home you can expect to be greeted by the same point and click gameplay that Artifex Mundi is known for. You’ll need to find key items hidden in each carefully illustrated scene in order to solve puzzles and progress your way through the story. Noir Chronicles, however, has one issue that previous Artifex Mundi titles did not. It is entirely possible to find yourself locked out of progression if you miss a key item in a previous scene where the game does not allow you to go back. Typically, these hidden object puzzle games allow players to move back and forth between a few scenes, usually just three or four that serve as a cohesive ‘area’, while previous completed areas are blocked from being accessed. The second scene in Noir Chronicles has a very important item hidden among its scenery. If the player is unfortunate enough to move forward to the third scene without finding this key item, they will find themselves locked and unable to progress back or forth as scene two becomes temporarily unaccessible while in scene three. Players that are unfortunate enough to stumble on to this glitch will find themselves with no choice but to return to the game’s main menu and start a fresh game over from the beginning. Thankfully, this error occurs early enough in the game that you don’t lose any real progress. It is still a glitch that the folks at Brave Giant LTD should look into repairing, though.
One unusual glitch aside, Noir Chronicles is a fairly well paced experience that plays well and is pretty much what anyone who has played a hidden object puzzle game can expect. You’ll be navigating your way through various scenes looking for important objects, and sometimes you’ll need to search through junk piles with a variety of objects. What makes Noir Chronicles stand out from other Artifex Mundi titles is the switch up in minigame types. When you have as many point and click titles as Artifex Mundi does its difficult to avoid repetition with mini games, but Noir Chronicles’ detective storyline allows for some more story-related mini games such as choosing an alibi to give the police when you are found at the murder scene. There are even combat sequences that play out like a game of Simon with players pulling the left and right triggers to match a light up pattern.
While there are intriguing new mini games scattered among the story, there is no alternative mini game for Hidden Object Puzzles. Artifex Mundi titles often allow you to switch dynamically between Hidden Object Puzzles and a mini game such as mahjong or card matching, but Noir Chronicles is missing this classic gameplay aspect. It does, however, feature a bonus chapter that unlocks after completing the main story as well as two gameplay modes – casual or expert.