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About the Story
It's his biggest selling point and it's a cold, hard fact: occult detective Jacob Morris has never lost a case, and he's been in this business a long time. Join him and his singularly skilled colleague Solene in rainy Steel City as they take on a series of cases involving monsters, people, and that which falls between.
Nominee - Jacob Morris, Best Individual PC - 2018 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Dark background. Sweet jazzy opening music. First person narration. Rain pounding on the windows. Early entrance by a femme fatale… who is actually your business partner, not to mention (Spoiler - click to show)a succubus - the ultimate femme fatale! - and who totally calls your bluff on pretending to be asleep. With all of this, plus the title, I’m thinking that Grimnoir is going to be a noir detective story that nevertheless plays with noir’s usual tropes. And, sure enough, that’s what it is.
One major aspect of the game perhaps takes noir in a different direction rather than playing with its tropes. This is the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)the PC specializes in the supernatural - particularly tracking down various undead spirits. There are probably other works that feature this as well, but I was reminded of Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series of novels.
A second aspect is truly playing with noir’s tropes. As you slowly come to realize over the course of the game, (Spoiler - click to show)the detective PC is gay. This affects the story and gameplay some, as it makes him immune to the charms of his succubus partner, while leaving him susceptible to an incubus in one of the mid-to-late-game cases.
Gameplay involves solving a series of cases. You're given three cases initially that you can investigate in any order. After you complete those you're given three more cases that you can investigate in any order, followed by the endgame case(s). (It's kind of like Detectiveland doubled, in that respect.) Three cases at a time gives the player some choice without it feeling overwhelming in the way six or seven cases might.
The player also has access to the Grimnoir, which contains a list of monsters and their powers. This was fun and reminded me of a miniature Dungeons & Dragons monster manual.
The cases feature some interesting narrative and investigate variations. For example, (Spoiler - click to show)in one case you play as the succubus partner, which was fun partly for variety and partly because she has cool powers. In addition, another case involves two spirits rather than one.
My one gameplay critique has to do with your selection of the monster that you think is causing the crime. After you've completed your investigation, the game gives you a list of three monsters to choose from. With only three names it’s easy (if you remembered to save just before the monster encounter) to try all of them and then reload if you’re wrong.
Also, from a narrative standpoint I’m not sure why naming a monster would cause it to freeze, although from a gameplay standpoint I can understand this: The game needs some way for the selection of the monster type to be decisive in terms of the investigation, and having the monster freeze when named accomplishes that.
The final case is a nice wrap-up of the PC's storyline and series of investigations.
Overall, I enjoyed Grimnoir. It's a well-done noir homage that nevertheless plays with its tropes in interesting ways.
I had a dream based on Grimnoir after playing it. Don't really know what made this game so engaging; I guess it's just an interesting story, deliberately filled with recognizable clichés but humane and absorbing. It would make a good TV series.
After exploring and interviewing witnesses, at the end of each chapter you are faced with a diagnostic puzzle (in the vein of When in Rome). These puzzles make you read the previous text carefully, searching for clues, and not just skim through the links - which, of course, adds to the experience and makes the game world more vivid in your imagination. The bestiary guidebook you are given is well-researched and, in addition to unavoidable vampires and basilisks, features some rather unusual monsters; I was pleased to see it starting with Alkonost, a lesser-known creature from Russian folklore.
I love this game. I'm a big fan of mystery games in general, but they tend to have a common problem: how do you model the investigative process?
Some games have you collect physical evidence until you have enough to convict (the Infocom mysteries, for instance). Other games represent knowledge as individual clues that can be combined or traded (like some of my games and the excellent Erstwhile). Some games have you just guess who did it after you collect enough information (like Toby's Nose).
This game follows the latter path, and does it well. You're given quite a few cases (this is a big Twine game), and in each one, you read information about a monster causing trouble. You have a big encyclopedia listing different monsters' characteristics. Your job, as the player, is to read the encyclopedia, compare it to the monster's characteristics, and guess which monster it is, as well as its motivations.
This game wouldn't be nearly as good without its slick presentation. Beautiful intro, nice transitions and classy color use.
I beta tested this game, but it got a lot of work done after I did so. Very pleased with the outcome here.
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