A PROMISING episodic adventure steeped in noir tradition
Game review: Blues and Bullets - Episode 1
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / PC
NOIR is a genre that has been mined by countless superb film and television productions over the years, yet it has always seemed curiously untapped by game developers. The best known remains Rockstar’s underappreciated detective story, L.A. Noire, which did a superb job of combining stylistic flourishes with solid gameplay. Other offerings, however, have been thin on the ground over the years.
Blues and Bullets, a new episodic crime adventure from indie developers, A Crowd of Monsters, hopes to change that. Its protagonist is none other than Elliot Ness of Untouchables fame, but the game does not plough that film’s furrow. Instead, it transports the detective a few decades in the future, tasking him - and you - with solving the mystery of kidnapped children and the workings of a shadowy cult.
It looks like the kind of game Frank Miller might design
Visually, the game looks splendid. It is in love with its source material and it does not try to disguise its influences at any point. Its world is one of shadows and streetlights, with blood red the most visible colour to intrude on its stylish palette. If Frank Miller took to developing a game, chances are he would come up with something similar, in appearance at least.
In terms of gameplay, it does not stray far from either L.A. Noire’s detective work of the QTE synonymous with the adventures of Telltale Games. The former sees Ness faced with a barrage of clue at a crime scene, trying to piece them together and establish a possible motive. It works well and although there is no resolution at the end of the first episode, it feels like the mechanic encourages some logical thinking rather than simply clicking on every item in a scene. However, there is no punishment for making a wrong hunch - the game just waits until you get it right.
Hoary old clichés undermine the game at points
The action aspect also works reasonably well. The fight scenes jar a little but the on-rails shooting sections bring a welcome burst of pace to proceedings, although there are hoary old clichés scattered around, such as propane tanks, to make things easier for the player. They are about as subtle as a brick through a window and undermine the thoughtfulness A Crowd of Monsters are grasping for.
The plot itself cannot be judged alone by the inaugural episode, but it hints at something interesting, even supernatural. Other times it lapses into convention, with the noir genre feeling like a crutch; some of the dialogue would not be out of place in an early afternoon Channel 5 potboiler. Overall, Blues and Bullets is an intriguing proposition. It adds something new to the episodic adventure canon. Time will tell whether it gets over its teething problems.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Be prepared to replay some of the QTE events as button presses occasionally fail to register.
If in doubt what to look for, the red eyes icon prompts you to focus in certain areas.
If you want to complete everything in the game, be sure to investigate every clue. It might not be necessary for the investigation, but it is for achievements and statistics.