ProP’s “Grimnoir” is a long, choice-based game about a detective who tracks down supernatural monsters. Even though it’s a well-written text-adventure, its convenient interface, investigation mechanics, and smooth gameplay remind me of the best aspects of point-and-click adventures.
Gameplay: The game consists of a series of separate cases to be solved by the protagonist. It’s presented as a modern noir, with the twist that the detective is pining over an ex-boyfriend, and the classic noir femme fatale is his succubus assistant. It’s a variation on the conventional noir formula that’s different enough to make the work more creative and unusual without overshadowing the rest of the plot. The investigations are done well, but they have the usual problem of games in this genre of ultimately resolving to just clicking through all the links in sequence, without any real planning or player-level investigation. It kept my interest throughout the entire roster of cases, though, and there was enough variation among them to keep them from becoming stale. 9/10.
Mechanics: The fundamental mechanic of the game is that in order to defeat a monster, the protagonist has to identify it by type (vampire, cait sidhe, etc.) and figure out what it wants. If he succeeds, then he has enough control over it to resolve the situation. There’s a well-written in-game book that covers the possible monster types, including many red herrings. These battles are not particularly difficult, but they do tie together the investigation and concluding battle well. It’s possible to solve the cases by brute force, but there’s extra content and variable endings depending on the detective’s successes. 8/10.
Presentation: The text is faithful to the weary, cynical narration in noir works. The human suspects in cases are described well, given the amount of screen time they have, but the detective himself could be characterized more strongly. There’s a section of the game in which the detective’s succubus assistant takes over the case for him, but there’s little difference between the tone of their two narrations. Overall, the game is polished, with solid text, optional content, and choices that matter. 8/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like noir, horror, and the old Carmen Sandiego games.