As you would expect from its title, Discworld Noir takes on the classic tropes of the Film Noir detective stories of 40s Hollywood - the femme fatale, the grizzled detective, the stoic narration - but with added funnies. Unlike the first two games, this is not based on any particular text but is its own self-contained tale. While the first two were based on Guards! Guards! and Reaper Man respectively, Discworld Noir takes its cues more from Elmore Leonard than Terry Pratchett.
It begins with private detective Lewton (our protagonist for the game - so long Rincewind) being hired by a busty dame named Carlotta to investigate a murder. So far, it's your regular Raymond Chandler with chuckles, but things soon escalate into a tangled web of conspiracies.
The graphics are no longer hand-drawn but uses a pre-rendered CGI style with a heavy emphasis on mood lighting. The only real time 3D character is Lewton himself, but his model does revert during cut scenes and certain conversations. Even at the time of its release in 1999, this style looked off to me. Sure, the technical aspects are on full display, but the artistry seemed to take second place for the most part. Perhaps I was simply too used to the cartoon aesthetics of Paul Kirby that had come before.
By using this style, it loses a lot of its character, resting all of its charms on the shoulders of the script and voice talent. While Eric Idle is no longer in the cast, the actors would need to do a lot to make up for it. Luckily Rob Brydon, Kate Robbins and Nigel Planer return, this time with the added talent of Red Dwarf's Robert Llewellyn. Brydon does a decent job as Lewton, but his American accent does occasionally slip back into his native Welsh.
Gameplay has also seen an overhaul. While still in the realm of traditional point-and-click with inventory based puzzles, Lewton also carries around a notepad with him. This will quickly fill up with clues and red herrings that can be used as both dialogue options and, uniquely, as if they were items. Not only does this allow for some fiendish puzzles, it also cleverly adds to the immersion of being a private investigator, crossing off clues when they are resolved or no longer needed. The downside to this is that you'll often have to scroll through pages and pages of scribbled out clues as you progress further in the game.
Considering its an original story that contains mostly unique characters not found in the books, the writing is excellent. The parodies here are not so much taken from famous fantasy writings, but also video games. A particular highlight is when you come across Laredo Cronk, a rather blatant riff on Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame. When describing her job as a 'Tomb Evacuator', she states it's "nothing special. I break into places where priceless antiquities have been locked away for centuries, overcome the elaborate and convoluted security systems, defeat my rivals and make away with the treasure. Typical day's work really." It certainly sounds like something you'd hear from Pratchett himself, had he been an avid gamer. What is even more ironic is that his daughter would eventually pen the recent ultra-violent reboot trilogy which famously lacks any actual tombs bringing the whole thing full circle.
The only downside to the game, however, is its lack of compatibility with modern systems. It does kind of work on Windows 7, but you'd have to go through a lot of hoops in order to do so, including editing your registry and weird in-game workarounds - even then there's no guarantee it won't crash. It's a shame as most people do consider this to be the better of the three (I'm not one of them though). Its puzzles are certainly more accessible to the average adventure gamer.
There is hope, though it is a rather low-res one. The game was ported over to the PlayStation for the European market and works perfectly with an emulator. The downside is that the three discs worth of game has been reduced to one. Everything seems to be in there but in a highly compressed form. Frames of animation have disappeared giving a more choppy look and the polygon count in Lewton has been reduced. Take a look at the comparison screenshots below.
PlayStation (left) & PC version (right). Huge difference.
It looks like the PC version seems destined to be solely relegated to the distant desktops of 1999 (unless those folks at ScummVM get their talented hands on it). Until then, we'll have to make do with the PlayStation version, which is what I've provided below. Don't worry, it is compatible with a mouse so there are no clunky joy-pad controls if you don't want them. It basically plays the same as the PC version, albeit a lot uglier.
(UPDATE: I've since managed to get the PC version working on modern systems rendering the previous few paragraphs obsolete. Oh well.)
Over all, Discworld Noir is an excellent game and one that is only marred in my eyes by the change in direction it took from its predecessors. Had this had been the first Discworld game to be released, I might be singing to a different tune and ranked it above the others like others tend to do. As it stands it is still a must play in the genre, no matter what platform you are playing it on.
To download the PlayStation version, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the Mednafen PSX cores to emulate the PlayStaion games on modern PCs. Mouse controls configured and supported. Tested on Windows 10.
20.05.2015 - Version 2 - Moved to Retroarch & compressed ISO
File Size: 631 Mb. Install Size: 600 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Download PSX Version
To download the PC version, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses PCem running Windows '95. Press Ctrl-Alt-PgDown to toggle fullscreen. Press Ctrl-End or middle mouse button to release the mouse. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting PCem. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Close the program only when it is safe to do so.
20.09.2015 - Version 2 - Changed installer to one that is more stable for larger games.
This prevents any errors you may get during install.
20.05.2018 - Version 3 - Now uses PCEm to emulate Windows '95
Download PC Version
Discworld Noir is © Perfect 10 Entertainment
Discworld (the universe) is © Terry Pratchett
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me