Ah, Pixel Noir. Where have you been my whole life?
Launched as a Kickstarter at this year's PAX East by indie outfit SWD Tech Games, Pixel Noir is a glorious combination of classic JRPG and detective elements all wrapped up in the sort of luscious, 16-bit audiovsiual veneer that makes you want to dig your SNES out of the attic and pamper it for a bit.
In short, its looking pretty darn promising.
Casting players as a detective lost in a web of hallucinatory entanglement against a seedy, urban backdrop, Pixel Noir lovingly cribs inspiration from such pop-culture icons as Twin Peaks and Blade Runner to craft a detective JRPG, which from a narrative point of view at least, will be quite unlike anything else in the genre.
The noir setting has for the longest time been criminally under-served by games, especially when spoken in terms of the JRPG, yet despite that, the freshness of such a unique setting would be for nought if it wasn't for some robust gameplay systems underpinning it.
Proving themselves equal students of JRPG gameplay mechanisms as they are of the popular culture which they so lovingly assimilate into Pixel Noir, developers SWD Tech Games have applied that creativity to the battle and investigation systems too.
The latter allows you to highlight areas which could yield clues in your investigation or provide useful equipment for encounters, while the former is a turn-based combat system, allowing players to utilise a wide array of weapons, powers, abilities and even the very environment (shooting a chandelier so it crushes a hapless foe, for example) to defeat their enemies.
Add in a deep level of customisation, skill trees, a wide variety of equipment, a large cast, a generous smattering of graphic novel esque cutscenes to link the action alongside some incredibly snappy dialogue and it certainly looks like Pixel Noir has the potential to make a real impact when it releases later this year.
Oh and as a rather nifty feature, it looks like cross-play will be a thing too; allowing folks to play the game on a mobile platform for example (complete with optimised touchscreen controls) and then seamlessly transfer their progress to the PS4 or PC version of the game for example.
More games need to do this.
The Kickstarter itself is gunning for a target of $95,000 and as of this writing is currently sat on $6,416, with copies of the game for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, PS4 and PS Vita available for as little as $15, with the game expected to be ready by November this year should the Kickstarter prove to be successful.
The chaps over at SWD Tech Games elected for the crowd-funding route simply because they didn't want to compromise the game for investors by making it free-to-play or 'dumbing it down'.
Based on this early premise, it would be churlish to blame them.