Established in 2004 and previously known as 'Phoenix Freeware Online', Phoenix Online Studios began as a fan group of King's Quest fans coming together to create an unofficial sequel to the series.
Their first project, The Silver Lining, got the attention from publications such as PC Gamer, Computer Gaming World, GameInformer, Edge Magazine, GamesTM, Kotaku, Mtv News and Joystiq. Today, we've been granted an IP license by Activision to publish all 5 episodes free to play.
Phoenix Online Studios is currently working on their first commercial endeavors - Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, recently released Episode 1 last October, and Episode 2 is about to be released Jan 30th, 2013. The game follows a Boston FBI agent, who lost her brother years ago to a serial killer who was never caught. With post-cognition abilities, Erica Reed is able to see the past of the objects just by touching it, adding a twist in this paranormal adventure game.
More information about Phoenix Online Studios or any of our projects can be found at www.postudios.com
Don’t worry, the title isn’t a spoiler. The first five minutes of the game shows our anti-hero Jack del Nero get shot, at which point we flash back 24 hours and see just what kind of trouble he got into that led to this untimely demise. This is also a two-part game, so who knows what really happens? Also I just wanted a witty title, okay?!
Anyway, Face Noir is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Italian indie studio Mad Orange. The game centers around Jack del Nero, a former police detective turned private eye. Jack’s story takes place in 1934’s Harlem, a large neighborhood in north New York City known for being the center of the Harlem Renaissance just a few years prior. The great depression is in full-force and times are tough for everyone. Add some rain and a touch of jazz, and you’ve got the makings of a great noir setting.
What else makes for a great life? Ah, the people! There’s plenty of wonderful characters that you’ll encounter in Face Noir. We’ve got Greta - who seems to be your only friend - sighing heavily and dreaming of her dancing past as she pours shots for people she doesn’t like or who won’t pay. You’ve got your Russian landlord Slovanski who’s interests include money and harrassing his tenants about rent (so, money). An angry ex-boss who wants to see you imprisoned for life, a Chinese cab driver who tawks wike dis and wies to you a wot, and a little girl left in your care by your traitorous ex-partner who just got murdered… these are just some of the colorful character’s you’ll encounter on the dark streets of Harlem.
Speaking of that “ex-partner murdered” bit, that is the key plot element that gets the game going after you perform the tutorial/job the game opens with. After returning home from the job you receive a phone call from your ex-partner telling you to meet him at the docks. When you arrive, the guy is dead and you’re being accused of the murder. This sets off a series of events that turn your mundane day-to-day life in the great depression into a race to clear your name and find the truth behind the ever increasing web of darkness that has been silently entangling itself around your life over these past few years, guiding you toward this very moment.
The game is played entirely with a mouse (and your thinking cap, of course). Everything from talking to people to picking locks to operating cranes is done with the mouse. This might pose a slight problem during some of the puzzles for players who use a trackpad on a laptop, but thankfully some of these puzzles can be skipped. You have an inventory system which you will use to select items from to interact with the environment in different ways, like using cash on a person to get them to spill the beans about someone. If you’re finding yourself having to go “pixel hunting”, there’s a feature that will highlight the spots on the screen where something of interest can be found. Cycling between simply looking at something and perhaps interacting with it is as simple as clicking your right-mouse button. Whatever appropriate action can be taken will be displayed by the icon that appears, such as the gear icon that means you can fiddle with the item somehow.
As mentioned, there are puzzles you can interact with directly (and some items that aren’t necessarily puzzles but you still interact with them in a personal way). Actions such as picking locks, placing fuses on a power circuit or assembling a doll all take place in real-time as you use your mouse to manipulate the objects yourself. Other interactions exist that aren’t puzzles but still allow your precise input, such as opening up a control panel and flipping a switch, or turning the dial on a radio.
From the moment the intro movie began playing I could tell I was going to have a lot of fun with this game. The dark noir setting is great and the protagonist Jack del Nero is as loveable as he is miserable. The artwork is simply astounding. I often found myself staring at a scene, admiring how well everything was drawn, how detailed it all was. The jazzy music is superb and really brings the story to life. The gameplay mechanics are very intuitive and never get in the way of your progress. The puzzles are clever, though at times some of the interactions seem to require pinpoint precision which can be a little frustrating. Overall the experience is a must for fans of the noir genre, adventure game fans or anyone who likes a dark story.
Social Media Intern
Phoenix Online Studios