A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Calvino Noir is a downloadable stealth action tale set in the 1930s. Violence is somewhat limited in the game; only one controllable character can attack guards, theoretically knocking them out with a choke hold. Guards will shoot characters if you're accidentally detected. There are implied sexual situations and characters being blackmailed for same-sex relationships, but nothing's shown. Similarly, there are scenes that take place in a bar, with comments about drunk characters, but activity isn't seen. Language is kept to a minimum, with the only objectionable word being "bastard," which is used sparingly. Players should be aware that though controls are point-and-click, there isn't really a tutorial, leaving players to figure out how to play the game.
What's it about?
CALVINO NOIR is a stealth action tale set in the 1930s in Vienna. Players are initially introduced to Walt, a British scrambler (a mix of mercenary, PI, and spy) whose desertion and murdering of a superior officer prevents him from ever returning home. One rainy night, he receives a job from a young woman named Siska, who engages him to retrieve papers from a government building. Of course, things go south quickly, forcing Walt to rely on his best friend, Arno, to try to escape trouble. Together, the trio uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that threatens to cause massive devastation with new weapons, and they get caught in a revolutionary plot pitting them against some very unsavory characters.
Is it any good?
This atmospheric stealth action game delivers an engaging setting and mood, but the temperamental controls and unnecessary characters prevent it from truly shining. Calvino Noir has that rich, evocative setting that many Hollywood noir movies hit perfectly: dark, stormy nights for each mission that never let up, a narrator commenting on the ills of society and the plight its people are trapped in, and morally ambiguous characters searching for redemption and who are victims of circumstance. Plus, the level design is striking thanks to the decision to keep the visuals in black and white, only punctuated by cones of light from lamps or flashlights. It makes you feel like you're playing a piece of footage taken from a classic movie, which gives the gameplay a certain level of urgency and weight. All this being said, players should be aware that the point-and-click nature of the gameplay can be a bit iffy; characters will sometimes get confused by your directions and wander into danger, forcing a restart of a mission or a checkpoint.
But one of the largest issues that plagues Calvino Noir is that some of the characters seem unnecessary. For some reason, you're forced to switch among each one of the main three characters, because each specializes in a certain skill (knocking out guards, using machinery, or picking locks). This has three inherent problems: First, it forces a lot of backtracking and micromanagement of units, which only pads gameplay. There's nothing more frustrating than sneaking through a level, only for a character who's been left behind to suddenly get discovered by a patrolling guard. Second, the sense of immersion in the game is shattered when you get to an important piece of evidence, only to be told that everyone needs to be present before you can move forward. Third, much of this could've been wrapped up by focusing on one character or allowing players to select which character they want to play at the beginning and adjusting the tale accordingly. Calvino Noir is a slick and stealthy action title that does justice to the film noir aesthetic, but it also manages to stretch itself too thin with its gameplay and controls.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media such as Calvino Noir. Does the lack of running gunfights or action-packed sequences heighten the tension for each level? Do you think the game should have included shoot-outs? Why?
Talk about film noir. Can you recognize the influences of the genre in the game? How does Calvino showcase film noir, and how does it deviate from it?
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