It’s no secret that PAX East was an overwhelming experience filled with games, news, and off-the-wall antics. The show floor is filled with so many games that it can be difficult to really stand-out among the competition. While I was running around from booth-to-booth trying to get my hands on as many games as possible, there is one I kept running by that caught my attention. Pixel Noir may, on the surface, look like your traditional 16-bit; but once you take a moment to really look at it, you realize that there is much more to this game than what meets the eye.

I almost missed their booth the first time I ran by it. I was in a hurry to make it on time to another appointment and I was trying to go around as much of the crowd as possible. That’s when I first encountered the SWDTech Games booth. It was one of the last booths along the edge of the show floor just outside the main part of the Indie Megabooth. I ran by it and saw some pixel art of a detective on their screens. It seemed interesting, but I was in a hurry so I didn’t stop. After my appointment was done, I was walking back towards the Indie Megabooth when I saw Pixel Noir‘s screens again, only this time there appeared to be monsters instead of people. I was shocked because last time I ran by it, I could have sworn I saw normal looking people and not these creatures that had tentacles coming out of them. Thinking I was either going crazy, or that I just overlooked it because I was in a hurry, I meandered back towards the center of the Indie Megabooth. As I was making my rounds around the Megabooth, I found myself back in front of SWDTech’s Pixel Noir display, only this time the screens were showing scenes from a comic book.

Now I was very curious.

Pixel Noir Comic

I walked over to the booth and watched the video the team had put together showcasing the game. Right off the bat it became obvious that Pixel Noir was not your average 16-Bit RPG. The video showed so many different parts and features of Pixel Noir that it was hard to believe that they were all part of the same game. One moment the video was following the lead character, The Detective, then suddenly the people transformed into monsters. Next it flashed to a combat scene, demonstrating that it operated under a turn-based combat system, but it was much more involved than your typical select attack -> select target system. Then the comic strips appeared, revealing part of the story. I had to watch the video loop a few times to try to comprehend everything I was seeing; however, with each playthrough, there was one message that came through very clear:

Who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?

Pixel Noir Running

According to the game’s website and Kickstarter page, Pixel Noir is a JRPG inspired, 16-bit noir detective RPG. The story follows The Detective on a quest for redemption. After a tragedy at a hospital that cost him his career, sanity, and his partner’s life, he finally has a chance to make things right. The Detective is plagued by hallucinations that could hold the answers to what happened that night. As The Detective, you will muster up your detective skills and take to the streets to prove your innocence.

On the surface, it sounds pretty basic. Guy suffers from tragedy. Guy goes crazy and wants revenge/redemption. It’s not until you dive into the game that you get a good representation of what to expect in Pixel Noir, and trust me, it’s worth diving into.

Pixel Noir is about sanity, and finding the line between staying sane and insanity. The story is much deeper than your standard redemption and revenge quest, and things only become more convoluted as The Detective loses his grip on reality. Who can he trust when he starts to see the monsters? Who can he turn to for help when he needs it?

As a detective, you are able to explore the vast city of Pinnacle City. The Detective as a special “detective ability” that he can use to find clues or people to interrogate. The city is alive and its citizens will come by your office with new cases to solve.

The game’s story is told through comic panels. These panels provide a great contrast to the game’s 16-bit art, and add a bit of surrealism to the narrative. They offer the player a different way to view the world and allows us to connect with the story because they give the characters a more fleshed out look. You can see the character’s expressions in these panels, something that is hard to accomplish with the 16-bit game art, furthering the connection the player will feel towards The Detective.

The Detective Ability

The Detective Ability

Things get even more intense when a player enters combat. The environment is not static, meaning the players can interact and use it to their advantage when they need to. If you see a dangling chandelier, you can shoot it down giving your character cover before you enter a fight. If you want to sneak up on your enemies, you can stick to the shadows and hide behind objects so that you can attack them from behind. The actual fighting system is turn-based, but there’s more to it than just watching your characters perform the actions you told them to. After you choose your attacks and enemies, you will have opportunities to further enhance your combat abilities by following a series of onscreen prompts. The combat system reminds me of the system that Legend of the Dragoon, one of my favorite games, used. It feels fluid and satisfying.

Pixel Noir Combat

Pixel Noir definitely caught my eye at PAX East, even if I had to double-take on it before walking up to the booth. The story seems to be very compelling and gameplay was intriguing. The Kickstarter is still ongoing and can be found here.

If successful, SWDTech Games hopes to have Pixel Noir launch at the end of this year on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, PS4, and Vita.

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  • John Doe

    This game looks crazy awesome! Thanks for telling me about it!

    • Blane

      Glad you liked it! I was really happy I kind of stumbled into it at PAX, definitely something I’m going to be keeping my eye on!