introduction to Discworld Noir came through the Gameboomer’s Twisty
List, the annual compilation of Boomers’ favorite adventure games.
Discworld Noir rocketed from number fifty on the list in 2001 to
number eighteen on the list in 2003. Pretty good for a game that was
never even released in the U.S.!
Discworld Noir is based on the novels by Terry Pratchett, and is
third in the series of Discworld games. It follows the exploits of a
down-on-his-luck detective (are there any prosperous,
self-actualized detectives, I wonder?) in the city of Ankh-Morpork.
The detective -- Lewton by name -- has a craggy, handsome face and
wears a once-stylish trench coat. In Lewton’s world, it never stops
raining, loyal hearts are always broken and a kiss is a lot worse
than just a kiss.
Into Lewton’s bleak existence comes The Ultimate Client – a
gorgeous, wealthy woman named Carlotta who is anxious to locate
someone named Mundy. The Mundy case turns out to be a mystery within
a mystery within a mystery (there are probably a few more levels
going on in there somewhere) and it’s all Lewton can do to keep his
senses in order as he pursues clues through the back allies, night
clubs and mansions of Ankh-Morpork.
This game contains just about the best comic dialogue I’ve ever
encountered -- great one-liners, one right after another, all
delivered with a sarcastic drawl. I thought the voice-acting was
terrific. Special accolades should go to Rob Brydon, who voices
Lewton. There is a huge amount of dialogue, though you can click
through individual lines and hit Escape to skip whole sections.
The characters that Lewton meets in the course of his adventures
are…well, not one of them is “normal”. All are quirky – you will
find characters all along the spectrum from extremely eccentric to
Despite all the talking they do, the characters in Discworld Noir
are experts at keeping mum. For example, one character is too
discrete, another too stupid, another too angry, another too
world-weary to reveal information. After awhile you feel like
dropping them into the River Ankh to see which ones will bounce.
The plot is multi-layered, particularly towards the end, where
conspiracies tumble over one another and new characters suddenly
appear and disappear. I suspect I would have understood the plot
better had I taken the time to play it again with foreknowledge of
what was to come at each twist and turn. Unfortunately, the game
didn’t inspire a longing for an immediate replay.
Discworld Noir is a third-person, mouse-driven game. Each location
is self-contained, and exit arrows take you to a map-like diorama of
Ankh-Morpork where you can choose among various places to visit.
There is a traditional inventory that is easy to use.
Not so traditional (and not so easy to use) is Lewton’s detective
notebook. The notebook contains various entries, all of which can be
used on hotspots, characters, inventory items, and even on other
entries in the notebook. There are lots of pages in the notebook,
and getting through them is rather cumbersome unless you memorize
the particular entries that appear on particular pages.
The function of the notebook is explained in the manual – you have
to be something of a detective yourself in order to find the manual,
which is secreted within the game’s files on the CD. (This is one
game where you MUST read the manual – failing that, you will
probably need a walkthrough to finish the game.)
Progress in the game is chiefly accomplished through clicking on
dialogue trees or through using inventory items and notebook
entries. There are a few locations that require patient searching –
not pixel hunting, but looking in non-obvious places.
The graphics in Discworld Noir aren’t photorealistic but they aren’t
exactly cartoonish either. The interiors are dark and atmospheric,
often lit by flickering candles. The exteriors are gloomy, almost
threatening. Since it rains through the entire game, you’ll
occasionally see flashes of lightning, which is a nice effect. The
game does become more colorful about halfway through when Lewton
acquires “enhanced” senses. Unlike other characters in the game,
Lewton himself appears somewhat blocky, and he moves with an odd
The cutscenes in the game are well done, especially those that occur
near and at game’s end. The music was pleasant to the ear and not
intrusive. It did become repetitive though, because I spent so much
time in each location.
I found this game to be ambitiously crafted, hilarious, and deeply
frustrating. The game world is so wacky that any potential action or
combination of items could make sense -- so you end up using
every single item and entry on every other item, entry, character
and hotspot. And after trying this you may at the next moment
trigger something in the game that makes an action that just failed
suddenly capable of working. As this is a long and complex game, the
gameplay can become tedious in the extreme. Giving up near the end
and playing straight from the walkthrough significantly increased
this game’s fun factor.
QuickList for Discworld Noir
“Philip Marlowe” meets the Discworld. Third person perspective,
mouse control, a moody, gritty world that is somewhat cartoon-like.
It should come as no surprise that the most brilliantly funny
sequence in the game takes place in the sewer.
There is no problem loading the game on Win XP. The game crashes at
the second screen -- hitting F1 bypasses the problem. Starting the
game from Disk Two may trigger a glitch that makes saved games
unreadable -- starting again from Disk One gives you access to the
saves. The game stutters occasionally.
Gameplay consists of click-on-every-hotspot-with-every-item
inventory puzzles and dialogue trees. No sliding tile puzzles, no
sound puzzles, no mazes. Very good voice acting. A complicated plot
with plenty of surprises. Unlimited saves. The manual is a
must-read. Game length: long.
Discworld Noir is aimed at gamers who enjoy tongue-in-cheek humor,
lots of dialogue and wacky characters caught up in a darkly
Game Rating: 3.5 BAAGS out of 5
design copyright © 2003