Glass Knuckle Games bills its Noir Syndrome as "a procedurally generated Detective Murder-Mystery". "Procedural generation" has been a buzzword for a while now—you may be most familiar with Minecraft’s execution of it, where code is used to generate spaces to explore. Noir Syndrome’s locations aren’t procedurally generated—they’re lo-res pixel art (by coder Dave Gedarovich). They’re always the same place every time. The piles of trash and the dirty bathrooms never move around. The high-class hotel, government buildings and businesses catering to different classes of the city’s inhabitants never change, always soundtracked by jazzy tunes by Bombadeer Studios;’s Liz Bailey.
It’s the stories that claim procedural generation, in a mode modeled on Carmen Sandiego. Here, your limited number of suspects are divided up into two sexes (male and female), three, er, factions (civilian, police, mobster), and a variety of hobbies (tailor, dancer, chef, driver, etc). On each playthrough the Anubis killer is created with a combination of these four factors. You’re given thirteen days to catch them.
Entering any location knocks one day off the count. Once you’ve arrived, you can search for clues by standing next to one of the background objects and hitting the "search" button. Clues may tell you the culprit’s hobbies (each clue points to two different hobbies), their faction (an empty shell casing indicates mobster or police), and their sex (...male fingerprints mean male, female fingerprints mean female).
If you hit the "search" button while standing next to an individual, you can interview them. Most folks will comment on how scared everyone is; some of them will point you toward a suspect, who is then added to your notebook. Looking at the suspect list will tell you the person’s hobby and their faction. I suppose you assume the sex from the name. It’s a very rigid world, one where the smallest bits of physical evidence have exactly two possible explanations.
Unlike Carmen Sandiego, the clues don’t point you toward the next place you need to go. No Googling through an almanac to find which country has a red, green and fuschia flag that the culprit so loved. You go somewhere else on the city map and gather more clues and talk to more people.
The detective story in Noir Syndrome is more hard-boiled than Agatha Christie. Your detective (who, like the suspects, can be male or female…or, rather, can be wearing pants or a dress) doesn’t make amazing observations or massive leaps of intuition. It’s dogged persistence, going from place to place until you’ve got enough details to basically build one of those logic grid charts and see which suspect fits the bill.
That’s not to say you CAN’T guess early, though. Or choose not to investigate at all. Sometimes, instead of a clue, you’ll find money. Money can be used to buy food (each interview or search causes your hunger to increase—starving is not a good idea), lockpicks and bullets. You can shoot people (I only ever did this accidentally), or steal from the mob.
The latter two actions have some consequences that boil down to the same thing: If a faction is against you and you go to a location on the map that has been marked with their color, someone will probably shoot you.
Each mystery only takes a few minutes to play, and while there’s not really a lot of deducing where to go next, the sort-of-mindless clicking that ends in a light logic puzzle is a decent change of pace from matching or merging threes. Plus, you know, detective.
Brian Taylor; has a detective problem.