Review: Renoir.

Imagine you’re playing Max Payne 2 in 2D and Black and White. Take away the hard-boiled slow motion action and replace it with mind-boggling puzzles. The result is Renoir, a noir puzzle adventure game developed by Black Wing Foundation and published by 1C Company.

Renoir started out as a part time project by its original development team Soulbound Games. As an independent studio from the Czech Republic, the team started a Kickstarter campaign in order to get the necessary funds to finish development and to test if the gaming community would be interested in the title. After being greenlit by the community on steam, the project was bought by publisher 1C Company and development studio Black Wing Foundation was attached to the project.

Noir to the Max.

In the game you play as detective James Renoir, serving in the main precinct in a metropolis rotten with crime and violence. The influence of the mafia families has spread through the city all the way to the highest levels of political power. On his quest to rid the city from corruption, Renoir meets the woman of his dreams. Just as everything seems to be going in the right direction, he gets killed. Now a ghost, solving the case and finding out who killed him is the only thing that matters to Renoir.

As the ghost of Renoir, the player possesses the unique skill to control other victims around him and use them to solve environmental puzzles. For a brief window of time, the player can ‘become’ a victim and perform a set of actions, which, once set in motion, will help Renoir avoid all kinds of obstacles. However, there’s a catch. He must tread carefully and avoid light at all costs.

And like Max Payne, James Renoir is a hard boiled detective who isn’t a cynic for no reason: he’s got a past that eats him while his future kicks back and laughs.

The story is based on classical noir principles and like Max Payne, the developers used several hallmarks of film noir as inspiration for their game. And like Max Payne, James Renoir is a hard boiled detective who isn’t a cynic for no reason: he’s got a past that eats him while his future kicks back and laughs. There’s only one person (Mona Sax?) that ever got under his skin and only the booze would shut out her illusion.

Because this game has so many similarities to Max Payne 2, I think all fans of the Max Payne franchise can at least appreciate how well the noir style was adopted in this game. I understand a puzzle game might not be for everybody, and hell.. the puzzles in Renoir can be really, really challenging. But there’s no ignoring how well the developers built atmosphere in the game by using typical noir elements like cynical monologue, the black and white color scheme and comic book styled cinematics. The biggest flaw the game has, is that it removes the player from immersing himself in this atmosphere by the absence of any sorts of background music while solving puzzles. It can really become a drag considering that some puzzles might take up quite some of your precious time to order to solve them. Maybe that has been done so you can focus more on the task at hand?

Grind until you find..

The game is not very suitable for players who tend to give up easy. Nor for players who are looking to do a quick story play-through. If you’re unable to solve a puzzle, you’re likely to be stuck until you find the solution somewhere on the world wide web. The game does not provide any hints in order to advance. So some grinding might be needed in order to progress. That’s not a bad thing per se, because trial and error is a core part of the game’s gameplay. Graphically the game looks quite alright too. If you’ve played the 2D-platformer Limbo, you have a good sense of what to expect visually from Renoir.

All in all I think Renoir is a game that Max Payne fans might appreciate. Especially if you’re also a fan of puzzle games. The game manages to adopt the film noir style really well in its story and visuals, but the lack of any background music while solving puzzles is a real pity. Expect some serious challenges, because the puzzles in Renoir will break your mind. If you’re up for the challenge, please note that Renoir is now on sale and being sold for EUR 17. A fair price.