Whenever you see a new project that pays homage to a classic genre, there’s an expectation that it will take inspiration from the classics while still being unique. Film noir was a style that piqued in popularity in the 40s and 50s and had many stories that centered around hardboiled detective crime dramas. It had a strong enough influence on pop culture that it’s always welcome to see a new entry appear even today. Pecaminosa –a Pixel Noir Game is the result of taking the classic film noir hardboiled crime drama and adapting it to an indie action RPG.
The Role You Play
You play as John Souza, a hardboiled detective who has given in to every sin imaginable from prostitutes to excessive amounts of whiskey. He has fallen out of grace with the police department and now works as a private detective.
Souza can drink whiskey to restore his health or smoke lucky star cigarettes to temporarily increase his luck stat. Each time he levels up, he can boost one of four stats: Luck, Intelligence, Force or Endurance, and increasing a combination of skills enough can unlock one of four special abilities. He can fight with his fists or with a variety of firearms that he can collect ammo for.
It is very difficult to make sense of the plot in Pecaminosa because it is all over the place and what parts you can piece together don’t make a lot of sense. It begins with John Souza being visited by the ghost of a mob boss named Charlie “Two Angels.” He makes a deal with Charlie to amend for the mistake that got him killed by tracking down a list of people and arresting them the right way to clear Charlie’s name and ensure that he gets into heaven.
That seems simple enough, but that plot never really comes to fruition. You don’t actually arrest any of the crooks you encounter. Instead, you punch or shoot them until they surrender or die.
The first impression you would naturally get is that Pecaminosa is a detective story. Unfortunately, there is very little detective-type investigating that goes into the actual gameplay of Pecaminosa. Instead, most of the gameplay involves top-down combat with either fists or guns that feels more reminiscent of a twin-stick shooter.
Throughout the game, you will be using a gun to shoot gangsters, rats, dogs, zombies, mutants and giant scorpions. There are also several bosses in the game that are quite a bit tougher, but they can be beaten easily as long as you have an ample supply of bullets and whiskey bottles in your inventory.
Pecaminosa is not a very long game. It’s divided into three chapters and each one only takes about an hour to complete under the very best circumstances. However, the game’s bosses are rather challenging and defeating them will likely take multiple tries. While you can brute force your way through some of the tougher sections, that may not be a suitable strategy to make it through the whole game. You may have to scavenge the city for additional money, bullets and whiskey to make it a bit easier. In total, the game will likely clock in at 6-7 hours.
The music sounds a lot like what you would expect: low-key soft jazzy sound reminiscent of depression-era music. It’s all played on wood and metal instruments and it encapsulates the dreary feel of the city of Pecaminosa.
While a lot of the music that plays in the city is very smooth and slow. One exception is the theme that plays in the Mezcal desert. It’s a more up-tempo jazz theme with an emphasis on vibraphone and piano and it just shows off the range of passion for jazz music.
All of the items you acquire, whether it be bullets, whiskey, cigarettes or chips are all finite. Once you break open a barrel, crate or trash bag and maybe find an item, it doesn’t reappear again, so you have to be mindful about conserving your items. The shopkeepers also have a limited amount of items per chapter so you can’t stock up on an unlimited supply.
This applies to all of the enemies in the game as well. There are plenty in the game, but once they are defeated, they do not reappear. As a result. they can’t be depended upon to grind experience or to get extra items.
The Talking Parts
Every character you encounter in the city has a unique design and has great dialogue to match their personality. The main character John Souza is the drunken, bitter ex-cop with a personality to match. His dialogue is always witty and cutting. What makes him particularly enjoyable is the myriad of characters he can play off of from the wannabe playboy Roger Moon to Darcy, the paperboy who wants to help out Souza despite his obvious drunken personality, to Souza’s ex-girlfriend Sharleena. What’s more, the dialogue never comes across as clichéd or phoned in.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
One feeling that I could never shake is that the game felt a lot smaller than it should have been. Pecaminosa came into existence thanks to a successful Indiegogo campaign that barely made its goal In April of 2020. Not only has developer Cereal Games been working with a minimal budget, but they’ve also had the disadvantage of developing their game in just over a year’s time since being funded and having to do so under the added strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that this game even got made at all is nothing short of miraculous.
Pecaminosa is an odd game. The parts that are good are really good and the parts that aren’t are too noticeable to ignore. There is a lot of clever writing and great character design that went into this project. However, it’s undercut by repetitive combat and a plot that goes all over the place. I feel like under better circumstances, developer Cereal Games could make something truly incredible, but for now, this isn’t it.