Cheesy 90's FMV, Noctropolis (1994)


Noctropolis is an odd duck as far design choices go. At heart, it's annoyingly old school point 'n' click adventure, with a tonne of every adventurer's favourite pass time, pixel hunting in it as well as puzzles that don't necessarily make common sense. But then it has a design choice in it that makes it very, very easy, especially if you've done all the pixel hunting. See, if you need to use an item on something, you need to only be in the right room and use an item. The game then proceeds to do so. You don't have to use an item to an item or an item to something on a screen, you just use it in the inventory and then the game does its thing.

So yes, from a certain angle, Noctropolis is a difficult, even an annoying game. But from another, it's actually pretty easy, if you just diligently keep looking at stuff on screen, try to pick up all that's not nailed shut and look for small pixel hints that there's an item there you need to pick up. And after that, you just need to use items in a right room and the puzzles pretty much solve themselves. Then there are a couple of occasions when the game puts you on an actual timer, which means death if you don't solve the current location you are fast enough. Yet oddly enough, despite I've hated many games with these kinds of choices, I don't really hate this one that much. Or at all, really.

Noctropolis was originally released in 1994, during an era in gaming when FMV was the pinnacle of the technology. And like many other titles that were released in the 1990's, Noctropolis also utilises this amazing tech that brought lifelike characters to games. As they were real, filmed actors. So it would have been bad had they not been lifelike. But I digress. Night Dive bought the rights and re-released Noctropolis in 2015, so it's now available through the usual digital outlets.

Peter Grey is the main character of the story. A comics store owner, who's down on his luck. But his luck is turning, as he has just won a competition help by the company publishing his favourite comic, Darksheer. And Stiletto, his sexy co-hero / lover.  Anyhow, Peter's special prize is, drum roll, a new magazine, that continues the story of the previous Darksheer comic, despite it had been cancelled and a couple of tokens, a silver and a gold one. A little fumbling later, Peter finds himself from the streets of his favourite comic book and is now destined to become a new Darksheer to replace the one that got retired.

Cheesy is what I'd use to describe the writing here. And I'm guessing that's how the actors and the director saw it as well, as everyone is pretty much hamming it up as much as they can. That's really not a bad choice, considering the bit of a Batman rip-off feel the world of Noctropolis has. The only big difference between Darksheer and Batman really is, that unlike ol' Bats, Darksheer gets his powers from mysterious Liquidark, which infuses into his body and even heals him, if need be. Then there's the thing, that Darksheer, or at least Peter Grey, isn't that competent of an ass kicker, not in this story at least. Then again, had there been more Noctropolis games, that might have changed, especially if Stiletto would have done some training on him. But, the studio that did the game, Flashpoint Productions, didn't stay afloat to do more, so this is what we got.

Noctropolis is an okay game. It's not some long lost gem from the 1990's, far from it, as despite it is delightfully cheesy and hammy, like many other FMV titles of that era were, it doesn't manage to be more than adequate adventure title. It is a fun game if you're looking for a 1990's cheesy superhero title, but other than that, and a couple of pretty great looking scenes, it's really nothing more than just an another point 'n' click title. It does have some stand out moments in it because of its setting, but overall it really isn't a must play title by any means.



If you want to experience Noctropolis yourself, you can find it on GOG and Steam.


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