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The Top Shelf:
Nocturne

Vol. 2, Issue 7
December 22, 1999

The result is definitely pleasant; and the extra work that was put into the cloth-simulator was really nice. In case you haven’t heard about it, many of the game’s characters have wings, or robes, or coats, or other objects of that nature. The Terminal Reality guys have done a standup job of recreating the effects of wind and movement with these objects. Occasionally you’ll notice someone’s rear-end sticking through their hanging cloth, or a clipping/bounding-box problem with it; but again, it’s a minor thing. Luckily (from what I can tell), the TR folks have done a marvelous job of optimizing the engine; as it runs smooth as butter on my system – with nary a hitch or pause.

click to enlarge!

Uh...is that a zombie cow? (31k)

Sound-wise, the game comes through admirably as well. Sounds crescendo or fade, based on the distance from the viewing point; and most of the sounds seem appropriate for their action. The developers did a marvelous job in setting the mood with the sounds; and the combination of creepy sounds and the moody visuals will have you jumping in your seat on occasion! A couple of sound effects seem disappointing and “too small” for their actions; but yet again, this is down to nit-picking small details.

On to the big one: gameplay! The game’s controls take a little bit of getting used to; and the constant camera-angle changes can be confusing to the novice gamer. Still, if you spend the first 15 minutes of play feeling out and adjusting the settings to your liking, I think that anyone can become comfortable with controlling “The Stranger”. There are many helpers for this, too – like the auto-aim feature; something that I find is useful even after you get experienced with the game. The inverse-kinematics are pretty cool, as well. For those that don’t know, inverse kinematics is the use of physics-like routines to control animations or actions. Thus, when “The Stranger” reaches out to grab a doctor’s bag (read: health kit), or flip a switch – he actually reaches out TO that object, and performs the proper action. No pre-canned stuff here; so no hokey miscues or “off-target” animations. While subtle, this really helps with the immersion; since the characters always act appropriately, with respect to their surroundings.

Unfortunately, as with all of the other aspects of this game, there are a few glitches. Clipping/bounding-boxes aren’t always accurate, sometimes causing odd behavior with the characters. Also, the ability of your character to fall off ledges seems fluky to me. Sometimes you can’t drop off of a small ledge or area; as if the game is protecting you from doing so – but other times you can lead the stranger right off a bridge to drown... And your companion’s AI routines are sometimes below Forrest Gump level; watching them run right into already-triggered (and therefore visible and obvious) traps to keep up with you is frustrating, to say the least. There are also times where the levels are designed to keep you from moving in a particular direction; but the artwork / layout doesn’t make this clear.

Despite all of these minor points, in the end Nocturne turns out to be a wonderfully engaging (and frightening) adventure game! Anyone who’s wanted to play a part in a film noir production, or be the stoic bad-ass in a horror/action flick, will really enjoy it. Nocturne successfully scores big in every major category; and that carries it through to being a good game. Like its soft-cover cousins of older times, it may not be destined to top any best-seller charts; but it sure entertains well – and can whisk you away to another place just as well as any of those news-stand storybooks...

 

- Noel "HB" Wade is a regular contributor to loonygames. Basically, he just wants attention.

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This review is © 1999 Noel Wade. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.