Reviews - Updated on April 1, 2022

There have been a lot of games out lately with the word “noir” in the title. However, not everyone remembers that noir is not only and not so much about jazz, fatal beauties, a cigarette in the protagonist’s mouth and eternal rain on the dark streets of a city mired in crimes. It’s also about a fascinating detective story. But the authors of Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure, thank God, remember.

The future of noir

The action of Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure takes place in the world of the future, namely on the planet Ghara, which, according to the game’s scriptwriters, became the cradle of humanity in the solar system, and is now the leader of the Federation that unites several planets. On the other side are the Savyant communities (this is such a religion), which are located on the human colonized planets of New Joran and Drovia and actively demand independence from the Federation.

Lacuna: Overview

You immediately feel a mixture of noir and cyberpunk in the spirit of Blade Runner.

However, despite all these political squabbles in the world of the future, we really have a noir adventure ahead of us. The protagonist, Bureau of Investigation agent Neil Conrad, resembles a typical character in Raymond Chandler novels and Humphrey Bogart films, except that he does not wear a fedora. He smokes a lot. There is even a separate cigarette counter in the inventory, at the levels there are vending machines and special points where you can stop and pray selflessly. You run to the office after examining the crime scene, you see a secluded place – well, how can you not stop here to smoke?

And after another five minutes you go down the stairs on the way to the train, you see a group of musicians – what is not a reason to at least slightly let go of thoughts about work?

In addition, after smoking, Neil likes to talk beautifully and slightly depressingly about life, work or his fate.

Lacuna: Overview

The texts are quite noir (and in addition in Russian).

Neil Conrad’s file

And yet the main thing is the story itself, fascinating, detective, starting right off the bat. Events are developing rapidly – a terrorist attack, the murder of a high-ranking official, the theft of important data, the threat of interplanetary war and the public promise of a group of “radical patriots” that the next victim will be in 48 hours … While Neil Conrad deals with all this, you yourself have no time to smoke I don’t want to interrupt the story.

It is comparable to watching a fascinating detective film. And it’s good that it didn’t turn out to be too long – it carried away, but did not have time to tire.

Lacuna: Overview

There are many unexpected twists and turns here.

And according to all the laws of such films, simultaneously with the investigation of the crime and the showdown at work, the personal story of our melancholic detective unfolds. He has an ex-wife, with whom he broke up 10 years ago, but, it seems, has not yet let her go, and a teenage daughter in her transitional age. The girl had already ceased to hang herself around her father’s neck at each of his visits, and they began to see each other less often. The mother is unhappy with this, Neil reflects, and the child shows that he allegedly does not care. The situation is very vital, familiar to many, including the author of these lines, which is also why the story in Lacuna evokes such an emotional response.

Lacuna: Overview

After work every evening, Neil returns home and immerses himself in himself.

And only when work and family unite, and the investigation of the crime becomes so personal for Neal that cigarettes are smoked one after another, and emotions go off scale – both for him and for us.

Lacuna: Overview

It’s really hard with kids that age.

follow the news

Nervousness is exacerbated by the fact that Neil constantly has to make difficult choices. The first category of choice is professional. We look for information – we examine crime scenes, communicate with witnesses, conduct interrogations – and decide how to correctly answer the questions, where did the shooting come from, what did the killer look like, who turned off the vehicle tracking system, thanks to which the criminal fled, and so on.

Lacuna: Overview

Not all questions are so simple.

In the process, there are no usual quest exercises about finding and collecting items, combining them in the inventory (there is none at all), solving abstract puzzles, and so on. Everything is very logical and situationally inscribed in the story. We have to study the records of our conversations, fishing for information, to study active points in the augmented reality mode, to compare and analyze data from meters about who and when came / left / sailed / sailed away.

Lacuna: Overview

The augmented reality mode is, in fact, the illumination of active points.

A separate important layer is the purchase and reading of newspapers, the study of the political picture. This will help when you have to answer the question of which companies are behind the terrorists. Or, for example, it will be possible to talk to one of the suspects during interrogation only if we answer correctly whether he advocates the independence of Drovia or not. And for this you need to read the newspaper in advance.

Lacuna: Overview

All data is stored in a portable e-phone.

Election Days

So, back to professional choice. You can incorrectly determine the place where the sniper shot from, or give the wrong code for the boat on which he sailed away – and instead of a small vessel, colleagues will find a completely foreign large yacht there. You will be scolded, you will be ashamed, but this will not affect what is happening in any way. Another thing is if you give the capture team the wrong description of the perpetrator. However, I did not check, as I immediately gave the correct one. And you can’t roll back to previous saves – they simply don’t exist, the game makes autosaves and does not allow you to return, forcing you to live the story right away and to the end.

Lacuna: Overview

Now, in fact, the capture will begin.

This is especially important when it comes to the second category of choice – moral. Hand over to the police the barmaid who, for the sake of money (she has a small son and the same salary), helped the criminal and turned off the tracking system, believing that this was an ordinary traitor from the hotel? Substitute your partner, for whom work is everything, or substitute yourself? Shoot the person who attacked the agents or try to convince him to lay down his weapon?

Lacuna: Overview

Here, too, you have to make a choice.

Such decisions always have consequences – more or less local, but consequences nonetheless. For example, a grateful bartender, if you didn’t pass it, will then call back and share an important detail about the killer’s appearance with joy. It is clear that it can be learned in another way, but such details make the passage deeper, or something. Well, I won’t write about important plot consequences here – I’ll just say one thing: they exist, and the ending of the story depends on our decisions.

Lacuna: Overview

There was also a place for typical cyberpunk humor here.

Almost perfect

One can only find fault with the fact that some characters, in response to the requirement of an employee of the Bureau of Investigation to share information, put forward conditions typical for video games: “Help me, and I will help you!” It looks unrealistic, but even here there is a choice – to agree or to put pressure and get information right away.

In addition, someone will not like the local pixel art. He is really not outstanding, but in the dynamics of exciting and fast-paced events, you immediately stop paying attention to this. And in general – a matter of taste.

Lacuna: Overview

In any case, the game is able to produce beautiful shots.

Lacuna is an almost perfect detective at the junction of noir and cyberpunk. Dynamic, biting, exciting, there is nothing superfluous in it. Not classic, about femme fatales and intricate robberies in America in the 30s and 40s, but about political intrigues and murders in the world of the future, but it’s even more interesting this way. In addition, the detective-smoker here is just classic for noir. The story itself is non-linear, and a non-trivial approach to the basics and clichés of the quest genre pleases. So fans of atmospheric detective thrillers need this game as much as Neil Conrad and I need cigarettes.

Pluses: an exciting detective story; well-written characters; moral choice with consequences; exciting quest gameplay, free from typical genre clichés; translation into Russian; The music complements the action perfectly.

Cons: the game may seem short to some; The pixel art could have been prettier.

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