Friday, 20 March 2015

DISCWORLD NOIR


While the first two Discworld games had a colourful cartoony approach, the third game in the series went in a completely different direction. Discworld Noir would spell the death knell for Perfect 10 Entertainment, but they were adamant that they would go out with a bang...

As you would expect from its title, Discworld Noir is everything you'd expect - a dark, brooding homage to Film Noir of 40s Hollywood. But with added funnies. Unlike the first two games, this is not based on any particular text but is its own self-contained tale. While the first two were based on Guards! Guards! and Reaper Man respectively, this takes its cues more from Elmore Leonard than Terry Pratchett.

It begins with private detective Lewton (our protagonist for the game - so long Rincewind) being hired by a busty dame named Carlotta to investigate a murder. So far, it's your regular Raymond Chandler with chuckles, but things soon escalate into a tangled web of conspiracies.

The graphics are no longer hand-drawn but uses a pre-rendered CGI style with a heavy emphasis on mood lighting. The only real time 3D character is Lewton himself, but his model does revert during cut scenes and certain conversations. Even at the time of its release in 1999, this style looked off to me. Sure, the technical aspects are on full display, but the artistry seemed to take second place for the most part. Perhaps I was simply too used to the cartoon aesthetics of Paul Kirby that had come before.

By using this style, it loses a lot of its character, resting all of its charms on the shoulders of the script and voice talent. While Eric Idle is no longer in the cast, the actors would need to do a lot to make up for it. Luckily Rob Brydon, Kate Robbins and Nigel Planer return, this time with the added talent of Red Dwarf's Robert Llewellyn. Brydon does a decent job as Lewton, but his American accent does occasionally slip back into his native Welsh.

Gameplay has also seen an overhaul. While still in the realm of traditional point-and-click with inventory based puzzles, Lewton also carries around a notepad with him. This will quickly fill up with clues and red herrings that can be used as both dialogue options and, uniquely, as if they were items. Not only does this allow for some fiendish puzzles, it also cleverly adds to the immersion of being a private investigator, crossing off clues when they are no longer needed. The downside to this is that you'll often have to scroll through pages and pages of clues as you progress further in the game.

Considering the story is its own and contains mostly unique characters not found in the books, the writing is excellent. The parodies here are not so much taken from famous fantasy writings, but also video games. A particular highlight is when you come across Laredo Cronk, a rather blatant riff on Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame. When describing her job as a 'Tomb Evacuator', she states "(It's) nothing special. I break into places where priceless antiquities have been locked away for centuries, overcome the elaborate and convoluted security systems, defeat my rivals and make away with the treasure. Typical day's work really." It certainly sounds like something you'd hear from Pratchett himself, had he been an avid gamer.

The only downside to the game, however, is its lack of compatibility with modern systems. It does kind of work on Windows 7, but you'd have to go through a lot of hoops in order to do so, including editing your registry and weird in-game workarounds - even then there's no guarantee it won't crash. It's a shame as most people do consider this to be the better of the three. Its puzzles are certainly more accessible to the average adventure gamer.

There is hope, though it is a rather low-res one. The game was ported over to the PlayStation for the European market and works perfectly with an emulator. The downside is that the three discs worth of game has been reduced to one. Everything is in there but in a highly compressed form. Frames of animation have disappeared giving a more choppy look and the polygon count in Lewton has been reduced. Take a look at the comparison screenshots below.

PlayStation (left) & PC version (right). Huge difference.

It looks like the PC version seems destined to be solely relegated to the distant desktops of 1999 (unless those folks at ScummVM get their talented hands on it). Until then, we'll have to make do with the PlayStation version, which is what I've provided below. Don't worry, it is compatible with a mouse so there are no clunky joy-pad controls if you don't want them. It basically plays the same as the PC version, albeit a lot uglier.

(UPDATE: I've since managed to get the PC version working on modern systems rendering the previous few paragraphs obsolete. Oh well.)

Over all, Discworld Noir is an excellent game and one that is only marred in my eyes by the change in direction it took from its predecessors. Had this had been the first Discworld game to be released, I might be singing to a different tune and ranked it above the others like others tend to do. As it stands it is still a must play in the genre, no matter what platform you are playing it on.


To download the PlayStation version, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the Mednafen PSX cores to emulate the PlayStaion games on modern PCs. Mouse controls configured and supported. Tested on Windows 10.
  20.05.2015 - Version 2 -  Moved to Retroarch & compressed ISO

File Size: 631 Mb.  Install Size: 600 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download PSX Version

To download the PC version, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses PCem running Windows '95. Press Ctrl-Alt-PgDown to toggle fullscreen. Press Ctrl-End or middle mouse button to release the mouse. Tested on Windows 10.

IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting PCem. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Close the program only when it is safe to do so.
  20.09.2015 - Version 2 -  Changed installer to one that is more stable for larger games. 
                                         This prevents any errors you may get during install.
  20.05.2018 - Version 3 - Now uses PCEm to emulate Windows '95

File Size: 1.44 Gb.  Install Size: 1.88Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download PC Version


Discworld Noir is © Perfect 10 Entertainment
Discworld (the universe) is © Terry Pratchett
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

Discworld  The Colour of Magic  Blade Runner

17 comments:

  1. Files are missing, only Install-DWNW.D03 and D04 available

    ReplyDelete
  2. I may have posted the update before all of the files had finished uploading - I underestimated how long it would take :)
    I've checked and they're all there now (a total of 8 files) but let me know if you run into any more problems. This is the first Win95 emulated game I've configured in DOSBox so I'm curious how you all find it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi! First of all, thanks very much for the work you're doing preserving these games by making them work on newer setups - impressive stuff and most admirable.

    I've been trying to get Discworld Noir running on my laptop since I upgraded to Win7 many years ago and this is probably the closest I've got to getting it running! The installer works fine and DOSBox boots into Windows 95 no problem, but the game gets as far as the loading screen and then it crashes to the '95 desktop with the error "Assert Message: Decompression Error".

    I am running Windows 10 (for all my sins) and I'm thinking maybe one of the files I downloaded didn't complete properly so I might try and re-download them tomorrow. Otherwise, any thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Sean. Thanks for the kind words. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, been a bit manic in my real life.

      Discworld Noir was a bit of a bugger to get running for me too. The Windows 95 emulation is still a bit in its infancy only being supported on a modified version of DOSBox. It requires a beast of a machine to get anything smooth out of it, especially if polygons are involved.

      This was my first attempt at running anything on Windows 95, and as I've run it again, it shows. Some of the settings in the dosbox.conf files are perhaps only good for specific setups. Here's a couple of things that may help with performance. Open the .conf file using notepad.

      - setting fullscreen=false and fullresolution=800x600 from true and desktop will help with any jittery mouse problems. You can still go fullscreen with Alt-Enter, but I recall problems if you do this before the Windows splash screen.

      - setting output=ddraw or direct3d will help with some games. I've noticed occasional crashing with any of the opengl options depending on the game. For windows 95, these should be the only ones to use as the others are more suitable for DOS.

      I've just tested the install with with fullscreen false, full resolution at 800x600 and output as direct3d. The autostart doesn't seem to recognise the CD but the desktop icon plays it. I hope this helps.

      Delete
  4. I've been trying to find a working version of this to run on a Win7 64-bit machine since forever, with no luck... until now! The DosBox/Win95 version you've supplied here actually works! Very impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello. Quite a little miracle and truly great work to have DNoir working on Win10!
    Well, it's almost perfect, and admittedly, the PS version is very optional, but it might be worth mentioning that the archive within the downloadable archive is missing part 5... therefore, no PSX version installable so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting me know!

      I seem to have lost the original rar files so I'm going to upload the single .exe file as a replacement (it's what was inside the rar files). I've ignored the PSX version over the PC one, so it's long overdue a revision. That might be coming in the near future.

      Delete
  6. Biffman!

    Thanks so much for this!

    This may seem trivial and/or obvious but I cannot seem to get the options menu screen to appear whilst playing the game. On the original manual it says press F1 but instead takes me out of the game altogether.

    Would there be a way around this? DosBOX seems a bit clunky in this case.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello. I've just done a quick test and the F1 key works for me. Does it exit to the Win95 desktop or DOSBox altogether? Did the game install correctly?

      Delete
    2. Game works brilliant and runs without any issues, installation went fine too. It exits out of DOSBox altogether so might be an issue with that?

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    4. I'm using Windows 10 and F1 acts as a HotKey for opening Windows online help. Frustrating because it technically shouldn't be doing this when a game is running, hmmmm...

      Delete
    5. Is that through Windows 10 or the emulated Windwos 95? It sounds more like your desktop setup than the game itself.

      https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-winapps/how-to-disable-or-remove-hotkey-f1-for-help-and/3533c72a-9378-4a06-9711-ae8c2d1bfe4f?auth=1

      Delete
  7. Hello! I wrote some time ago about this game but I thought I'd share a new little incident I've got with this great package.
    It worked perfectly until very recently. Loading Windows 95, starting the game, then upon closing the game you "shut down Windows" then Ctrl-F9 and you're done.
    However, I retried it in the last weeks and now it gets to W95 then says "unable to locate the CD". Which is odd, because it's mounted correctly. If I just double-click the shortcut on the W95 desktop, in fact, it does run. If I double-click drive E: it opens the startup screen and runs fine, too. It's just odd that it would suddenly do that. It's like the drive isn't mounted quick enough before the game is run, but that is just a hunch.
    Otherwise, again, it works fine, and the PSX .exe also runs great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello. This is one of my first Windows 95 games so I don't think it's my best package. I've completely switched to PCem now so stay tuned, it will be updated using that. I don't have time to trouble shoot the DOSBox version at the moment (work etc...) but at least the shortcut's working.

      I might've had a typo in the win.ini file or something. Or loading up is too slow it's not recognising the HDD or altered configs properly (I know a recent Win 10 update caused a little havoc with DOSBox running Win95 - it requires more resources than it did). These are just possibilities but PCem seems more stable overall.

      Delete