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Crapshoot: The almost-great noir detective mess, Private Eye

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Crapshoot: The almost-great noir detective mess, Private Eye 2

Private Eye

From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. This week, who’s in the mood for something… noirishing?

The inevitable sound of smoky jazz echoes down the dark Los Angeles street. Somewhere, a man falls to the ground with an ice-pick in his neck. A damsel puts the finishing touches to her look of mock distress. A crucial clue is picked up off the floor and torn up by a genre-savvy plotter. And in his dark, cramped office, Philip Marlowe waits to be told the lie that’ll pull him into the middle of it all.

Yep. It’s time to head back to the golden age of detectives and take a look at a game that—while no classic by any stretch—deserves better than to languish in its current obscurity.

Proper detective games have always curiously been thin on the ground. Sure, there have been plenty of games where you play a detective, but that’s not necessarily the same thing. Any old flatfoot can find a few hidden objects on a screen, or shove a bit of newspaper under a door to recover the key on the other side. To actually feel like a sleuth is to enter a world and be given the chance to investigate; to work out whodunnit instead of having to be told. Half the fun of watching detective fiction is trying to get one step ahead of Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Jonathan Creek or whoever. 

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