For a good while my film-noir sensibilities have been under the impression that, at least with regards to the portrayed ambience of a 1940s-era metropolitan drama, things couldn’t get any better than Backbone.
But that was before I set my eyes on Coffee Noir.
The trailer seems narrated with just the right amount of bombast and while you can almost smell the stale coffee/cigarette butts, I half-expected a Humphrey Bogart cameo. Which isn’t too far-fetched given how he plays Arthur Oliver’s primary inspiration.
It so happens that the London of an alternate 2021 has more than affection for the coffee bean. So much so that when the city’s leading local tycoon disappears without a trace, the South Carolina P.I. is called in by the family to uncover an apparent conspiracy.
Ten suspects, each of wholly different personalities, might not seem like too large an undertaking – until you’re told that for said suspects to even consider a cuppa with you, you’ll have to get into the business yourself.
And that’s where Coffee Noir’s crime affair makes way for its business-sim mechanics. In playing undercover coffee sales manager Oliver is tasked with learning on-the-go, managing departments of production, sales, finance, marketing, HR and management, all to be considered worthy for a cuppa with the elite.
To this end DOJI claims to have developed an advanced economics game engine that thoroughly simulates market strategy.
And I believe them, not because there’s a couple of Ph.D’s on team, but because screens/clips hint at Oliver taking tests, micro-managing complex statistics/market trends, catering to the whims of employees, designing broadcast campaigns and even burying his nose in a very real 200-page textbook on business communications.
Yeah it does seem easier to kill all 10 suspects but where’s the fun in that? The economic drama is broken up by an Agatha Christie inspired crime narrative, featuring professional voice overs, comic-book cutscenes and choice-based interactions that take place over the course of one virtual year.
Said year provides players with 40-odd turns to make calculated business decisions and unearth the killer, with each turn spanning one in-game week. As you can probably tell by now Coffee Noir started life out as an educational browser-game only to have favorable player feedback urge for more.
DOJI has thought it wise to bring the game to Early Access later this year, hoping the platform provides for their vision of an intelligent gaming experience, before releasing in full circa 2019.
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