Review: Pecaminosa – A Pixel Noir Game – Western, Noir and Fantasy All-in-One

If you ever wanted to explore a narrative pixel noir world with elements inspired by the likes of Deadwood or Dante’s Divine Comedy, then Pecaminosa might be the game for you. Pecaminosa – A Pixel Noir Game, developed by Cereal Games and published by BadLand Publishing is an Action RPG with twin-stick shooter gameplay and a large world to explore.

The game follows the story of Johnny Souza, a former detective who tries to drown his past in alcohol. He is visited by the ghost of a mob boss he once took down, Charlie Two Angels, and is presented with his offer to kill a number of individuals who once wronged Charlie, in return for his former partner’s safety.

Pecaminosa Johnny's snarky comments
Souza’s snarky comments and one-liners are pretty common in almost all of his conversations.

Pocaminosa is full of interesting locations to explore and people to talk to. With over-the-top snarky comments of Johnny in almost every conversation, experiencing the story is quite enjoyable. The story takes an interesting twist midway through the game when Johnny finds himself without his soul and has to travel to hell to seek his own redemption. This is where the inspirations from fantasy western settings bleed into the film noir theme of the game.

The story is complemented with a beautiful classical jazz soundtrack, that we even have the option to listen to in the title menu. We also have the opportunity to play the game’s blackjack minigame through the menu as well. The title menu minigame won’t have an effect on the game itself, but if you visit the casino in-game you can play to earn some extra cash.

Pecaminosa's Blackjack Minigame
If you’re short on cash, you can try your luck in a game of Blackjack.

Pecaminosa has great-looking pixel art, especially during important scenes when we get to see larger artworks of the characters. We get to explore many different environments, like the city streets, sewers, a desert, and even hell. They all look great, and exploring the game’s surprisingly big world is quite fun. Except for two specific locations that are covered with heavy fog; The cemetery and the mansion’s maze.

The fog effect in the game is supposed to make it hard to see, but it just seems wrong. The first time I encountered the fog I thought my monitor’s cord was somehow pulled and the picture was distorted, but it’s just how it is designed. The dark and misty environment made me want to set the brightness to the highest level possible just so I didn’t die to tiny rats that were attacking me. And it doesn’t help that the fog covers two of the locations in the game that are hardest to navigate. The cemetery and the maze were the two locations that took me the longest to just find my way, and the fog made it unbearable.

Charlie Two Angels and his goons
Charlie Two Angels, Vinnie ‘Questions’, and Paul ‘Dice’, visiting Johnny Souza at the start of the game.

The gameplay of Pecaminosa is a constant turmoil of hit and miss throughout the game. Pecaminosa tries to combine elements of narrative games, twin-stick action shooters, RPGs, and point-and-click adventures. This makes the game a bit complicated at times, and I was often stuck in a situation that I didn’t know how to solve; Not because it had a challenging riddle or puzzle to solve, but because it isn’t clear what the game wanted me to do.

After being stuck in a location for far too long, I just started wasting my precious ammo shooting every object I could see. Accidentally, I shot a random crack in the wall, and a secret doorway appeared. Mind you, this was the only way to progress in the game. Up until now, the game introduced me to kill enemies, interact with objects, talk my way out of problems, or solve riddles and puzzles. Shooting a crack in the wall out of frustration wasn’t a solution that I would come up with on my own, and after finding it, it didn’t give me the feeling of progression or accomplishment. It just left me wondering why?

Johnny Souza interacting with a cryptic altar to find a way into hell
Johnny Souza on his way to hell!

The RPG aspect of Pecaminosa seemed pointless throughout most of the game. We have four main stats to increase as we level up; Luck, Intelligence, Force, and Endurance. Having high stats in each of these would unlock some dialogue options for us, but other than that, endurance was the only stat that immediately seemed important as it increased our stamina. We could also get special powers once we increased two of our stats to a certain degree, but this happened so late in the game that I only got to use my power for the last boss fight of the game.

We also have a limited inventory which can be confusing. From very early in the game we get to wear a new police outfit, and holding the regular outfit in the inventory almost fills it up. We have to get back to our home and store our extra gear constantly or we will be unable to pick up new weapons or even quest items. The limited inventory just felt like a mandatory task for us to walk all the way back to our home after every mission, and with the slow walking speed, this was not fun at all.

Pecaminosa screenshot of the inventory tab
Our limited inventory meant we had to leave all extra outfits and weapons back at home.

At the start of the game, we get a lot of fetch quests to progress the story. Get one item from a guy, give it to the second guy so he gives you the item you need for a third guy. This happened so many times in the early game that even Souza makes a joke about it. Yes, he is a disgraced detective trying to get by, but he turns into an errand boy for shopkeepers and mobs. If the protagonist sees the joke in these pointless fetch quests, maybe there are a few too many.

The best part of the gameplay in Pecaminosa is combat. Boss fights feel challenging and unique, and shooting or punching enemies is really fun. Still, it feels bad that some weapons are a waste of ammo. My favorite weapon was the rifle until I realized the low damage was not worth it and I ran out of ammo in most fights. The shotgun was such a better weapon that made me want to restart the game so I didn’t waste so many bullets with the rifle on my way to get to that point.

Johnny Souza facing off against Charlie Two Angels
Johnny Souza’s fight with Charlie Two Angels was a memorable, challenging, and fun boss fight.

Overall, Pecaminosa offers a great story, great original soundtrack, beautiful pixel art, and fun combat. But there is still so much in the game that makes it feel unnecessarily hard or complicated. The developers have already released an update that answers some of the feedbacks such as slow walking speed, and hopefully, with more updates down the line, Pecaminosa will have fewer problems that keep us from experiencing the fun aspects of the game.

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