Noctropolis

Moby ID: 1511
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

Peter Grey is a lonely bookstore owner who also happens to be a huge fan of the "Darksheer" comic book series. Darksheer is a Batman-esque superhero: one who doesn't have any actual superpowers, triumphing over evil thanks to his inventiveness and courage. Together with his partner Stiletto, a former supervillain converted to the side of the good guys, he is the sworn protector of Noctropolis, a city where it's always night time because of a permanent ash cloud that hangs over it, the result of a volcanic environmental catastrophe which occurred decades before.

One night, as Peter is leafing through the newest issue of "Darksheer" to hit the stands, a courier brings him a package which eventually transports him into the city of Noctropolis, where he has to take the role of Darksheer himself. Coincidentally enough, his arrival as Darksheer occurs at the same time as five of the superhero's deadliest arch-villains decide to gang up on him after they are mysteriously released from incarceration. It turns out that the real Darksheer had disappeared several weeks prior to Peter's arrival. It's up to the unlikely hero to find out who released the criminals, while simultaneously trying to keep them from wreaking havoc across the city of Noctropolis - and maybe, in the process, find a way back to the real world.

Noctropolis is a puzzle-solving adventure game, with game mechanics similar to Sierra and LucasArts titles belonging to the same genre. Controlling Peter, the player has to interact with characters and objects, manipulate inventory items, solve puzzles and overcome the obstacles the main character will have to face to advance the story. The game has a verb-based menu interface that appears if the player right-clicks on the screen. It features live actors filmed over digitized graphics; many conversations and cutscenes are displayed as short movies shown inside a smaller screen.

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Credits (DOS version)

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 68% (based on 21 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 37 ratings with 5 reviews)

An underrated comic book fantasy.

The Good
Noctropolis holds the distinction of being the very first CD-ROM game I ever purchased. When I bought it, I wanted something gritty. Something with a bite to it. Something edgy. And for the year Noctropolis was released, it was pretty darned edgy.

As an adventure game, it's first rate. It's similar to every other representative of the genre: move your guy around, try to solve puzzles, etc. The atmosphere is very dark, similar in many respects to the movie "Dark City".

The Bad
Some of the puzzles were pretty difficult, to the point where I had trouble getting past them even with a hint book.

The Bottom Line
Noctropolis is the adventure game for the frustrated superhero inside you.

DOS · by Afterburner (486) · 2001

A checklist of mistakes

The Good
The best of the game's graphics are really beautiful. Yes, their quality is uneven - some places, such as Cygnus lobby or, especially, the extremely boring and ugly Hall of Records, are a real failure. But the majority of places look very captivating. The artists clearly know how to use untypical perspectives to enhance the mood - the game has an overrepresentation of more or less sharp top-down views, which make the area look oppressive. The protagonist's silhouette is often very small compared to the surroundings, which makes him seem lonely in face of a looming danger.
The game also uses something I very much enjoy: it temporarily switches to a different graphic style. I mean, of course, the comic books. They use a typically cartoonish style and, in order to obscure as little picture surface as possible, don't have speech bubbles like ordinary paper comic books. Instead, all dialogue and other text is displayed by clicking on pictures.
It's just a huge pity that in this respect, the game promises more than it delivers. Instructions on how to read comic books - specifying, for example, that text is displayed after clicking pictures - are even found in the game manual. This can make players think that there will be several comics to read. And the truth is: nope, there are just two, both at the very beginning of the game.

The Bad
The story has some interesting aspects, but it doesn't appeal to me very much. It seems rather banal to me and, first of all, cut short. We don't even meet all of the villains. It seems to me like the game could have been planned bigger, or could have been planned as the first part of a series - but all that remains of the plans is this one game. So basically, we are offered a short introduction into the "Darksheer universe" and then we enter that world... and still only get to explore it in part.
I hugely disliked the way Stiletto "uses her feminine charm" to create a diversion. This is just caricatural and I felt that she humiliated herself. It's just extremely unappealing to me as a woman who isn't interested in being attractive to men, prefers to be categorical instead of "charming" when talking to them, and would rather starve than cater to men's inflated "needs".
However, the biggest flaws of the game are found in the area of gameplay. The game uses a variant of a verb interface - the right mouse button pauses the game for a while (which is a very good idea by itself) and displays a triangle (or "pyramid", as the manual calls it) divided into several fields with commands. It includes typical commands such as "talk", "open", "move", but also "travel" (access to game map, so more than actions within the immediate surroundings) and "disk" - which accesses the save/restore menu. The bad thing is that it uses no simplifications common for adventure games. For example, to enter a room, we usually need to, first, choose the "open" command and click it on the door, and then do the same with the "go to" command. And the worst thing: unlike a lot of adventure games (think, for example, of "Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes" as an example among older games and of "Mage's Initiation" as one among newer ones), the game doesn't display names of objects until you click them. So it means lots of pixel hunting... I have already mentioned the Hall of Records as a very ugly room. And indeed, it's an almost monochromatic room with a counter of a ridiculous, caricatural size, and the clerk only visible as a tiny black silhouette. It's really hard to find him in the picture, the Hall of Records at first looks like there's no one there.
Because of this lack of captions, items which can and often should be taken pose a similar problem. With no names of objects displayed by just moving the cursor around, they are hard to spot. And they often stand out very little. Highlighting useful objects has always been a bit of a problem in classic adventure games, attempts to solve it often lead to them standing out in a somewhat unrealistic way (think of the VGA remake of "King's Quest 3", with fairly colourless objects on the shelf - and one big bright blue bowl...). In "Noctropolis" objects stand out very little and are easy to miss.

The Bottom Line
Still, I think that the game has some interesting ideas, a story which could be captivating... But as it is, it's a fairly disappointing game. The story seems just unfinished, half-baked, and the gameplay is very uncomfortable because of lack of captions, small and hardly visible objects and a tendency to distort perspectives so much that people to talk to become hard to spot in those huge interiors. I understand that it's hard to find a balance between items being visible and almost screaming "Hey! I'm here!", between creating offbeat, interesting perspectives and ensuring that these perspectives don't make important objects or characters effectively invisible... Unfortunately, "Noctropolis" goes in the direction of creating original perspectives and a realistic appearance of objects so much that it hardly cares about the functional aspect of the game. So the game can be interesting, but is very uncomfortable to play. It almost looks like the developers had made a checklist of mistakes in creating seamless gameplay and worked hard to include as many as possible...

Windows · by Nowhere Girl (8680) · 2021

Lost in The City Of Night

The Good
With a lot of influence from comic, Noctropolis had come in late 1994. It featured a lot of cool things, first of all, the excellent graphics. SVGA graphics, digitalized characters, amazing gothic backgrounds... The plot was very interesting too. It was a pity that this game didn't got too much recognition, I would recommend it to everyone point-and-click game lover.

The Bad
At certain points the game became too easy, maybe it was because the game tends to automate some of the movements and the searching for useful elements

The Bottom Line
A game with a very good plot, and excellent graphics, but very easy, which it makes it harder to replay.

DOS · by Emepol (212) · 2002

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Trivia

When released this game caused some measure of controversy because of its violence (which isn't that much really) and sexual situations. Also this game is the only "mainstream" game (at least to my knowledge) to include a live-action video sequence with a topless actress (your admitedly very hot partner, Stilleto) in addition to other suggestive/erotic sequences.

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Related Sites +

  • Crapshoot
    A humorous review on PC Gamer
  • Noctropolis Fansite
    One of the few (if not only) fan sites dedicated to the game. Contains bios of the main characters, a walkthrough, an interview with designer and writer Shaun Mitchell and some game media.

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  • MobyGames ID: 1511
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by MAT.

Additional contributors: Zovni, Afterburner, Gonchi, Patrick Bregger.

Game added May 28, 2000. Last modified September 13, 2023.