By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on December 1, 2016
Don't you just hate it when you wake up dead? Detective James Renoir surely does! And, what's more, although the bullet hole in his chest may give a clue as to how he died, has no idea whatsoever as to why! So, like any detective would, he sets out to solve the most important case he has ever worked on in his entire career: his own murder...
Renoir is a 2D puzzle platform game, developed by independent video game developer Black Wing Foundation and published by our friends at 1C Company, inspired by the 1940's film noir. It lets the player take control of Detective James Renoir, as he tries to solve the mystery of who ended his life so prematurely. Now, you might think that, seeing as how mister Renoir is dead, he cannot die. Well, you couldn't be more wrong! As we all know, ghosts have a natural fondness for the dark. In Renoir, the developers have incorporated this idea and taken it one step further; light kills ghosts. So when you're walking around, stay out of the light, unless you enjoy starting over and over again.
While trying to solve his own murder, James Renoir will have to face a number of platform-based puzzles, which he has to overcome if he ever wants to find out exactly what happened to him. Couple this with the fact that ghosts cannot abide light, and you might start to get an idea what the puzzles are mostly about: turning off or dodging lights so James can pass by them and proceed to the next level. Of course, James can't very well do this alone, now can he? Luckily, he doesn't need to! There are a lot of helpful ghosts around that are more than happy to help him on his way. The only downside is the fact that these ghosts are a bit dim-witted, so James will have to tell them exactly what he needs them to do in order to successfully complete a puzzle. If he doesn't tell them exactly what to do, they'll just stand around doing nothing at all! Death, it would seem, has not improved their intelligence...
But, all silliness aside, the presence of ghosts, or rather: the controlling of said ghosts, is the largest part of the puzzle aspect in Renoir. James can manipulate machines, switches, pulleys, wheels and things like that, opening trap doors, raising platforms, turning off lights and so on, and so on. Of course, when there is a burning light in the way, he can't even reach the thing he needs to interact with, let alone use it. This is where the ghosts come in. You can select a ghost by pushing the 'Tab' key. If there are more than one ghosts in your screen, you can cycle through them by consecutively pushing the 'Tab' key until you reach the ghost you want to select. If you have selected your ghost, you can then press 'Enter' to start recording this ghost's actions. After you start recording, you can control the ghost in question just like you would control James Renoir. Then, when you're satisfied with the actions you can save them by pressing 'Enter' again. With all your ghosts' actions recorded and in place, you can start them with a simple push of a button, while controlling James' actions yourself.
Now, this might all sound fairly complicated, but trust me, when you have tried it a few times, you'll get the hang of it and will be controlling ghosts like it is nobody's business. The puzzles start off fairly easy, just to let you get the hang of things, but get increasingly more complex as you play through the game. There will most certainly be a point in time when you are trying to control the actions of three or four ghosts AND your own actions, only to find out you've been going at it all wrong. This is what makes Renoir so much fun to play; it's the need for out-of-the-box-thinking that makes the puzzles ever more interesting and challenging. If you're stuck, take a step back and try not to follow the most likely path. To make things a bit easier, you can also press the 'L' button at any time, in order to see which lamps or trap doors are connected to which switch or crank. This lets you investigate your options beforehand and plan your strategy and actions accordingly.
One last thing that is definitely worth mentioning, are the cutscenes through which the story is being told. In a black and white comic book style, small pieces of the story are revealed, leading you one step closer to solving your murder. The comic book style fits the theme of the game perfectly and looks really great! I must say, I personally think these cutscenes really add a level of depth to the entire game. It's already really cool without them, but they are just the finishing touches; the black and white cherries on the noir cake, so to speak.
Renoir is one of those games where a simple idea grows into something truly awesome! Although you basically just throw a bunch switches and make your way from one screen to the next, the intricacy with which the puzzles in the game are constructed, makes for a really challenging experience. Together with a very cool looking art style , a grim voice-over and soundtrack and a more than decent mystery story, this all makes for a winning combination. So go ahead; venture forth into the realm of the monochromatic dead, take control of a ghostly workforce and solve the mystery as to who killed you and, maybe even more importantly, why!