Former detective John Souza awakens one night from a drunken stupor to find three ominous figures standing over him. It’s not the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, nor is it the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is notorious gangster Charlie Two Angels and his pair of right-hand men. He’s surprised to see them, considering the reason he was benched from the force was for putting a bullet in between Charlie’s eyes. Things are about to get stranger though, as Charlie explains that he wants to get to heaven by helping Souza find his partner Sullivan, who had disappeared weeks ago unbeknownst to the perpetually drunken ex-detective. He hands Souza a list of names and some cryptic clues and it’s off to the races. Whatever is in store for John Souza, there’s one thing for sure: it’s going to be one long, weird night. Pecaminosa is a pixel-style noire game with a touch of the supernatural. A drunken detective (or ex) is a fairly common trope in the genre but one I still enjoy.
The first thing I noticed is the beautiful and detailed pixel work. The overall visual aesthetic is dark and moody, but there is also plenty of color to be found. The animation is fluid and the framerate is consistent, making it a pleasure to watch in motion. The accompanying soundtrack is full of jazzy instrumentals, fitting nicely with the overall theme. Combined with decent sound effects and I really don’t have anything negative to say on the audio/visual side of things.
A good chunk of the game revolves around exploring the different environments while tracking down leads but as Pecaminosa is a top-down action RPG, there is a bit more to it than that. I love talking to the oddball cast of NPCS and doing quests for them, but the gameplay itself is underwhelming. When it comes to combat, you have a few guns to use, once you find them. Until then, you have to resort to some good ol’ fashioned pugilism. You can equip gear in the form of pieces of clothing to boost your stats, and there are consumables to be found, like off-brand booze Mack Janiels to refill your health. Guns take bullets to use (duh) but woe to you if you run out in the wrong place. I find the limited inventory space a bit too restrictive and the only storage space you have is all the way back at your dingy apartment. Limiting the inventory doesn’t add anything to the game, as there aren’t many types of consumables anyways so I don’t see the point.
It wouldn’t be much of an RPG if there wasn’t some sort of leveling system, and that’s where L.I.F.E. comes in. Short for Luck, Intelligence, Force, and Endurance, these attributes enhance your character in various ways. In addition to making you stronger, there are many situations where Souza will find himself in a situation that can be resolved during a dialogue skill check, assuming you meet the requirements. Leveling up grants you points to spend in any way you please, but I recommend you focus on Endurance, as that gives Souza a much-needed speed boost during combat. The most frustrating thing about the gameplay is how slow Souza moves. Even walking from place to place feels snail-like, but it gets worse in battle. You need to move quickly to avoid enemies (especially the bosses) but thanks to the way things are set up, the dash move that should take you out of danger just makes you move slower afterward. Dashing uses up the stamina bar, which in turn slows down your character the lower it is. Defeats the whole purpose of dashing, doesn’t it?
During the game, Souza fights off an assortment of baddies, from literal rats, thugs, and gangsters to supernatural beasties like giant poison-spewing scorpions and the living dead. For the most part, they don’t pose much of a challenge. The bosses are quite a different story and require much more finesse than just zinging bullets at them. There are always attack patterns and hazards to consider, and in some cases, they cannot be damaged except for certain situations. Take the boss Rourke, for example. In the second encounter (you fight him three separate times) you fight him in a small room. Your best bet is to wait for him to charge you and then dodge so his knife gets stuck in the wall for a few seconds, but it is made more difficult by the infinite amount of knife-wielding thugs consistently streaming into the room. The third time you fight him is on a rooftop full of platforms connected by wooden planks. He shoots at you with a machine gun and periodically throws a firebomb, forcing you to change platforms while the wood burns away, cutting off your path. The bosses later on in the game get much more frustrating, so expect plenty of deaths.
All in all, Pecaminosa is not a great game: it’s not a bad game, either. It has a good visual style going for it, along with an interesting story and characters, but the average combat and too-slow character movement mar the experience. I’d say give it a shot if you’re into the genre, just be aware that it might not be all you think it’s cracked up to be.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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