Any self-respecting noir fan worth his weight in fedoras knows that a detective's most valuable weapon isn't his gun, but his notebook. Hotel Dusk embraces this fact by transforming your DS into a fully interactive crime novel. The entire game is played by holding the DS sideways, and the stylus is periodically used to actually jot down notes and clues you discover while unraveling the mystery of your former partner's disappearance. The game also features rotoscoped, pencil-drawn characters, which make it feel a bit like a coke-fueled 1980's fever dream, but contrast nicely with the grungy hotel setting full of hidden messages and shifty patrons. It's an entirely unique homage to the classic hard-boiled detective novels, except you know
because it's a videogame.
Most noir films don't have orcs, wizards, or cybernetic implants. But that's what videogames are for: to fix what's not awesome about other media. Shadowrun is a cybernoir SNES game based upon a tabletop rpg of the same name. In it, you control Jake Armitage, a data courier who's just been murdered, revived with a nasty case of amnesia (you'd think noir protagonists would just start wearing nametags considering how often this happens), and sent on a mission to find out who wants him dead and why. Jake spends most of the RPG fighting off hitmen in dark alleys and trying to figure out where he stands in a city that runs on crime & greed. It's like something out of The Maltese Falcon, if Sam Spade ever had to deal with wifi-enabled technodragons.
Heavy Rain starts off suspiciously sunny, but in true film noir fashion, the storm comes rolling in hard & fast. A young boy is kidnapped by a notorious serial killer, and will be killed unless someone can locate him in time. Your perspective jumps between four diverse (& flawed) protagonists, each one starting at a different corner of this dark & twisted maze and slowly worming their way in towards the rotten center. Unlike Quantic Dream's previous game, Indigo Prophecy, which started out with a promising, gritty story that came down with a bad case of "needs more ancient magiks" partway through, Heavy Rain keeps its gloomy fable firmly rooted in reality. It's a grim world full of brutal choices (The Lizard Trial, anyone?), and as anyone who's played it knows, no one comes out of this one clean.