Archives by Day

April 2024

Pecaminosa: A Deadly Hand

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: 2Awesome Studio
Developer: Cereal Games
Release Date: May 27, 2021

About Lauren "Feffy" Hall

I am a freelance writer based in Canada, where it's too cold to go outside; therefore, we play a lot of video games. I'm an expert zombie slayer (the virtual kind), amateur archer (for actual zombie slaying and general apocalypse purposes - it could happen), and a work-in-progress wife and mother (IRL). My claim to fame: I completed the original MYST without looking up cheats. It took several years. What other accomplishments does one need in life?


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Pecaminosa'

by Lauren "Feffy" Hall on Oct. 20, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Pecaminosa is a pixel-art noir action/RPG you will have the opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of former detective John Souza and solve all kinds of cases on the streets of Pecaminosa.

You're the stereotypical noir detective, drinking heals you, and smoking gives you luck and a foul mouth.

John Souza of Pecaminosa isn't what you would call an exemplary human being. It's difficult to live the trope of the jaded ex-detective in a typical noir story, one who has fallen from grace and spends a decent amount of his time drowning his sorrows in a bottle of "Mack Daniels" while reeking of slightly stale tobacco. He pulls it off, though, with something almost like dignity and wit — but, not quite.

Still, it's somehow delightful.

Film noir has always been a beloved genre, and the shady, dingy style translates to video games seamlessly. Pecaminosa by Cereal Games is as noir as you can get in a video game: pixelated and darkly beautiful, and with a touch of the supernatural for good measure.

Souza is visited unexpectedly by a former criminal — a dead criminal, thanks to Souza's heroic actions in his heyday. The ghost of Charlie "Two Angels" is seeking redemption for his evil deeds in life, and he needs Souza's help. Souza's the man for the job because what Charlie needs is to put some bad guys deep underground, which is Souza's specialty.

This simple story is how the game starts off, and I love when developers use story as a means of a pseudo-tutorial. You pick up the gist of the action portion of this action-RPG pretty quickly, as it comes equipped with the typical WASD movement scheme: E to perform actions and some simple keystrokes to manage weapons and customized key-bound items or traits. The action in Pecaminosa, while tricky at times, takes a backseat to the story, but it's worth noting that it lends to a somewhat nostalgic feel of games of old, smelling strongly of some of the tougher console games of my youth.

In Pecaminosa, you need to manage Souza's health and stamina as well as a Fallout-style attributes tree, where you can assign points (earned per level-up) into L.I.F.E. traits: Luck, Intelligence, Force and Endurance. These points impact how you fight, interact, pull information from your contacts, and so on. This is common in many games, and I love this kind of character customization.

Speaking of customization and attributes, I was surprised to find that by wearing certain pieces of clothing together, you could earn a set bonus that bumps up stats in the L.I.F.E. tree. While this is not uncommon in games, it felt out of place here, but it was very welcome.

Souza is a resourceful fellow, and this is where the RPG element of Pecaminosa takes off. It's a story-driven game at heart, so there is a lot of dialogue. During these entertaining conversations with colorful characters, you'll get the odd dialogue choice, which is often boosted with a trait in your L.I.F.E. tree, and usually ends up in a fight. Souza's disagreeable, to say the least.

There are some tougher boss fights, which had me raging internally and cursing myself for going in without scrounging around for more liquid health ("Mack Daniels" heals you, an admittedly cute touch) or wishing I'd used my fists to break barrels instead of using the suddenly precious bullets. More than once, I had to go back to previously loaded saves, often taking me miles back in the story, just to play out the skirmishes and investigations more conservatively to give me a fighting chance on the boss.

It's frustrating, but as the game tells you upon every death in a boss or minion fight —thankfully, you are given a bajillion chances to retry — "the game is fair...blame yourself…."

It's annoying and infuriating, but it's true.

Pecaminosa is filled with some pretty unsavory people. The good news is that they can almost always be bought, manipulated, or forced into compliance. As you follow the trails and leads to your targets, the people you speak to may have a quest for you to complete, or they may be shoved into agreeableness. Either way, the story and dialogue, while pretty gritty, keeps you entertained as long as you aren't squeamish when it comes to low-blow insults and rough language.

If not, you can always skip it, but where is the fun in that?

(As someone who dies a lot in action games, the option to skip dialogue is usually a welcome addition to any game.)

Further to Souza's abilities to anger the masses, what noir plot would be complete without tired, washed-up cops, undeniable betrayals, the odd plot twist, and a troubled femme fatale who holds the wasted, tortured heart of our hero? Thankfully, Pecaminosa offers all of the above.

The pixelated art adds to the gritty nature of the story and its setting, offering only blurry portraits during moments of dialogue. Being unable to see each character clearly somehow adds to their development, keeping their true nature and desires in the shadows of the story. It's so perfectly fitting within the noir style. Along with the pixelated art blended with the shady touches of noir, the cut scenes are drawn in a style more fitting in a comic book, adding yet another level to the overall scheme that somehow works together perfectly.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Pecaminosa's incredible, and evidently original, jazz soundtrack that, as a fan of the genre, I will be locating and purchasing as soon as possible. The amazing music transports you right to a noir-esque, salty detective's office, gray and shady, awaiting a damsel in distress to come through the door with sad eyes and an exciting dilemma.

Pecaminosa is also full of fun details that are often neglected in games, such as a seemingly randomly included minigame of blackjack, which you can play directly from the menu. This was a very cool addition that I blew all my chips on before I even started playing. The menu also offers the typical game settings for a pixel art game.

When it comes to the storyline and general gameplay, there is a quest log broken up by chapters, although it's more of a detailed to-do list, which is fitting for Souza's personality. I found myself looking back at this menu, known as The Story, in addition to the other tabs, such as the inventory — I used this so frequently and often mid-fight that I was sorry that it was bound to the typical 'I' key — the L.I.F.E. attributes screen, the map, and the compendium, which housed a bio of sorts for each character in the game.

I found the story section to be somewhat lacking, as there were times that my map indicated that there was a quest in a zone, but I could not find that information in my story tab. It's more than likely that I spoke to someone and didn't properly pay attention to what was said, and my memory is worse than a sieve, but it was a minor irritation for a chronic game completionist.

I also found that there were lots of save points at the start of the game, but these dwindled, admittedly naturally, as you progress and it gets more difficult. This made sense to me, as the expectation is that you need less coddling in later game stages, having survived the mechanics thus far, but I don't do well at action titles, so the lack of save stations was alarming.

When it comes to brass tacks, there was too much action and not enough RPG, but that's personal preference, not a fault in the game's design. Maybe it's because I'm not very good at the action portion of the title, but I found the boss fights to be exponentially harder than fighting multiple thugs and rats and the like. Yes, boss fights should be harder, but I scraped by with a sliver of health on my best tries. In general, I prefer a good story to plenty of action.

Pecaminosa is great for the genre, pulling in so many elements from some great titles and tying them all up nicely with the pixel art, noir-centric theme. The music might be the best part of this game, but I could be biased. The dialogue and clever unfolding of the story, which is laid out in such a way that you need to follow the breadcrumbs and explore to your heart's content, was witty and undeniably funny at times. For a game that you can easily enjoy over a weekend, casually interrogating tough guys and evading mobsters' heavy blows, it's well worth the price tag of $12.

With that, I'll quote Pecaminosa's fitting description on Steam and tell you to "grab your gun, hit the streets and do what you do best: investigate and interact with the scum."

Score: 7.0/10

More articles about Pecaminosa: A Deadly Hand
blog comments powered by Disqus