Pecaminosa puts you in the customisable shoes of disgraced and definitely not sober detective John Souza. A familiar story seemingly, until his deceased nemesis puts him onto the case of his missing former partner.
Pecaminosa is a police action RPG that plays slowly and somewhat like a roguelike, slimmed down, Disco Elysium lite. The pixelated style of a dark gritty detective story paired with the graphics, works terrifically to engage you into the story and each character is designed beautifully to highlight their persona.
The game starts off with an introduction from the late mob boss, Charlie “Two Angels”. From here, players are thrown into the world of Pecaminosa. Shortly thereafter, you receive the ‘Dark Book’. Of course, your former partner Sullivan is missing. He is suspected of messing with some low-life criminals. And you’ve been too deep into a drunken stupor to even know what day it is.
The book features a list of troublemakers, ready for John to confront in his old gumshoe manner, as he investigates the disappearance of Sullivan.
Using the menu, you can check your inventory to equip your clothes. Handy as not to start running around in the all-together. You can also check your stats presented as L.I.F.E. (Luck, Intelligence, Force, Endurance), your map of the nine districts, the story, and a compendium.
Shuffle the City Streets
After meeting Charlie, you’re tasked with getting out into the city, first to grab your shooter from the Pawn (not porn, get your head out of the 1940’s gutter) Shop. But of course, there’s a catch. You’re broke as broke can be and only a violent favour is tradable for your piece.
So, you beat up a shady robed man who owes the ‘moolah’, which really conveys what you’re getting yourself into for the rest of your investigation.
The out-of-combat movement is tediously slow at the start before you pump your stats up, which seems like a strange design flaw. The speed of Souza could have been increased out of combat and altered when facing enemies. This would have easily sped up the traversal between encounters and when following leads.
Sauced Souza Shooting
After following some leads on your first suspect, at a, let’s say, ‘lady dance club’ and certainly not a brothel, you finally get to try out some combat. And, you know what, it’s not half bad!
Admittedly, the movement is slow but it can be increased through stat points when levelling up. The dash is useful but the stamina bar restricts overuse. However, likewise, stamina can be increased when levelling up.
You aim your attacks, be it gun or fist, with the right stick, which feels pretty comfortable. It can take some getting used to positioning your hands in handheld mode to dash and shoot. But it feels natural when you get the knack.
The first boss fight of Pecaminosa was actually quite enjoyable, not too hard. I did it on my second attempt after working out the attacks on the first run.
Dodging attacks that changed as the fight wore on kept me on my toes as he switched from simple line attacks to multi-directional, and then barrels came raining down. Handily, these were preceded by the shadows to help you dodge.
The second boss fight brought multiple stages into the equation as well as a changing boss arena on the last stage. This provided a welcome challenge, considering how the fight is paced and the variety of tactics needed to succeed.
A couple of references are evident early on with typewriters used for saving in a nod to Resident Evil and a couple of police officers called “Peralta” and “Boyle” for you Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans.
And Souza’s beverage of choice “Mack Janiels” speaks for itself. Using the MJ restores your health and can be acquired in percental increments.
All That Detective Jazz
The music can be quite moody and atmospheric in the style of the dark noir tone, changing subtly between areas and upping and lowering the temp based on the set piece.
Though not voiced, the dialog has attitude aplenty, with characters coming across well to differentiate between their not so similar patois’.
There’s the streetwise Darcy, the sassy Sharleena and the faux friendly but menacing Charlie Two Angels. Your character John Souza comes across cocky and brazen to good effect when bantering with the supporting characters and even bosses.
My Hot Tip…
The desert is an infuriating area; much too long and repetitive. It can ruin the fun shooting mechanics by throwing a platoon of enemies at you, plus some giant scorpions. Scorpions that have, essentially, an unavoidable spit attack that, subsequently, poisons you. But they also take a ton of bullets to defeat. And, seemingly, the only way to survive is to spray them with the shotgun whilst not worrying how much of your precious ammo you waste!
In the end, after a few failed attempts, (as there is no autosave part-way), I ran through the enemies and the giant scorpions didn’t appear at all. So there’s my hot tip, be merciful… in life and the game I guess.
It’s a strange section that takes you out of the standard detective story. The addition of these enemies throws you into something akin to a 2D Fallout game as opposed to a down-to-Earth detective tale.
Son of a Glitch
I encountered a frustrating glitch in the desert zone where I was unable to use items, resulting in the scorpions killing me several times as I sought to work my way through and re-enter civilisation.
This seemed to keep happening until I decided to try the “run-and-ignore-enemies” method. Hitting the last area seemed to allow me to once again use the items I needed to restore my waning health.
Unfortunately, in the mansion area, post-desert is where I came truly unstuck in Pecaminosa. The boss battle in this section really pumps up the difficulty, as the difficulty curve suddenly goes from Hillock to Mount Thor.
Having to dodge bullets, vines that come up sporadically from the floor, and exploding barrels that are thrown your way can be incredibly tough. If this wasn’t enough, when you do whittle the boss’ health down, he will chase you with a bat, swinging away intent on removing your head for a home run.
There is minor replayability due to the L.U.C.K system, but not much to be frank. With a length of less than 10 hours it’s a decent story for the price, especially if you can catch it on sale. I imagine post launch will see a patch released to help with some early teething issues.
Despite enjoying the game, a few small things can ruin your experience but the pixelated noir looks great and I don’t regret my time with Pecaminosa.
I have a few ideas of what could be done to improve Pecaminosa and help players enjoyment of the game.
Possible Improvements –
- Tweaking the difficulty of certain fights
- Adding a checkpoint to the desert section
- Altering the behaviour of enemies, to stop them running straight at you
- Adding an out of combat speed boost (though this could detract from the atmosphere)
Pecaminosa was reviewed playing on Nintendo Switch with a key generously provided by the developer; Cereal Games. The game is currently available on the Nintendo eShop, currently priced at £13.49. Pecaminosa is also available on Steam, with plans for PS4 and Xbox One versions in the pipeline.
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Peca-mimosa, But with Mack Janiels!
- Overall - 6.5/106.5/10
- Interesting world and story
- Shooting and moving feels good
- Fun boss fights
- Pixelated noir looks great
- Steep difficulty curve
- Standard enemy AI is predictable
- Walking… … … … speed
- The desert section
- Why are there zombies and giant skeletons? (The undead nemesis I was cool with)