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Loretta Review

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Film noir was a label given to a group of films that were made in the 1940s and 1950s, mostly crime dramas or murder stories set in America, even though the genre was inspired by French cinema. These films were black and white and brilliantly lit, but some say the term also came about due to the dark subject matter that the films covered. 

Loretta comes with that style of subject matter, set in 1947. It has murder, intrigue, great lighting, a creepy score and demons. And I think it’s one of my favourite games of the year so far… 

Loretta review 1
There is much to love about Loretta

This 2D narrative adventure starts in a small farmhouse, slapbang in the middle of rural America in the 1940s. You play and control Loretta who at the start of the game is being visited by a private detective who needs to find her husband, Walter. Soon it is revealed that she’s actually murdered him and the detective is probably next. I say next because there are many different ways this story could turn out, all depending on the decisions you make, altering various outcomes. 

What is clear from the start of Loretta is the developer’s love of the film noir genre. The tropes and writing are spot on, with the story full of horror, as well as daring and dastardly deeds. It’s layered and rich, full of human greed, desire and despair. I loved the strands of the story and how they come together, muddled and murky like the crimes that are being committed around us. The writers also introduce a supernatural element to the world but do so without being prescriptive or humdrum. It’s there but you don’t know why and some mysteries are great because they remain that way. It reminds of The Shining at times and there is even a clever easter egg to that film included.  

The gameplay itself is quite simple, but Loretta does some interesting things with the format. You move Loretta across different 2D locations, collecting objects or things that might prove handy along the way. There are some exploration puzzles to be had, as you look to combine certain things to get to your goal. There are also combination puzzles to work out and some strange quick time events; stuff that I won’t spoil here. 

Loretta review 2
A murderous tale

Between the chapters of the game, there are moments where you have to engage in some more abstracted puzzle solving, like keeping a flock of birds away from blood stains or trying to work out Rorschach ink blots and their meaning. These pauses between the action are intriguing and unique, providing strange insights into the broken mind of Loretta. Admittedly, there were a few moments, like a small stealth section, that I could have done without, but for the most part the game comes across as a brilliant experience from start to finish. Some might find it too simple, but for me, the narrative is so imaginative and engaging that it hooked. 

The visuals work with 2D-pixel art styles for most of the gameplay. The colours are great and the lighting effects can be breathtaking at times. But there are also comic book animations which serve as cutscenes throughout. The way these are blended and edited together is remarkable, adding to the narrative and journey. Some of these images are very dreamlike, pretty disturbing, and then… gone. Genius. 

And in Loretta the sound effects are a piece of superb artistry. Clangs, sudden strings, footsteps and drone noises are employed beautifully, creating an eerie and strange atmosphere. The soundtrack itself is disturbing, dictating the action with its familiar and offbeat tracks. Again, credit must go to those behind the amazing work. 

Loretta review 3
The perils of the puzzles

Loretta is a small indie game from a small team of developers, but they have managed to create a tremendous piece of storytelling, one that borrows from the noir genre but still manages to come across as an original piece of work. You’ll love how the story is pieced together bit by bit, as well as the various choices and outcomes. You should also enjoy the supernatural elements and how sparsely they are used.

For narrative lovers, Loretta is almost perfect.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Amazing story
  • Clever gameplay mechanics
  • Visuals and editing
  • Sound effects
Cons:
  • A short stealth section
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, DANGEN Entertainment
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 11 April 2024 | £12.49
Gareth Brierley
Gareth Brierleyhttp://www.garethbrierley.co.uk
I am an actor and a writer. I act quite a bit on stage, a little bit on tv and never on tuesdays. I have had some of my writing published and have written for TV and stage. I have been playing games since they begun and don't seem to be getting any better.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Amazing story</li> <li>Clever gameplay mechanics</li> <li>Visuals and editing</li> <li>Sound effects</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>A short stealth section</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, DANGEN Entertainment</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 11 April 2024 | £12.49</li> </ul>Loretta Review
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