Pecaminosa Review – Behind the 8-Ball in a Stylish Noir-PG
Developed by Cereal Games
Published by BadLands Publishing
Available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Hey there, cats and dolls. Today I’m gonna talk about Pecaminosa. Set in the roaring 20’s in the city of Pecaminosa, you play as former button Johnny Souza. Recently kicked out of the clubhouse. Once a jet-setting flattie, he’s now spending his days slamming cheap hooch in a run-down flophouse. His biggest mistake in life was putting a Chicago overcoat on one Charlie Two Angels. He’s pushing up daisies and Johnny is suffering in his place.
One night, you’re approached by Charlie and his two goons. This can’t be happening, because Charlie is currently taking the big sleep. It’s not a grift, Charlie is back in Pecaminosa among the living. He isn’t back for revenge though. To get into the pearly gates he wants to set things right with Johnny. He knows that Johnny and his former partner Sully drank out of the same bottle, and Sully’s missing. He provides a list of former members of his chopper squad who might have leads. This is the start of your adventure in Pecaminosa. You’re flat-out boozed and looking for your friend. You ain’t got any cush, and your heater is on pawn.
The first order of business is to take in the gorgeous, pixelated, isometric view of Pecaminosa. You’ll be dealing with dames, dicks, and droppers as you move through this noir world. Getting your piece is easy. You go talk to the pawnbroker. You’re no butter and egg man, so you gotta make a trade. The pawnbroker has a meat that owes him scratch, plus juice. All you gotta do is go to the fancy top floor apartment where he lays his head down and get the money. It’s a bit easier said than done. Once you get there, you may have to get gashouse with him to get the money he owes. This is your introduction to combat in Pecaminosa. Using the mouse to aim and a click to punch, you’ll be making sweet chin music in no time. Your mitts will keep you safe until you can burn powder.
After getting the spinach from the mark, you’ll make your way back to the pawnbroker to get your iron. It’s a .38 and it’ll be a constant companion. You’ll go down your list and see that you need to go speak with a man at the docks. Moving through, you’ll deal with a chopper squad and a few diseased rats. Once you get your man and you’re ready to drop a dime, an almost Dark Souls-esque boss fight will kick off. You have a dodge move, which you’ll have to make full use of. I initially thought Pecaminosa was going to be a point-and-click noir thriller. My first level-up proved me wrong. You’ll upgrade your luck, intelligence, force, and endurance with the L.I.F.E. system. Luck controls your, well, luck. Intelligence helps with heater skills, force helps with hand to hand, and endurance ups your speed and health.
Finding a good balance for these skills is the key to getting ahead in Pecaminosa. You may have noticed I’ve stopped writing in noir slang. That’s because it’s very difficult, and I’d like to just talk to you about the game. The RPG elements are fairly robust. Along with stat upgrades, there are also gear bonuses. It’s nothing too fancy. The base detective’s outfit gives a set bonus towards luck. Later, you’ll get a police uniform that gives a bonus to force. Small things like that add up to help you build the character you want to play. As far as I can tell, you can talk your way out of most situations. When talking fails, you can always throw punches or spit lead. Beyond your pistol, you’ll get a tommy gun after your first boss fight. I don’t want to spoil later guns because they were a real joy to find. A small hint, you do end up doing some work for the IRA, and that becomes fairly fruitful.
If I were to complain about anything in Pecaminosa, it would probably be the music. I like that they wanted to go for a jazzy, midi-like soundtrack. In theory, it works. In practice, it can sometimes become grating. Just turn it down a few ticks and you’ll be golden. The game takes place in an open world. You can use taxis to get around, or just hoof it. Walking takes much longer, but it gives you an opportunity to look for ammo and health items along the way. Health items of course being bottles of “Mack Janiels” whiskey. In true noir fashion, it’s all about fedoras and liquor.
The writing is great. It evokes that old-timey noir feeling while mixing in some modern slang. I saw at least one “catch hands” in there. For all I know, “catch hands” is an expression as old as time that I only recently heard in my day to day life. The gunplay feels good. You’ll use your mouse to aim a crosshair and click will let some lead fly. The enemies are varied and it’s always nice running into a new mook to shoot. Or a giant spider. Oh yeah, there are giant spiders.
Pecaminosa starts with a dead gangster visiting you, and it only gets weirder from there. There is something distinctly paranormal happening in the big city. Charlie Two Angels is actually accompanied by two angels. Paul and Vinnie occasionally show up to provide updates on Charlie’s temperament. They’re both giant men wearing lucha libre masks. It’s not all serious in Pecaminosa. There’s a strong current of the outlandish bubbling beneath everything you do. You’ll be interacting with different gangs, a pushy newsie who wants to be your new partner, and even call girls who you might have had a relationship with. Everything is deep and layered, with backstories flowing out naturally through the environment and your interactions.
Playing Pecaminosa feels like a throwback. It could have been an early PC game. This is not a bad thing. It has a singular devotion to quality. Everything comes across as being made with determination. Every part of the world has care put into it. For a game about hardboiled detectives and the sleazy underbelly of the city of Pecaminosa…it really has a lot of love put into it.