“I can tell you this place has secrets, and secrets breed liars, and liars make excellent murderers,” grumbles a detective, through an Alexa-enabled speaker. It’s noir-ish dialogue from a hard-boiled voice that sounds like it’s used to long nights and pulls of whiskey. St. Noire ($40) is an Alexa-enabled mystery board game that’s part Clue, part Sam Spade, from X2 Games. “It’s a noire movie mixed in with a board game,” Zai Ortiz told Digital Trends at CES 2020, where the game won several awards.
Ortiz is a creative director and computer graphics supervisor for movies, including Iron Man 2 and Tron: Legacy. He created St. Noire with Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. “He loves board games, and I love cinema,” Ortiz said. You get elements of both in St. Noire.
It’s a cooperative game that requires an Alexa device or app. Your job is to play detective and figure out which of the suspects is a murderer and where they did the dastardly deed. The board is beautiful, with buildings designed in an art deco style. Each is a potential location for where the murder took place. If you have suspicions about the doctor, you ask Alexa to question her. Instead of hearing the typical Alexa voice, 13 actors play various parts. You’ll have seven nights to solve the case, with the ability to ask three questions a day. The actual gameplay only takes around half an hour, though.
“We actually can make a game almost like we’re going to a Michael Bay movie,” Ortiz said. “But you’re closing your eyes and you’re in the theater, and you’re hearing the story. You hear the sound effects, the rain.” As the detective searches around for the weapon, you’ll hear drawers open and close. An owl hoot will signal dusk is near, and you need to question someone before the night is over.
Like Clue, the murderer is random, so you’ll be able to replay the game a few times without repeats. Ortiz says it’s not aimed at hardcore gamers, and around 10 to 12 times, you may come across the same case as before. Instead of offering a physical expansion pack, though, Ortiz said in the future they could do a software update to introduce new suspects. Don’t expect it right away, though, as X2 Games is planning on focusing on some kid-friendly learning games that also take advantage of voice assistants.