Eurogamer Retro: Discworld Noir

By John Walker on September 12th, 2011 at 8:28 am.

Nothing is as noir as a vampire in a bar.

The Discworld novels are quite the divider. Everyone I know seems to love them, from my dad to my about-to-be-wife, while I’m pretty indifferent. But I do remember really enjoying Discworld Noir back in their 90s. Going back to it, I was surprised not only by how well written it is, but also how little game there actually is within all the writing. I consolidated those thoughts on Eurogamer, including bits like:

“The witch novels – that’s safer territory. Gone is the “this is a bit like that”, replaced with instead just fun storytelling and embellished fairytale. There he has me. And there’s more common ground – we can all agree that the first two Discworld games were bloody awful.”

You can read the whole piece here.

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46 Comments »

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  1. Gassalasca says:

    I think you’re right to be indifferent about those early Discworld novels.

    But you’re clearly wrong (for the most part, at least), about the first two Discworld games. -_-

    • Symitri says:

      I was afraid for a moment that I just held an unpopular opinion but I loved the second DIscworld game and it’s what got me into reading pretty much every Discworld book that’s come out.

    • Bhaumat says:

      Indeed. I remember my family and I enjoying Diskworld 1 and 2 greatly. I’d happily admit that many of the puzzles were insane and the humour a little cheesy, but even looking at them now they feel like the gameplay, writing and graphics have aged amazingly well.
      By contrast I only ever got about half way through Noir. I simply found the writing boring and the puzzles annoying. Admittedly I was probably too young to appreciate the detective story spoofing.

      That being said and talking about bad point and collects, I’d sooner replay any of those than touch Tales of Monkey Island again.

    • Sic says:

      “we can all agree that the first two Discworld games were bloody awful.”

      Madness.

      The first Discworld game was brilliant.

  2. aerozol says:

    Everyone puts up some resistance to the novels. At first. You’ll cave..

    • John Walker says:

      I read lots of them as a teenager. There wasn’t caving.

    • Gassalasca says:

      Yeah, in my experience there is little caving. People either love it from the start, or they hate it for ever and ever.

    • the_r says:

      Guess I’m the third kind. I like Discworld novels, always laugh pretty hard, but they never sucked me in. I never really wanted more. I read 3 of 4 books. So I like them, but in the long run… meh.

    • aerozol says:

      Hmm a few people assured me they didn’t like them, but eventually they’d adjust to the humor. Maybe it was the audiobooks I pressured onto them, or to get me to stfu (likely :)

    • bill says:

      i loved them from the start. (and me mum!)

      But, I never found them to be addictive as a series. I could pick one up, anytime, and get lots of laughs out of it. But after I finished I felt no need to race on to the next one. Since they are mostly unconnected, plot wise, they’re very pick-up-and-play able.

      I haven’t read any of the later ones, but i’m sure I could pick one up and enjoy it.

      In TV terms, they’re Dr Who rather than Star Trek… or something like that.

  3. WJonathan says:

    Discworld 1 was indeed terrible. Discworld 2 was a good deal better, though still just a dull point-and-clicker at heart,

    • ananachaphobiac says:

      No, YOU’RE indeed terrible! And a dull point and clicker at heart!

    • Premium User Badge

      Hypocee says:

      You’re almost right, except for being the opposite of right. 1 was a wonderful game, which actually got me into Discworld years after I played it (I’m American; saw Interesting Times in a store. ‘Wait, a novel of wha- ohhhhhhh’.). 2 was a lifeless (ho ho), formulaic mess. ‘Do the beekeeping puzzle again. No, again. Monty Python’s funny, right? Let’s reenact an entire scene from Life of Brain snrk snrk.’

    • Premium User Badge

      Rikard Peterson says:

      I agree completely with Hypocee (and Igor Hardy lower down on this page). Discworld 1 is a great game. Yes, some puzzles are a bit too weird, but almost every puzzle does make sense once you’ve solved them, and there is some great hinting in places. It’s also full of great tunes (I’ve played few games with this good music, and none with the amount of good tunes) and has a puzzle structure that I admire a lot. And very good looking background graphics, if you can ignore the 320×200 resolution.

      Discworld 2 on the other hand was a disappointment. I suppose it might be an alright game, but I was expecting much more from it.

      Discworld Noir is also a good game. Quite different than the Rincewind games, but it fits the Discworld just fine, and I would like to see more games build on that notebook concept it has.

  4. Michael Hoss says:

    The game will soon be rebooted. As a FPS. Discworld FPS Noir. And it will beat XCOM and Syndicate.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Too bad it is, like many other games from the late 90s, almost impossible to get to run on modern PCs. In fact, you’re probably better off trying to run the PS1 port with an emulator. GOG to the rescue!

  6. karry says:

    Eh, sure, novels are fun…one…then two…then the third…then they all begin to feel bland and cliche, lumping together in your mind in one big ball of gray featureless mud…

  7. google says:

    I’ve found that Pratchett is at his best when he’s simply writing a piece of fiction. Night Watch has always been my favourite and it’s one of his least comedic novels.

    As for the games – I remember having to load up one of those PC Gamer CD-ROM’s from back in the day (with all the walkthrough’s) to complete Discworld 2. I never bothered with the first – it just seemed so fucking poor.

    • Similar says:

      Agreed on Nightwatch. It was the first novel in the series that I read and it completely hooked me (I’ve had it for about five years and have read it some ten to twelve times). If I’d started from the beginning of the series, I wouldn’t have been as impressed; the first novels are fun, but don’t have anywhere near the same depth as the ones written later.

  8. zipdrive says:

    Dםoes the game actually work? I remember buying it in the early 2000s and I *could not* get it to work on windows XP. What has changed?

    • JimFixIt says:

      I rember buying this is Malaysia of all places, finally getting hope installing it (on win 95 I think) playing it through for ages getting to the second disc then bam disc error. Hardly could take it back to the shop. Still not finished the game. I hate this artice for reminding me of my misery.

  9. mbp says:

    Discworld novels have been my staple airplane reading material for more than a decade. Every airport bookshop in the world seems to have the latest Terry Pratchett novel in its meagre selection. I don’t think I have ever read one when I was not traveling and yet I have almost the entire series to date covered.

    Never played any of the games though.

  10. Jody Macgregor says:

    I would love to know how I can get this game to work today. Anyone?

    • Shadrach says:

      Should be runnable in DosBox I would think, at least I think I played it in XP that way.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Sadly not; it’s not a DOS game. It’s fallen into that awkward crack of early 3D Win9X games that are a bit too fussy.

      At least it doesn’t demand a 3DFX card, so you might be able to run it under a VM (like John), but that’s not reeeeally for the faint-hearted.

  11. Om says:

    “The Discworld novels are quite the divider. Everyone I know seems to love them, from my dad to my about-to-be-wife, while I’m pretty indifferent”

    Some people love them, one person is indifferent. That doesn’t sound divisive at all

  12. Gundrea says:

    What no link? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M937X6CLFdk

    Discworld Noir was the only game I ever watched a Let’s Play of, mainly because instead of yakking over the chatting he simply added on-screen annotations explaining concepts or giving interesting trivia on references.

    And the other thing that impressed me about this game was its extensive voicework, easily rivalling the “cinematic experience” of say Mass Effect.

  13. Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

    I LOVE DISCWORLD! My bookcase (one of them anyway) is literally stuffed with the books. Pratchett is who (alongside with P. K. Dick) got me thinking about the world and eventually tip me over the edge and got me to study philosophy…and now I am going back and seeing much more depth in it. I cannot wait for Snuff

  14. Xercies says:

    This is one of those games I randomly vought with GAME’s 3 for £10 thing back in the day and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I loved adventure games and well most detective work is probably just talking to people so I didn’t mind that at all. I think this actually inspired me to make a few adventure games ideas with the same kind of detective thing. Oh and it got me into the whole Noir thing as well

  15. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    Did anyone get the number of that donkey cart?

    I still have nightmares about Discworld 2, the suffrajester, chucky, the trying to be pronounced dead puzzle. I could go on, but one of the veins in my temple is starting to pulsate dangerously.

  16. JimFixIt says:

    Discworld 1 was definatley harder. I remember being stuck on a puzzle for ages and eventually looking up the answer, there’s a toilet cubicle put custard in the toilet bowl and then put an octopus in, this will then attack the bloke who uses the toilet. Ahh so obvious….. Bastards.

  17. bill says:

    I’ve had the CDs for ages, but hearing that they were a nightmare to get running on modern systems I decided to watch the Let’s Play (linked above) instead.

    Firstly I discovered that the optimum way to play Adventure Games is to watch someone else play them on youtube. That way you can watch the story and not have all the puzzles keep getting in the way. (someone should suggest that to Mr Cobbett).

    Secondly I discovered that Discworld Noir seemed to have avaoided most of the ridiculous item-combining puzzles of Adventure games, and actually have clues and dialogue being important. Why did no-one copy this?

    Finally I discovered that, while it seemed well made, I didn’t laugh once while watching about 30 minutes of videos. So i decided to skip the hassle of installing it and do something else instead.

    • Shadrach says:

      Agreed, Discworld 1 & 2 I didn’t really enjoy, and I had to alt-tab to a walkthrough all the time which kinda destroyed the point of playing.

      Noir was actually really enjoyable and I didn’t have to resort to extra help, at least not a lot, as far as I remember. I thought the dialogue was decent too :)

  18. thegooseking says:

    The witch novels – that’s safer territory. Gone is the “this is a bit like that”

    I don’t understand what this means. Wyrd Sisters was basically Macbeth, Witches Abroad was (if I remember correctly; it’s been a while since I read it) a pastiche of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen, and Maskerade was basically Phantom of the Opera. There are Discworld novels that are not “this is a bit like that”, but the witch novels are not it.

    • Gassalasca says:

      I’d like to recommend the Tiffany Aching books. They are officially ‘young adult’ novels, but I found them better than the later witch novels from the original series.

    • adonf says:

      Also “Lords and ladies ” was “A midsummer night’s dream”, IIRC.

  19. Manac0r says:

    ‘Miss Tick sniffed. “You could say this advice is priceless,” she said. “Are you listening?”
    “Yes,” said Tiffany.
    “Good. Now…if you trust in yourself…”
    “Yes?”
    “…and believe in your dreams…”
    “Yes?”
    “…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on.
    “Yes?”
    “…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Good-bye.”‘

    What’s not to like?

  20. Igor Hardy says:

    Discworld 1 was an amazing adventure game. The sheer amount of locations and hotspots to interact with was something special, especially compared to modern offers. Of course most interaction attempts returned same, unforgiving phrase “That doesn’t work!”, but no game is perfect.

    • Sic says:

      When Eric Idle is the man saying it, I can endure quite a few “that doesn’t work!”.

  21. Bhazor says:

    “… playing the main character, PI Lewton, and indeed Death, Nobby Nobbs, and many others, was some guy called Rob Brydon.

    Now it’s impossible not to try to hear the faint Welsh lilt in his American accent for narrating Lewton, rather than concentrate on what he’s saying. Which is quite distracting already, since his “American” accent sounds extraordinarily like Terry Wogan”

    Pretty certain the Wogan delivery was a deliberate nod to the “Detective Paddy O’rielly” trope of American policing in the 30s-40s. Essentially the only jobs available to Irish immigrants at the time was labouring in the docks, being a thug or joining the police. The last two often being interchangeable at the time.