Discworld Noir: One of the All-Time Greatest Adventure Games

Lewton, P.I.

Forget Grim Fandango, that shit was obtuse. You'd have to be huffing some pretty strong adhesives to get your mind on the same wavelength as Tim Schafer's unique and creative brain. Manny Calavera was cool and there were definitely some atmospheric scenes, but it was hidden amongst all that other stuff; something about being a travel agent for dead people, balloons and pigeons, a carnival, stereotypical "viva la" resistance fighters and whatnot. You had to get through all that to get to Act 2, which was its atmospheric noir act, and then it ended after a few hours and you're on a boat in the daytime with a big fat orange demon in a sailor suit.

What was I trying to say again? Oh right, noir. So where as Grim Fandango only devoted a quarter of its story to specifically homaging film noir, Discworld Noir was all noir, all the time. You know what they say: once you go noir, you never go back.

Discworld Noir Synopsis

Lewton in the rain

To paraphrase the box blurb and the manual:

"Into the mean streets of Ankh-Morpork one man must go... Discworld Noir is set in the ancient and corrupt city of Ankh-Morpork where the weather is bad, the lighting is low and the streets are mean! This is a story about murder and intrigue where Lewton, Ankh-Morpork's first private investigator, takes on a case to track down a man who arrived in town a few days earlier.

He can look forward to being lied to and double-crossed, but that's only the start of his problems...

As they say in Sham Harga's House of Ribs: 'Play it again, Sham'."

Discworld Noir is an affectionate parody of the noir genre and is packed with references to noir films and Raymond Chandler novels. On top of that there's also a few jabs at Lara Croft (which was one of the bigger game franchises at the time of this game's release) and even an extended homage to that bit in the Doctor Who episode Genesis of the Daleks (if you don't know which bit, you obviously haven't seen it), as well as many other in-jokes and homages that make for an enjoyable experience.

Lewton runs through the streets for his life

For those with no knowledge of film noir or the works of Raymond Chandler, this is a brilliant story. For those film buffs or literature fans that do have the knowledge, this game becomes an innate game of "name that reference". It's good stuff.

Not to give too much away, but H.P. Lovecraft fans and those who like werewolves might get a lot out of this too!

Discworld Noir Playthrough (in HD!)

Discworld is a registered trademark ® of Sir Terry Pratchett & Lyn Pratchett. Discworld Noir © 1999 Perfect Entertainment Ltd. All material has been used for non-profit.

Here is my gift to both Discworld and noir fans everywhere, a lot of time went into it but it was made for fun and was completely worth it. I tried to be as informative as possible with the annotations, and there's no voiceover from me because when a game consists entirely of talking it makes no sense to have some idiot jabbering over the top of the voice acting. It's not so much a "Let's Play" as a "Let's Annotate".

Corporal Nobby Nobbs of the City Watch

During the walkthrough I try to record every major piece of dialogue. The video playthrough is split into ten minute chunks because this was before YouTube upped the limit, so apologies for the lack of convenient all-in-one videos. There's also the occasional minor audio de-sync, and the FMV sequences are a bit jittery because I used Windows Encoder to record this.

Above is the playlist for my Discworld Noir video walkthrough series. Just press play and it should play through the videos in sequence automatically, otherwise you can view the entire series on my Discworld Noir YouTube playlist or on my YouTube channel. The first couple of videos are obscenely loud (apologies again) but around the third of fourth video I realise that I can actually lower the volume while recording.

Discworld Noir Development

Laredo Cronk, Tomb Evacuator

Discworld Noir was written by Chris Bateman, Greg Barnett and Terry Pratchett, with the concession that most of Pratchett's input comes from vast chunks of DWN's descriptive dialogue being pinched from the Discworld Companion. Sir Pratchett obviously had a hand in editing and tweaking the script. There's a lot of other talented people in DWN's credits, but you can't find out much about them online.

The game was developed by Perfect Entertainment and was released in 1999. Shortly afterwards the company went bust, which is why the game never received patch support and why the game never saw release outside of the UK and parts of Europe. The game was released on the PSone the following year under a different label and with lower resolution graphics (and yet it used to make my PSone chug like hell regardless).

In terms of licensing, the original version was released by GT Interactive (who went bust). GT Interactive were bought out by French company Infogrames, who also acquired Atari and a bunch of other companies. As far as I understand it, even though Infogrames has since changed their name to the more well-known brand of Atari, it appears that the licence still lies with them. Saying that, I'm sure property licences have a lifespan so I don't know where DWN is in terms of ownership. Maybe you can figure it out.

Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch

I've also got to thank Chris Bateman, because when I undertook my final year project at university I quoted a lot of his game articles in my report, mostly from posts he made on his company's site International Hobo. Incidentally, the articles on his site actually offer some food for thought about the videogame industry. I even contacted Mr. Bateman once with a gushing fan letter, and he sent a very courteous response and gracefully insisted that it was as much the entire team's effort as his.

Why do you like this game so much?

I don't like this game, I love this game. It's my favourite game of all time, despite not having much of a "game" element to it: being a point-and-click adventure, after the first run it's pretty much an interactive but linear story. I must have played this game at least seventeen times all the way through.

Two Conkers, *Foreign* Archaeologist

My love with it stems from how it sparked my love for Discworld books and noir films/books - I'd read some Discworld novels before, but it was this game that really got me into learning more about the Discworld mythos. I've only recently (as of 2010) started reading Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe books, but it all stems from this game.

I first played it at a cousin's house one December, shortly before Christmas. After that I made sure to obtain a copy for the PSone when it came out (a year later!), and I played it all the way through without a walkthrough (mainly because I didn't have access to the internet at the time). After obtaining a copy for the PC and making it work, I must have played it umpteen times.

Mr. Scoplett, First Mate on the Milka

There were two reasons I recorded the playthough. Firstly, there were no other playthroughs on YouTube that I could find (at the time), and no other video guides out there on the web. Secondly, there's always the concern that one day I'll have to upgrade to a computer that'll be too modern to run it - if Good Old Games or another company ever re-releases a version that works on modern operating systems, I'll be glad!

The annotations in my videos are a culmination of years of Discworld knowledge (plus lots of use of the Discworld Companion) combined with lots of Google-based research, especially for the noir references.

Lewton in the shadows

Getting Discworld Noir to Run on Modern Computers

Since it's an old game, DWN isn't easy to run. You could try less legal options (be it on your head!), but if you've bought a copy on Amazon or eBay there might be hope, depending on your operating system.

Windows XP

Getting DWN to work on XP was fairly simple for me, try this out if you can and see if it works: right-click the game icon, select "Properties". Under compatibility mode, I set it to run as Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 5), but if you don't have this option it won't hurt to try one of the other options (just keep in mind that the game was released in '99, so it would've been built for '98 or possibly earlier). Under display setting I ticked "Run in 256 colours" and "Run in 640 x 480 screen resolution". Everything else was left blank. The only problems I encountered were:

  • On the main menu of DWN, clicking "resume game" crashes the game. Instead, press F1 on the main menu to bring up the options screen, and select "load game" from there.
  • Lewton develops a limp, but that might just be my copy. Besides, it's a loveable quirk!

Windows Vista

Leonard Da Quirm, Inventor

This solution comes from someone who contacted me on YouTube with the username "MrKingElvis", I cannot verify that this works but it's probably worth a try. To quote him:

"Using REGEDT32, locate the Discworld Noir registry key at 'HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Perfect Entertainment\Discworld Noir'. Under it there should be a value called 'Start Windowed', which is set to 'No' by default. Change it to 'Yes'. Now, when you start up the game it runs in a window and looks like crap (because it's expecting 16-bit color mode). Press Alt-Enter to change into full-screen mode. THEN THE GAME LOOKS FINE, AND IT NO LONGER CRASHES!!!"

Hope his words of wisdom work for you!

Windows 7

I have always wondered if you could use Microsoft's XP Mode to install a virtual XP box and then run the game using the XP settings outlined above. That might be worth a shot (please be aware that XP is no longer supported so be very careful about visiting the web via your XP virtual environment!).

Alternatively, a chap called Dane Cobain has a guide for getting Disworld Noir running on Windows 7, and there's a guide for running Discworld Noir on a 64-bit Windows 7 machine on GameFAQs. I cannot vouch for either but they sound legit!

Windows 8

Lewton investigates a crime scene

This solution comes from someone who contacted me on YouTube with the username "TheBloodshower", I cannot verify that this works but it's probably worth a try. To quote him:

"Install the game (full installation). Right click the exe file that normally starts up the game and click properties. Under the compatibility tab, check the 'reduced color mode' and click apply. When you start up the game, the game looks fine. Problem is that it will crash. Now, when you start it up, press Alt + Enter. This will make the game look funny in a tiny box. Keep it this way all the way up to the moment you control Lewton. Press Alt + Enter again. Game works fine."

If you've got Windows 8, I feel sorry for you. Regardless, I hope this method works!

Other Operating Systems

I'm afraid I have no advice for other systems, but if you have a way that works for you then please contact me and let me know, and I will endeavour to update this page to help others.