Loretta is a point and click psychological noir thriller developed by Yakov Butuzoff and published by Dangen Entertainment and from the initial trailer I was intrigued, and of all the consoles in all the world…Loretta was installed on mine.

Those eyes…they’re trouble I tell ya.

Listen here kid, narrative is the hook here, because gameplay is what you’d expect from the genre. You point a cursor at things and click to interact. You’ll navigate the pixel art world but it’s little more than walking left or right. Such is the genre, Loretta doesn’t reinvent anything here but it’s not trying to. The game is split into chapters but not in an obtrusive way and the game progresses at an almost perfect pace. You’ll be able to complete your first play-through in between 2-3 hours. I say first because you’ll most likely want to play it again, Loretta features multiple endings, endings dictated by your choices, that vary in impact. Chapters are broken up by puzzles, well, I suppose they are puzzles but they aren’t remotely puzzling, so much so that they felt pointless and actually started to annoy me when they appeared. One example is a torn picture of a crow, it’s in segments and solving the puzzle just requires pressing ‘A’ on each piece until it rotates to the correct position and moves into place. I would have rather the game just fade to black and head into the next scene.

These ‘puzzles’ could do with flying the coop.

Loretta beings and the star of the game is a bored, jaded and shackled housewife in 1940s rural America. Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage with philandering husband Walter. Times are hard, forced to leave their luxury New York City apartment for rundown farmhouse that belonged to Walters parents, the house is in about as good state as their marriage and Walters writing career.

Loretta’s core mechanic is choice,  you’ll guide our ‘Sweetheart’ or more accurately you make choices for the eponymous heroine, most of those choices have no real impact but the big narrative moments, oh you can make a choice but the game will just force you down the route it wants anyway. 

I mean she would think so after THAT dinner.

The most obvious time this happens is when it comes to poisoning Walters steak or not, you can choose not to and just leave his cheating ass on the farm, but then Loretta’s inner monologue reminds her that it never went down that way and the story carries on. This is true in most choices early on, there are multiple ending so it’s not true of every choice in Loretta but it happens so aggressively the first time that I found it difficult to regain a sense of real control. As a narrative necessity this makes sense but as a gameplay option it robs the player of agency and made me think that I’d rather just experience the narrative as a novel instead. 

Wine, candlelight…murder?

Speaking of agency, while as the player you don’t seem to have much, as the story of Loretta unfolds the titular character steadily has more control over the direction her life takes, although it may be a direction she regrets heading in, but wouldn’t been noir thriller if events didn’t spiral rapidly out of control.

Loretta seems like an interesting woman and has lead a tragic life and she’s a fitting noir protagonist but at times she’s the plot forces her into absolutely ridiculous actions that betray the fierce and intelligent woman the game sets her up to be, or so it seems, one of the endings offers and explanation for this but it’s not something I’ll be spoiling here. 

In fact the entire cast of Loretta are compelling and ‘real’, everyone has a depth to them that impressed me to no end. So often in gaming NPCs fill a practical role such a quest giver and offer little more than that to the experience. Not in Loretta though, even the characters opposed to our heroine feel fully formed and I found myself wanting to know more about them. Again, I felt as if this story and it’s characters warranted more than a three hour runtime.