It only takes a few minutes of playing Pecaminosa to assume that behind this wonder created by Cereal Games there is a lot of love for Noir cinema, Jazz and the classics of the golden age of the 16 bits. From their studio in the Azores Islands, this indie team is putting the finishing touches to this dazzling Action RPG, in which with a pixelated aesthetic and a script where there is no lack of supernatural touches, we will be transported to a city where crime and corruption permeates everything.

In the most atypical case of his career as a private detective, John Souza must deal with the worst in town to track down the former associates of Charlie “Two Angels”, Pecaminosa’s biggest mob boss. Charlie is dead, but his ghost burst into Souza’s office to do this last job for him, or else he won’t make it to Heaven.

With an old school aesthetic and mechanics that fuses the essence of classics like The Legend of Zelda saga with innovations like the L.I.F.E. system (which allows you to customize not only Souza’s clothing and arsenal, but also his abilities), Pecaminosa will make you explore a godforsaken city, interrogating suspects while fighting bare-knuckle, shooting in alleys and earning a little money playing black jack.

To know a little more about this indie gem and the influences that its creators handled, we have interviewed Lázaro Raposo, Co-Founder and CEO of Cereal Games, and Game Designer of Pecaminosa, which will come to Steam, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One next May from Badland Publishing. Come to our table, open a bottle and let yourself be carried away by the spirit of Noir cinema.

What was your inspiration for the creation of Pecaminosa?

I’m a huge fan of noir cinema, such as the works of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, among others. I’m also a big fan of Action RPGs. Soleil (dubbed Crusader of Centy in the US) for the Sega Mega Drive, was one of the games that had the most impact in my childhood. As well as the Zelda “oldies”, that have always fascinated me. Pecaminosa ends up being a crossover of these two realities, that, together with other influences and ideas, instills an interesting authenticity in it.

I always like to say that a game is a multimedia artifact, and as such, it is normal that inspiration comes from several types of media, not just other games. In our case, it mostly came from cinema, but also literature (Charles Bukowski happens to be one of the major influences of our Creative Writer), music (Miles Davies, Art Blakey…), series, etc. In the end, inspiration comes from a lot of places, if you look at it.

How can our choices in the L.I.F.E. system affect the game mechanics?

Our game was designed around our L.I.F.E. system attributes – Luck, Intelligence, Force and Endurance. It’s one of Pecaminosa’s elements that derives most from the essence of classic RPGs. The idea is to have the player control his own LIFE, literally through the L.I.F.E. system. According to the attributes the player decides to invest points in, he might have different dialogue options to choose from, deal more damage, have better loot drop or critical hit chances, have a larger HP pool, the usual. Additionally, according to the combination of attributes the player evolves, he will be able to unlock 2 of 4 different perks, that will clearly translate into an advantage during critical moments of gameplay, as well as change the way the player approaches the gameplay.

In some conversations there are phrases that the player does not have access to. Does the L.I.F.E. system have anything to do with it?

Yes, we always try to create situations that the most advantageous option, is also the most difficult, but not impossible, to achieve. For example, investing a lot of points in a specific attribute, plus equipment bonus for the attribute, as well as item buffs. And we mix it up along the way, in order to promote the usage of all L.I.F.E. attributes. When a dialogue option isn’t accessible, the attribute needed and how many points required to unlock it will be detailed within it.

Pecaminosa’s jazz soundtrack is simply incredible. How long did it take you to produce it?

Pecaminosa’s soundtrack was produced in 2 stages. Actually 3, if you count the phase of the gathering and listening of noir movie original soundtracks. But during its development, the normal approach regarding the video game format was done. There was the composition, of course, and its execution done by musician Cristóvão Ferreira. With all its inherent rules in mind, so that it could serve the gameplay and have a dynamic score as functional as possible.

In spite of these technical particularities, compositions were always done with the idea of jazz themes, being performed by a jazz band in live act. This had us entering the final phase of music production, that involved revisiting some of the themes that most characterize Pecaminosa and re-record them in quartet, or quintet format, in order to make more content available for our followers.

Cereal Games is located in the Azores Islands. What is it like to work in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean? In the game we can appreciate your love for classic videogames. How did videogames live in the 80s and 90s from there?

Living in an island has its share of perks and downsides! In an isolated arquipelago in the middle of the Atlantic has even more so of both. In the early 90s, it was a much distant reality than the one today. What we are currently doing would be virtually unthinkable, back then. Even 6 years ago, when Cereal Games was founded, it seemed borderline utopic to be able to make a living out of game development, on an island with 138 thousand inhabitants, and that is on the largest island in the group, imagine the others… We are very far away from the major population centres (the closest being Lisbon and that is a 2 hours trip by plane).

In spite of that, in time, we’ve been gaining access to things, in a smaller scale, but we did. In 1992 I received my Sega Mega Drive with Sonic The Hedgehog. The rest of my decade was with Sonic games, Italia ‘90, Super Hang On, Soleil, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage and Shinobi. We didn’t have the advantage of online shopping (that wasn’t even a thing, back then), so we were limited to what we could find on our local stores. But there was a lot of exchange between friends. Ever since a couple of years ago, there has been more supply and ease of access in several ways. Nowadays as a gamer, living in the Azores is just the same as living anywhere else. As a developer, however… there are still some hills to climb, but with each passing day, they are able to be overcome.