When offered Milanoir, my first initial reaction was “Cool”. I like the genre, I like action, I like Italians, so why wouldn’t I enjoy the game? The answer is two-fold. First, let’s discuss Piero. Piero is a piece of sh*t.
Piero is our hero. The bad guys want to kill him because (insert Italian mob cliche) and Piero wants to kill them because he’s a killer. That’s fine. It’s simple and I can appreciate the simplicity. I’m simple. It’s the fact that Piero has almost no redeeming qualities that I couldn’t wrap my head around. There didn’t seem to be much of an arc with him, and he does some vile things. Again, I’m good with the anti-hero tactics as long as they’re actually doing some heroic stuff from time to time. It’s not just Piero either - most of the characters lack substance, save for maybe a few.
The story isn’t much to talk about, and although there are some cool moments, there are some really strange and confusing moments as well. My problem isn’t that the story is bad, or linear, it’s that for a game with “Noir” in the title the game just does not evoke the storytelling I’ve come to expect from the genre. Maybe that’s my fault, as you might feel different, but to me, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. The ends don’t seem to justify the means, and much of the shocking scenes seem to be there just to be shocking.
Normally, if a game suffers from a lack of character and story, it could be redeemed by gameplay. Milanoir almost pulls it off. I really like the concept – it’s a twin-stick shooter in which you use objects to ricochet bullets and murder your foes - but much like the story, there are too many hitches for me to hang my hat here. I don’t know if this is due to the Joy Con (playing on Switch) but some other players on other platforms felt the same janky mechanics that I did. As I played through the game, the grind of it all hit me toward completion. I’m not saying always, but some of the time the shooting mechanics would fail on me, my bullets didn’t ricochet the way I’d come to expect, or I would seemingly be out of range for an enemy and he might still get me. That’s fine, but it becomes frustrating when coupled with Milanoir’s autosave system. It is not as frequent as I believe it should be. It really sucks struggling for 15 minutes on a difficult area, only to be killed by a stray bullet at the end, and then have to restart at the beginning the level.
What I do like is the art style. The pixel art look and synthetic beat sound design really do lend to the gritty look of Milanoir’s world. It’s probably a big reason why I continued to play through the game. The animations are usually done well, and the gameplay is aided by the pixel aesthetic.
Here’s the thing. In five years I want to play a sequel to this game, or maybe a reboot. If the mechanics are tightened up, the dialogue toned down, get rid of Piero and add some more checkpoints, I would love to try this experiment out again. As for right now, I can’t speak too highly of Milanoir, however. I think if you can catch it for 5 bucks and you want to give it a shot then that’s worth it but as frustrated as I became I wouldn’t want you guys to have the same experience. You may not, you may have different tastes than I do, but just be aware you’re going to want to smash your controller from time to time.
As much as I appreciate what the guys tried to make this game into, it just didn’t sit well with me. With that said - I always feel like taste is important, and while this game is flawed, many of you may have a different opinion.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 5/10
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