Reviewed on Switch, copy supplied by publisher.
Milanoir wears its influences on its sleeves – a homage to 70s Italian action movies that inspired the likes of Quentin Tarantino, this pixel shooter has a lot of charm, but unfortunately cops a bullet to the face when it comes to gameplay.
It’s hard not to like the style Milan based developers Italo Games created, it’s punchy, detailed and has a killer soundtrack to boot. Putting players in control of Piero, a hitman for the mob in Milan, you play out a typical mob/revenge story with some great throwback set pieces.
The work that goes into creating Milanoir‘s world is excellent, from character designs, to the small detail in buildings and on the street. However when it comes time to pull your piece and send some enemies to sleep with the fishes (not Troy McClure style), things become more tedious that stylistic.
With a perspective and style that would perfectly suit gameplay reminiscent ofHotline Miami, Milanoir instead has quite a slow unnecessarily difficult pace to it. Difficulty is fine when the payoff is worth it, but in this case I felt it was artificially hard with little reward. Enemy hit boxes don’t exist, so there’s no value to perfectly lining up your shots, instead you have to shoot each enemy three times to drop them when using the standard pistol, which when going through levels with armies of mobsters becomes tedious fast. Instead of being a proficient assassin I felt like a handyman going about a chore.
In some instance the shootouts felt good, with certain weapons being positioned to make you feel more powerful, such as the admittedly amazing revolver and the gory Molotov cocktails – but they are positioned too infrequently around the levels.
One cool feature that pops up often is the game’s signposts, which you can shoot at to ricochet a bullet into an enemy behind cover, resulting in an instant kill. It’s a great mechanic and was used wonderfully, but it did little to save what I felt were some slow and tedious action sequences that annoyed more than they entertained. Even when the gameplay was at its best in moments like this, it never amazed me.
One thing that Milanoir really didn’t do well – even compared to the mediocre combat – is the vehicle levels, which in some instances felt so unintuitive and needlessly unforgiving as to be almost game ruining. The same goes for the stealth segments, which triggered redos of sections if caught. This type of mechanic just plain felt outdated and little fun was to be found in them.
On more than one occasion I found myself turning the game off out of boredom with the gameplay, despite wanting to continue to carry the story onwards. I also experienced game crashes which sent me back to previous saves, forcing me to go through one of the most frustrating stealth sections multiple times. Which is a shame, but other than that the game handles well in both handheld and docked modes on the Switch, and is ideal for portable play.
It’s not all doom and gloom with Milanoir, if you can put up with less than stellar gameplay the title rewards you with a great story and one of the best artistic directions you can find on the Switch, it’s just a shame it has to be so bitter-sweet to experience it.