Neon Noir
for Amiga (AGA)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Massimo Loi
Year: 2022
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Mystery / Police & Gangsters / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 272
Review by Mr Creosote (2023-01-21)
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In many ways, we live in enlightened and highly privileged times. Written in 2022, Neon Noir takes advantage of a set of tools which developers in the heydays of the Amiga could only have dreamed of. A massive image asset library. Graphics generated by artificial intelligence. Well-proven applications for post-processing. Development environments and machines offering processing power beyond anything imaginable. A vibrant, international developer community in constant exchange. Neon Noir looks and sounds impressive. But how does it actually play?

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It can be described as a simplistic adventure game, even calling itself a Japanese style “visual novel”. Static illustrations are accompanied by textual narration of the protagonist. Selecting one of the few hotspots (two or three per scene) moves the protagonist around, triggers a conversation or otherwise advances the story. The underlying game system has no notion of more complex interactions such as using objects with others or in specific ways. The only gatekeeping lies in the correct order of approaching things. Search space is therefore limited, macro and micro objectives are crystal clear and as such, difficulty is mercifully non-existent.

On such a basis, the appeal better lie in the narrative. Neon Noir does not reinvent the wheel or anything else in this regard. It places itself in the vastly popular genre of cyberpunk noir. Of course, nobody can escape the Blade Runner blueprint in this area, consciously or subconsciously. Visually, thematically and stylistically, the game pushes all the right buttons which fans love.

In this vein, the player takes the role of a private eye on what first appears like a routine missing person assignment. It quickly and predictably turns into a tale of bad guys trying to control society with mind-altering drugs and getting rich in the process. Transhumanism, a highly pessimistic vision of society development in the light of technological advances are heavy themes to tackle, and it all remains at surface level. Which is just fine, as it gives a warm, fuzzy feeling of being right at home in this story. It's all clichés, but treasured ones.

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The writing has to take a lot of credit here. Appropriately told in first person, past tense, it is adapted to today's audiences by not being too wordy, but always on point and in the right moments poignant. The author knows exactly when to go for drama, but also when to sneak a little gag into the otherwise serious narrative. He even manages to sell the ending as a happy one. Which is true as far as the main antagonist being stopped. However, he's just dropped like a hot potato by a probably even more evil, faceless corporate giant. Another beloved stereotype, without resorting to bland namedropping, which speaks volumes of the author's talents.

All this makes Neon Noir a game which, in spite of its “retro” charm, could not have been made in the heydays of the Amiga thirty years ago. At best, the gameplay can be described as shallow. Back then, it would have been laughed off as essentially not being a game at all. The plot does not carry it beyond the one-hour mark. Yet, times have changed. All these “downsides” are acceptable nowadays, even appreciated by many. The slick audiovisual presentation leaves a professional impression well above usual “indie” fare. Playing Neon Noir is time well spent.

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