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Kick open door, shot by guard

Kick open door to flatten guard, mobster hits you with a pipe

Kick open door to flatten guard, take gun and kill mobster, second mobster runs through the door and shotguns you

Kick open door to flatten guard, take gun and kill mobster one then two, bam, bam, guard stands up and knifes you

Kick open door to flatten guard, take gun and kill mobster one then two, bam, bam, run back to guard and stove his head in

Move on to next room

Games can’t make people into serial killers but if they could then Hotline Miami would be guilty of a fair few. It’s hard to describe the game in a positive light when the first adjectives that leap into my brain are sickening, gaudy, rotten and monstrous but that’s what this game is. Even the trippy title screen feels like it’s trying to make you sick with a parade of horrid purple trees staggering away from you. On starting the game you are taught how to kill and then sent into a building full of mobsters who will stab, shoot or beat you to death the minute they see you.

Deaths come quickly but with a restart time of next to nothing you are back into it in no time. After a while you stop planning and start swinging - 5 retries gone before you can even think about it. The incessant, pounding techno pushes you on and on and on. You want to stop but you can’t. You are a monstrously efficient killer. Your frailty becomes your strength as your many deaths give you foresight that lets you cut your way through levels with superhuman speed. Trial and error is your answer to overwhelming odds. It’s disgusting, it’s horrible, but most of all, it’s brilliant.

I had heard about Hotline Miami and seen a few gameplay videos but hadn’t thought much of it. I was convinced it was just another of these 16bit indie darlings that come and go but having experienced it I have realised it’s power. It’s like when you first get into a nightclub and stand too close to the speakers and it feels like the music is pummeling your insides. You know you shouldn’t enjoy it but it’s thrilling. Is it alright to seek out and enjoy a destructive experience that makes you feel excited but nasty at the same time? I am not sure but it’s certainly one that games can provide. A discussion for another time perhaps.

Previously I looked at To The Moon which is a title that uses videogames as a medium to tell it’s story. With Hotline Miami the game itself is the story. You are not a passenger here, but the driver where the road ahead is not just empty, it’s not even there. Driving becomes the story and it’s almost irrelevant where you go or how you even get there. Viewed as a simple score attack game Hotline Miami works well. The fast levels and instant restarts are reminiscent of a game like Super Meat Boy and you are scored at the end of each level on combos and boldness but this game has a deeper quality in it’s looks and sound. Overall it’s an amazing package and one that is well worth a look.

Discussion

2 comments
Ovirew
Ovirew

I've heard a lot about the game, but I'm still not even sure what it's about. The cover artwork alone is confusing. It looks like you run through houses, killing mobsters?

The game, from your description, reminds me a bit of games like Half-Minute Hero, and also Demon's Souls. The thrill of figuring out how to overcome obstacles in games is a strong one. One that I think harkens back to those days when we tried to get Mario to time his Jumps so he could stay ahead of the moving wall on those levitating blocks in the sky. One that harkens back to when fells several times until we discovered Geodude is resistant to most of Lt. Surge's electric attacks because it is part ground-type. One that propelled us to retry the same levels of R-Type and Contra again and again until we conquered them.

I might try a demo of it sometime, if there is one. But I'm glad you're enjoying it! There's a lot more to indie games than just artsy-ness and a lack of replay ability!

-INKling-
-INKling-

@Ovirew You are correct. The game is running through houses killing mobsters but it just has this whole grimy feel to it that sucks you in. I really want to get back to it.