This is going to be Jack Thompson’s new favorite game, let me tell you that much. It’s full of death and gore and murder and it looks like GTA 1. Basically a Super Meat Boy-esque murder simulator set in „an alternative 1989 Miami” full of animal masks and psychotic episodes.
Hotline Miami is a niche game, I must say: you need to know exactly what it offers to you, because it is a very specific experience – and if you are not into exactly that, there is no point getting this game. I’m going to try my best to describe it in the upcoming paragraphs.
Do you have any problems with brutally maiming pixelated figures basically for the sake of the challenge? Killing the first one with your bare hands, picking up the baseball bat, just killing the next one in time before he manages to charge at you with his knife, then knocking the next one over with the door, beating him to death then picking up his gun, all in the space of less than fifteen seconds?
Yeah. No Video Game for Old Men.
Now that I’m thinking about it, the Coen brothers really should make a movie out of the game. It’s actually right down their alley: a weird, not particularly explained plot, a unique visual style… and people in rubber animal masks!
Are you fine with games that start with a tutorial where an unknown green-eyed hobo is the first thing that greets you, telling you that he’s now going to teach you how to kill people. Fair enough, he does. Then you get into a cutscene where… I don’t know, people wearing animal masks/hallucinations/your former selves/all of the above greet you in a room what is presumably in your house or something and tell you cryptic things. Then the game begins.
By now, you should know if this game is your cup of tea. And you haven’t even started playing yet.
Your goal is usually to clear out a building full of mooks that are more than trigger-happy when it comes to you. It is very easy to die (both you and the enemies go down in one hit under normal circumstances) so it really gives a game a SMB-vibe with the trial and error aspect that comes with such gameplay. Add the extremely fast pace and the gore and you basically get an adrenaline junkie’s fever dream.
The levels are relatively long for what they are but they are broken down into stages (usually floor by floor), thereby avoiding frustration on the player’s part. A good move but I must say I don’t like that I cannot backtrack to pick up weapons from all the people I have butchered. I deserve those, goddamnit! I worked hard for them! Bashed in some damn heads!
Still the game is quite short. It only has 15 levels and I’d estimate that it takes arond 6-8 hours to complete them, depending on your skills. The game has tons of different rubber animal masks though, which all slightly change the gameplay (killer doors, more weapons lying around, better sight) so I guess there is some replayability if you are into this.
While I did encounter some small errors on startup, none of them even remotely affected the gameplay and it only took the devs a commendable 15 minutes to respond to my comment on the issue and a fix has been rolled out in a day or so.
All in all, I can only repeat what I’ve said before: if you like the idea of a very gory, very fast-paced game that is just as much about planning your killing spree as executing it with pinpoint accuracy, all wrapped up in a retro, GTA 1-esque aesthetic, then you will enjoy this game a lot. If not, I think you should pass, because this really is a hit-or-miss.