More games are exploring difficulty as a premise . Lot’s of people find difficulty rewarding when they complete a level. The harder it is, the more sweeter success is. FTL, an indie game I recently reviewed was just like that. But it didn't just hang on to difficulty as the only saving grace. It was quite random... something many would say was unfair about it. Today however, I'm going to talk about a game that has got a bit of press recently. Hotline Miami.
Hotline Miami is a top down shooter/brawler that looks suspiciously like the old school Grand Theft Auto games. However, here... it’s all about clearing the room to finish the level. The game is pretty simple with a clear objective—clear out the level. Kill every single one of the enemy. Use your fists, guns, all manner of guns, or even heck... doors! It is grotesquely violent in an animated pixely way. You get scored by how well you did at the end of every level.
The violence is quite over the top for such throwback style graphics. Split open a head, eyeballs drop out, crawling injured enemies make a trail of blood, blood splatters everywhere. Interestingly I found that after a while with Hotline Miami, your brain begins to shut off the violence mostly I believe because it's beginning to try to perfect the gameplay aspect. I do not know what it says about me though.
That's about the only thing in Hotline Miami that'll make sense as the rest of the games narrative is told with the adeptness of a drunken druggie high on a few type of drugs. It also 'helps' that the game has some funky psychedelic beats and the screen moves and swivels as you move your character around. Hotline Miami isn't going to win any award for the best looker and in my humble opinion even tries bloody hard to make you hate the game.
But somewhere deep in its crevices... lies an addictive little game. Unfortunately many might not find that compelling reason to keep on playing after dying for the millionth time as the game continuously assaults your eyes and ears with psychedelic shit. In trying to figure out why I wasn't in love with Hotline Miami, I came to the conclusion that the linear structure of the game is what took me out of it. If only there was more of an element of randomness.
Sure sometimes the guards and enemies patrol a little differently. Weapon spawn is different in each playthrough but it's the same level, the same number of enemies. You might think well this is necessary since you'll die lots and you'll need to learn a level to progress. But this just makes the game very one dimensional. There is nothing to discover here (there are secrets in levels... but that's about it. These are not things you stumble upon).
Of course there are games where the core objective is to refine one particular skill. A quick and flawless run through the level. I've played and loved VVVVV but somehow Hotline Miami doesn't hold up to that. It just dawdles in comfortable it's okay land without trying to be 'it's freaking awesome'. That's okay though I suppose. Not all games have to be mind blowing.
And the music and visual effects were also grating on me... telling me "hey do you hate me now punk?!". Yes game I hate you now... I'm just going to play FTL instead. Hotline Miami is not a bad game. I'm sure many out there will be playing this A LOT, but I'm not feeling like I have to go back to playing the game. At least not as often as I would compared to some other games.
It can't be denied that the game is a commentary on violence in games and how ridiculous and over the top it is. You are playing a psycho and the psychedelic theme/miami 80's vibe works to that, but it isn't everyone's cup of tea. But if you think about it, it makes sense from the perspective of a video game since... hey video games are just plain crazier than real life.
Hotline Miami isn't a bad game. If you like challenging indie games, you might have a little fun playing this... for a while. And then you forget about it and move on. It has no lasting appeal, even if you'll remember it as a game touching on violence not in the way Spec Ops: The Line did, but in a more minimalist way. I suppose if you look at it that way, Hotline Miami achieves a certain sort of uniqueness that at least makes you questions why games are the way they are.
- Simple mechanic that's easy to understand
- Super challenging difficulty
- Rewarding when you finally beat a level
- Violence in many ways shockingly grotesque for a 16-bit style of graphics
- Psychedelic music and graphics might turn off some
- No reward for you to come back to it. Linear gameplay
- Camera swivelling might annoy some