Video game corner: Hotline Miami

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By Kristofer Hammer

You wake up, you get a call, you kill people. You wake up, you get a call, you kill people.

This epitomizes the tediousness characteristic of Hotline Miami, but underneath this apparent rut lurks an ostentatious, interesting display of style and substance.

The murders in the game are gruesome and the environment  is equally so. But while it lacks the high-budget production of a higher-level developer backed publisher, its heart and soul make up the identity of the game.

The ever looping synth music that plays throughout the levels drones on, but somehow doesn’t tire, and the core mechanic that allows you to pop through doors just to run and gun, only to be defeated by a quick punch of a thug, doesn’t wear. There’s a charm about it all.

You will undoubtedly die a lot in this game. With death comes knowledge, and with that knowledge you can slowly begin to  grasp not only the controls of the game, but also the mindset required to tackle each situation.

Given the display of a twin stick shooter and its matching controls, one may have difficulty handling the looseness that comes from WASD controls. However, reloads in Hotline Miami are quick, and even a technical error doesn’t feel like a reason to stop.

A controller option has been made available for this game, but whether or not the fluidity in which you move is affected is rather unknown.

In essence, practice makes perfect.

With each phone call the player receives, little is given in terms of story information. Nothing seems certain throughout Hotline Miami, and the game doesn’t tie up quite like I would have hoped, even given the spectacular twist in the game’s conclusion and epilogue portion.

Despite all this, you nevertheless play a questionable role within the context of the game’s fiction, because without much sense or purpose you essentially play Hotline Miami as a serial killer.

I found the game play to be addictive. Masks acquired throughout the game not only give great reasons to replay for continued collection, but also add a reasonable mix up in the way you might tackle a situation.

Some allow instant deaths when knocking doors into opponents, while others could be benign as a means of giving you a drill to start out with. Each is unique to the animal’s mask you are wearing, which in itself is a creepy appeal for your masked killer.

The visuals in the game are 8-bit inspired, which not only works perfectly with the ‘80s vibe that the game attempts to create, but also complements the electronic synth music that is ever present throughout a level and during cut scene portions. Some may find them to be an eye sore, but I found this aspect charming in an otherwise unoriginal take on the twin-stick genre.

While one-shot deaths may seem tragic, they are not reason enough to give this game a go. What can be mistaken for difficulty is often misinterpreted, and is the result of lack of persistence.

For all the minor technical difficulties that plague the onset of the game, Hotline Miami develops a much deeper identity that the game tackles and ultimately achieves.

When all I wanted to do was spend 15 minutes playing a game and blow off some steam, I was always able to quickly start up Hotline Miami, get my fix and wait until that twitch to play it again.

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