It wasn’t until I saw the game in person that I realized Hotline Miami wasn’t just another indie Smash TV clone. Brilliantly described by Eurogamer as a “a top-down fuck-‘em-up“, Hotline manages to be a pitch perfect hyper-violent snapshot of the late ’80s as well as an extremely satisfying action-puzzle game. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised considering the unstoppable Cactus was behind it, but I was taken aback that such a neon colored trip could offer so much.
Hotline Miami is a puzzle game. It’s a puzzle game where you play a mask wearing sociopath that’s killing Russian mobsters.
You star (most of the time) as a rubber-animal-mask wearing man without memories receiving orders from answering machine messages to murder all the mobsters. The gameplay is fast and adrenaline soaked: you start most missions outside of a building filled with criminals with nothing but your Letterman Jacket and a rubber animal mask. You are tasked with busting through the front doors killing everyone inside through a combination of fists, guns, melee weapons, and finishing moves that will make you wince at their pixelated gore.
Every enemy only takes one hit to kill, but the nameless protagonist is just as fragile. Each floor of every building turns into a bloody puzzle where you will die twenty times before you pull of that glorious perfect rampage. Luckily, when you die, it’s just a matter of pressing the R button to respawn; those twenty attempts could take a matter of minutes. This heart-seizing pace and lethality takes Hotline Miami out of the Smash TV arcade roots: it’s up to you to figure out how to get to the next floor with nothing but your wits, reflexes, and a knife.
The game’s story is is as fragmented as its protagonist. The events rarely happen in chronological order and employ a very unreliable narrator. Divergent mutually exclusive timelines starring different characters explore a cynical plot that both loves and hates the era its depicting. The story is high on ambiance and low on concrete details; it’s up to the player to overcome its challenges and find something of value.
Set in Miami in 1989, Hotline is a neon fever dream filled with cocaine and DayGlo. The pixelated graphics don’t hold anything back: corpses accurately reflect the way they were killed. Axes will leave bodies chopped in half, bats leave brains on the floor, and guns leave messy holes. Psychedelic shifting gradients frame the violence as you careen through buildings filled with ’80s kitsch. The levels even rotate slightly as you traverse the x-axis (watch for it) to subtly disorient. The visuals are brilliant and, like the rest of the game, brutally effective.
The thumping inescapable ’90s-inspired soundtrack will fill your veins with murderenergy. About half of the tracks have earned a permanent place in every portable music device I ever own, they regularly accompany me at work. You can listen to it for free on Sound Cloud; there’s a non-zero chance this soundtrack will convince you to purchase Hotline.
The presentation in Hotline is perfect. It’s a joy to experience as you tumble down the homicidal rabbit hole.
Game of the Year?
I’ve heard Hotline Miami toted as Game of the Year 2012 by a few of my friends. After playing the game through multiple times to completion, I’d have to agree. If I made such hyperbolic statements.
The uneasy satisfaction you’ll feel when you perfectly murder twenty Russian goons is intoxicating. The music, the presentation, and the story will cultivate an exciting ball of energy within you that, honestly, we shouldn’t be 100% ok with. It’s an unabashed violent romp that is unlike anything I’ve experienced. And at $9.99 on Steam, it’s a steal. Pick this game up as soon as you can.
Totally Rad Hotline Miami Steam Giveaway!
After that radical review, I’m sure you can’t wait to purchase Hotline Miami, can you? Take a chill pill, Dorkadia is giving away a free copy on Steam! The only thing you have to do is retweet the following tweet and follow @dorkadia on Twitter. Easier than putting on a Slap Bracelet.
— Dorkadia Press (@Dorkadia) March 5, 2013
A winner will be chosen at random from all retweeters at 6:00pm PST, Friday March 8th. We will contact the winner via direct message. Remember to follow @dorkadia to be eligible to win! Please, only one entry per dude or dudette.