Hotline Miami (PS Vita, PS3) – Hotline Miami is like a drug-enduced high that will take you on a trip through the violence, white suits and craziness of a brutal 1980’s Miami that will leave your eyes blood-shot, your sense heightened and your mind warped and twisted. Bloody, bright and brutal, Hotline Miami is a loving homage to 80’s culture and pixel art that takes old school game design and injects it with the blood-lust and maturity of a modern title. The result is a satisfying and addictive game that has a deceptive level of depth and replayability, not to mention enough blood and inards to deck out the set of a Hellraiser movie.
On booting up Hotline Miami you’ll either be blown away or disgusted by its vivacious art style. Its bright top-down neon-inspired pixel art brings with it an instant retro feel that feels rather in-context with how the game starts out, feeling staunchly like a throwback to a simpler time, as you quickly take to your enemies with baseball bats, shotguns or just your fists as you kill everyone in each stage and move onto the next chapter. It is fast paced and rewards quick thinking and acting as you chain together kill combos to increase your score. But whats starts off as simple map layouts with enemies placed as to almost beg you to strew their brains and innards across the floors and walls quickly becomes an exercise in patience and strategy. One hit can kill you in Hotline Miami, and as it will remind you over and over again, you can’t afford to make any errors if you want to survive. As it introduces more and more enemies with guns that can kill you from outside the screen it becomes more frustrating but also more rewarding on the off chance that things go right. Simply put it becomes brutally difficult.
But it is also fair. The map designs aren’t nearly as much the star of the show as the enemy placement. Enemies are deviously placed just out of view or hidden in plain site just waiting to splatter your head into a million pieces. The game basically trains you with a choker collar to carefully plan out your route through the level. But at the same time it dangles the carrot of a spectacular kill in your face, placing a blisfully unaware ‘melee-class’ enemy in a position ripe for an easy kill, but right in the sights of a dude with a shotgun. Luckily the game respawns you at the start of that ‘stage’ of a chapter instantly, leaving your only penalty to be the few minutes it took you to progress to that point. The game punishes you but never lets there be any uncertainty as to why you were cruelly cut in half, beaten to a pulp, or filled with hundreds of bullet holes. When you die you know why and the game lets you correct your errors in the next run through making it as compulsive as Super Meat Boy and as complatative as Metal Gear Solid, a marriage that shouldn’t work but does and in doing so becomes the closest thing to an addictive substance in all of video games.
Hotline Miami is brutally bombastic bludgeon-em up that will have you questioning your sanity as the bodycount piles up and the nightmarish world becomes more and more twisted. But as the ear to ear smile becomes cemented on your face with each and every kill you won’t notice the sadist in you growing in power.