Hotline Miami Review

  • Platform: PC (possibly PSN)
  • Developer: Dennaton Games
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: October 23, 2012
  • Price: $9.99
  • Official: Hotline Miami 

A demented trip worth taking”

You awake to yet another sweltering and sunny day in Miami Florida, the cockroaches scatter as your feet hit the floor, and the garbage reeks as you walk past its overflowing bin to your destination; the answering machine. As you hit Play the strange voice on the other end tells you that their Receptionist called out sick and that they need you to replace her at 131st Street, they’ve been getting swamped and need someone to take care of the guests. Make sure to just wear inconspicuous clothing, nothing fancy. The message ends and you make your way downstairs and hop into your DeLorean, driving to the location you were told. You make sure to park just outside the entrance, step out and then promptly shuffle through a collection of masks you have in your backseat, you opt for one of a giraffe, and then push open the double doors into the lobby. A violent looking thug turns to you confused, then begins to grab for a knife to swing at you, you catch him with a right hook, sending him face first onto the tiled floor. While he’s dazed you kneel down over him, viciously grabbing his head, you begin smashing his face into the tile repeatedly until he’s no more then a red sponge. When you’re done you stand back up, panting as you turn your masked face to another target you see through glass windows. You have countless rooms to wipe clean in this hotel; you’ve been ordered to. You grab the mans knife up off the floor, walking slowly towards your next target. Just another day in Miami.

Hotline Miami is a trip down a grimy and sickening hole, one that only gets worse the further you get. What drives this man to do these horrible acts? Who are the strange people pulling the strings? The game is peppered with small clues as you play, and thankfully, the story concludes fairly well. The game itself can be described as the sick offspring of Team Meats Super Meat Boy, and Rockstars Manhunt. When you begin the act of completing your first job, you will most likely, and rather quickly, die. And die. And maybe even die some more. The game centers around clearing out various strongholds of murderers and drug dealers, but it goes about it in a puzzle like fashion. Each building can be likened to a stage in Super Meat Boy, various obstacles you need to avoid, but its best to try it as quickly as possible, and although you will die, rebirth is instantaneous; so death isn’t as frustrating an obstacle as it could be.

Enemies are placed in the environment in strategic ways, some walking patrol routes, while others are stationary, each will hold specific weapons and it is up to you to figure out the best course of action on eliminating them all. This is where the puzzle element comes into play. Do you run in and punch the first guy to the right, sending him sprawling into the wall, then quickly grab his baseball bat and strike it across the face of the other thug in the room, turning to the first who is still dazed, you kick his head against the wall he’s leaning, finishing him off?  Or do you instead patiently wait behind the door for the perfect time to strike, for when one of them walks along the other side and you kick it open knocking him unconscious  before quickly grabbing a hammer off the ground and slamming it into the skull of the other. That is just one room, in a building full of them, and just a small sliver of choices you will have to make.

All of this violence isn’t just for show, the game has an in depth ratings system built into the proceedings. The faster you clear out areas, and the more unique and varied your kills, you will earn a grade as well as a title. For every kill in the game, a point total and combo multiplier will display above the victims head, giving each horrific act an element of pizzazz and joy. The senseless violence now has a much more visceral meaning; to score higher. Each room has now taken on a new meaning, you no longer only wish to complete the job, now you need to do it as flashy and efficiently as possible. As your protagonist slowly recedes into the violence and his strings of sanity detach, as does yours, you must be greater, achieve more, and unlock those extra tools of murder only achieved by doing better. Not only do you unlock more tools in which to dispatch your victims, so to do you unlock more varied masks to wear while you do your nefarious deeds.

As if the killing spree you are providing the city isn’t enough of a warning sign, you also choose to wear animal masks while you dish out death upon the underbelly of society, as if its all a disturbing ritual. Before each hunt you are able to scroll through an ever growing selection of masks: cheetah, wolf, owl, unicorn, etc. Each choice provides the player with a random benefit, be that extra ammunition, lethal doors, or faster speed. The masks provide another layer of uncertainty to your actions; should you really be playing as this clearly afflicted individual?

The quick and addictive gameplay is bolstered by a presentation that fits the game perfectly. Hotline Miami carries a visual aesthetic that calls back the classic arcade games of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Colorful but detailed sprites make up the games world, while various filters and lighting help enrich it further. The solid visual spectacle is backed up by one of the years best gaming soundtracks. The hyper violent proceedings are complimented perfectly by a sound package that both delights and disturbs; a contrast the rest of the game clearly follows.

The story Hotline Miami tells is well crafted and perfectly delivered, as the game can be beaten within a few hours if you are a good enough player, but its the addictive gameplay that gives the game its legs. You will want to try stages over again to beat previous scores, and to unlock further extras. It is a shame than, that the game doesn’t appear to feature any leaderboards or friend comparisons, a feature that would greatly enhance the experience. Another negative is in the department of enemy AI, and that is that they are rather dimwitted. Some enemies will come running at the sound of gunfire, while others won’t. And every enemy simply ignores all of the mutilated bodies littering the carpet. The simplistic AI may be distracting at times, but it is essential in keeping the gameplay in tune, while it would be fantastic for a realistic interpretation of this murder simulator; the game heavily leans towards old school arcade roots; and a slower pace would go against that.

Hotline Miami is simply a blast to play, its addictive puzzle like action mixed with hypnotic beats and colorful presentation make for one of the best indie games of the year, and at $10 its a no brainer. The story is dark and the action often cruel, but it all serves a purpose. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up, and also, play it with a controller; much simpler. Dennaton Games is made up of only a few people, but they have certainly made a big impression with this one. -Chuck

The Rundown

  • + Interesting story and style all its own
  • + Soundtrack is infectious
  • + Addictive arcade gameplay
  • – Leaderboards feel crucial but are oddly absent
  • – Keyboard controls can be iffy
  • – Possibly short for some

Final Score

8.0 / 10

“Great”

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