Number Three: Hotline Miami
Reviews: Giant Bomb, Joystiq, Destuctoid, IGN
I have never used PCP. The hardest mind-altering substance I’ve consumed is an absinthe cocktail I drank in a bar smaller than my bedroom in Japan. It tasted like toothpaste. I had three.
Hotline Miami is a large German man pumping house through Bose speakers as he forces you to watch two donkeys mate. It’s infectious. It’s chemically addicting. It might be the power-synth drug music that fuels your bloody, pixelated nightmare, or the warbly, neon lights constantly flashing in the periphery. For the brief time one can spend with Hotline Miami, I was dependent on the sweet, sweet cocaine candy ejected from the hunks of flesh beaten from my enemies.
The gameplay is leather pants tight. Simple top-down dual joystick mechanics made interesting with the addition of speed. Every moment is frantic, and every skull caved in with a pipe, baseball bat, or thrown shotgun is viscerally satisfying. The scoring mechanics enhance the pace; replaying levels with the frog mask to increase the combo time has made scoring A grades on each level just as fun the second, third, fourth time around.
Motivation for the initial playthrough is a surprisingly deep storyline, despite how little it is peppered in between homicides. The ambiguity as to your motivations, and the powers-that-be behind the stench of death that fills Miami in 1989 is slowly illuminated through small details and conversations throughout. By the end of the story, I was playing for reasons beyond physical necessity, and was genuinely curious to see how the masked man’s story ends. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end in a manner fitting the rest of the game.
Also, the synth-filled 80s soundtrack cannot be lauded enough. Here is a SoundCloud of the entire soundtrack as linked to by other publications. You are doing yourself a significant disservice by not going and listening to it this second.
So with all this praise, why isn’t Hotline Miami my favorite game of the year? It’s simply too short. It’s like a bath at the perfect temperature that just isn’t deep enough. The game is around 4-5 hours long, start to finish. Of course, there’s reason to return, such as unlocking all of the game’s masks and weapons, but after all of those goals have been met, there’s not much reason to keep coming back. Until more Hotline Miami comes out, I’ll maintain a pretty fierce fever.