Most of the time, when we see top-down shooters these days, it’s either a mobile version of an old-school game or an indie throwback. This game is one of the latter, which saw a good bit of hype when it was released. Hotline Miami is a game made in Game Maker, and it’s all about being the dirty and gritty version of Don Johnson, killing everyone in each assignment. Along the way, you unfold a story about a man who grinds by and a girl who he shows mercy to, as well as the foes he has to face.
The story first comes off as some sort of Miami Vice, but more as a bad guy of sorts. If you’re a fan of The Big Lebowski, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Reservoir Dogs, and other such movies, then you’ll appreciate this game’s style and narrative. The same goes with the soundtrack, which induces a bit of a lucid high that does make this game seem drug-induced. Most of the visuals in the game does look like you’ve dropped LSD, with discolorations and distortions throughout the whole thing.
While the visuals are a combination of cool and disorienting at the same time, the gameplay is instant gratification in a good way as you just kill whoever is in your way. If you do die, then you just press R and restart from the checkpoint. The controls are fairly simple, which is the typical PC top-down shooter scheme of WASD for movement and mouse for aiming. You attack with the left click and interact with the right click. Spacebar lets you finish enemies off that have been knocked down, which gives you bonus points. You can also press shift to aim and see further to spot any enemies in farther parts of the level.
This is a pretty short game, most players can blast through it in around four to five hours. You may want to take some breaks in between though since the combat can get pretty intense. The AI is pretty dumb though, but they do come in droves if you’re not careful. You soon learn that you can kill enemies in a particular order so that you don’t immediately alarm surrounding ones that may jeopardize your position. The key is to kill them one by one as much as possible. If there are two or more in an area, you have to either find a way to kill them all at the same time or just have a superior weapon like a gun against their melee weapons.
In later levels, you’ll encounter weapons like Molotov cocktails and such that will make combat situations quite complicated and make you restart over and over again if you can’t solve those problems. A good tip is to lure enemies to a doorway, wherein you can slam the door on their faces and send them reeling back, then you can then finish them off from there. While it looks like a top-down action shooter at first, what this game really is in essence is a puzzle game. You have to figure out the best way to clear each level by learning who to take out first, what weapon to use next, and where to position yourself to kill and not get killed.
You also unlock new weapons and masks that you choose to wear at the start of each mission. Each mask is that of a different animal head, each with its own unique abilities, like faster executions, being able to see secrets, and so on. The game is a bit buggy though, so here’s to hoping that those gaffes do get patched. Other than that, this is a pretty good indie game that gained fanfare during its release.
Hotline Miami is a pretty solid game that can grab the attention of any gamer. Some may think that it lacks replay value, but it should be good for speedrunners due to its seamless gameplay. Overall, it’s a fun title that fans of indie games should appreciate.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10