Don’t you remember being a kid in a video or book store (back when those still existed) and happening upon that eerie or disturbing sleeve, one that informed you that you’d be in trouble if your parents caught you looking at it? The one with the bloody eyeballs, the huge cleavage, or the big pink text that contains ‘sex’ in it? Hotline Miami is that, in game form, for adults.
Everything about Hotline Miami is geared to tip you on your side. You play a sociopathic masked murderer tasked with extinguishing ‘pests’ through multi-level missions, a Delorean your means of conveyance. Despite your determination to murder your victims in the coldest blood, you are just as fragile, if not moreso, than your victims, requiring you to be quick and resourceful in your approach to these mansions and slums alike. You’ll earn different masks to equip before you begin the bloodshed that augment various abilities. One allows you to murder people quickly, others make you run faster, so on. When you die, and you will die often, Super Meat Boy-style, you’re thrown back to the beginning of each segment to try again. You’ll get shot, cut, stabbed, mauled by a dog, or blown up and come right on back in quick order to start again. But you won’t be frustrated, you’ll feel welcome to feed that inner angry psychopath bent on perfecting your approach. In a cool touch, various aspects randomize in each attempt, requiring you to be flexible in your approach. You’ll get an opportunity to wield the very weapons used against you, but some care should be taken around firearms, which will not only demolish your foes, but warn everyone to your presence immediately. The game is fast-paced and relentless and you’ll just keep going back in for more.
From the glowing Russian text that greets you at the main menu to the 16-bit presentation and incredibly fitting eighties tunes, Hotline Miami is dressed to impress. Levels float on fields of tropical color and twist as you move. Samurai swords carve bodies in half while baseball bats reveal mashed brains. Caked between the levels are drug-fueled hallucinations but as creepy as Hotline Miami gets, it could stand to be even creepier. Pushing through levels over and over and reducing your foes to bloody pulps allows the weird, greasy neon-lit spit-shine to wear off after a bit. That said, everything fits perfectly in place and you’ll be hard-pressed to find such a concise, twisted vision from an indie game. Hotline Miami isn’t just smut, it’s fantastic, enjoyable smut.
Of note, at the time of this writing, and having purchased this through Steam, the developers have disabled the Options menu because of issues with the controller support (default control is keyboard + mouse). This means that any time I went to quit the game, I actually had to terminate the game through Windows. I also couldn’t use my Xbox 360 controller. If this issue is resolved, the score may be re-evaluated.
UPDATE 11/25: With the addition of a new update that improves performance and adds Xbox 360 controller/main menu support back into the game, the score has been revised from an 8 to a 9 because of the new functionality’s aide to gameplay and enjoyment.