Hotline Miami’s PS Vita port retains the game’s compelling quality as a hyper violent puzzle box, but sacrifices some immediacy in the controls
Hotline Miami is a puzzle box constructed like a spring-loaded death-trap. This is a game in which the need to succeed becomes the player’s overriding motivation. There’s no plot driving the action. No gripping narrative or interesting characters moving things along.
All players have to compel them is the challenge presented by solving a conundrum in which moving pieces react with the lethal immediacy of a Doberman Pinscher on PCP. Imagine a game of Jenga where all the blocks have been replaced by mousetraps and you’re starting to get the picture; pull the wrong block out and you may lose your fingers.
Hotline Miami: Plot
The tissue-thin story tying the action together plonks players into the boots of a mass-murdering psychopath in Miami circa 1989. Every day begins the same way for this equal opportunities misanthrope: he awakens in a dingy apartment and finds a message on his answering machine that supplies him with an address. He then travels to that location and proceeds to slaughter anyone he finds there. Rinse. Repeat.
The levels are broken up by some interludes, which have a hallucinatory quality to them. They’re all rather pretentious but given the brutal edict Hotline Miami issues to players, they’re definitely necessary. They don’t so much serve plot concerns as much as provide a much-needed break between bloodbaths.
Hotline Miami: Gameplay
Hotline Miami is at its most addictive when its nameless protagonist is painting every inch of his surroundings with claret. Players control him using the left and right thumbsticks.
They pick up and throw weapons with the left shoulder button and use weapons (or punch) with the right. They only other control they have is mapped to the X button, which they use to straddle downed opponents. They can then hammer the right shoulder button to deliver a violent coup de grace.
If that sounds simple enough, take heed; Hotline Miami is as rock-hard as they come. Enemy AI reacts to the player’s slightest movement and their aim is usually deadeye.
Players have an edge with an assortment of masks that confer abilities – the Camel mask allows them to see further into the map and the Horse mask allows them to kill enemies by opening doors into them – but generally they should get comfortable with being on the back foot as early as possible.
It’s worth noting that both Sony platforms don’t offer the agency that the original PC version does, although the Vita port is the best of the pair of them.
Hotline Miami: Features
It should also be pointed out that Hotline Miami has a tendency to be unfair at times. This is due, in part to some of the level design, and also due to bugs and glitches that crop up occasionally.
Players will lose count of the amount of times they’re taken out by enemies that are either off-screen or randomly pop through walls. Both console versions also disallow players the ability to scout very far into the protagonist’s immediate surroundings.
Hotline Miami: Presentation
The neon-encrusted pastel shading of the visuals perfectly conveys a sense of sleaze that purveys throughout the game and the synth-heavy music is easily the game’s greatest asset – the fact that it’s not available for purchase on iTunes is something of a travesty.
Hotline Miami: Verdict
Hotline Miami won’t appeal to everyone. It’s a hard, uncompromising and occasionally devious game that demands players take it on its own terms. Those who decide its brutal delights aren’t for them are fully justified in giving it a swerve.
But those who find its punishing learning curve appealing will find themselves near-addicted to it. Once it has you, Hotline Miami is near impossible to put down and recommendations aren’t much easier to make than that.
Hotline Miami release date: Out now
Hotline Miami price: £6.49 on PSN