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Hotline Miami review for PSN, PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Also On: PSN, PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Dennaton Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards
ESRB: M

A short list of things I hate in gaming:

  • insanely hard difficulty levels (I'll play on the easiest settings available every time, and I've been known to play games like Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and Madagascar 3 for fun [though also for platinums]);
  • graphic gun violence;
  • letter-grade scoring systems (note: this means games, not gaming sites);
  • retro graphics;
  • any levels where you need to progress slowly and plan out your every movement.

On top of that, I don't usually like drug-fueled art, and I usually can't stand lo-fi music. (Note: these two things are almost certainly related.)

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In other words, I should probably hate everything about Hotline Miami. It's ridiculously hard, it's brutally violent, and it requires meticulous planning every step of the way. It gives you a letter grade at the end of each level. Its 16-bit graphics revel in their grittiness, its music is heavy on the reverb, and the whole thing is drenched in a cokey neon haze.

Here's the thing, though: I love Hotline Miami. I love every little aspect of the game, from its difficulty to its gameplay to its atmosphere. I don't know if I'd call it my mid-year Game of the Year (that's still Thomas Was Alone), but it's most definitely in my Top 3.

Oddly enough, I think my love of the game is rooted in some of the things I'd normally hate — in the difficulty and the planning. You see, deep down, Hotline Miami is a puzzle game. Look past the blood and the weapons and the masks with their special powers and the woozy-sounding music, and you'll find a game that requires you to think through every move carefully, and that expects you to carry out those moves with near-perfect reflexes. And as much as I might hate some aspects of Hotline Miami — or, at least, as much as I'd hate them in other contexts — I love puzzle games. It just so happens that in this game, when you can't solve a puzzle, you get your head blown off and you find yourself lying in a pool of blood and brains.

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Clearly, as that last sentence indicates, Hotline Miami isn't for the faint of…well, anything. Because make no mistake, this game is extraordinarily violent. The thing is, however, that violence gives a surprising sense urgency to solving each puzzle. Think about it: when you can't solve a puzzle in a Professor Layton game, you get a disappointed look from the Professor or Luke. Here, you get murdered in an absolutely brutal fashion. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is.

As for the graphics and the music…again, in any other context I might hate them. Here, however, both work in the game's favour. If Hotline Miami were as violent as it is and it had modern graphics, I'm quite sure I wouldn't be able to stomach it. The same goes for the music; divorced from the game, the druggy, hazy atmosphere it creates would probably come off as unbearably pretentious. In the context of a story that's all about weirdness and uncertainty, it works fantastically well.

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And that, to me, is the essence of Hotline Miami: it's a game that does everything so perfectly, it even makes me love stuff I would normally hate. Which means that if we're talking about stuff you'd normally love — extreme violence, extreme difficulty, druggy music — then this right here could end up being your favorite game of all time.

Grade: A+



List Price:$19.99 USD
New From:$19.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock