PlayBack: Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami is a bit of a strange beast. One part reflex test, one part homage to late eighties culture, Dennaton Games’ debut is psychedelic slaughterfest you don’t want to miss out on.

Adorned with casual scenes of ultraviolence and pulsating neon backgrounds, Hotline Miami is the combined effort of two indie developers, partly inspired by cult anti-hero flick, Drive.

Doing away with conventional character building, Hotline Miami’s leading character is simply referred to as “Jacket”. Nameless, voiceless, and mostly devoid of standard human emotions, he wakes up at the beginning of each stage before receiving a telephone call and going to work.

Luckily, Jacket’s desensitization goes hand-in-hand with his chosen occupation. As soon as players exit the apartment and roll up to a downtown location, bullets start to fly and bats start to swing.

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Much like its protagonist, the game wears a mask of its own. You see, although it appears to be a twin-stick shooter, it plays dramatically different to other titles in the genre like Alien Breed and Renegade Ops.

For a start it’s completely in 2D, plastered in a variety of garish hues and rough, pixelated artwork. Secondly, you’re not a meat shield. One hit, whether it be a cudgel to the face or stray bullet, will force a restart.

This single element is what defines Hotline Miami the most. Instead of strafing down corridors and waiting for the bodies to drop, you’re forced to concoct a seamless blend of stealth and speed.

Like you, most enemies go down in one hit, much of the game’s strategy leaning on elements such as line of site and distance. Time it right and, with a bit of luck, you can clear entire brigades of goons with a few clean strokes of your chosen melee weapon.

Firearms are also thrown into the mix relatively early. It must be said, however, that guns aren’t always the most effective option. Given the player’s often-obscured view of the map, not to mention limited ammo and shot spread, Hotline Miami forces and encourages experimentation at the same time.

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In truth, there is little that can be said against the game. Some might, however, take issue with how difficult Hotline Miami is, especially in later stages.

With enemies becoming more varied and abundant in number, the last clutch of missions are devious, especially considering the tight map design. Mimicking more casual titles like Flappy Bird, there are parts of the game which will see you fail time and time again in rapid succession. However, with the ability to dive straight back in, part of this frustration ferments into a addiction-laced cocktail.

When a game becomes unfeasibly difficult we often attribute it to poor game design. In Hotline Miami there’s no doubt these were conscious decisions and effective ones at that. Love it or hate it, the game certainly has a unique identity and one Dennaton have been quick to capitalise on.


Whether on PC, console, or even Vita, Hotline Miami is certainly recommendable. It may not be the longest game out there and is perhaps not the most polished, but it’s original and hard-hitting. Hotline Miami is another great example of how indies are revitalising old genres with new, fantastic twists.

8 Comments

  1. Fantastic game. It didn’t really gel with me when I bought it on PC, but on Vita (via PS+) it’s like crack. Still haven’t finished it yet, I’m a few levels into the epilogue, so not far to go.

    Best weapon, the knife. Silent and deadly. :)

  2. Downloaded onto my Vita yesterday. I’m only a few levels in but first impressions are that it’s a great little game. I must confess that most of my gameplay appears to spent being dead though.

  3. One of the worst games I have ever played. Unbelievably awful.

    • Don’t play Mercenary Kings whatever you do. Even worse.

  4. I loved this – looking forward to playing the sequel soon on Vita!

  5. More frustrating than fun, it now resides in a specially allocated folder on my XMb for those purchases which i regret.

  6. I plusses it, did not like it on the PS3.
    Had already DLd to my vita, so I have it a crack, really like it.
    It’s pick-up-and-play nature is great for short blasts, abd luckily each level (or floor) is pretty swift (once you get the swing of it)
    Not sure why I like it on the 5″ screen but not the big one

  7. Got it for PC in a steam sale for like, £1.20. Loved every minute of it.

    Worth that price just for the sound track.

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