OTXO Review

Black, white and red all over.
OTXO Header Art

Despite it being one of the most iconic indie games of the 2010s, very few have tried to replicate the top-down murderfest formula of Hotline Miami. Hidden behind the simple pixel aesthetic of the game is a fast-paced bloodbath that forces you to consistently and carefully analyse your surroundings and learn from your deaths. You’ll die countless times, with each death giving you a quick checkpoint restart and just a bit more experience to bring you closer to the ending. OTXO takes that high-adrenaline gameplay and reframes this loop of trial and error through the lens of a roguelike – death is the permanent end of your run in OTXO – but is it engaging enough to make you want to learn from your mistakes and keep playing?

There’s narrative to OTXO, but it’s paper-thin. You find a mask on a train, put it on, and feel your mind snap in half before waking up on a mysterious island. The only thing here is a large mansion, strange residents, and a well-stocked bar. Layers of depression and dependency form the symbolic meat of what OTXO shows you, but it’s all mostly meant to justify the action – your beloved is trapped in the deepest depths of the mansion, and the only thing preventing you from saving her and escaping the island are dozens of rooms full of henchmen, heavy weapons, and gargantuan bosses.

Those bosses are one of the biggest ways OTXO shakes things up from the Hotline Miami duology it takes so much inspiration from. After navigating through sections of the house that force you to dodge, run, and hide from nimble grunts, the bosses keep you engaged in a slow but patterned ballet that almost feels like a boots-on-the-ground bullet hell. They’re fun, but they’re not overly challenging – their patterns are far more predictable than the randomised rooms and alert guards you’ll face between boss encounters.

OTXO Hotline Miami combat

The meat of the action in OTXO apes Hotline Miami a lot more directly, but mixes in some John Wu slo-mo thanks to the Focus mechanic. You can slow time to precisely plant bullets in your foes or roll away from their fire, and it’s in these moments that you’ll typically feel in control. Outside of Focus, enemies move so fast and shoot so hard that it can feel impossible to get the upper hand on them. Thankfully, you’re kept feeling powerful by the consistent availability of weapons as every enemy drops their gun. On the other hand, guns only have enough ammo to kill a few targets, keeping you on your toes as you swap weapons on the fly.

After a few combat encounters, you’ll find yourself in the bar and it’s here that most of OTXOs roguelike upgrade system lives, though none of it is permanent. You get coins during levels that you can use to buy a random drink that gives you any number of new abilities like more health, bullet powered kicks, weapon upgrades, and more. You can also spend some coin to reshuffle your drink options or invest in adding new kinds of drinks to the lineup.

With none of these being permanent, though, it makes it hard to feel like you’re ever making any meaningful progress in OTXO. More frustrating is that it makes it all the more harder to develop any kind of consistent build or strategy for your runs. Plenty of drink recipes provide specific buffs that only excel when combined with others, but the odds of getting synergy with your drinks being so low means you’ll always feel like your kit is just a bit off.

OTXO has boss battles

Ultimately, OTXO is fun in short bursts, but it doesn’t do enough to warrant seeing it through to the end. You’ll likely get tired of the repetitive and often hard to discern black-and-white visuals before you end up living, dying and repeating enough to conquer the final boss. With no hint of permanent progression beyond a few unlockable weapons, and a barebones story lacking the mystique or style that the themes are begging for, there just isn’t a lot on the table that makes me want to take up permanent residence in this dark, deadly mansion.

Summary
OTXO puts a roguelike spin on the familiar Hotline Miami murderfest formula, but it doesn't quite nail the landing. While moment-to-moment combat is fast and flashy and unforgiving, there isn't enough care put into the roguelike structure of the experience to make new runs feel justified or exciting.
Good
  • Fast, frenetic combat
  • Focus mode is tight and satisfying
  • Solid music
Bad
  • Simple boss fights
  • Barely any permanent progression
  • Visuals are hard to parce
6
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.