Hotline Miami - All Killer

Hotline Miami is a really good game and is perfect on a PS Vita or other portable console. It's designed in such a way to deliver short and sharp chunks of highly engaging, hyper violent, puzzles. My brother encouraged me to play the game for 6 months or so before we both made a commitment to complete "1 nominated game" each - he nominated me Hotline Miami and I nominated Deus Ex - Human Revolution for him.

I really enjoyed the 7 hours or so I spent with hotline miami - it has a great sound track and a number of "hell yeah!" moments ranging from figuring out a problem to just feeling like a badass having just killed your way through a portion of a level. It almost always feels fun, engaging and presents you with both puzzles and a range of tools to solve them.

In fact, the in-game flexibility offered is by far HM's greatest success. For those that don't know, the game is essentially a 14 or so top down 2-D game where you have to move your character through levels that contain a variety of bad-guys. You have to kill all the bad-guys on each level to progress to the next for the most part and do so using guns knives, snooker cues and other delights. The controls are tight and your character highly mobile. While the AI is simplistic, it never detracts from the game-play. You often have multiple different ways to approach levels - sometimes going in guns blazing reaps rewards - you can, with a little planning and precision shooting blaze your way through a decent portion of some of the levels. Other times, you'll want to use one of your "masks" (i.e. perks) that gives you a silencer or stops dogs from attacking to ensure a more stealth based approach. Then again, you can take a trial and error approach - trying each portion of the stage multiple times, figuring out enemies movement patterns and sight lines before that one perfect practiced to precision run through.

No one approach is right or wrong or for that matter better than the others and all are equally satisfying.... well, maybe not equally, those few highly successful commando runs are particularly fun. 

The game is well designed and fun to play but it is by no means perfect. In fact, I found myself getting bored and somewhat frustrated with it eventually. There is not a huge amount of variety in the levels / stages - they all boil down to kill your way to the top and then escape. They all look similar and core game-play is pretty straight forward, you just get better at it as the game progresses. Then there are a couple of boss fights that are essentially "remember the sequence of attacks and defeat them by not being shit". I also didn't find the game particularly challenging. Sure, some bits of it are a bit difficult in that you need execute a series of attacks / movements to perfection, but figuring out what to do was often pretty straightforward (i.e. the puzzles themselves were pretty basic for the most part). 

The plot is also pretty dull and somewhat gratuitous in its violence. Save for one or two interesting narrative beats, the slightly obtuse plot just didn't interest me. It did not ask many interesting questions and the ending itself was pretty dull. I know the game is not all about the plot but while it did start off initially interesting I was largely uninspired by it and the graphic cartoon violence wore a bit thin without any interesting context or plot to give it meaning.

Finally, while I enjoyed the game, it did over-stay its welcome by about 2 or 3 levels. I completed it a few months back so I cannot remember the specific ending though I do recall wishing that the last few levels were over more quickly that they were.

All in all, a really fun game to play while commuting but neither the deep nor particularly interesting experience I had hoped for. Maybe I expected too much, but Hotline Miami really is all killer, no filler.