What is it?
Hotline Miami is about killing a-holes. Dash into a room and kill as many as you can before you get hit once, die, and try again. Hyper-pixelated Commodore 64-inspired graphics and a distant top-down perspective never fully obscure the gruesome nature of your murderous actions. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the bigger, hairier, more-confusing older brother of the first game.
The first Hotline Miami wowed nonviolent-leaning critics (myself included) for the subversive way it drew out players’ own lust for violence — and then pointed a finger and asked the player, “Why do you like killing people?” The game had a brutal difficulty that hooked players and made you try and try and try again — maybe even a hundred times in a single level. So, in a sense, it was about perseverance.
1. Best/Worst: Double the difficulty of the first Hotline Miami!
Hotline Miami 2 picks up at the difficulty of the last levels of the first game. It never pulls any punches. And it only gets harder from there. Several levels require you to clean entire floors of thirty blokes (or more) who are all well-equipped to hit you back. Even the more masochistic of players will lose patience in this environment. Unless you’re our community member Roberto Iraheta (who loves unending difficulty) this game is too hard.
2. Worst: The plot hooks you — then proves to be pure nonsense
The game hops from character to character between levels like the TV show LOST. It’s heavy on mystery. But you never have enough time to connect with the characters or like anybody. Worse, the ending is more confusing and disappointing than LOST’s ending. It never comes together with clarity. I had to read the game’s Wikipedia page to understand any of it. Nonsense. Utter nonsense.
3. Best: The soundtrack is amazing as the thrill of victory at the end of an hour-long failure-binge.
The soundtrack is your best friend that sticks with you between lives. It only gets better as the game goes on. And the heavy drops seem to land just when you get your first 10x combo. It’s the game’s best asset. Here’s Jasper Byrne’s brilliant contributions in Bandcamp. Enjoy
4. Worst: I never got good at playing with the Holy Spirit
5. Worst: The “subversive violence” is gone.
Instead of providing a challenging criticism of violence, our own violent tendencies, or a culture awash in a violent imagination, The violence is so exhaustive that it loses its subversive edge, ultimately saying nothing at all. Of course, this might be my subjective opinion. But when you can’t connect with a solitary lead character, or know who you are, there’s no grounding. No thread of consequences. You know you’re not playing as yourself or even a singular avatar. So you take no ownership of your actions. It’s just getting points and score multipliers.