I’m gonna kick this little number off by saying the same as what a lot of other people are saying about this game. It’s awesome. I’m going to use other words or phrases to describe it in this discussion like… glitz-jizz, guttural, and a literal neon enema.
When I found out that plastic animal masks were how you gained certain attributes throughout this terrific turquoise tilt-a-whirl, I knew I had to play. I've had a deep love of masks ever since the end of high school when I started messing around during my down time with liquid latex. I’m sure there were many in my senior art classes which thought I was going to be seen on some kind of Hallmark movie involving a victimized house wife and several cans of spray paint before heading down death-row.
Here are a few small pieces I've worn or created in the past which more or less exemplify my love of covering your face with badass.
As you can see, I've had a lot of time on my hands in the last decade. The top left example is something I created while messing around with arduino functionality and a plastic astronaut helmet that barely fit on my head, while the iron man masks were stumbled upon while experimenting with spray paint (as a medium, not a drug) and boredom.
The bottom picture is the one I really wanted to point out though. That is my high school best friend and I dressed up before a Halloween party back in 2011. I’m not trying to say at ALL that we were the first people to put on animal masks and pretend we were cooler than we actually are, but it’s kind of neat to look at the coincidental parallels here. I had thought at one point of sending the pic in to Dennaton games as a token of my appreciation for them contributing such an interesting artistic design choice to the pantheons of indie-dom.
All of that nonsense aside, I’d like to Segway into WHY I appreciate this game so very much.
Game Maker Studio. So at my previous denizen of knowledge ingestion, there were plenty of would-be game developers looking for ways to make themselves great in the eyes of their peers. One of many methods employed would be to rag on other people (the exact thing I’m doing right now!) A frequent comment would be something to the effect of…
“Oh yeah? That project that’s being developed in Game Maker? Hah. Okay.”
“I heard he only knows how to develop stuff in GAME MAKER” (read in high pitched nasally autotuned robot voice set to the melody of “closing time”)
Dismissive and condescending tones towards the 2D game development engine were a recurring theme. People would shove it aside for flashier engines which boasted a wider depth and breadth of graphical capability. Well to all of those jerks and jerk-ettes out there, I hope they choke on their security confirmation emails to the next great MMO they try to sign up for because Hotline Miami blows all speculation that Game Maker is a sub-par tool set out of the water. Having been developed (primarily) by only two men, Jonatan “Cactus” Soderstrom and Dennis Wedin, I bow in pure commendation to the pair of them.
Relatively small in scope? Yes.
Aliased to oblivion? Definitely.
But don’t let a single one of those things scare you. It only adds to the charm of the beguiling blood stained hallways this game will undoubtedly throw your way.
Anyways. Let’s get down to some good ol’ fashion gritty-ass, slurpy-burpy, vinyl striped, chrome plated, beef injected art talk.
ROUGH! That’s the word I was looking for. Okay. So the game’s art is rough. Not in a terrible unfinished sense, more in that kind of way whenever you watch a cartoon, where the lines on the characters wibble and wobble a bit when they move or do anything involving frame-by-frame animation. Not literally, that’s just what it makes me think of. At first I had to admit, the character illustration disgusted me. I couldn't stand to look at the grotty old terrible hobo faces and cashiers at the various convenience stores. I would play through the game, running from mission to mission, reading the text with my face very close to the screen so I didn't have to look at their empty maws flapping up and down.
This was until I made a strange (and somewhat far-fetched) connection to the graphical style…
For whatever reason, and I might be completely wrong here, it seems far too plausible to me that the characters in the game (from a portrait perspective) are somewhat based off of the anatomical style from the late nineties nickelodeon TV Show, Rocket Power. Artistically, they have the facial features such as wobbly eyes and mouths, over emphasized wide-lipped scraggle-bottoms, and general themes of tussled hair. These are accompanied by the fact that many parallel tones and beach-life assets are included throughout the environments in both franchises. It all really leads me to believe that the developers of this game may possible have done just as the “ancient Hawaiians say”… whatever that was.
Though I’m not such a fan of the faces and portraiture throughout the game, I am in intense passionate grease-love with the masks. Each animal is varied and colorful, alluding the cheap latex from which they were most likely manufactured. And lord what a variety to choose from. If there is one thing I love throughout my virtual entertainment experience, it’s the ability to unlock an item, equip said item, then have that item show up equipped to my character in-game. It’s probably some primitive investment-gratification-reflex from our caveman days which is too prominently embedded in my psyche to shake at this point. Whatever the case may be, I love the masks, hate the faces. End of story.
I also wish there was a little more variety in the different enemy sprites, but I can see why from a game-design stand point that may have been a little bit on the confusing side. Each of the different sprites seem to have a definite role, with big black suited bouncers taking a load of bullets before going down, juxtaposed against your cannon-fodder white suited all-purpose goon receiving the brunt of your punishment for most of the game. This was one of the few areas of the actual game play I felt could have used with some polishing, but that’s not what you’re here to hear me review. ON TO THE ENVIRONMENTS!
Have you ever looked at something and thought “God, this is terrible, and it actively assaults my corneas, but I can’t stop looking.”
Not in a Jerry Springer train wreck sort of way… from a graphical stand point.
Well that’s how I feel about this game. Every room is layered with what I could only assume adorns the inside of Cyndi Lauper’s rectum. Hot pinks, bright tangerine, turquoise and neon green are never far from your line of sight throughout the varied realms of apartment complex, disco floor, or corporate headquarters. If you can get past the acid re-flux dream-state that is this game’s complete lack of interior design sense, you might find a level of discordant harmony here.
As someone who was not alive during the eighties. (They only managed to find my sarcophagus and resurrect me by the early nineties) I am not aware what it was like to be unable to escape anything with a saturation value over 70%. I find it an interesting way of life to only see this titanic movement in color scheme throughout that saved-by-the-bell-intro-graphic-of-a-decade through video games and movies. It is for this reason that games like Hotline Miami, GTA Vice City, and ALF: The First Adventure make me such a happy camper. I love to see how broken people’s eyes were before the world discovered how to appropriately use pastels and other off-tones in conjunction with more exciting palettes. It really just makes me thankful that I don’t have to walk everywhere with sunglasses over my eyes a’la Corey Hart. No wonder he didn't even take them off after bed time.
God-awful as the chosen color scheme may be, it’s accurate (from what I can tell) and it’s full of zest. And sometimes, zest adds that extra bit of “Umph” you need to keep you from throwing up everywhere. It can also adversely push you over the edge, but Hotline Miami knows what it is doing (or so one could assume).
Menus mixed with chanting ghost-like billy-goat mind masters and a melted toxic pixel font massage your mental mountains as you select the stages. Swaying back and forth the aliased layouts of menus and in-game levels trip your mind and tickle your telepathic tax torchers (those are “eyeballs” for those of you who don’t speak alliteration-bound-moron. I’m fluent in it.) All that aside, let’s take a moment to speak on the music though.
First off, it’s a compilation album. Something which makes me feel a little weird. When I think of compilations in video games, I think Tony Hawk, NFL, and/or Guitar Hero. These game’s often times don’t choose to create their own entirely unique sound from scratch, but blend an emulsion of character which eventually stands for their musical personality. It would never occur to me that an independent title would do anything other than generate their own set of “blips” and “boops” to enpleasiate your ear lobes. My first impression is that this might step on the game’s sense of character or originality, and that maybe I wouldn't walk away with a tune in my heart which I solely associate with that game alone. This was the most untrue thing I had thought for probably about the last twenty minutes. As I booted up the game, my brain was soothed by harmonious trip-lab slow jams, and quickly stressed into over drive while exacerbation-bound techno pounded through more intense portions of combat. A varied audial mixture paints a gorgeously god-awful picture of 1980’s Florida beach life much in the same vein as the visual endeavors.
Cute, Cuddly and anything but mea-
Whoa sorry. Started writing some other review’s recap paragraph there for a second… hgrhm.
A manic rollercoaster through the seedy neon butthole of 1980’s coast-life, you’ll sweat your palms off, blink your eyes out, and twitch your mind in half as you punch your way through the halls of this instant classic. Artistically, it’s just as much of a glitter-lubed slip'n'slide, giving you exactly what you DIDN’T ask for in spades, but knowing you love every second of it. I would recommend heading out to your nearest steam browser and picking this sucker up immediately, while supplies last!
And just because I like to end on a question: What was everyone’s favorite/most used mask?
Mine wound up being Brandon, the purple jaguar. I made up this mode called “Punch Time” where you just run through levels seeing how many points you can rack up only knocking guys over before you get killed. It is probably similar in experience to doing heroin, while riding on the back of a sled made out of ak-47’s being pulled by completely naked sumo wrestlers.
So there you go.
Also, here’s a lil’ illustration I whipped up due a rush of inspiration towards the end of my gaming experience.
Thanks for reading!