Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dial M, for Miami!

Bienvenidos a Miami

Just you average Miami evening...

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a fantastic continuation and conclusion to this indie game series. Be forewarned however, if you found the later chapters of the first game to be a bit too frustrating then this game may not be for you. This is because, rather than the game having its own difficulty curve, it feels like the game picks where the later stages of the first game left off and continues to increase the challenge from there. This invariably leads to intense frustration but also satisfaction and relief once you're finally able to pull yourself through one of the levels; especially so when you're able to manage a crisp run without many deaths. If that sort of game design isn't appealing to you then you may want to skip this one. Also, for the masochists out there, if you didn't find the base game challenging enough, which it is, the game unlocks a hard mode for every level upon completion. 

Where the game succeeds most is in its ability to take the incredible style of the first game and expand upon it; it reminds you of the feelings you had playing through the original Hotline Miami and then takes it to the next level. The visuals and music really are the showcase here and if you enjoyed what the original brought to the table, then you should get a lot out of this one as well. It carries the same visual style but adds more effects and flair than HM1 had. Also, the music is BANGING!

If you enjoyed the gameplay of the original, then you'll be glad to know that it's largely unchanged here. However, the developers have added quite a bit of variety to the established mechanics. Over the course of Hotline Miami 2 you play as a number of different characters, some of which give you choices between different masks or other accessories that add abilities similar to the first game. There are some very interesting and unique ones that alter how you play through a given level. These can be anything from giving your character a dodge roll, which can be useful, to forcing you to control 2 characters at once; one with a chainsaw, the other with a gun. This adds another layer of challenge but also gives you some advantages once you get the hang of it. 

There is also an impressive amount of weapons at your disposal that you'll find throughout the levels, usually carried by enemies until you kill them. The enemies themselves offer more variety as well. The standard enemies can come equipped with any of these weapons, changing how you must approach them. There are also heavy enemies that cannot be killed with most melee weapons and won't immediately go down from a single bullet either. You'll also encounter a few other types of enemies along the way, included some that almost feel like boss battles, or mini-bosses at the very least.

Bad Boys

The denizens of Miami aren't exactly what you'd call pleasant.

Early on Hotline Miami 2's narrative is disjointed and unclear, but intentionally so. As the game progresses you do start to put together the pieces and see where the game is going. By the end you can walk away feeling that you understood what was happening, if you pay attention.

HM2 continues the first game's trick of having story moments that feel like hallucinations and it's unclear whether what you're seeing is reality, or in your character's head. These sequences often foreshadow things to come in the story. That being said, the events of the story are never fully laid out for you and that gives you something to think back on, trying to piece together the game after you've finished your play-through. This may be off-putting for those of us that prefer a clear story arc and don't appreciate a more heady approach to storytelling, but I appreciated it.

Miami Vice

Hotline Miami is purported to be the end of the series and I think that's the right move. I really enjoyed my time with the game and I think the style, music, and everything around it is fantastic, but I believe that these things also have a shelf life. If they tried to go back to the well with a third game I feel that it could not be carried by its style alone, and I can't imagine them ramping up the difficulty any further without making the game unbearable to most players. It does prove that the first game wasn't a fluke and I'm excited to see what developer Dennaton Games does next.

Going out or a night on the town

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