A violent game to reduce stress

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

It’s almost finals week and you know what that means?




You know what I’ve always found relieves stress?


Egregious violence. Simulated, of course, or I’d be writing this from jail.


To that end, I’m diving back into game reviewing with “Hotline Miami.”


Produced by a pair of indie developers from Sweden, the game combines simple pixelated graphics with a top-down view of the map. Even the control scheme is by no means rocket science, as it consists of just eight buttons—attack with held object, throw held object, pause, reload from last save and WASD governing the directions you move in.


The game begins with the player character waking up in a dark room. Upon exiting the room, he is confronted by three animal-masked people who regard with varying levels of hostility holding a cryptic conversation. They then send you home, and you continue with your life as if nothing happened.


Each mission begins the same way—wake up, walk around the apartment, check the answering machine, get a request to go to a place at a time for a job and to be discreet about it, drive to work.


When you arrive at work, you’re given a choice of animal mask (each one does something different and cool) and sent into the building to gruesomely murder everyone inside.


One would be forgiven for putting the game away right there. It sounds like a spree killer’s fantasy and nothing more.


That’s one of the game’s biggest flaws—what story it has is nearly incomprehensible if you haven’t found every little detail put in by the developers.


There’s a point near the end where you need a password to break into a character’s computer and no indication of how to get it. It turns out that in every level up to that point, there had been a single purple pixel somewhere in each mission that would give you one letter of the code if you found it.


What doesn’t help things is the character’s measurable descent into insanity as the game progresses.


The game’s punishing difficulty is another, well, problem isn’t the right word so let’s use polarizing element.


Your character can take exactly one hit before fusing with the surrounding wallpaper, so gameplay on larger maps turns into trial and error when guns get involved.


Enemies also have a tendency to blitz you from off-screen, resulting in many deaths by sudden introduction of a knife to your chest cavity.


Sometimes, just to mess with the more meticulous players, enemies won’t act the same way between reloads. I think it’s to encourage reckless gameplay, wildly improvising as you switch from shotgun to baseball bat to katana to pistol in an attempt to kill everything in front of you without dying first.


Of course, most people I’ve mentioned the game to have told me that’s part of the fun.


“Hotline Miami” brings a mania to gaming that I didn’t know could be done. It’s a frustrating game, and you will die enough to reenact a genocide of your choice by the end.


The game is hard to come down on either way, as I recall both laughing maniacally as I waded through the dead and dying and debating whether head-butting my computer would make the game less aggravating.


Try it at your own risk. I’m not sure I can recommend it.