• Developer: Dennaton Games
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: Oct 23rd, 2012 & Mar 10, 2015
  • Original Price: $10 USD & $15 USD
  • Average Sale Price: $2 USD & $3 USD
  • Genre: Violent, Action, Top-Down Shooter
  • Playtime at Review: 16 Hours Total

The Hotline Miami duology of games is one of the rare games that hooked me so much that I beat each game in two nights. They’re short games, only about five hours long for the first game and seven hours for the second game, but you gotta know that these were on a school night where I had homework, and so I was like screw that this game is so good I just want to keep playing. Nowadays when I play a game I’m like “yeah this game is pretty entertaining I’m just playing this because I’m bored” but when playing the Hotline Miami games I am genuinely enjoying every second of gameplay.

I am reviewing these games together because there is very little change between both games, and my compliments and criticisms of the first game are the same for the second and vice versa, apart from one. The gameplay stays the same besides a new mechanic or two in the second game, and the story is heavily connected to each other, especially when Hotline Miami 2 goes back in time to show events of the story before, during, and after Hotline Miami. You can also, and I would highly recommend, pick these games up in a bundle for dirt cheap.

So, what makes these games so flipping good? Well let’s start with gameplay. You can have the most beautiful graphics, the catchiest music, and tightest story, but if your actual game is super boring and uninteresting, then everything else doesn’t matter. Good thing that Hotline Miami has all of that, especially the gameplay. The game is a top-down action game that can be taken as slowly or as quickly as you want, either with you dashing down hallways and blasting any bad guy you see in quick succession, or sneaking through each room trying not to alert anyone by throwing weapons at people. You die in one hit and almost every enemy does as well. A really great mechanic that helps with this game is the lock on mechanic, which auto aims your guns and throws. While sometimes in close combat situations it’s best to free aim, when you know there’s a guy down a hallway and you want to make sure you hit him, this mechanic is a god sent.

The goal of the game is simple: make your way through levels by killing everyone in the room. There are a few different types of enemies to fight, like gunners, melee guards, “kingpin” guys with lots of health, and these other guys that can only be killed with melee weapons. Each time you kill someone, they drop their weapon if they have someone, so a skilled player could dance around everyone, picking up a fallen weapon, throwing it at someone, grabbing their weapon, shooting the next guy, etc. It’s extremely satisfying to pull off a fast and fluid take down of a room after learning the spawn location of all the enemies and weapons.

There are a few different weapons to use, like shotguns, pistols, baseball bats, knives, etc, with about two versions of each, such as a silenced pistol with fewer rounds or a louder pistol with more rounds. Most weapons can only be found by taking them from enemies, and their drops are usually random, but there are some guys that always have the same gun or weapon. Melee weapons can be used for silent take outs while guns are more effective but attract more attention, and all guns can be thrown. There are a few that are clearly better than the others, like the knife which can kill when thrown, or the shotgun which basically never misses.

One way to change up your play style is the choice of mask before the level starts. Each mask gives you a different ability or stat boost, such as being able to kill someone by opening the door on them or faster movement. At first you may choose a mask because it’s funny looking, but as you play you’ll be picking masks that match your playstyle and benefit you in some aspects that you prefer. Most masks are achieved throughout the story of Hotline Miami 1 and 2, but some can be found hidden across the many levels. Hotline Miami 2 has better mask choices in my opinion, especially the Ash and Alex mask. While this mask can become extremely annoying if used all the time, trying it once or twice is just enough; it allows you to play as two characters at once, one with a chainsaw and one with a gun. It’s kind of hard to shoot and melee at the same time, but I’m sure it is the most effective mask if you can really grasp how it works and practice with it.

Behind all of the killing and murder you do in the game is a thumping synthy like soundtrack. This game got me into the Synthwave because the songs are so good. Songs like Paris by MOON, Crystals by MOON, and Miami by Jasper Byrne in Hotline Miami and Roller Mobster by Carpenter Brut, In the Face of Evil by Magic Sword, and Sexualizer by Perturbator in Hotline Miami 2 and so good in fact that they are in my regular playlist I listen to everyday and turn up the volume while doing so. The songs do so well not only contributing to the 80s neon atmosphere and aesthetic of the game, but also pump you with adrenaline while completing the levels.

The level design is top notch, with enemies being placed in spots that lead to satisfying chain kills, but also challenging enough to not be boring. Some walls are made of glass, so if someone sees you on the other side then they’ll either shoot you or chase you if they don’t have a gun. You’ll need to keep aware of your surroundings at all times to make sure you haven’t accidentally aggroed someone. Hotline Miami 2 has caught some scrutiny for having levels with too large rooms and hallways that don’t allow you to see all the way down. While this is slightly annoying, in now way is it game breaking or rage-inducing at all. Just a minor blemish on a near perfect game.

My only other two complaints are, first, the boss fights in the first game are kind of annoying, and second, the parts in the second game with Beard in the military are kind of annoying as well because you can’t pick up new weapons. For the boss fights, they require near perfect timings that are pretty hard to pull off on the first twenty tries or so. But again, just some more blemishes on an amazing game.

Finally, the story. The story of Hotline Miami is a pretty interesting one, looking into cults, serial killers, mental insanity and dreams, the pursuit of fame, and total atomic annihilation. The story is told pretty incoherently in game with lots of fast forwards and jump backs, so I would highly recommend watching Squatch Gaming’s video about it here. It’s a pretty long video, but it’s very interesting and clears up a lot of confusion you have after the game.

These games are kind of short, with a total of about twelve hours of gameplay between them, but the second game thankfully has a level editor that adds so much more to the game. There are custom campaigns that continue the story of Hotline Miami, some that create their own spinoffs and alternate realities in the world, and some that are just dumb fun like Shrek fighting to earn his swamp back or Peppa Pig in Vietnam. I know over the next few months and years I will sink tons of hours into these custom levels because some of them are on par or even better than the vanilla games.

Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number are both masterpieces of games and I would highly recommend anyone and everyone to play them. They combine extremely engaging combat with beautiful visuals and jamming beats to create an unforgettable experience. I would put this game as an S-tier on a gaming tier list and give both of them perfect 5/5 scores.