Today on this blog, I'll be diving into not only my first non Examiner.com video game review, but I'll be reviewing two games at one time. Why this route? The answer is simple: the game(s) I'll be reviewing are so close to each other in nature, it just makes sense to do two reviews at once instead of two separate reviews. Keep in mind that I will be making differences between the two as we get into this review. Also keep in mind that this is how I truly felt after playing these games.
Hotline Miami is a top down stealth/shooter/brawler that was developed by Dennaton games and published by Devolver Digital with a release date of October 23, 2012. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was developed and published by the same company with a release date of March 10, 2015. The story seems too convoluted as the events are intertwined within each other. This may cause confusion to some people, but not all.
Graphics-The 8-bit design is very impressive, and can give the player a sense of "nostalgia" when playing. The characters are also very well done. It wouldn't come as a surprise if the developers got their methods for this by old school NES and Sega Master System games. But this is where the good ends. The bad part (first game) is that there's a flashy acid trip-esque background. Who thought this was a good idea? Didn't the developers stop to think about those who may have a sensitivity to flashing lights? More so, there are colors that flash constantly. It can be nauseating to those with sensitive systems. I myself felt a little dizzy after playing this. The second game doesn't have this issue as bad as the first game, but honestly, just leave the flashy backgrounds out.
Sound-The soundtrack makes the game come to life with its techno theme track. The soundtrack also fits each level nicely, and isn't overused. And to be honest, I found myself dancing to some of the tracks. Stupid, I know, but hey, it's catchy.
Gameplay-This is where I took issue with both games. They try to pretend to be something they aren't. While I do give props for putting in an effort to create something unique and fun, but I have to be honest. The gameplay is more or less trial and error. It's supposed to be a "learn from your mistakes" type of gameplay, but unfortunately, neither game delivers on the fun and instead delivers frustration death after death after death, and it can wear the fun factory down pretty drastically. The weapons themselves are stock as well.
Controls-This is where I took an even bigger issue with both games. The controls, once again, tries to pretend to be something they aren't. I actually did feel that the controls were really awkward, even with an Xbox 360 controller. They were trying to go for the dual stick option, but that method only works on games that don't have to rely on luck based games. I found myself not adjusting too well to the controls. What was the goal of going dual sticks? To be intuitive? To resurrect a lost control scheme? To mimic a first person shooter? In all honesty, the controls should've been reworked to make it so that the left stick moves the character like a car and leave the right stick alone. THAT would've made the controls better. Speaking of the right analog stick, if you move it, the camera only moves the crosshair. I found this extremely awkward as if the camera had no interest in the player. Ironically, the button layout wasn't that bad, but I also took to issue that the shoulder buttons and triggers were the only buttons usable throughout the game. There are four bright buttons on the right side of the controller. Why not use those for attacks? This would've saved some of the guess work (and yes, I did stumble from time to time while playing).
Difficulty-This is the biggest issue I had with the game. Just who was the difficulty intended for?! If your answer was those who want a challenge, you'd be wrong, my friend. The difficulty was made for those who don't have enough to do. Another acceptable answer is for those who want to go berserk after their thousandth death. As I have previously mentioned, the game's difficulty seems to focus around "learn from your mistakes". There's a difference between learning from your mistake and unreasonable difficulty. And both games fall into the latter. And the main cause? Cheap AI! The enemy seems to be aware of you long before you get a chance to make your move, resulting in death. At least in the second game, you get two tries (at least when I played), so it does throw you a bone, but a really tiny one. If there was a difficulty selector, then I wouldn't have as many issues. At least with this option, players would get a chance to get used to the game with fewer deaths. But instead, the developers decided to go for the "Ninja Gaiden on Xbox" route.
Overall-Are these games THAT bad? Honestly, no. They're not. But too many bad things outweigh the good things. On a scale of 1 to 5 each, I give the first game a 1.5 out of 5 and the second game a 2 out of 5.
Ken Kriho is a videographer, producer and director. He has a YouTube and Twitch channel (links at homepage). Ken is also a graduate with a degree in Art from UWEC.