Monthly Archives: October 2013

Kick open door, shot by guard

Kick open door to flatten guard, mobster hits you with a pipe

Kick open door to flatten guard, take gun and kill mobster, second mobster runs through the door and shotguns you

Kick open door to flatten guard, take gun and kill mobster one then two, bam, bam, guard stands up and knifes you

Kick open door to flatten guard, take gun and kill mobster one then two, bam, bam, run back to guard and stove his head in

Move on to next room

Games can’t make people into serial killers but if they could then Hotline Miami would be guilty of a fair few. It’s hard to describe the game in a positive light when the first adjectives that leap into my brain are sickening, gaudy, rotten and monstrous but that’s what this game is. Even the trippy title screen feels like it’s trying to make you sick with a parade of horrid purple trees staggering away from you. On starting the game you are taught how to kill and then sent into a building full of mobsters who will stab, shoot or beat you to death the minute they see you.

Deaths come quickly but with a restart time of next to nothing you are back into it in no time. After a while you stop planning and start swinging – 5 retries gone before you can even think about it. The incessant, pounding techno pushes you on and on and on. You want to stop but you can’t. You are a monstrously efficient killer. Your frailty becomes your strength as your many deaths give you foresight that lets you cut your way through levels with superhuman speed. Trial and error is your answer to overwhelming odds. It’s disgusting, it’s horrible, but most of all, it’s brilliant.

I had heard about Hotline Miami and seen a few gameplay videos but hadn’t thought much of it. I was convinced it was just another of these 16bit indie darlings that come and go but having experienced it I have realised it’s power. It’s like when you first get into a nightclub and stand too close to the speakers and it feels like the music is pummeling your insides. You know you shouldn’t enjoy it but it’s thrilling. Is it alright to seek out and enjoy a destructive experience that makes you feel excited but nasty at the same time? I am not sure but it’s certainly one that games can provide. A discussion for another time perhaps.

Previously I looked at To The Moon which is a title that uses videogames as a medium to tell it’s story. With Hotline Miami the game itself is the story. You are not a passenger here, but the driver where the road ahead is not just empty, it’s not even there. Driving becomes the story and it’s almost irrelevant where you go or how you even get there. Viewed as a simple score attack game Hotline Miami works well. The fast levels and instant restarts are reminiscent of a game like Super Meat Boy and you are scored at the end of each level on combos and boldness but this game has a deeper quality in it’s looks and sound. Overall it’s an amazing package and one that is well worth a look.

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Why everyone should play To The Moon

To The Moon has the best story in any video game I have ever played. However, in order for you to experience it I can’t tell you anything about it which makes this a bit of a tough sell but I will give it a shot. The premise is fairly simple, in the future a technology has been developed to change a person’s memories in a setup similar to Total Recall. The procedure is then administered to patients with only days to live so that they can die happily, knowing that all their dreams were fulfilled. To The Moon follows two scientists who are called to grant the wishes of a dying patient named Johnny whose desire is to go to the moon although he is not sure why.

This is where I stop.

The rest is an exploration through one man’s life that is moving and personal. The game falters with the occasional goofy joke and will be classed as slushy sentimentality by some of us hardcore stone-hearted gamers but at it’s core it is a fantastic piece of intimate storytelling. If it were a book it would sit alongside Never Let Me Go and The Time-Travellers Wife as the kind of novel that takes a sci-fi staple and adds a deeply touching human element to it. This is a videogame that could work as a play. Seriously.

Is it really a game? Well I am pretty bored by that question but it’s worth mentioning that the game contains very little actual gameplay. For the most part you are moving characters between scenes with the odd treasure hunt or mini-game to break up the conversations that you are reading. Personally I quite enjoyed these brief interludes and apart from one slight exception towards the end of the game they are never intrusive or difficult – gone before you know it with you put right back in the story.

In the end your enjoyment of To The Moon will be irrelevant of whether you enjoy games and more about whether you enjoy story. Although the developer Freebird games have stated that the game can be completed at around the 5 hour mark I found that as a fast reader I finished the game in just over 3 1/2 hours. For $9.99 this seems steep in game terms but we have all been coloured by the free-to-play model and this is cheaper than a cinema ticket or a new paperback. What I am saying is go and buy it (wait for that inevitable Steam sale if you must). If you are not moved by the end of this amazing tale then you are clinically dead – seek medical help.

Intro

Well here I am. I have been writing a blog on Gamespot for a number of years (which gives away what 95% of my brain-vomit will be about) but I just thought I would put it on here too. Who knows, someone might read it!