I shouldn't need to tell you how great Hotline Miami is. This blog post is not being written to inform, but rather to appreciate. Praise for the game seems unanimous in a way which I consider appropriate; Hotline Miami deserves both your time and money. It also deserves your house, your family, and your collective metaphysical and material wealth. But for now, your time and money will suffice. That seems fair.
It wasn't until today that I made the connection between Hotline Miami and Norrland.
Norrland is an entirely fucking insane "art" game made by Hotline Miami dev Cactus for an exhibition in Sweden. I played it months ago, after RockPaperShotgun wrote an article about it. It's a 2D hunting game in which you progress from left to right, each screen spawning increasingly crass and warped mini-games. One such game forces you to piss on a line of ants, another where you must tap arrow buttons to masturbate, and I vaguely remember another where you shoot a bear, then rape the corpse. All the while, you must desperately attempt to prevent the obnoxious music and strobing colours from dribbling your brain out through your nostrils; That is not part of the mini-game. That shit is a physical consequence that you, the player, must somehow internalise and conquer.
Yeah. It's that kind of game.
Hotline Miami is similar in it's ambiguity towards obscene brutality. However, the most interesting parts of the game are, arguably, those with an absence of violence. The game interjects your Miami massacre with everyday occurrences such as; going to a video store to rent a video, or picking up a pizza after work. The characters are polite, even friendly, creating a wonderful undertone of tension. Upon completing each mission the game immediately cuts all music, leaving you to stumble back to your car, meandering clumsily back through a trail of bloodshed and carnage. It emulates a sense of empathetic shock remarkably well, on a level which very few other games have been able to replicate successfully.
As the game continues, these brief periods of tranquillity become marred by your increasing mental instability. Eventually all sense of reality is lost, the core experience revealed as brutal and surreal. It is unapologetically fucked up in all the right ways.
I'm not going to tell you to go and play Hotline Miami because you have already played it. The idea that you haven't is somehow troubling on a level that I find difficult to articulate.