I'm hot for Hotline Miami
Having recently played this game, I wish to codify my opinions so that I can later review them.
First play-through took me 5 hours.
Hotline Miami scratches a very particular itch, the itch that only twitch shooters can satisfy, it is a very fast pace game that calls on the accuracy and the reactions on the player. It's controls (for the keyboard) are more than accurate for manoeuvring some complex actions to brutally murder several people. That is at least how I played it, since the game is not clear on the pacing the player should progress though these levels. The tutorials are short and adequate in defining controls and movements, but whether the player should be running in guns blazing, carefully think out plans or simply take one guy out at a time is never explained.
Although being unclear on particular pacing is possibly a deliberate design, NPCs will have very minor random paths creating a different situations which may put a spanner in your planning forcing you to improvise. It's this reviewers opinion that you choose the most comfortable style in which you play. For me I derived much more enjoyment when played with a loose plan and improvised as it went on.
To educate, the game is simply levels that need to be cleared out. There are bosses but far and few between. There are secrets to collect although I found this out at the very end of my first playthough. The levels are separated by very small adventures to various stores, grocers, video store and pizza places. They are of very small consequence, each venue last possible 1 minute with a small amount of dialogue. You then head back to your apartment waiting for your next level to complete. The game mechanics don't go much beyond this formula, as a word of warning to potential buyers. The true value to get from this is that it's short, and very action oriented. Dying is a common occurrence and respawning to redo the level properly equally as common. There is an overall story and twist, but I found it uninteresting.
The art direction this game took is very distinctive, which sets the game apart at a distance. It was neither painful to look at nor was it a delight. This pseudo 16-bit look is making it's rounds and for this reviewer it's just another look, it's not fresh but just a little hackneyed.
The music has been touted as some of the best, for me I almost never notice music but this game had me tapping my feet as I played and it definitely added to the enjoyment of the game if some techno/dubstep/electronic music is enjoyable to you.
It's definitely a well crafted game, and the symbolism appears to be very well thought out as it tries to convey the mental stability of your character. The twist, like it's character is a bit hackneyed and it takes some attention to try to follow the plot to any significant degree. It's controls are nice and precise, and the fragility of the controlled character adds to the sheer destruction created at your fingertips. Both the NPCs and the characters are equally vulnerable making the risks and rewards a larger dichotomy. The reason I gave it four stars? Because it's relatively cheap, it's fun and well produced for the independent title it holds.