One thing that has remained constant as this gaming generation draws to its inevitable close and a new chapter dawns for gamers is the industries new found indie market. This generation has seen the indie developed genre rise to heights never before seen in the world of gaming and seemingly shows no sign of slowing.
With so many independent projects and IP’s released in an almost constant stream, it can be hard to sift through and find the gems that really show us what can be done by the ‘mind over budget’ mentality. Despite this however, many of the current generation’s best games have been indie titles. Games like Fez and FTL won great acclaim by placing gameplay and attention to detail higher on the priority list than scope and production value, and it is hard to argue with their great reception, both critically and commercially.
Originally released on PC only in October 2012, Hotline Miami is another example of a game doing something incredible with limited means and was again met with high praise from players and reviewers alike. Luckily for console owners developer Dennaton Games have decided to port this refreshing and interesting title to both Vita and PS3, and the result is possibly the most definitive experience of arguably one of the best indie games ever produced.
Right from the offset it is clear that Hotline Miami is very sure of its own style. A mesh of 80’s neo-neon and 8-bit art, it is hard to remember a game that works so well with such a strangely basic look. As is suggested by the aesthetics, the game takes place in the late 80’s and feels very akin to the neo-noir sub genre found more often in movies such as Drive.
Players themselves take control of a nameless protagonist who is hell-bent on a blood-soaked trail of revenge, his reasons however are only teased until the games climatic few levels. The way the story unfolds here is extremely impressive and it surprised me just how immersive Hotline Miami ended up being considering it is after all a level based, top-down shooter. This genre of game (rather than narrative) is not usually known for providing such an in depth story experience, however it is safe to say that Hotline Miami delivers the best of both worlds.
This leads us nicely to possibly the most important element, how the game actually plays. With such a strong following on the PC, it was important that the console conversion not only matched up but provided the same experience for players. Luckily once again Dennaton Games have delivered here, and although there are a few changes they are more than welcome. Additions such as a lock on feature and touch screen elements for the Vita version arguably put this cross-buy title as the definitive experience for fans and newcomers alike.
Despite all its many strengths, Hotline Miami does unfortunately have a few minor issues. The first is the occasional glitch which left me stuck in the wall a few times throughout the 5 hour campaign. However for the most part both the Vita and PS3 version run very well, and this did not happen nearly enough to ruin the experience.
With this in mind, it is important to also point out that this game is an experience much better suited to the Vita over the PS3. The chapters are short but fit well in to the overall story arc and the grading system designed to make you replay levels over and over is perfect for a hand held, allowing pick up and play value in short bursts. The touch screen features also make the game a lot more accessible and are a subtle but necessary addition.
Where many will find the most issues with Hotline Miami however, is in its difficulty spikes. As the game progresses there are some genuinely tough sections that seem to come out of nowhere and could serve to put many players off. This does unfortunately give the game some minor but present balancing issues that could have been avoided.
Overall Hotline Miami is a worthy addition to any gamer’s catalogue, especially for Vita owners. It’s fun, interesting and achieves a lot more than it has any right to given its low production costs. It serves as one of the fundamental examples of how to create an indie game and have it compete with the best out there and Dennaton Games should be commended. Add the fact that it is only £6:49 cross-buy and PSN users have very few reasons not to treat themselves to this fantastic slice of 80’s joy, greed and bloodshed