It is a great time to be a gamer. It seems the tiny stream of new games has surged into a tidal wave of fantastic titles with a variety that everyone can enjoy. Like a top-down, twin stick shooter with pixelated graphics (that’s what this game is). Hotline Miami 2 is looking to scratch your itch for precision game play and a bit of the hyper violence. If neither of those things even remotely piques your interest, then turn back now as this is a game that never lets up on either front.
The game takes place before and after the events of the first game, with an emphasis on the nineties. Each stage starts with telling you the date and time as to establish when it happens. Just like the first game, the tone of Wrong Number is extremely trippy, though not nearly as sparse with details as the first. Instead of sticking with one protagonist, we are presented with several throughout the game. Each different person we play as offers different strengths and sometimes weaknesses to overcome. Not everyone wears a mask either, which threw me off at first as that was the big hook of the last game. Wrong Number could have easily fallen prey to a story that could have dully filled the gaps of the first game, but it doesn’t. It actually expands on the universe and explores broken minds in a whole new and interesting way. From the ‘Fans’ who think they are carrying on Jacket’s legacy (he’s the playable character from the first game) to Detective Pardo, each character has an important role to play in the mainline story as well as fleshing out what is happening in this world.
All this David Lynch-esque storytelling wouldn’t mean much if the game play wasn’t on point. Fret not as Wrong Number’s controls and mechanics pick up right where the first game left off, and expound upon them. In that way though, it can be steep learning curve if you aren’t familiar to how the first game played. After the tutorial, the game throws you right into the thick of it with first few levels being quite a challenging start if you aren’t paying enough attention. In the first game, a majority of the rooms were smaller and you could easily peek around corners and doors, but not so much in this second outing. A good portion of the levels are wide open spaces and you could very well be tagged by some guy off your screen with a shotgun. This can be rather frustrating at first, until you get a handle on the lock-on system. The lock-on works by selecting the closest enemy to you. This can do more harm than good though, as it doesn’t take into obstacles, such as walls, between you and the enemy. I have died several times over trying to lock-on to the guy in front of me only to shoot at the wall like an idiot.
As mentioned before, you don’t play as the same character throughout and that also effects gameplay. If the character you are playing as doesn’t wear a mask, they usually have some ability or have a special weapon that lets you have some kind of edge or frames the stage in a different light. One character you play as only deals nonlethal damage. When you pick up a gun, he immediately unloads it and tosses it aside. I thought this specifically was a nice touch to add to a game that is all about brutal amounts of carnage. It really set that character’s stage aside as rather unique and memorable. There are, or course, masked characters to play as and they give you the most satisfying expansions on the gameplay, such as playing as two characters and dual wielding submachine guns.
A special mention must be made for the music in this game. It evokes that same trip-synth sound that was so prevalent in the first game while also invoking a grittiness that can only come from the early nineties. If you want nothing else to do with this game, at least give it’s soundtrack a listen. I promise you will love it. Below is a link to a song from the game. Curl up with some headphones and just drink it in.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number does everything right in a sequel. It takes the core concepts of the original that everyone loved and continues to iterate on them in new and satifying ways. The difficulty can take liberties with your acclimation to the mechanics of how this violence plays out but it is never in a cheap fashion. You always feel your mistakes are your own. I highly recommend this game on any platform you can play it on, but I played it on PlayStation Vita, where I feel it is most at home. Now, get to murdering! Richard demands it….