It seemed like aeons ago since we were asked the disturbing question ‘do you like to hurt people?’ Dennaton Games stunned the gaming world with the fast-paced, ultra-violent top-down shooter Hotline Miami. Murder and synthwave went hand-in-hand like a chainsaw in a slasher flick. The sequel brought in more dark themes, gruesome combat and neon lighting as well. Funny how these titles have made their way onto a Nintendo console, known for its family-friendly content, eh? As it stands, the Hotline Miami Collection is a tight package containing two brilliant, gore-drenched titles.
The first game follows a bald chap who receives numerous calls from people asking for help with mundane tasks at specific addresses. Turns out they’re filled with Russian mobsters, and your job is to wipe them out. After each mission, you’ll find yourself visiting various shops with the same person serving you each time, as well as a few disturbing conversations with animal masks in suits. Naturally, the plot thickens, and you’re greeted with some unsettling cutscenes. The second title, however, is made up of several disjointed stories in the vein of slasher flicks, detective films and video nasties. Keeping up with what’s going on can be confusing, but there are boatloads of gruesome encounters and plot twists to enjoy here as well.
Hotline Miami Collection can be accurately described as a trial-and-error experience. Scarily enough, you die in one hit, and that can be a colossal headache-inducer. Upon death, you can near-instantly restart the current floor you’re on, so there’s a bit of leeway. Enemies are either chilling on one spot or strolling around. They’ll sprint at you with melee weapons, or pay and spray from afar with guns. Taking them out requires patience and quick reflexes, which is especially important for those who want to keep getting kill combos for bigger point payouts and a better rating at the end of the mission.
Both titles have some slick combat with a sizeable amount of weapons to collect. You can toss weapons or charge through doors to knock down enemies before executing them for big points. Guns are very effective too, but they’ve limited ammo and each kill offers a smaller amount. You’ll be rewarded with masks, which grant you special abilities like the ability to run faster or deal seriously powerful punches. Not everyone wears a mask in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Some playable characters who do have a very small selection to pick from. However, since it’s not quite as formulaic with its levels compared to the first game, you’ll stumble across some more memorable missions, like the handful of gun-centric Vietnam flashbacks.
The second title in particular has a slightly bigger emphasis on fighting enemies with guns, and has some slightly more polished gameplay (combo counter now visible, can take at least one bullet before dying, etc.) at the expense of slightly more common glitches (getting stuck in geometry, bodies collapsing in between walls, etc.). Levels are bigger as well, which can be a slog when compared to the short and sweet missions of the first game. Across the board, what you get are some very well-made missions, each of which offer a few different routes around each floor. No need to fret about rushing through the same corridor over and over against your will.
The luscious, colourful visuals and pixel-art aesthetics are quite eye-catching, much like the extreme violence. When you’re slitting a dude’s throat or bashing a goon’s skull with a bat, you’ll be greeted with some grisly sound effects. Plus, the soundtrack in each game – of which both popularized the synthwave genre to a wider audience – are made up of some real club bangers from a slew of talented composers. Who would’ve guessed pseudo-eighties tunes would layer so intricately with wanton destruction and merciless executions?
So, what’s new in the Switch version? Nothing much, honestly. In fact, there’s no map maker included in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, which was a standout feature for the sequel. A jukebox feature would’ve been a nice feature, too. Regardless, it runs on the Switch without any performance issues, whether docked or portable. Nothing to complain about the controls for this port either, even if lock-on aiming and tilting the camera around in order to prevent being killed by some twonk off-screen can be a ball-ache. Then again, that was always the case.
Brutally difficult and undeniably gory, Hotline Miami Collection is made up of two rewarding, blood-soaked titles that each have quite a bit of replayability, regardless of how stressful they can be. A sweet selection of synth-centric tunes accompany the carnage as you replay each floor over and over, instantaneously jumping back into the action after death to finally nail that perfect playthrough. What weights the pack down is the lack of bonus features and the missing map maker for the second game. That aside, these troublesome twins are fantastic in their own right, meaning it’s still a killer collection. Pricey, but worth the blood money.
Game code supplied by publisher Devolver Digital.