Victory Fanfare Presents: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Back in the fall of 2012, a game was released that frankly blew me away. A top down action game that was all about trial and error, getting better, and moving faster each time. A game that had music that made the game, with one band I had already liked, and others I had never been introduced to. It was all around amazing, except, if you’re like me, the story left a bit to be desired.
That game was Hotline Miami, and just recently, the sequel- Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was released, and we’re gonna talk about it.
Hotline Miami is back, and I couldn’t have asked for more. Well, more on that later. While Hotline Miami had 22 songs, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has 49. Excuse my language here but HOLY F***ING SH!T! No, seriously, hfs- the music itself is amazing. We have old faves M|O|O|N, and Perturbator, and plenty of new musicians. The highlights on the music for me has to be Light Club and Mitch Murder. The music again feels like a pulsating reminder that one bad move means you will be pressing r to restart, over, and over again.
I actually got into contact with Amanda, and Jon of iam8bit, an art gallery located in Echo Park (hey, me too) who worked with Devolver to release this massive soundtrack onto vinyl. Here’s a little about them and their studio, as well as their work with Devolver.
First off, how did iam8bit come about? What inspired the gallery?
Jon – While we’re celebrating our 10-year anniversary, the genesis was about 11 years ago. I was a former games journalist writing scripts for TV animation. In popping around studios like Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network, I met a lot of talented artists who were very much invisible to the outside world. Their work was impeccable and creative, yet they had no personal outlet beyond what made its way to TV. We also played a LOT of videogames around the studios – internet cables stretching between cubicles, LAN’ing together Xboxes to play Halo, lots of late-night emulation discoveries, etc. Couple those awesome artists with my first love, videogames, and an art show celebrating the characters and worlds we grew up with seemed all too natural.
Along the way, I befriended and partnered with Amanda, who was integral to taking iam8bit from a mere “art brand” to something much more experiential, playing into larger marketing and product collaborations.
Amanda – When Jon and I met, we both realized that we had these immensely compatible skill sets and creative perspectives. If you think about that, what it actually means, is that although we are quite different from one another, we’re quite complementary to one another. We found that although our perspectives and experiences were different, our underlying philosophies were really strongly aligned. This allowed us to strengthen one another’s impact in the world, professionally and creatively. Fortunately, for us, this has been filtered through the lens of iam8bit and become something that much greater than I think either of us imagined at first.
When I first moved to LA I think the exhibition you had at the time was unreleased movie sequels, I loved that exhibition as I felt it was a very open assignment for artists. I know you guys just did Space Heroes An Artistic Exploration, I was wondering any scoop on your guys next gallery?
Amanda – The next show will feature an artist named Alex Solis. His show features a collection of over 100 pop culture characters reimagined as “chunky” versions of themselves. We’ll also be debuting the release of his first book, a collection of the “Chunkies”, at the show.
Alright let’s get down to the thing I noticed right away and was super excited about, while I’ve been excited about many of your exhibitions, I think this is one that just left me saying “I need to get in there” which was your Hotline Miami collaboration. I think I had that “Wrong Number” poster as my iPhone background for months after I saw it. How did you guys come into contact with Devolver?
Jon – We actually met the gang from Devolver at SXSW almost exactly a year ago. We dug what each other was doing in the space and were actively pursuing licensed product collaborations at the time. It was a super natural fit.
I’m so bummed I missed out on the first pressing of the vinyl, I love the colors chosen for the records themselves as it really reflects the style of the game and that artwork by Niklas Åkerblad is phenomenal. What inspired you to release this vinyl?
Amanda – The soundtrack goes hand-in-hand with the game. It’s like Drive. It’s so much a part of the identity that its just a natural and organic extension of what is already there.
I’m excited M|O|O|N is back on this soundtrack, what else do you think fans are going to love on this record?
Jon – Seriously, there is so much good and moody stuff on this collection that we’d be remise to shout out even a few favorites, simply because the album plays out in a much grander sense than that. It’s a slow burn, chock-full of hours of tunes. Dennaton and Devolver curated the soundtrack almost too well, as [it] really does take on a life of its own.
The second pressing of the vinyl will be coming soon, and I’m sure it is something you must jump on before it’s gone again. Okay, now back to the game!
The gameplay is more of the same, and hey, I can’t complain about that. They did it right the first time, why change it, right? The controls felt tighter, like most mistakes were my fault, and I dig that.
To also help make everything a bit more fresh you are in control of a few different characters in Hotline Miami 2, and some have a very specific play style that forces you to think of new ways to infiltrate an area. There’s a character who uses only fists, a character who only uses his guns, characters who can dodge bullets, and so forth, all these changes make the gameplay a little better, but it’s also something that leads into the bad.
First off, I felt one of the characters, Jake, who’s lethal throws were great against the dogs, but against people I felt his punches just didn’t cut it. Sure you could pick up guns, but when you’re in a jam and you need to just quickly knock someone down, it felt almost impossible. This is probably my fault, but it was very annoying.
Next, let’s discuss glitching, my god the glitches. I don’t know how many dogs I had dealt with that were stuck just spinning in doorways, and when you try to kill them, they would either be rendered un-kill-able, or would snap out and just get me before I got them. This wasn’t just with the dogs though, it happened with many of the enemies all over the place.
There were a handful of floors that began with me being able to just walk right outside, or in between a wall and attract enemies to myself again only to be killed or to easily take them out, I felt cheap about it, but why was it there then? Is that technically a glitch? I don’t know, but it was a weird thing.
The doors felt worse than ever, constantly obstructing shots, or knocking enemies down I thought I had killed only to have them get up and kill me. Why oh why are these doors so tough!? You would think a rifle would be able to just quickly take that door right out, but sadly, no.
The stages also felt bigger, but not necessarily better, I really enjoyed feeling like I needed to move fast, and kill quick in Hotline Miami, here, in Hotline Miami 2, I had either two things happen. I’d die from some gunshot off screen, or I would kill a few people I had no clue were there. Killing people off screen is fine, but it definitely makes you feel cheap blindly shooting into rooms with windows all over the place.
The ugly is this, the sexual assault scene. While I’m glad they gave you the choice to not play through “Midnight Animal” for reviews sake, I played it. “I thought hey, how bad could it be?” Well, it’s the kinda thing that leaves you feeling a little gross, like, I did this, I’m assaulting this woman. That sucked, but what was worse is what followed.
SPOILERS AHEAD and while it’s only for this one scene, if you would rather know nothing, go ahead and skip on down to the verdict! If you don’t care, seeing how this scene is optional, keep on reading. LAST WARNING! Okay.
As we, this big pig masked man attack the woman, the screen around them darkens, and we, the pig man, drop our pants. As your pixelated butt is on display, the scene ends with a shout from the director to “cut!” Phew, I was starting to feel really awful.
Then the director goes on to say “Pig man, be more grisly, you’re killing so don’t be afraid to hit harder” and continues ” and you, we need to work on your femininity, act more girly”.
Whoa, so, you make a scene that already has made people upset, but then the dialogue that follows just is absolutely insulting and sure, maybe that’s that character, but honestly all these characters are like cardboard boxes with zero personality. They wrote this, possibly to get under people’s skin, but it doesn’t make it any better at all.
Thanks for making it optional, but come on, if you’re going to include a scene like this, how about adding some dialogue from the woman saying like “hey, f you buddy”.
Other than this, the ugly, just like with Hotline Miami, is the story. Or more so the lack thereof story. It’s just as incoherent, and foggy as the first game. Some things felt like they may be interesting, but it felt never really fleshed out. Maybe it’s due to Dennaton Games taking pride in the “hey f your video game stories” attitude, but also its just a bit disappointing.
I had the same issues with Hotline Miami, and yet, I still love that game. With Hotline Miami 2, I’d say I just really liked the game. I liked it a lot, I had tons of fun. I just felt the struggle wasn’t worth the outcome. I did just recently begin hard mode though, and the beginning of that connects to the end of the normal game, so we’ll see, maybe once I’m done with that I’ll be revising the ugly. In both modes there’s tons of enemies, so you’ve really gotta plan your attacks, but you’ve gotta do it fast. You never know when a dog, or stray bullet is gonna get you from off screen.
If you didn’t like Hotline Miami, you won’t like Hotline Miami 2. If you kinda liked Hotline Miami, Hotline Miami 2 is not gonna win you over. If you’re like me, and just feel like playing a “dumb” game for a bit, you’ll enjoy this, just don’t expect some grand story, or even the mystery and intrigue of the first game. Play it for what it is, a game you turn your brain off to, and just blare that amazing soundtrack. Oh, and by the way, that final stage is amazingly beautiful, and very, very interesting to the eyes. Well done, Devolver and Dennaton Games, well done.