“Do you like hurting other people?” – A review of Hotline Miami

Do you like hurting other people?

You wake up in a dark bathroom of a condo and, as you open the door, you are greeted by three people who wears masks and resembles a horse, a rooster,  and an owl. The rooster speaks out: “Look at my face! We’ve met before…”.

Welcome to the world of Hotline Miami.


The game is a neon colored concoction of fast paced ultraviolence which is embedded into 80s style aestheticsand  8-bit-like graphics, accompanied by aggressive, yet melodic synth-laden electronic beats. All these elements create the impression of what the greeting words of the rooster encapsulate. It feels like something that’s been around for a while, radiating a sense of strange familiarity, but that feels brand new at the same time.

The story is set in  fictitious 1989  in Miami, Florida. It is the time of the Cold War  and the heyday of cocaine and gang violence. This mess revolves around a nameless character controlled by the player, who receives calls on his answering machine about odd jobs, such as picking up cookies, disciplining some kids as a babysitter or showing up for a date, which is set up by the dating service. In truth, these are just euphemisms for showing up at the doorstep wearing an animal mask and literally leaving no one standing.


The gameplay mechanics are based on a simple “one hit one kill”  policy, which greatly defines the challenge and difficulty of this game. You will find yourself grinding the same level for maybe hours on end, but imminent failure rarely causes grief, because the adrenaline rush of the fast paced run and gun style and the progressive mastery of the game greatly compensate you for trying, and leave you with an appetite for even more.


As an action game, your playing style and choices of executing the tasks at hand  are rewarded with points, mimicking the high-score system of old arcade games.

A higher score means more rewards, namely new weapons and new masks, which are not mere gimmicks, but essential assets for different missions. Each mask grants you a different feature, like faster movement, lethal door swings, more guns,  and other potentially useful abilities.



Hotline Miami is a true indie-development effort. It was written, directed,  and programmed by the duo of Dennaton Games, and the soundtrack was provided by various underground artists such as M.O.O.N or El Huervo. Albeit only a small endeavor , the game doesn’t have evident shortcomings and it is very immersive,  almost as addictive as the drug that fuels the whole nightmare scenario.

  • Gabor Bikkes




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