While Microsoft are busy chasing big-budget exclusives such as EA's Titanfall, Sony are taking a radically different approach by focusing on the little guys. The company has taken a keen interest in independent games as of late and as a result, brilliant titles such as Thomas Was Alone have migrated over from the PC to the Playstation Network with plenty more games set to follow. The latest indie darling to voyage over to the PS3 and Playstation Vita is the critically acclaimed Murder Em' Up, Hotline Miami. Co-developed by workhorse Jonatan "Cactus" Söderström, Hotline Miami is a top-down action game that contains enough violence to make Kratos feel woozy.
Hotline Miami stars a nameless protagonist who is commonly referred to as "Jacket" by fans of the game. In addition to not having a name, Jacket's mysterious motif is amplified by the fact that he doesn't speak or express any remnant of human emotion. The game's structure is simple. Jacket periodically receives phone calls subliminally instructing him to murder every soul in a specified building and he fulfils his duties without question. This is all easier said than done however as Hotline Miami is no walk along the beach!
As with many of the 8-bit titles that Hotline Miami borrows its aesthetics from, this game is brutally hard! Before the end credits roll you'll be well on your way to earning the game's "Die 1000 times" trophy. Despite the extremely bloody action that the gameplay exhibits, at its core Hotline Miami is essentially a puzzle game. As the player you have to figure out the best way to navigate through each room, picking off enemies before they eradicate you with a single bullet or blow to the face. Incessant trail and error is the only way to progress through each of the game's methodically designed levels so extreme patience is required!
What makes Hotline Miami's unforgiving nature tolerable is the fact that each death feels like a learning experience rather than a punishment. Dying is simply a means to an end so if you have to perish 50 times in order to figure out how to silently kill that one shotgun-clutching enemy, so be it! Each kill nets you points with bonuses being awarded for stringing together combo kills and for generally being creative with your craft. Upon completing each chapter you'll unlock a new mask and if you've earned enough points, a new weapon too. There are 27 animal-themed masks in total which can be selected before beginning each chapter. Each mask grants you a special ability making intelligent mask selection vital to your survival. These abilities range from increased walking speed if dressed as a Rabbit, to becoming impervious to death-by-dog when masquerading as a mongrel.