Review: The Hotline Miami Collection dials in on the Switch

There are only a few other indie games out there that are as influential as Hotline Miami. Dennaton Games’ over-the-top isometric arcadey murder spree game went on to sell millions of copies after its release in 2012, casting a long shadow on top of many titles that followed it. Its sequel, 2015’s Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, tried to expand upon the original’s formula, but ended up feeling like a tired retread, and its explicit themes especially didn’t really sit well with me personally.

A frantic case for the modern arcade shoot ‘em up, Hotline Miami put you against nearly overwhelming odds as you stormed floor upon floor eliminating anyone standing in your way by using all manner of weapons you come across. One hit and you’re done. By donning a different animal mask, you can get a variety of perks or limitations, such as being able to move faster, or kill enemies as soon as you knock them down, to name a few. Levels can be boiled down to puzzles where you have to figure out the correct order in which to tackle them and actually being able to set your plan into action, which grows considerably harder the deeper you get into the game.

Oh boy, what a mess… what a mess…

It’s all set in the backdrop of 1980s Miami with a really catchy techno soundtrack. The story is as cryptic as it can be, having you storm a variety of locations like decrepit buildings, banks, offices, and even a hospital at one point, in a drug-fueled fever dream of a game that in 2012 was unlike anything else you would’ve played up to that point. Wrong Number, the sequel, continued that by having you see the events that both came before and followed the original’s story, and playing with multiple characters. I didn’t really like it nearly as much as the first game due to the gross and explicit sexual abuse that takes place during its story, which was unnecessary and soured the whole game for me, even when there’s an option to turn it off. Otherwise, it pretty much played the same, gameplay and structure-wise.

Years later, it seemed like the Switch was the only modern console that had yet to get a port of these games, so it’s not at all surprising that Devolver chose this year’s Gamescom to announce and deliver this collection. Hotline Miami already worked quite well as a portable game when it hit the Vita originally. Having both of these on the go on the Switch’s much bigger display is definitely a plus, as they look really crisp on it.

You’ve gotta admit, this is a pretty nice pad.

On the other hand, my biggest gripe with this collection also lies with the system it’s on. The Switch has some serious issues when it comes to precision controls off of its base set of controllers. The JoyCons are nowhere near comfortable enough for long play sessions of more intense games such as these, and taking into account that they can potentially be very repetitive — after all, you’ll probably repeat certain levels due to the nature of the one-death gameplay — the button placing and overall ergonomics of Nintendo’s handheld have the potential to do a number on your hands. Having touch screen functionality is usually a plus when it comes to Switch ports, but in the case of the Hotline Miami Collection, it further drives home the problem with such a wide portable system and having to thumb through the screen in the middle of the action. It’s too busy of a game for that.

That’s why I mostly stuck to playing this on the Pro Controller, regardless of having it portably or docked on my TV. It’s by far the most playable and comfortable way for me to enjoy both of these games. Then again, you might feel differently about this particular nitpick, but it’s honestly my only real negative point when it comes to this collection’s playability. Still, you could make the argument that it’s just a repackaging of the two games without any bonuses whatsoever, but then again, none have been included in any of the previous ports.

Sniping is a valid option when things get rough.

The games industry moves at breakneck speed, and even though it’s only been seven years, playing Hotline Miami today really makes it apparent how much it influenced anything similar in the indie scene that followed. Its blend of action, music, and addicting gameplay was incredibly unique and fresh when it was first out, I couldn’t help but play it compulsively. It helped Devolver on the map as a serious publisher, which only serves to show how a single hit can cause a stir at just the right moment in time.

At $25, the Hotline Miami Collection comes in at the cheaper side of older game compilations on the Switch. Both of the games included are very replayable. You can repeat levels in order to get high scores, as well as to find new masks to wear and puzzle pieces that ultimately unlock secret in-game events, such as the first game’s “true ending”. This collection is worth picking up if you’ve somehow missed playing these when they were first out, or are looking for a convenient way of having both games in the same package, and don’t mind having to deal with the Switch’s control limitations or are among the lucky owners of a Pro Controller.

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