I thought I heard the door open but I disregarded it. I was too lost in my task, rationing dirty cash for my crew of big money games, to notice even a breeze of wind. My crew is loyal, experienced, and have a variety of skills, but at the same time they’re loud, cocky, and always trying to get the attention of the world at large. Tucked away in my room counting bills that I’d not long hold, I paid no mind to the commotion my games were making outside; that’s what these guys did during down time. I should’ve know something was amiss when the flat fell silent, but I wasnt paying close enough attention. Moments after the unsettling quiet my door violently swung open, and before I had the chance to even question what was happening, Hotline Miami crushed my skull with a baseball bat.
Hotline Miami is hard to explain. While playing I’m reminded the original Grand Theft Auto, GTA: Vice City, Metal Gear Solid, and Drive, all at the same time. That is quality source material right there. The story centers around a hit man embroiled in a web of nasty jobs handed down by secretive bosses, who mask their identities using .. Animal masks. This transpires within Miami of the 1980s, an American epicenter of hard drugs, violent crime, and killer fashion.
Throughout the game, the static top down view is never broken, invoking memories of the aging but lovable action games of the late 80s/early 90s. The maps normally consist of 1 to three levels within an apartment complex, where it is the hitman’s duty to exterminate the rats, or clean the hotel, or DJ a killer set, or random other euphemism for murderous actions. If it were only so easy. Upon arriving at your tasked destination, you are too quickly greeted by bullets, bats, knives and miscellaneous other methods of brutality. There are many different ways to kill or be killed, and various methods of implementing them, like the old saying 6 Million Ways to Die. I hope the recently confirmed sequel will expand on this, instead of using strictly weapons and reflexes, incorporating more environmental kills into the mix. Though breaking an NPCs face with a violently opened door never gets old, shouldn’t I be able to shoot a fish tank filled with pirhanas causing them to spill out and clean an enemies bones? It doesn’t have to make sense if it’s cool, and that is cold as ice, my friends. Miami’s thugs are as efficient as they are clairvoyant, leading unwary gamers to a quick and unassuming death.
This punishing difficulty lends to the title becoming more of a thinking man’s game. You’ll think twice before barging into a room of guards when each one has the ability to spin 180 degrees and place a single shot between your eyes in .7 seconds a la Trent Tucker, all while rolling the sleeves of their suit jacket. As your plans of action fail, you start to see the stages differently. Go left instead of right? Use knife instead of gun? Kill patrol before entering guarded room? Most choices, which tend to be spur of the moment, have their consequences, for better or worse. You’ll know quickly if they’re for the worse.
The theme of the game seems to be animal masks, which are not in short supply. Your shady governing body wears then to conceal their identity, as do you, though yours comes with perks. Progress through the game to unlock some masks, perform well to unlock more. The masks, aside from making your avatar look like a total creep, allow you power-ups such as faster executions, lethal door slams, single bullet invulnerability, and more. It ain’t much but it provides some semblance of customization to help keep things fresh through each level.
Hotline Miami pulls together a selection of semi-established underground artists to make up its jumping soundtrack, which immediately sucked me in with Sun Araw’s downbeat psychedelic chords. It’s a pretty solid mix of that type as well as electro-chiptune-house with slight influence from the game’s period. I’m not really describing it well, so do the soundtrack the justice of listening to it yourself, free of charge, here. There was obviously a great deal of thought placed into the curation of Miami’s music, don’t let it go to waste.
Hotline Miami isn’t the most compelling game I’ve played, but I enjoyed it for its presentation, music, and uncompromising difficulty. When I pay $13 for a game I expect at least 2-3 hours of enjoyment and I received just that, multiplied by the rejection of anything less than perfection.
It’s an old wives tale that dates back to the late 1980’s when Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, with his Doctoral aspirations, threw open the door to a frat party on the Georgetown campus with a six-pack in very long arm, and exclaimed “WHO WANTS TO SEX MUTUMBO!” After years of dominant, defensive-minded basketball, and 6 strong children each legendary in their own right, it is sad to say that no one was ever up to the task of truly sexing Mutumbo. Or so we thought. Dikembe Mutubmo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World is proof that the Old Spice brand along with a few lucky game designers indeed were able to sex Mount Mutumbo, and the offspring is this brilliant episodic Flash game. So far only the first of five chapters are available, with additional chapters unlocking in the coming weeks. You see, Dikembe’s journey coincides with the coming of the end of the world, as foretold by the Mayan calendar, and only by changing the path of history will his journey be complete.
You may be thinking this is just another clever Old Spice marketing ploy, and yes, you would be correct, however this one has some serious chops. It’s a collaboration between the creator of indie hall-of-famer Canibalt, the animator of widely enjoyed Super Crate Box, and a few other talented game industry individuals, who have come together and formed a Voltronian force worthy of Dikembe Mutumbo and his Blazing Balls. Also, finger wag. What up?!
Play this game now, and play it every week after until either the world is destroyed or Super Mutumbo comes through with a huge, game-saving, last minute rejection. Not in my house!
Peter Molyneux - the Grand Puba of hyperbole - has returned with his latest, greatest project known as Curiosity. What is Curiosity? An massively multiplayer mobile “game” in which players work together to chip away at a giant cube which is rendered as countless individual cubes. Only one of the horde of Curiosity players will be treated to a secret prize hidden away in the cube, which they can then either share with the world or keep as their own private trophy. Following their decision, no doubt Mr. Molyneux will claim his “game” a success before retiring to his hall of mirrors, where he every night proclaims his greatness which is reinforced by his reflections.
I hate ripping on people who try, and Lords know Peter does try his hardest, however if there’s one thing I hate - well, I hate a lot of things - but if there’s one of the many relevant to this piece, it’s a habitual liar. Unfortunately, the ex-Lionhead Studio lead is a constant offender, having brought his old ways to his new studio 22Cans. Curiosity isn’t so much a product of lies, but rather a waste of time. It’s a social experiment wrapped in a loosely termed game, which requires hours of combined player-power with little-to-no satisfaction save for the single recipient of whatever is inside the cube. My guess is that the “winner” will receive a video file containing a talking, floating, Molyneux head, which has some sort of positive bullshit message about Curiosity changing the world, book ended by proclaiming himself the world’s greatest human being. Awesome!
When you launch Curiosity, provided you are able to, as server load prevents connection to the game quite often, you are faced with a gigantic cube. You can pan and tilt the cube to see the world’s progress thus far, and if a particular piece of land calls your name, you zoom in and have at it. As you get up close and personal with the cube, you see that each pixel of the bigger piece is individually rendered and reacts to the action taken around it. Tap tap tap tap tap at the cube to chip away, causing the mini-cubes to shake and stir as their brethren are poked to death. The more efficiently you tap, the higher combo you rack, the more coins you receive. Rinse repeat. You can take your coins to a store to purchase utensils that will make your cube-dispensing life that much easier. Rinse repeat. This is basically Curiosity in a nutshell. Wait, no. This is pretty much the full scope of Curiosity. It’s an interesting multiplayer concept, allowing pretty much the entire world the ability to work together toward a singular cause, however the reward is not something the community as a whole will profit from. I play games to release frustration, to beat scores, gain accomplishments, admire art and design, or hear an interesting tale. Very rarely do I play simply to waste time. Curiosity offers none of the above, save for the latter.
It’s said the cube will take months to penetrate to its secretive core, perhaps years if these server connection issues continue. As the mobile gaming landscape evolves monthly, will something as vapid as Curiosity have the holding power to keep the demanding mob of gamers satiated for the duration of its lifecycle, or will it fizzle out before being chipped away for good? For me, Curiosity’s lack of enjoyment is enough to fend me off while suggesting you do the same. Sure it’s free, but so is the incredible Punch Quest, which offers a seemingly endless stream of awesome and feels much more rewarding. The bottom line is that we game for a purpose, a satisfaction unique and individual to each of us. I don’t want my experience clouded by an unrewarding social experiment, at least not like this. It’s an interesting concept to which I’d be more receptive of if it were presented differently, as in if it were actually fun.
The Score: 2 outta 10 Blasters!
Hey sexy, looking good! No, not you, I’m talking to GTA V, which celebrates its official pre-order availability by releasing the above teaser image. Not much I know, but come next week we’ll have the game’s second trailer to pick apart and cook up more ridiculous theories about Nico, Claude, CJ returning for more action. Personally, I’d love for Little Jacob to have his own game. Pipe dream, feel me?
Pre-order GTA V at Amazon (referral)
Not too long ago I heard about a game called Punch Quest which reminded me of the very good (and very free) Jetpack Joyride. Now months later, Punch Quest has hit the iOS App Store and has become one of the most addicting iPhone games I’ve played all year. Coincidentally, it’s the first game I’ve really put through the paces on my iPhone 5, and the pair is insanely fast, clear, and colorful. In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, with internet service coming and going, and power threatening to shut down at any given moment, Punch Quest was a boon to my fingertips, helping me to avoid boredom.
Punch Quest is very simple really, you run endlessly and you have two buttons controlling your highly customizable avatar. Left button jumps and uppercuts, useful for platforming and attacking, right causes you to dash ahead and simultaneously throw a straight punch. As you further yourself along the game you gain increasing amounts of Punchos (in-game currency, great name for a cereal) to purchase and unlock loot (in-app purchases to buy more currency) and upgrades, both cosmetic and functional. Once I started unlocking more advanced techniques and learning what the ever-advancing stage was throwing at me - including multiple paths - I realized how complex this little game actually is. Once you begin perfectly stringing together 80+ hit combos while avoiding enemy attacks and pitfalls, it becomes more hardcore twitch platformer a la Super Meat Boy than casual Temple Run-and-jump, without alienating either fanbase.
+ Hardcore twitch-reflex action while remaining casual friendly
+ Tons of customization options (both cosmetic and functional)
+ Insanely addictive
+ iPhone 5 support (both portrait and landscape)
I’m really struggling trying to think of some negative things to say about Punch Quest, but the reality is that there is little to nothing wrong with this rewarding, addictive, free and just plain enjoyable mobile title. RocketCat Games has taken the endless runner genre and has meticulously elevated it to the next level. The bar has been raised, iOS developers better start bringing the heat on their next sidescrolling runner (I’m looking at you Super Meat Boy iOS).
The Score: 9 outta 10 Blasters!