You have a message on your answering machine from “Tim” at a bakery telling you the cookies you ordered have been delivered. Do you…
A) Go to the bakery to collect your cookies. You’ve been looking forward to them.
B) Wonder why you have this message. You didn’t order any cookies.
C) Head to the nearest train station to take out all the white-suited gangsters you find there, brutally, and with whatever weapons you can put your hands on.
If you answered C) then you’re obviously well-versed in the ultra-violent, neon-saturated world of Hotline Miami, a top-down shooter that won rave reviews on its release in 2012 – at least, we really hope you are. And, if so, it’s time to return, as the sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, is here. If you’re not well-versed in the original games’ ways, good luck, because there’s no easing in for new players. You’ll die a lot on the early levels and then, just to complicate matters, it gets more difficult.
It also serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the first game, fleshing out the backstory while revealing what happens next. That is, if you were actually following the story, as Hotline Miami wasn’t exactly big on emotional depth and nuanced characters. But then again, it was the lean, fast-paced gameplay that was by far the star of show as your car dropped you off at whatever location needed clearing out and you, thumping electro driving you forwards, began taking out the equally kill-happy enemies inside.
On the surface then, Wrong Number is much the same. But by the time you’re a few levels in, it’s clear something has changed, and not for the better. The levels are bigger and more open, which slows your progress through them and, as a result, means you’re not gleefully racking up combo points, instead forced to be more considered lest an unseen enemy shoots you through glass windows from two rooms away just as you think you’ve nailed it.
But that’s not to say it’s completely lost its way. The original was a remarkable game that came out of nowhere and while the sequel rarely hits those heights, it presents a worthy challenge, stylishly presented, with a similarly compelling soundtrack. As is the case with so many perfectly serviceable sequels across all forms of entertainment – if only it didn’t have its much better predecessor to be compared to.