Indie Paradise Reviews: Hotline Miami

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I wasn’t around for much of the ‘80s, and I didn’t live in Miami, but if gaming has taught me anything, it’s that the 1980s were almost exclusively fluorescent. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the first game I played that really got the 1980s right, as far as I can tell, and now Hotline Miami, a fantastically violent top-down… I don’t know, I think real time strategy would be the most appropriate thing to call it, is here. It’s as if someone merged Command & Conquer with the first Grand Theft Auto game and painted it pink. And added gallons of blood. And made it 50 times harder.

ImageYou killed a dog, man. How could you

Yes, this is not a forgiving game. You are very unlikely to get through any of the levels the first time, but each death teaches you something about how the level works. Killed that guy but then another guy immediately shot you in the face? Take a different path. Being an indie game, it’s hard to pin down to any one genre – it has elements of the RTS, but it’s also a puzzle game. You can’t just run through the level, guns blazing, and expect to not die. You don’t have a health meter – if you get hit once, you die. That’s it. Restart. You need to plan your paths very carefully.

ImagePUNCH HIM, OH GOD I DIED AGAIN

But from all this, the sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a level is just phenomenal. I’ve been stuck on levels for ten minutes or more, and that’s a long time in this game, until suddenly everything I’ve learned from the previous three billion or so retries all just comes together and everybody dies. That’s a feeling that is like gold dust in gaming, and nowadays I find that a genuine sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from a game is very rare. More often than not it’s frustration tempered with anger and eventually sarcastic gratitude when you finally finish that one particularly evil part of a game.

ImageIt wasn’t my fault officer, they tripped

Stylistically, the game feels a lot older than it is. And I’m not saying that derogatorily, but if it was going for an ‘80s arcade vibe, with classic 8-bit graphics and blazing fast twitch gameplay, then it hit the nail right on its gun-toting, machete-wielding head. Even the story, which is completely obscure to start with, fits the image of a drugged-up ‘80s Miami – you don’t know what’s going on, the character doesn’t know what’s going on, and the only people who seem to be able to shed any light on your situation, and use the term people very lightly, are several animal masks. And I think there would be a good time to end this review. I suddenly have the urge to go and watch Miami Vice.

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Indie Paradise Reviews: DLC Quest

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Everyone loves DLC. Map packs, alternative costumes, pre-order bonuses – anything to make a game last longer, right? Well, how about a game that is almost entirely DLC?

Enter DLC Quest. Yes, I know, it’s a satire, and a very good one at that, but I can’t help enjoying the game for what it is. It’s very knowing; it wears its colours very much on its sleeve and the in-jokes hit exactly the right spot. However, unlike games that employ real downloadable content, you don’t have to actually spend your own money to buy the packs. It’s a simple premise – collect the coins and buy the DLC to progress the story and rescue the princess (named Princess MacGuffin in the game. Like I said, in-jokes aplenty). It’s a pretty one-note  game for the most part, but I found myself searching out every last coin I could possibly find just so I could buy the latest bit of ‘DLC’.

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The game throws up a lot of interesting questions though – could this game, which started out as a parody of overly DLC-heavy games, actually happen and become a real game?

Nah, probably not.

Still, putting everything aside, DLC Quest is a pretty decent game. It’s split into two campaigns; DLC Quest itself and Live Freemium or Die. I haven’t played the latter of the two to completion, but the former is fairly short and doesn’t outstay its welcome. I have yet to finish a few of the ‘awardments’ (or achievements), but I can’t see them being too much of a problem. I usually get bored of trying to get achievements in games or just never try in the first place (I’m not very good at games – shhh) but these ones are just challenging enough to get you to want to do them, but not so hard that you’ll spend ages tearing your hair out trying to find the last few coins – although some of the coins are hidden in some quite clever places.

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All in all, DLC Quest is a nice distraction for its asking price of a couple of quid. But let’s hope that this is how it stays – as a parody.

Indie Paradise Reviews: Papers, Please

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Papers, Please is a game I was unaware of until I saw a let’s play video of the demo some weeks ago. It’s a game set in the fictional Communist country of Arstotzka, and you play as a border official whose job it is to ensure that the people attempting to gain access to your fine country have all the necessary paperwork in order to proceed. To start with it’s very easy – only let in Arstotzkans. Brilliant, this’ll be a doddle. But it’s not as easy as that; there are, as you might expect, several other things to contend with as well as making sure the nationality is correct. The expiration date must be correct, the issuing city has to be valid, and you even need to check the sex on the passport as some of these sneaky bastard will try to get in with fake passports which say that they’re female when they are QUITE OBVIOUSLY male. Or so you think.

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HAHAHA NOPE

The game gets harder and harder as you progress, with day 30 (the game is played over a one-month period in November and December 1982) giving you masses and masses of paperwork to sift through. Yay, overly-suspicious Communist regimes!

As well as each playthrough being split into 30 days, you can start a new game at any point during the month. This opens up the possibility of going back to a decision that might have gone sour for you and changing it into something a little more pleasant. Of course, this also means that the game follows the same basic storyline each time you play it. The first few days are now etched into my memory so they’re almost a speedrun, trying to get as much money as possible in the short time you have each day.

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We’re not going to Disneyland this year, kids

After each work day, you are presented with a screen which shows you how much money you made (5 credits for each person you process) and where the money is going. You are the sole breadwinner in your househould and you have to make sure that you earn enough to keep your family fed and warm, and also to keep a roof over their head and buy them medicine if they get sick. And they seem to get sick a lot.

The game throws more and more stuff at you each day, with state-of-the-art equipment (for 1982) being installed at regular intervals. This keeps the game nice and fresh but also adds a hell of a challenge if you’re trying to get applicants through as quickly as possible – at later stages it can feel a little overwhelming. At several points I found myself staring at the screen and wondering what the hell to do first. But, if you can get your head around it and get through the day with no citations (BLOODY CITATIONS!) then it can be very rewarding.

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Invalid issuing city my arse

One last thing; those citations. You check and check, but then a little ticket prints out at the bottom of the screen and tells you that you missed that one thing and you’ve been fined 5 credits. WHAT THE HELL, I CHECKED EVERYTHING, HE WAS FINE! Still, although it may sound like the dullest game ever created at first glance, it’s actually fantastic fun. I’ve lost whole afternoons to this thing.

Glory to Arstotzka.

Papers, Please is created by Lucas Pope and is available on Steam.

Welcome to Indie Paradise!

Hello!

I’m Will, and I run Indie Paradise! This is a brand new blog where I will be playing and reviewing indie games from all over the internet. These could be Flash games from one of the many flash portals all over the web, or games available on other distribution platforms. One thing’s for sure though; it’s going to be a BLAST!

Stay tuned for more over the next few days!

Will