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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest

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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori And the Blind Forest.

Transcript Edit

Video game developers have something in common with heavy goods vehicle operators and prostitutes who specialise in older clientele: it's extremely important that they know when to stop. Useful skill for all of us in fact; it's a very sound and praiseworthy idea to shove Cadbury's Creme Eggs in your mouth, but when you find yourself shoving them in any other bodily orifices, you probably should've stopped before it got to that point. Similarly, the developers of The Order: 1886 didn't know when to stop; around the time of the earliest pitch meeting they should have stopped breathing and suffocated to death. Although strangely, they did know when to stop when given the many subsequent opportunities to drive straight into a traffic barrier and graciously end the blight that is their lives. And then you have the curious case of Hotline Miami 2, a game that when I finally got to the end I felt should ideally have stopped some hours ago, and yet at the same time it also didn't seem to have finished properly. It's the first of two Steam games I plan to get good and steamed up about today.

Hotline Miami I: The Phantom Menace was a landmark in the field of pixelated gratuitous violence; a sort of dramatization of the last ten minutes of Taxi Driver on fast-forward. And what I liked about it was the surreal atmosphere and the ambiguous story that made the whole experience feel like a handful of brief moments of clarity glimpsed through the psychedelic haze of Rubik's Cubes and synth pop. Hotline Miami 2 makes the mistake of trying to be less ambiguous. It's like reading the book version of 2001: A Space Odyssey; learning what the film was supposedly banging on about and feeling unaccountably disappointed about it. It also attempts to suck on Quentin Tarantino's chin like the big rocket shaped ice lolly it resembles by telling a huge ensemble story and switching between various protagonists: a group of vigilantes inspired by the first game's hero, a rogue detective, a writer, some gangsters, a fat bloke with a face like a baseball mitt that's been repurposed for sexual misadventure, a collection linked only by a mutual interest in running up to large numbers of bald men and mashing the left mouse button until someone falls over.

The trial and error gameplay hasn't changed much from the first game. I'd say it was a copy-paste job, but it seems to be a little buggier this time. It's not even hard to get a dude trapped clipping into a door, at which point you could harness the energy of his vibrations to power your home for a fortnight. Otherwise, it's the same ratio of one unspeakably violent victory for every twenty to thirty-thousand unspeakably violent failures, which previously gave a sense of suicidal futility as the protagonist waded into yet another melee that gave him worse odds than a Shetland pony in a Gygax dungeon. But the same gameplay loses something when enacted by characters with ambition to survive past the next five minutes. The overlong campaign began to feel like a chore as we switched from one uninteresting character to the next until one by one, they go through little arcs that don't have any kind of satisfactory payoff, finally ending in a confusing hallucinatory mess, presumably at the point the writer's house caught fire and they hastily concluded the story with the phrase, "and then everyone took drugs and died, THE END."

So if Hotline Miami left you hungry for more, Hotline Miami 2 will leave you very full and feeling rather sick and disappointed in yourself, and then it keeps going for a while until you're in the kind of food coma that you can only get out of with a taser gun.

The second game we're sliding across the firing range is Ori and the Blind Forest, a fantasy Metroidvania platformer about a glowing baby cat-rabbit-thing in a dark forest, for whom 'camouflage' is just a thing that other people worry about. Let me say before we go on that Ori and the Blind Forest is a really beautifully animated game, with a very effective intro sequence that in a short time conveys the heartwarming friendship between our player character and their adoptive parent and the gut-punch tragedy when they die, leaving us alone in the world and forced to venture into the dying lands. So the question you must ask yourself is whether or not all of that is enough. Because once the actual game game started, all the goodwill I had from the strong beginning gradually dribbled away like jam in a drain pipe. I'm fully aware that it's acquired certain acclaim; Steam doesn't hand out those 'Overwhelmingly Positive' user review summaries to just anyone like a free t-shirt. But excepting the animation department, Ferngully and the Last Rainforest does very little beyond "Hit the lowest possible targets for the genre of 'arty platformer'".

Firstly it's (you got it) a big-headed innocent cat-rabbit-thing exploring a big scary world against a melancholy orchestral soundtrack, the plot is the usual "Restore light, banish Dark," which is exactly the same searing emotional drama that takes place when I launder my tea towels, the Metroidvania gameplay has the usual parade of movement power-ups: the double jump, the wall jump, the barbecue bacon jump with large fries. About the only new idea the gameplay offers is that you have to create your own save points at the cost of some of your magic power, but it doesn't take long for the cost to be negligible. They really might as well crack off a save point every time you touch down, in the way Piers Morgan leaves a trail of oily handprints everywhere he goes.

What annoys me about the gameplay is that it communicates entirely in the language of glowing blobs:

  • Pick up the glowing blob.
  • Avoid the evil glowing blob that shoots glowing blobs.
  • Carry this glowing blob to the altars so that you can restore glow and blobbiness to the land.

I feel sorry for colourblind players; they wouldn't be able to tell a missile from their own left bollock.

I suppose I'm giving Ori-Pori-Pudding-and-Pie a lot of shit, because I feel manipulated by it. I was being emotionally manipulated by the sad opening and I was fine with that. I like to give myself a good rigorous manipulation most evenings, but then at the ending, they overreached and ruined everything.

ENDING SPOILER WARNING, SPOILER WARNING, HOOT, HOOT, PUT IT ON MUTE!

If you establish your game with a sad 'Bambi's Mum' death scene, magically bringing Bambi's Mum back to life at the end makes all the goodwill slurp back inside me like a traumatic reverse childbirth. We befriend a bloke and he resurrects our Mum to do us a solid. But we never spoke to him, so how would he know who or where our mum was? It's just conveniently engineered for the sake of the most nauseatingly saccharine happy ending possible. When your plot establishes magical resurrection, all the stakes and drama immediately collapse. Where's the meaning in self-sacrifice if we can just get resurrected? Oh, the villain was motivated by her dead babies? NEVER MIND! *PBTH!* THEY'RE ALIVE AGAIN, BE MORE CAREFUL THIS TIME! ACTUALLY DON'T! WHO CARES? HERE'S THREE MORE BABIES, FUCK IT!

I complain because it undermines the emotional impact, you see, not 'cause I'm psychotic and I want everything to die. (Not just because of that anyway...)

Addenda Edit

  • A sweet Metroidvestite from Metroidsexual Metroidvania: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Tried to think of some facetious way to rename 'Ori' but all I could think of was 'Houri' and that felt like trying too hard
  • Please donate to the glowing blob benevolent association
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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