Recently I bought Hotline Miami in a Steam sale having heard some wonderful things about it. I had high hopes as the Metacritic score was sitting at 86, suggesting to me that it was a pretty solid affair.

Now before I continue I’m going to have to clarify something – this game isn’t a bad one, it’s just not for me apparently. This disclaimer is in place following me being harassed for over an hour by someone even more condescending than myself on Twitter.

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The chap in question claimed that because I only played the game for an hour I couldn’t possibly have an opinion of any value. Given that Hotline Miami is only supposed to be about five hours long I feel that an hour should be plenty of time for me to find out if the game is fun or not.

If we were talking about some sort of large RPG then an hour would obviously not be enough, but for something that seemed to be fairly easy to get to grips with. “Should I put points into Small Guns or Swimming?” was not the sort of thing you’d find in this game.

Putting an hour into the first Portal game on the other hand is a lot of fun. I couldn’t put just an hour into FTL on the other hand!

At one point a comparison was made to reading the first three chapters of a book and dismissing it as lousy. Except I didn’t say the game was bad, I said it wasn’t fun.

adjective
amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable:
it was a fun evening

[source]

Riddle me this – is fun objective?

Of course not. I’d be bored out of my mind watching American football while others love nothing more. Some of the things I find fun would upset or frighten others, I’m sure!

To go back to the book analogy though – if I was to read the first three chapters of a book and dislike the style of writing to the point where I put it down then I would still have a valid opinion on it. Perhaps not a useful one, but perfectly justified. The time spent with it was not enjoyable.

Also levelled at me was criticism that I rage quit, frustrated at a lack of progress, and that I was some how slandering the game.

I did not keep track of where I got to in the game – it could have been chapter two, it could have been five. I wasn’t really paying attention to the chapter cards.

Progress for me in games is not all that important, sure I don’t like being stuck, but I like to push forward at my own pace, much like in life. I run FTL with a mod that eliminates the encroaching Rebel Fleet so I can tool around the game at a speed I choose. As a result I enjoy the game significantly more than I did before. It makes the game more fun for me.

For someone else it might remove the challenge and bore them, but that’s okay too.2297696-hotline_miami___gamescom_3

When it came to Hotline Miami I wasn’t frustrated at the lack of progression (every area so far had been basically the same) I was annoyed by the fundamental mechanics of it. Any hit instakills the player. There’s no real punishment for that but it means a section has to be replayed.

Whether it’s my age, lack of training, or straight up nerve damage from surgery, I do not have the reactions to play the game it seems. I can get a few kills in but after that it moves too quickly for my hands.

I didn’t realise this would be the case going in but I also hadn’t expected the game to be so shallow. Given its trippy nature I had expected a killing spree to reward the player with some slow-down, bullet time or similar. Alternatively I thought a combo would temporarily render the player immune from damage (i.e. instadeath).

pe4I had imagined during such things a delightful 8-bit trippy effect would tear up the peripheral areas of the screen in something reminiscent of Kane & Lynch 2’s visual filter or the craziness of Gridrunner++.

I loved the way that contributed to the experience of those games, even if in the case of K&L2 it wasn’t enough to stop the game being dull.

So there I sat in a darkened room, the music turned up, gamepad in hand, waiting for the game to impress me. The soundtrack was wonderful, the visuals quirky in a throw-back way, and the oddness of it all rather pleasantly weird.

979996_20100816_embed002There was no mechanic like that though and as I worked my way though the chapters I just felt bored. Aiming was splashy and I was usually instakilled by enemies far faster than me. Environments were detailed but contained little of any real interest.

After an hour I realised that I could keep playing this section or I could do the dishes. Doing the dishes appealed to me more than the alternative.

The thing that wasn’t fun was the core mechanics, not my progress. I was harangued to admit that I wasn’t enjoying the game because I was bad at it by the user in question but that’s not really the case. Even in the early levels where I got through with relative ease I wasn’t enjoying myself. I suck at Battlefield 3 but I still have fun on most maps, assuming I’m not playing with immortal superbeings as opponents.

Some games one has to be good at to have fun, certainly, but I didn’t expect that to be the case in a short, single-player indy game.

I wouldn’t recommend this game to others, but I also wouldn’t discourage them. I don’t feel I have enough of an opinion to say either way on what others should do with regards to this, but that wasn’t what I was trying to do when I posted that tweet.

I’m followed by a few friends and some other odds and sods. I occasionally shout things into the ether just to have said them aloud.

But thank you, @shinratdr, for showing me why people from the internet have such a bad reputation. I now love Hotline Miami and rescind my opinions about my personal experience with it. No, actually, scratch that, it was no fun whatsoever and I’ve contacted Steam for a refund. I’ve also been left with a bad taste in my mouth with regards to it.

If I’d paid that £3.49 for a pint and got a similar experience I would ask for a refund for that too.

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