Though the name might suggest a pulsating, acid-hazed version of Oregon Trail, that’s not quite what I had in mind when I said “opposite.” Shame, but Hotline Trail is nonetheless sublime in its simplicity. The infinite biker takes clear aesthetic inspiration from Hotline Miami (or perhaps the same sources as Hotline Miami), but its immediate vibe pulls an engine-roaring 180. Instead of ratcheting up the stakes and drowning the proceedings in schizophrenic chaos, Hotline Trail’s soothing electronic soundtrack and voiceover encourage you to find a groove and lose yourself in it.
Granted, Hotline Miami is also about flow and hitting an infallible “zen” sweet spot, but that often takes time, trial, and error. Hotline Trail wants you to sink back in your seat and enjoy the ride right off the bat. Also, you’re not murdering anyone in horrifically (and satirically) brutal fashion, so that’s a very, very big difference.
The short version? Using the arrow keys, you steer your bike as a randomly generated road snakes and weaves and meanders ahead of you. Sometimes there are diabolical roundabouts, and other times things get precariously twisty and turny. Other times still, however, you’ll hit dreamy straightaways with trees and mountains blooming psychedelically, beautifully on all sides.
It’s the little things that really make this one great. Beyond the soundtrack and a voiceover so deep and reassuring that you can practically feel it resonating in your ribs, I really like the way the bike sparks a bit when you’re a hairline wobble from going over the edge. It’s a nice touch that offers just enough leeway to allow players to get back on track, minimizing frustration.
Hotline Trail won’t Change Gaming Forever, but it’s a nice, handsomely produced diversion, and it has “OK, just one more try” appeal in spades. Give it a try here.