The original Hotline Miami is one of my favourite games of all time. Its pounding soundtrack and tense encounters spawned tons of clones, but few that ever captured the magic of the first top-down murderfest. While not a flawless sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number comes close enough to its predecessor's blood-soaked beauty.
They didn't try to reinvent the wheel: Hotline Miami 2 has that one-hit kill quick restart flow that people loved in the first one. Few games are able to keep you hooked after your 11th death in the same level, but every failure is a learning experience. Next time you'll know there's actually two enemies behind that door, not one. Accruing and acting on that knowledge is a joy... most of the time.
My biggest issue with Wrong Number is the sheer size of some levels. In the larger and more open areas, it's not uncommon for off-screen enemies to kill you without you even realising they were there. It's a real bummer in a series where your downfall is meant to be your own fault.
The first game had you collecting masks with special abilities that could be selected at any time, but another change in Hotline Miami 2 is that there's a mult-protagonist story here that restricts your options at the beginning of levels. I fall somewhere in the middle on this: your preferred killing toys are constantly being taken away, which is frustrating in the moment, but the different perspectives result in you constantly being placed in wildly different locations and scenarios. So, you're never able to become comfortable. And, to be fair, Hotline Miami isn't about making things nice and cosy.
Despite some quibbles, seeing your score come up at the end of a Hotline Miami 2 stage is a badge of honour. Regardless of your end-of-level grade, just getting through those bullet-filled puzzles gives you the sense of achievement that every score attack game strives for.
And the soundtrack is terrific, obviously. But you knew that already.