2012’s Hotline Miami was one of the biggest breakout games for the independent gaming scene. At a time when mainstream, big-budget AAA titles were getting bigger (but not necessarily better), Hotline: Miami stood out. Its addictive and challenging top-down action couples well with the 1980s Mami Vice vibe and aesthetic.
Just over a decade later, Hotline: Miami‘s influence is still felt throughout the indie scene. The latest example is OTXO from developer Lateralis Heavy Industries and publisher Super Rare Originals. The game makes no attempt to shy away from its inspiration; it’s pitched as a “Hotline: Miami-esque” shooter. While it can’t quite replicate the uniqueness and successes of the fabled indie game, OTXO does enough to provide plenty of entertainment on its own.
OTXO Trades In 1980s Miami For A Film Noir Vibe
The game begins with the player character waking up on a beach. Next, you approach a mansion where a mysterious associate fills you in on the details. In short, you’ll have to shoot your way as you progress through the mansion. You’ll be assisted by a bartender who gives you various power-ups. Other than that, you and any weapon you can use.
This is where the game’s roguelite elements come into play. Power-ups from the bartender are randomized and allow you to tinker with various playstyles. Additionally, the mansion’s layout changes with every playthrough. Sadly, it’s hard to gauge any fundamental differences here. Each playthrough feels similar, even when the power-ups come into play.
Despite this sameness, OTXO does well to keep the player engaged. One reason is the visual aesthetic. The black-and-white color scheme (minus the red for blood) is visually intriguing. It adds to a layer of mystery and uncertainty. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the story.
On the one hand, that fits in line with the film-noir genre of movies from the 1940s and 1950s. The stories and plots were often filled with Macguffins that were ultimately meaningless to the plot. Still, it would have been nice to see the story help carry me through the game’s most trying moments, particularly when the difficulty spikes struck.
OTXO’s Difficulty Is, At Times, Brutal and Unfair
I understand that this type of game is meant to be difficult. Still, there’s a huge difference between challenging and unfair. OTXO tries to toe that line but, more often than not, falls short. The biggest culprit is being shot at by enemies off-screen. I can’t tell you how many times I dodged bullets without knowing where they were coming from.
While I can also blindly fire into the great beyond in practice, that’s not a sound strategy. Ammo is a precious commodity in OTXO. The game actively encourages you to pick up weapons when your ammunition is running low routinely. Therefore, wasting bullets is a great way to get yourself killed.
One thing I do have to my advantage is the game’s signature focus mechanic. This is essentially a bullet time system; time slows down, allowing you to dodge oncoming fire easily. This isn’t permanent, though; the focus resource drains while you use it before refilling slowly over time. As a result, it’s important to use it strategically when you need it.
OTXO Is At Its Best When It Feels Like John Wick Meets Superhot
For all the frustrations, OTXO can deliver some pretty epic setpieces. While the game’s inspiration is Hotline: Miami, I often felt like I was playing a mash-up between John Wick and Superhot. The focus isn’t a complete time stop like, in Superhot, the bullet time mechanic feels better than many other games that feature the system. These two concepts blend perfectly; you don’t need to stop time because you can easily maneuver around enemies and the terrain. The black-and-white aesthetic makes the action feel like it’s ripped straight from a movie.
It’s easy to get lost in the moment, especially as you progress further into the mansion. It’s easy to fall into a groove and lose track of time while playing. When OTXO works, it really works well, and there are few games like it out there. However, when it stumbles, you realize you’re playing an inferior version of a better game.
OTXO feels afraid to stand out on its own. There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from some of the best games and movies in recent memory. But the game struggles to find its own identity. There’s a lot to like about OTXO, but the experience is sometimes too uneven.
If you’re looking for a game on sale to enjoy during the weekend, OTXO is an excellent bet. Additionally, if you can look past its issues, you’ll also have a great time. In the end, however, it feels like OTXO is too scared to stand on its own merits. Its best moments are when it pays homage to similar titles. I just wish it wasn’t afraid to do more on its own.