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OTXO Review

Hotline Miami goes rouge

I feel that the quote “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is more often used as a sarcastic dig than a genuine remark. While we see plenty of blatant clones and shameless rip-offs in the gaming sphere, it’s also not uncommon for developers to take a concept and apply a new idea to it, resulting in something unique in its own right. Taking the core concept from the genre-defining Hotline Miami and injecting it with a roguelike twist, developer Lateralis Heavy Industries attempts to live up to the true meaning of Oscar Wilde’s words with its top-down shooter, OXTO.

Waking up on a beach with no memory of how you arrived, you head towards the ominous hotel that happens to be the only building on this mysterious island. Chatting with the few members of the very permanent staff, it’s made clear that you’re stuck in a Shining situation, as you’re told that not even death will let you check out.

While there’s an attempt at a story here, with the occasional crumb of intrigue scattered throughout your various runs, the roguelike framework makes investing difficult. Save for the outliers like Hades and Returnal, narratives broadly fall by the wayside in this genre, so OTXO opts to keep things vague and keep you moving instead.

The game’s real focus is on its moment-to-moment gameplay. Moving with one stick and aiming with the other, you’re asked to wade through floor after floor, mopping up rooms filled with enemies using a variety of weapons, from pistols and SMGs to sniper rifles and automatic shotguns. Movement and gunplay are snappy and responsive, which is necessary, as the frantic pace of combat requires precision and quick reflexes.

Deviating from the well-worn path, OTXO introduces bullet time to the top-down shooter formula. With the press of a button, time slows to a crawl, letting you dodge bullets and strategically return fire. The mechanic felt like a gimmick at first…until it clicked. Trapped in a room with a dry pistol, I slowed time, leapt between two enemies, collected a fresh weapon and cleared the room, all with one tick of health left. So yeah, I see the appeal now.

While undeniably satisfying, bullet time is on a cooldown that refreshes automatically, making it all too tempting to sit around and wait for the bar to fill before barging into the next room. Sure, this is a perfectly fine way to play, but you’re rewarded for maintaining momentum, all while another mechanic is asking you to slow down. The most engaging aspect of gameplay clashes with the game’s mantra, which often left me in a strange limbo.

It’s not all lost, however, as certain buffs have your bullet time meter refresh after a kill or make kicking down a door fatal for a goon standing nearby. Between procedurally generated floors, you can visit the bar to spend coins earned by killing enemies to throw back a refreshment. The random selection of drinks acts as modifiers, injecting each run with a roguelike twist. In this lobby, you can also spend coins to unlock more drinks with potent abilities, which can be mixed in with the selection on subsequent runs.

These modifiers do change the feel of your current run, but the random nature of this roguelike mechanic doesn’t mesh well with this genre, at least for me. The levels being randomised make it difficult enough to build momentum, and that’s without the progression-resetting bar and mixed bag of drinks. When you get a good run with a well-stocked bar, you’re rolling, but when the mixologist is pouring crappy cocktails, you may as well check out early.

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The game’s visual style is almost striking. The colour pallet is dominated by blacks, whites, and greys, which are only interrupted by painting the walls with the claret of your enemies. Outside of the appealing Sin City approach to colour, though, the overall design falls a bit flat. I never ran into a technical hiccup, and runs were smooth as butter, but I just wasn’t taken with the game’s style.

Final Thoughts

Lateralis Heavy Industries really nailed the run-and-gun gameplay that made Hotline Miami such a massive hit, but I appreciate that they didn’t just rest on that and push out a reskinned copy. Incorporating a satisfying time-slowing ability and a serviceable level of roguelike elements is admirable, but their implementation is at loggerheads with what makes this genre so special. The separate components of OTXO are all well-made, it’s unfortunate that, when put together, the result feels too muddled.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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OTXO Review
Black, White, And Red Up The Walls
While it’s commendable that OTXO attempts to freshen up the top-down shooter genre by mixing in roguelike qualities and a time-bending mechanic, the result, unfortunately, feels at odds with itself.
The Good
Movement and gunplay is tight
Weapons are varied and satisfying to use
The time-slowing mechanic produces some awesome moments…
The Bad
…but it ultimately kills momentum
The roguelike elements just don’t quite fit
The art style falls a bit flat
6
Has A Crack
  • Lateralis Heavy Industries
  • Super Rare Originals
  • PS5 / PS4 / Switch / PC
  • March 28, 2024

OTXO Review
Black, White, And Red Up The Walls
While it’s commendable that OTXO attempts to freshen up the top-down shooter genre by mixing in roguelike qualities and a time-bending mechanic, the result, unfortunately, feels at odds with itself.
The Good
Movement and gunplay is tight
Weapons are varied and satisfying to use
The time-slowing mechanic produces some awesome moments…
The Bad
…but it ultimately kills momentum
The roguelike elements just don’t quite fit
The art style falls a bit flat
6
Has A Crack
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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