Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number came out earlier today and I’ve already logged several hours. Much of that time was spent getting myself killed.
Both Hotline Miami 2 and its predecessor approach player death different than most games I’ve played recently. You die, and you jump right back into it. There are no loading screens, no loading past saves, no permadeath. You restart from the beginning of each zone, and begin again, all over the course of only a few seconds. I’ve found that this creates some incredibly fast pacing, since you can rush headfirst into levels and embrace the chaotic nature of the game. You are not penalized for dying, and end up taking greater risks as a result.
Arcade games were a bit less forgiving toward player death. You started out with only 3 lives in most games, and though you could get more by playing well you would only last for so long. When a player ran out of lives they’d find themselves staring at the now infamous “Game Over” screen. To keep playing, one would have to put more quarters in the machine and start again.
Since moving into the living room, gaming on consoles or PCs got rid of spending several dollars worth in quarters, but player death still affected gameplay (ironically, mobile games seem to have brought this back via in-app purchases). Between checkpoints or save slots, games treat failure pretty unanimously: you go back and try again until you succeed.
Games are pretty odd when you consider this. It’s not like you can’t keep reading a book if you don’t understand the themes. What do you think?