Press R to Restart

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.

I pressed "r" only to die again less than 10 seconds later.
Hotline Miami 2: I press “r” only to die again less than 10 seconds later.

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?

4 thoughts on “Press R to Restart

  1. I love the Dark Souls death screen as your blog pic. That game seems to be the opposite from Hotline Miami 2 though, because player death is punished heavily. Dark souls doesn’t quite follow the “retry until you succeed” mechanic, as you only have one chance to recover the souls you lost upon death. I think this creates a pretty high stakes game without the annoyance of paying for more lives.

    1. Dark Souls is undeniably more unforgiving as you say in your comment. I like your way of putting it with the “high stakes” in gameplay. It requires much more methodical approaches to combat than the chaos of Hotline Miami.

      1. I see the use of “Game Over” as a motivator compelling the player to continue the game. The exact implementation of it, whether it’s punitive, e.g. Dark Souls or costless e.g. Hotline Miami 2 is likely based in what the game value. Whereas in Dark Souls, the items and experience you acquire are at the core of gameplay, in Hotline Miami 2 the experience is focused in fast paced action. Therefore, death in these games –and any other— is implemented to serve the overall purpose and tone of the experience.

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