With the game patched up, broad acclaim and impressive sales translated into a unique cult status. Hotline Miami has an enviable reputation, with its memorable iconography and deliberately obtuse story justifiably provoking a lot of conversation, not to mention demand for a follow-up.
The sequel has a much more solid base to work with. In fact, Hotline Miami 2 actually started life as an expansion pack for the original.
“When we realised that the ‘expansion pack’ was going to be bigger than the first game, we changed it to a full sequel,” Söderström says.
“We also wanted to make the editor and other cool stuff, and that took a lot longer than expected,” Wedin adds. “We also wanted to call it ‘the sequel’, because with expansion packs I find it’s the same formula but when you do a sequel it has to be very innovative nowadays—pretty much a whole new game. We wanted to do a sequel like they did with sequels back in the day for people who actually enjoyed the first game and want more, like with Mega Man. So, we felt like we should call it Hotline Miami 2, stick to our guns and just give people that like the first game another game that they will enjoy. Not just trying to get a bigger audience, but making a game for us and people who liked the first one.”
The Hotline Miami 2 level editor in three easy steps.
1. Choose a layout from the funky '80s-like menu.
2. Distribute enemies and objects around it.
3. Play it! That's actually just two steps, now I think about it.
It will, however, be a more fleshed-out and varied experience than the first game. The story of the original, the split narrative between ‘Biker’ and ‘Jacket’, is left intentionally vague. (Neither Wedin or Söderström is willing to divulge which is the ‘canon’ story, even going to the extreme of ‘banning’ the question from being asked in some interviews.) Hell, the characters don’t even officially have names: ‘Biker’ and ‘Jacket’ came from the fan community before being adopted by the Dennaton lads themselves. Hotline Miami 2 features characters that have more clearly defined roles in the story, as well as their own unique abilities.
“The biggest inspiration for the second game is actually the first game,” Wedin says. “When we made the first game we talked about all these back stories to the characters—fleshing out the universe—more for us than the players. We always felt like we could make a second game by expanding on this stuff. That was the biggest motivation for us.”
Söderström is quick to clarify that Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number doesn’t deviate from the original game’s tone. “There’s still a big part of the game that’s really vague, but part of it that is more set in stone. Much clearer.”
“Since there’s 13 characters, we had to give them some kind of personality otherwise they’d all be bland,” Wedin says. “It worked for ‘Jacket’, but for ‘Biker’ we added dialogue to make him different, so we’re working on more stuff like that. The story is jumping between different times and settings, so you’ll have to try and connect them.”
Jumping around why, exactly, I ask. “In this game you’re going to have to play as a load of different characters. There’s going to be a level for just the fans, just the detective, just the cobra guy, and you’ll have to play as all of them. In the first game people would just pick the Tony mask and play the whole game, so in this one we’re forcing you to adapt a bit more. You have to adapt to that character’s ability. Like, for this character I have to have this weapon, or for this character it’s better to use guns, you know?”
Music is an integral part of the Hotline Miami experience. The soundtrack, a curated list of some exceptional electro artists, plays a huge part in the trance-like state you find yourself in as you hammer R to restart after an untimely death. As a game that shifted a good 300,000 copies on Steam, the original provided fairly major exposure for a lot of the artists included. It seems like a slot on the soundtrack to the sequel would be a pretty smart move for the up-and-coming musician.
“I think we got around 200 songs sent to us,” Wedin says, “which was cool! Searching for music is really hard. There’s loads of cool tracks that we used. It’s about 50/50, music that we found and music that approached us.”