This Game Confused Me *SPOILERS*
I was totally confused when I played Hotline Miami the first time. I didn't understand what was going on after the protagonist goes home to find his girlfriend murdered quickly followed by his own apparent death at the hands of a hitman. He wakes up in a hospital, and if he moves too much too fast, the entire screen distorts and he stumbles in the wrong direction. All the doctors try to keep him from escaping by getting him back to his bed.
The pixel art was so hard to discern I didn't realize he had bandages on his head. He manages to escape the hospital and walks for what must be a dazed series of hours before arriving back at his apartment to find it ransacked, his car mostly destroyed, and crime scene tape everywhere. This is where the confusion came in.
Obviously quite a lot of time had passed, and as he stumbled upstairs to his room with all the chalk lines on the floor and the trash everywhere, I thought it had to have been thirty to forty years. The protagonist had been hallucinating all throughout the game, and I figured there was something seriously wrong with him, something almost inhuman. I mistook the bandages on his head for gray hair, and when he went up to his room to put his clothes and mask back on, I thought he had slipped into another hallucination. I thought he was an old man who just awoke from a coma, who was going to take up his weapons again and go after the people who had done these things to him. This notion was furthered when it became apparent putting on his old clothes and mask made the screen stop distorting and allowed him to walk straight again. He was hallucinating big time. It was his biggest hallucination yet. He was reliving the old days, thirty years ago, and he was going to drive off in his busted car as if nothing had changed. He would be wearing his old mask and no one would know he was an old man. It was almost as if he was ageless, like a spectre, coming back to haunt his enemies.
When he arrived at the police station, the police chief's head appeared on screen yelling about things, and I instantly drew the connection to him and the proprietor of all the stores the protagonist had visited throughout the game. They both had red hair and green eyes, only the chief was bald, which fed into the idea this was all taking place some time later. I thought the convenience store proprietor was a hallucination stand in for the police. The proprietor was always giving the main character things and saying it's on the house, or this one's on me, or go ahead and take it, and I assumed this was evidence of a sort of police sting, as if the police were leading the protagonist on, giving him drugs or videos with sublimenal messages which led him to go after targets in the mafia they wanted dead. When the hitman took him out in his own apartment, he had failed to kill the protagonist, but since he had fallen into a coma, his old enemies had thought him permanently out of the picture. Until he woke up.
This all started to fall apart the farther I progressed after that point, and I realized the story was actually significantly more mundane, even boring, after all the build up by the three hallucinations the protagonist had at the start of every chapter. I thought they were trying to tell him something deeper, like they were trying to hint that he should wake up and snap out of his drug-addled state. I felt there had to be more to it than what there apparently was, but alas. It was all a figment of my own imagination, and not the character's. I was further disappointed by the lame excuse for all the telephone calls being made by the guys in the sewer. The explanation for this was not good enough, and it was a bit childish and random, and the point of it all seemed irrelevant when the motorcycle man guns them down and rides into the sunset. Game over. What was it all about? What was the point of it all?
Still, fantastic game. I'm not a huge fan of simplistic sidescrollers these days, but this one had me gripped until the very end, and I felt the need to replay it two more times after.