I’ve spoken a number of times about my love of Hotline Miami, the style, the world, the incomprehensible story and the almost puzzle like genre cross-over it evokes brings out a Moriarty level of psychopathic efficiency where I hunt down each victim in the most productive and skilled manner possible. Similar games came before and there’s been many looking for a spot on the plinth with Hotline Miami since, but something about that game captured people’s attention both aesthetically and with gameplay and ever since then we’ve had numerous indie developers bringing out a slew of top down shooters where the instant reaction is to call it a Hotline Miami clone, much like in the 90’s when everything was a Doom clone despite going for different things. Whilst writing online for the past 8 years I’ve found myself reviewing a large number of these top down shooters and have since developed both a criteria list for what makes them good but also a wish-list for what would be great to see. God’s Trigger recently rocked up and brought with it a pretty much ideal successor to the throne, mainly due to one great addition to the genre in the form of Co-op.
The story of God’s Trigger is about as common as it gets, that’s not to say it’s bad, but how many times have you summarised a plot to something as “An angel and a demon must work together to…”, I mean Supernatural got a handful of seasons out of that concept, Good Omens is Amazon Prime’s latest big thing (adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book) and if we want to go down the route of games then we have Devil May Cry (a bit of a stretch I appreciate) and it’s always safe to assume a Final Fantasy game has done this kind of thing at some point. My point is that in terms of plot it really is there just to be a crutch to support the game-play and settings rather than being the thing to scream about. Your renegade angel and demon both don’t want to see the apocalypse, and with this motivation pair up to take on the four horseman across various locations.
Both characters have separate skill trees featuring upgraded base attacks, better dashes or teleports and some interesting special abilities. The angel and demon feel different which means in single player where you can switch between them at any time there really is motivation to experiment rather than just sticking with a main. In co-op you’re limited to who you chose on starting the game, this means you have ownership in terms of leveling progression and awareness of the full character set throughout the game rather than single player where it’s easy to mix up which character can teleport through bars and which can just dash.
For me co-op is where this game excels. Hotline Miami had a feeling of die and retry with your goal to kill every person in the room, but whilst God’s Trigger is very much the same at it’s core, adding co-op turns the game almost into a new weird entry into the SWAT series. You assess movement patterns and decide who’s going to take who on which side of the room. Single player involves a lot of improvisation, co-op makes the game a choreographed routine. A key element for me in these games is a quick restart, a death and retrying taking more than a second kills flow and rhythm for me, thankfully God’s Trigger in single player gets you right back in the action and on with the show. Co-op thankfully doesn’t punish a player for their partner’s ineptitude, instead you have a limited number of revives so if one survives then you’re able to pick up your buddy, if you both die then it’s a split second back to the last checkpoint.
The special abilities range from things like invisibility and slowing down time to a mind control power that causes one enemy to go bezerk and start attacking both friend and foe. All of these are powered by your meter at the bottom of the screen, the more kills and the more skillful you are the quicker it fills up. As bosses are mostly saved for end of chapters it does mean that you’re often taking on grunts of different styles. In theory this is fine and means you always have cannon fodder but it also means most players will feel like using a special on those enemies is a waste when just punching them will do the job.
In terms of design God’s Trigger has kept the frame rate high with lots going of things popping, banging and flashing on screen. The cell shaded style to the graphics, whilst a bit plain in areas, does lead to a fun comic book style which really reminded me of Freedom Force on PC. The music is quite generic unfortunately and whilst it often fits the style of the location, the whole thing feels like it’s on the verge of breaking into a royalty free muzack version of ‘Radar Love’. In between chapters we are shown various slightly moving stills for cut-scenes with perfectly fine voice over work to just move the story on, or rather justify location changes like going from Wild West film set to ancient castle’s catacombs.
In both single player and co-op God’s Trigger really does capture all the elements which made Hotline Miami such a treat to play, with the exception of the music. The game is a fast paced action puzzle, it’s hyper violent and really mixes things up with powers, characters, random weapons you pick up off the ground and the co-op just heightens all of this. There’s collectables in the form of knock off playboy magazines that feature real photos of women dressed in location appropriate garb. I’m ashamed to say that I found this particularly fascinating for each new location as I couldn’t comprehend how they would make a catacomb sexy, turns out a goth woman was the answer.